Why sip your coffee alone at the local Starbucks when you can turn on your phone and trade text messages with three people who are sitting in the same shop?
That’s the logic behind the new smartphone application “City Chatter,” which was launched this week in Hoboken and Chelsea and is described by its founder as an “antisocial network” application.
Developed by former Hoboken resident Phil Shpilberg, the application will initially be exclusive to those two areas.
The no-cost (and ad-free) app allows its users to connect on their mobile phones via video conference and chat. Individuals or groups can log on within a coffee shop, restaurant, or even their homes and connect with others using the application.
Thus, people in the same Hoboken coffee shop can “meet” each other without ever getting up and talking to each other. People in Hoboken will be able to see who else from Hoboken is using the app without socializing in person.
“I really want to change the way people communicate and how they connect at the moment.” – Phil Shpilberg
“At any given time, I’ll go somewhere and see a bunch of people on their phones – whether texting or using Facebook – to disconnect from the moment,” said Shpilberg.
“Right now, when I meet people I always look them up on the internet or Facebook, and sometimes I [text] with people that are sitting next to me.”
Shpilberg said he wanted a more effective way of chatting with – and discovering information about – the people around him.
“I wanted something that, when I went out, I could look the people [around me] up and be able to chat with them,” said Shpilberg. “So I started working on what became ‘City Chatter.’ ”
Shpilberg said the application, which has been designed for iPhone and is in development for Android systems, allows its users to link their Facebook profiles for a more efficient method of conveying personal information.
Shpilberg is an experienced video game designer whose credentials include developing the popular PC game “Civilization” for the iPhone.
“When you turn it on and sign in with Facebook, you’ll be logged into the Hoboken [network],” said Shpilberg. “You’ll instantly be able to chat with anyone else in that neighborhood using the app, and at that point you can see the profiles of everybody around you. The neighborhood becomes your social network.”
Shpilberg said those who have the application but do not wish to be seen by others in the city can customize their privacy settings accordingly.
“You can specify you’re at a venue and anybody in the neighborhood, if you allow it, will be able to see where you are hanging out and you can talk about the place that you’re hanging out in,” he said.
Shpilberg said he feels the application can be used in business environments.
“I see a use for businesses, such as conferences where people can gather,” said Shpilberg. “Anywhere where you see people wearing nametags, this [application] could be used to give a lot more information.”
Shpilberg said that if there are a lot of people in places such as bars, the user can utilize a group chat feature. In fact, Shpilberg expects to partner with various local businesses to establish them as “City Chatter featured chat rooms.”
Shpilberg said that he is excited to see how the users come up with their own unique ways to utilize the application.
“I just want to release it and see how people use it,” said Shpilberg. “You’re always sort of surprised by this stuff. When Facebook came out, I don’t know if we could have envisioned how it would be used, but it was this kind of technology that really connected people.”
“I wanted to create a technology that helps you connect where you are,” continued Shpilberg. “That’s kind of my big hope. I really want to change the way people communicate and how they connect at the moment.”
Shpilberg said when his company was scouting out possible locations for a soft launch, he immediately thought of Hoboken, his former place of residence.
“The initial demographic is definitely the young, affluent, and those that are very comfortable with technology,” said Shpilberg. “[It’s] the kind of people that are hanging out in the neighborhood and want to see what’s going on.”
“I had a really great time living in Hoboken,” added Shpilberg. “I’m looking forward to getting back and hanging out in Hoboken to launch this.”
Shpilberg lived in Hoboken in the late 1990s. He said he had worked in an Exxon plant in Bayonne during the Y2K “crisis.”
“Right after midnight I had to go to the plant and make sure nothing melted down,” said Shpilberg.
Launches and giveaways
Shpilberg said he will be outside of the Hoboken PATH station to promote the application from Tuesday, July 31 to Thursday, Aug. 2. Promotions will include the chance to win a free monthly transit pass.
“City Chatter” will also have launch events at various bars from Thursday, Aug. 2 to Saturday, Aug. 4.
On Aug. 2, the app will have a launch at the Shannon; On Aug. 3, the app will have a launch at City Bistro and Black Bear Bar & Grill, and on Aug. 4, the app will have a launch event at Village Pourhouse.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.