THE BLOG

Welcome to Spraffl, the Anti-Social and Anonymous Social Network

13/03/2013 13:37 GMT | Updated 12/05/2013 10:12 BST

The adage in social networks that Facebook is look at me while Twitter is look at that and LinkedIn is look at my CV may soon be challenged by the next level of social media.

Look locally and posted by an anonymous user is trending at a time that traditional social networks are facing their first saturation point.

For many people, especially on Twitter, it is only the superstars who attract attention with spurious status updates. The fragmentation and bifurcation between friends and heroes means that the utility of social networks is less effective that it was.

Granted, snow and traffic updates during the current cold snap are useful and crowdsourcing can provide useful information on anything, but there is a widespread feeling among experienced users that something else needs to happen to keep the momentum going.

Step forward Spraffl, an anti-social network that claims to take the ego out of posting and broadcasting. It has created a network that is based on anonymous information rather than profile-based sharing. Spraffl may represent a move back to the origins of social media when human nature was presented without self-aggrandising motive.

So what is it? Well, it won't be boring and full of those previously mentioned 'spurious status updates' because anonymous posts such as these have no value here. Proximate relevance on a network will not appeal to a self-centred random broadcaster.

Spraffl is a iOS app that is tied to a user's location, not to a profile. It is a way of sharing information on a 'hyper-local' basis be that with pictures or text and is automatically geotagged to wherever that person happens to be. These posts are known as 'Spraffs', a (somewhat unfortunate) Scottish slang term for speaking in extended monologues.

Launched at the end of January in Edinburgh, the network now has more than 3,200 users and has already seen its first marriage proposal and pregnancy announcement. Wisely, and rather like a certain Facebook before it, the network is rolling out through academia with 'student ambassadors' at Edinburgh and Ohio universities serving as fulcrum points for Spraffl's move into the mainstream.

In the two months since its launch, the network has already seen some interesting and uplifting engagement that ranges from a Edinburgh man diagnosed with skin cancer to a small businessman in Mexico.

In the former example, a young Scottish professional was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer and went to Edinburgh Western General Hospital to meet his oncologist. He put out a Spraff: "Oncology department waiting rooms are super fun places to be. That said the coffee's not bad."

Like many a cancer victim before him, his fatalist attitude, this time in the form of an anonymous post, was a way of handling his diagnosis, but it was the response that overwhelmed him.

"I was trying to make light of how scary the whole thing was, but I wasn't expecting the tidal wave of positive messages wishing me well from total strangers. It was genuinely moving and powerful.

"I hadn't planned to send a Spraff, but just wanted the chance to verbalise my thoughts related to that moment and how I was feeling in that place. What moved me more was that the support continued on, with people asking how I was and wishing me well," he says.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a small businessman in Mexico was one of the first non-UK adopters of Spraffl. He is a builder in a large town on the Gulf of Mexico and like many Mexicans he wants to change his country for the better.

The country's involvement in a violent war between the 'narcos' and the authorities means it is dangerous to safely use social media pointing out societal injustice when vengeance can be swift and brutal. Spraffl's anonymity was perfect for him to explain how things were in Mexico and who was responsible for regional barbarity.

"We use this app to map the people who are doing wrong. Because it is anonymous, because it is based on a map, we can record all the locations where criminal activity is taking place so the government can't say they don't know about it. We can't trust the police to make a legal report or denunciation, so you can never prove who the bad guys are.

"Things are so bad here and it is hard to know the truth. Most of the local news doesn't say anything. They are controlled by criminals or the Government. This is a great country, but the government's inefficiency and corruption are making this impossible, we the citizens need to do more," he says.

It is clear, as these two disparate examples explain, that the adoption of the second wave of social media can and will move in mysterious ways. It may not be Look at Me, Look at That or Look at my CV, but it may be Look at Social Media Differently, and that may make it a very interesting proposition indeed.