At blauk.com, a micro-blogging site, talk about strangers you've seen
Each time we step out of our houses, we are confronted with strangers. They leave impressions, just as we do. But these nameless people snap off from our lives as abruptly as we do from theirs. Can we reconnect with them? Can we tell them that in a fleeting moment they filled our lives? Can we find out what they thought of us in that momentary locking of eyes?
Blauk.com is the answer. A micro-blogging site, it allows people to leave messages about encounters with strangers. Through preset fields, it encourages the user (called blauker) to describe the place where the encounter happened (in 64 characters; a few more characters for details such as city and time), describe the person (in 64 characters — appearance, clothes, the people with him etc). The details should enable described person to identify himself if he chances upon the entry. Also post a comment about him (in 100 characters). The next line reveals the username, sex and age of the blauker. Finally, an optional line where the blauker can leave information that can help visitors identify him. Thanks to different font colour, size and style, the lines are distinct. A response can be invited to an entry. If a blauker does not want one, he simply has to refrain from turning on the ‘reply' option.
Samson Manickaraj, creator of blauk.com, is confident it will take social networking to a different level. “It will make social networking dynamic. We are talking about something beyond Twitter and Facebook.”
Strangers encountered at the shopping mall, the beach, on the lift, or anywhere else can amuse, irritate, inspire, draw admiration, and evoke a myriad other emotions. But, these people will quickly fade away from our memories. “Through blauk.com, you can attempt to make these strangers more than a faded memory. Or, at the least, you can express your feelings about them.”
Samson, who has a masters in Computer Science, from the University of Southern California, San Diego, was fascinated with social networking technologies, and wanted to contribute to them. He did not know how to, until an incident at a pizza restaurant in San Diego. “One of the customers was exasperatingly loud, and diners four tables away turned to see who was making all that noise. I thought to myself somebody should tell him the effect he was having on others, and enable him to curtail this unpleasant social behaviour.”
While some entries at blauk.com are directed at people engaging in disagreeable public behaviour, the majority are expressions of admiration for strangers. This leads us to an uneasy question. Is the site an open invitation to stalkers? “We keep a strict tab on the entries. When we sense infringement of privacy or spamming, the offending user's id will be deactivated.”
It's been three weeks since the website was launched, and Samson says only four entries warranted serious intervention. “Considering the number of entries flooding in, this is an extremely miniscule number.”