We launch in the USA today at IdeaCOMM. Lovefre.sh is there as part of an interactive event called Farm to Table. The event is being hosted by the very excellent Food and Tech Connect, who recently conducted an interview with us. It’s a great chance for us to spread the word about Lovefre.sh, at SXSW.
Version 1.2 of our iPhone app is now in the iTunes Store. We have set our ‘Love’ feature live in the app and on the web. It makes it nice and easy to show your approval of a great checkin, or producer.
We’re also introducing ‘Event Tags’. These allow you to organise multiple checkins into one list. Simply add the tag for your event to the notes on a checkin. Here’s a screenshot from the web app that shows you an #fm Event tag (farmers market) and the new Love feature.
Another neat new feature is the ability to Edit your own checkins. This is handy for refining information when you return home – we’ll even ask you to upload a photo for the checkin if you haven’t already done so.
Finally, here’s our new Lovefre.sh Live Map We think it’s a great way to browse fresh local food in your area, so get checking in and spreading the love for great fresh local food and drink.
It was quite bizarre to see our few weeks young startup, trending at the top of the Most Read in todays online Guardian Technology section. We’re pleased that O2 have now lifted our ‘Adult Content’ label and the app is fully functional on their network.
Whilst we can hardly complain about having Lovefre.sh brought to the attention of many more people, it’s been a tough week.
I recorded an audioBoo earlier, about the whole situation.
What a great way to start day 5 of our short life as a Live Web Service. Featured by Apple on the iTunes ‘New and Notable’ section. It’s a superb break for us – and tells us we’re getting some things right. It’s a situation that, whilst being great, also presents us with a problem. We’ll call this problem ‘The Data Dilemma’. It’s one we’ve wrestled with for months – firm in our conviction that we wanted a ‘noise free’ service, but conscious of some basic psychology which told us this was not going to be a walk in the park.
We ‘soft launched’ – ie didn’t seek press attention – because we knew the first task we faced was to build support from early adopting lovers of local food. We’re breaking down the barriers between producer and consumer and reinventing how communities interact with their produce providers.
We hoped to get some early adopting farmers, growers, breeders, butchers, bakers, and a bunch of food fans and social media experimentalists, signing up and checking in with photos and audio. Between producers checking into their own businesses and consumers discovering great local produce on their own, we anticipated growing in pockets, around the globe. We would see the pockets developing, and pay close attention to addressing the needs of the users of the service with regular iterations. We’d slowly roll out an exciting feature – ‘Radio.lovefre.sh’ – wherever pockets of users reached a mass. We still plan to do this, of course.
We wrote up our thoughts on the blog but wanted to repeat them here since the blog post ended up being full of relevant company information and news. We didn’t want you to miss it, as we’re very keen that people understand what we are building – and how we plan to build it.
The thrill of appearing on the front page of the App store, just 4 days after our soft launch, must be tempered against the very real risk that people won’t ‘get’ Lovefre.sh – and will judge the service before we have even built it out. Sounds melodramatic? Let me explain.
When we set out to build Lovefre.sh, we had some clear design goals. One was to reinvent how people locate the great food and drink around them. We hold a firm belief that directory apps – and directory websites, are fundamentally flawed. Their noise is deafening. To us, they offer very little improvement over their paper counterpart, the telephone directory. Geo-location services improve a directory somewhat – but you still have to deal with information overload and poor context. This does nothing to help us find the very best information about the world around us.
We’ve taken a different approach. We believe a far more compelling model for discovery – in our case local food and drink discovery – comes not from huge, unfiltered listings – but from human stories told through text, photos and short audio recordings. We’re building lovefre.sh so that this rich information is available to you easily, highlighting great produce wherever you are, allowing you to make quick and informed decisions about where you get your food from.
Could we have launched with a full database of local food retailers and producers? Of course – it took us very little effort to establish a huge database of places all around the globe, by scraping the web.
Would that have made Lovefre.sh a ‘better’ or more powerful service? Not in the slightest. In the short term it would have provided a more immediate ‘hit’ for people casually trying the app. In the long term, we’d be left with ‘yet another directory service’. If a Lovefre.sh member hasn’t been to a location, it won’t exist on Lovefre.sh. We’ve made our app extremely simple and quick to use – allowing quick check ins to be made – locating Producers and beginning to tell their Local Food Story couldn’t be easier. We’ll be rolling out more functionality as participation grows, but for now, the app is so simple even your granny could use it. That’s no accident. We hope our app will appeal to people who wouldn’t use other location services. We need that to happen – grannies know all the best places to get fresh local food.
Directories don’t talk back. Lovefre.sh on the other hand is designed to be interactive. Soon, we will be rolling out features that allow Producers to better engage with their community, allowing two-way interaction, via the app. We want them to check in at their own places – keeping us all informed about life on the farm / in the bakery / on the allotment. We want keen gardeners to be able to hold garden sales at harvest time, and use the app to tell the world about it. We want to bring food and drink right back to the heart of communities – reduce the environmental and fuel costs of distribution, and democratise real food by allowing it to thrive and drive economies of scale.
