blindgal: A Review Of Whereoscope for the iPhone

September 4, 2010

Alena at blindgal recently posted her review of Whereoscope.

It’s a nicely balanced piece that describes both our strengths and weaknesses.

What I really liked is that the value of the app to her was pretty close to what we’re trying to deliver: making daily life easier, as well as some added security in case of an emergency.

Her criticisms are quite valid: we are working hard on reducing useless notifications, as well as improving the accuracy and timeliness of important ones.

Keep the feedback coming!

Version 1.2 is out!

August 28, 2010

Hey all,

Another busy busy week! Y Combinator Demo day was on – check out a description of some of the other great companies at

And we just had version 1.2 approved by Apple.

Download Whereoscope

The new features in this version include:

  • Call, SMS, or e-mail family members from within the application
  • Turn off notifications for a given place
  • Delete pending invitations by swiping
  • Delete places by swiping
  • Fixes the always-on location arrow bug
  • VoiceOver compatibility for all screens
  • Automatically refreshes Everyone and Individual maps every 30 seconds if still open

Let us know what you think!

Version 1.1 is out!

August 21, 2010

Hey all,

It’s been a crazy, wonderful week! So many amazing stories keep coming in with families all over the world using Whereoscope in ways we never would have guessed. From forest rangers thinking of emergency rescue to hardworking parents in Japan to young adults tracking their own life as they go travelling, the overwhelmingly positive response has just blown James and I away.

We did have some database issues due to server load early in the week, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused. We’re pretty sure the data has been recovered, but if something’s missing just drop us a line and we’ll do our very best to fix things.

I’m also really happy to announce that version 1.1 has now been approved on the Apple App Store!

Download Whereoscope

This version has a handful of great new features:

  • Adding places uses Google’s geocoder to auto-complete the address as you type it
  • Set the radius of a place you add
  • Inviting family members or friends auto-completes from your iPhone address book

If you know me, you’ll be able to guess that this means we’ve now submitted version 1.2 to the App Store. We’re really excited about 1.2 – more about that when it gets approved!

A lot of what we’ve been building has been directly driven from feedback we’ve received: e-mails, comments, reviews and phone calls. So don’t be shy, if you have problems or ideas, drop us a line.



Whereoscope is approved – free for a limited time!

August 12, 2010

Hi all,

Well, it’s been a pretty nervewracking month while we attempted to get Whereoscope approved. The hurdles seemed almost insurmountable at times, but here we are!

Without further ado, go get it!

Download Whereoscope


NBCBayArea: Thanks for the amazingly fast response!

August 12, 2010

NBC Bay Area article

I just had a really great experience with NBC Bay Area. They did a follow-up piece on our TechCrunch article at

I was a bit concerned that they’d made a fairly large error in stating “its operation is completely invisible to the kid”, so I contacted them on Twitter and e-mail and explained how Whereoscope works.

I was really pleasantly surprised to get a personal phone call within 5 minutes from one of the Editors, who explained they’d gotten their information from TechCrunch, and would correct the error on their site. Obviously, they can’t correct anything on TechCrunch itself.

To have them personally call me back was amazing – thanks again NBC Bay Area.

TouchGeek: How Do I Track My Kid With Their IPhone?

August 11, 2010

TouchGeek wrote a nice article recently:

It was a very positive article which focused on same things we do:

  • Geo-fencing – so you know when a child gets home or is nearby
  • Power-conscious – so you can keep using your phone
  • Clean, simple, and responsive user interface

We think, and our users tell us, that those 3 features are really important.

SingularityHub: Do You Know Where Your Children Are? Your Phone Does. Geo-Tracking Heats Up.

August 10, 2010

Aaron Saenz at SingularityHub wrote a really extensive piece of geolocation and the various solutions out there. SingularityHub article

There was a lot in this article but I’d like to just comment on 2 of his key thoughts:

Where is all this geo-tracking headed? To some crazy places, let me tell you. It’s becoming pretty common to have your friends know where you are through social networks with geo-tagging capabilities.

I actually disagree with Aaron’s assertion that it’s becoming ‘pretty common’ to have your friends know where you are. It’s absolutely true that Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, and a whole host of other services allow you to geotag your location. But if I look at how my friends behave (primarily late-20’s and early-30’s technology early-adopters), I would have to say that a only tiny percentage of them actually do this routinely.

If I look at my Facebook news stream over the past week, I can identify at most 3 or 4 friends (out of a few hundred) that have posted their location every day out of all the various applications they can use to do so (Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, Loopt, etc.) The more typical pattern I see is that someone joins one of these services and uses it heavily for a week or so, then quickly tapers off in their usage. Obviously there are exceptions to this example!

The key question is, why?

We think the answer is two-fold. Firstly: privacy. Most people don’t (yet) want all their friends to know where they are.

Secondly: lack of value. The ideal use case is serendipity – you happen to be just next door to your long-lost best friend from college but were unaware until your mobile social network alerted you to the fact. But the critical mass required for serendipity to routinely occur to the average user appears a long way off.

We think families are quite a different use case for both these reasons. The interpersonal bindings within a family tend to be stronger, the level of trust higher (as it should be!). Thus the privacy concerns are mitigated as long as the information stays within the family.

