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This article was published on June 23, 2011

Banjo: Super slick social network sonar on your phone

Banjo: Super slick social network sonar on your phone
Matthew Panzarino
Story by

Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

Social networks are incredible sources of information about local events and happenings. If you want to know what’s happening in town tonight, you can fire up Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Gowalla on your iPhone to see where your friends are at or just to see what people are up to.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be logged in to those services to see what exactly is being posted to them. Then, you’ll have to wade through results that may not be near you and may have been posted days ago. That’s not even counting bouncing in and out of all of those apps.

That’s exactly the problem that the new iPhone or Android app Banjo wants to solve for you. Banjo can show you all of the current local results from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla all in one shot. And it can do all of this without any logins.

When you launch Banjo, you’re presented with a grid of people that have recently posted to any of those services near you. You can tap on any one to see what they’ve recently shared. That view will give you their profile, the service they’ve posted from as well as the location and time. You can follow these local people by marking them as favorites or block them if you’re not interested in hearing more.

The updates can be from any service that Banjo currently monitors, which are the four above for now but are soon to include more.

If the grid of icons isn’t your style, you can also get the results in a list sorted by time, so that you can see the latest posts first. This list can be filtered by friends or favorites and sorted by distance as well.

Banjo from Banjo Inc on Vimeo.

The map view gives you a nice overall view of the people that have posted items in your area. As with elsewhere, anyone that you’ve favorited will be color coded for easy ID. You can also check other locations, not just where you are. This allows you to set and visit favorite areas to see what’s going on there. This should be helpful while traveling or commuting.

Even though Banjo isn’t centered around checking in, you can in fact log in to services if you like and even post updates from within the app. One advantage of logging in is that your friends will also be highlighted for you to make them stand out.

I’ve been using Banjo for a couple of days now and I’m loving the way I can just pop it open to get an instant view of all of the various networks all at once. What’s even better is that I’m not a member of Foursquare or Gowalla at all and I can still see all of the stuff people are posting on there.

At the same time, I don’t have to worry about any privacy concerns because Banjo will never share anything from me without me logging in and anyone’s results that you’re seeing are all publicly available on those networks, so they’ve already made the choice to share. It’s an elegant solution.

Banjo’s Damien Patton shared an anecdote with me that illustrates the power and simplicity of the app. One day he was in the company’s Palo Alto offices when he saw that an iOS developer that he knew was walking by. The dev had posted an update to Twitter mentioning that he was visiting a nearby coffee shop. Patton was able to run out and catch him, explaining that they needed someone with his skills. He has an interview set up with the developer now.

That kind of ability to connect with people nearby you or even just to take the pulse of the surrounding area is realized to a degree in the way that some Twitter clients show nearby tweets, but it’s normally treated as an addon or ‘extra’ feature. It’s very much treated as a core feature with Banjo and it works incredibly well.

I think that Banjo has the potential to take on the role of a sort of ‘social network sonar’ that allows you to get the lay of the local landscape without having to specifically know someone in the area. The fact that you don’t have to log in, create a profile or, in fact, take any action at all means that the potential user base is already as big as anyone who uses more than one social network.

If you’d like to check out Banjo, you can grab it on the App Store or Android Market for free.

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