Finally, a few people have asked about our reluctance to adopt some of the more en vogue ‘Social Gaming’ aspect of services such as Foursquare and Gowalla – reward features such as multiple badges. They point to the potential for viral adoption and a compelling, fun, experience. They know the team’s background (we’ve run PC gaming communities for years, and two of us are level designers in our spare time), and wonder why we don’t jump on this trend. The answer is rather long winded, so we’re saving it for a full blog. However, we wanted to briefly say that whilst our Points system may seem basic, we have built it to be extremely flexible.
We think the producers know their business better than us – and so we’re going to be letting them decide how they reward loyal customers who regularly make media rich checkins at their premises. We’ll be giving them a simple tool kit to create offers whenever they like, however they like. We won’t get involved. We won’t charge them a commission. We will simply offer them the facility in return for a £10 a month subscription to our PRO account, which gives them some great social tools to tell their Local Food Story, connect with and reward their loyal customers, and have a detailed, media rich profile on the service – meaning local producers can quickly set up a web presence and get the message out about their passion and produce!
We’re committed to creating a new ‘third way’ for local produce. One that sees maximum return to the producer, maximum quality for the consumer – and minimum cost on the monthly shopping bill. We reckon if local food producers can thrive – surrounded and supported by their community, then they can avoid unsustainably low wholesale prices and sell at a sensible, sustainable price. We anticipate that a thriving local food economy will result in significant reductions in the price of higher quality food – allowing more people access to it.
Lovefre.sh, as designed, will bring all the tools needed to realise this vision. We promise you, we’re committed and passionate. We’ll do so as simply, transparently and humanly as possible. We very much hope that by not including scraped, commonly available, often inaccurate data, you will find the information that is submitted to Lovefre.sh more meaningful and much more useful. We hope you agree with us!
We have had a great response in the short time we have been live and, once we’ve managed to take it all in, we’ll post a reflection on the day on our blog. In the meantime, we’re all very busy making sure everything is running smoothly and making some final tweaks to the framework.
Today, we’re also launching our HTML5 app – with which we aim to bring all the benefits of the native iPhone app, to other platforms – we’ve tested on Android, Nokia, Windows7 and Blackberry – but please do feedback so we can build out the platform to suit your needs. We’d welcome your feedback – good and bad – on our Community Support Forum.
We have some work to do on the web-app, but as of now you can make simple check-ins, browse the ‘Fresh’ timeline and manage your account. We’ll set ‘Local’ and ‘Food’ views live as soon as possible – allowing you to see what’s near you easily, and search by food type. We’re also working on Photo and Audio support, more on these later.
We’re filled with enthusiasm and passion for Lovefre.sh and can’t wait to start hearing your Local Food Stories. Lets bring food right back to the heart of our communities – empower local producers and connect people to great local food and drink, wherever they are!
We’re finally there. The iPhone app has gone to Apple for approval and launch on the App store. We’re aiming for a 14th February launch – but we’re in the lap of the Apple gods and it all depends on the approval process.
We have now set the HTML5 Web App live, it’s limited at the moment as we wanted to launch it as soon as possible. Check it out here. You can view the timeline, browse checkins and listen to AudioBites.
We’ve plenty of great features planned but didn’t want to delay getting Lovefre.sh out in it’s current form as it’s already a superb tool for finding and sharing fresh local food and drink.
We’ve been promising it for a while and finally it’s ready. It’s still needs a little polish before we send it to the app store and we wanted to make sure we took into account your feedback on the current build before we unleash Lovefre.sh to the rest of the world.
Today we are launching our iPhone app. to a small group of community members. You will be added to the ‘Beta Tester’ group on our community site and, when the app is live, you will be notified and linked to it.
If you are a Community Member or existing Twitter follower, you are eligible to be considered for the first round of Beta invites. However, you will need to forward your iPhone UDID (found in iTunes under iPhone info) to firstname.lastname@example.org, to allow us to license you.
The whole team has worked their socks off to get to this day, and present you with a simple, intuitive, usable and powerful solution to finding great fresh local produce, wherever you are. You’ll have to bare with us though – you are the first people to use the app, so the database is empty. Go out there, find delicious food produced locally, check in at the location and share tips and information, photographs and audio.
We encourage you to feedback – lots. We’re only just getting started and plan to listen hard to the communities response to the app, iterating as we build.
So, whilst it’s very early days yet, here’s to Lovefre.sh changing the way we buy and sell fresh local food, one check in at a time.
Lovefre.sh is currently in development and will be submitted to the iPhone App Store before the end of September. People signed up to our Community or following us on Twitter @lovefreshHQ will be offered preview copies on the same day. The service is launching in beta and will be developing in response to community feedback.
If you wish to check the current Service Status of Lovefre.sh, click here.