Families are also a better use case in terms of value. You see your family every day (or almost every day). The person you call most often on the phone to say “Where are you now?” is likely to be a spouse or family member. So providing that information in an easy, secure, and timely fashion makes real sense to our users.

The other thought I wanted to address was with respect to spouses. From the article:

But for spouses? Let’s look at BindTwo, the significant other version of ChildPulse and Whereoscope (same developer). BindTwo amounts to a sort of mate spying system. It can be used for good…or for evil. Jealous of your boyfriend? Now you can track him and call him if he goes somewhere you don’t like. I love the quote on their site that I think sums up the situation nicely: “BindTwo isn’t a creepy stalker app, it’s just a simple way to find your partner.” Oh, sure, totally.

I always thought it was a great tool for couples, but was prepared to believe that my innate bias as a developer was clouding my judgment. However when we launched, we were immediately contacted by couple after couple after couple, asking if they could use ChildPulse even though they had no kids. James and I are pretty devoted to getting feedback from our users, so we are having lengthy email conversations with many of them.

I have not yet heard from one jealous partner asking to spy on their girlfriend or boyfriend.

Every couple we’ve talked to has expressed a sincere desire to make meeting up easier, know when their partner’s coming home, and so on. It’s easy to make the joke as you do above, but I don’t think our users were lying to us.

If you lack trust in your relationship, these tools won’t solve that, and they’re not designed to. But if you have trust in your partner, our service seems to make people happier.

Wow this post is a lot longer than I’d initially planned 🙂 Let me sum up by saying I thought your article was excellent – it touched on many of the key issues that we think about on a daily basis.

Geek with Laptop: Whereoscope uses latest smartphone technology to track your kids

August 9, 2010

Geek with LaptopGeek with Laptop just wrote a pretty nifty article focusing on the geofencing and battery consumption elements.’whereoscope’-uses-latest-smartphone-technology-to-track-your-kids

I’m not sure where their screenshot came from 🙂 But the author (Sasha? Jac?) was spot on with some of his questions e.g.

However, what if your child gets so absorbed in what they’re doing they forget to let you know, or don’t want to call you, or aren’t telling you exactly where they are?

This is really at the heart of Whereoscope’s value proposition. We’re not about helping parents spy on kids, or foster distrust. But if you’re a teenager and you’re busy riding your bike or playing soccer or chatting about cartoons or any of the million other things that consume your daily life, remembering to always check in with Mom or Dad just isn’t going to be top of your list! Kids in general aren’t malicious or devious – the time I spent teaching Junior High School convinced me of this. They’re just busy doing their own thing.

That’s why Whereoscope makes life easier for them and their parents. Their parents get the info they want, and the kid can keep doing whatever they were doing anyway. And when Mom comes to pick them up from soccer, the kid can see how long until she arrives.

Lifehacker: Whereoscope Turns Your Kid’s iPhone Into a Real-Time Locator

August 9, 2010

Lifehacker articleJason Fitzpatrick wrote a really nice piece about Whereoscope.

It was slightly inaccurate – Whereoscope hasn’t been approved but ChildPulse has, but the analysis was excellent! From the article:

Once you’ve installed and set up the application you specify locations that your kid frequently visits like the homes of friends, school, etc. and you’ll be notified when they come and go from those locations. The location-based notifications are the strongest selling point for Whereoscope, the majority of iPhone tracking tools simply report the location of the phone.

We couldn’t agree more. We’ve tried out almost all of the location-based tools out there – and we believe Whereoscope is in another class when it comes to being useful. On several occasions I’ve been out and about when I get a notification that James is getting coffee at Bean Scene (a local Sunnyvale cafe). I wouldn’t have thought to check up on his location but the information arrived at the perfect time without me having to do anything.

We think this will make both parents and kids lives much easier. For the parents – no more calling to check if they’ve got home. For the kids, no more having to call Mom or Dad and let them know you’re home ok – you’ll know that they know.

TechCrunch: YC-Funded Whereoscope Gives Parents An Easy Way To Track Where Their Kids Are

August 9, 2010

TechCrunchJason Kincaid at TechCrunch wrote a great article about us!

I wanted to fill out some more detail on one of the sections:

It’s also worth pointing out that while there are other location tracking services available, like Google’s Latitude, most parents will probably prefer a dedicated service where there’s no concept of a social network or the possibility that a child might change their privacy settings to something more public.

We think this is pretty key for families. All of the parents I’ve talked to have been very leery of the idea of their child just handing over their location data to anyone. Of course it’s unlikely for kids to directly give it to anyone malicious, but as we’ve seen in social networks, once information becomes public in any way it’s very hard to restrict its use.

That’s why at Whereoscope we deliberately don’t have the feature of adding friends. We believe the increased security and privacy more than outweighs the potential viral component. We will be encouraging parents to tell other parents they know, and have a planned program where inviting 5 other parents means you get the first month free – that’s a viral marketing strategy we believe doesn’t compromise our principles.

(Once again I’m late at posting this article – it was published last Thursday, but at least I’m getting faster!)