introducing Galvanize (a note from our founder Kristen)

This summer, as I was on a sabbatical in Santa Cruz, I was also secretly building a geolocative mobile application.

Last night, the application went live in the iPhone store and now I can tell you all about Galvanize, the way to hide and find real gifts with your friends. (Our Twitter and Tumblr)


Please know that the Galvanize application is really in alpha, but we are opening it up so we can make it better faster! We need your feedback as we decide what to build into it next and how to make the game more fun.

As with all alpha (and most beta) projects, things will break and sometimes look a little wonky. We will be working to fix things just as quickly as we can, as we so appreciate your patience and specific thoughts as we improve the game and the overall experience.

And please forgive the length of this post—-I have much to tell you about and some amazing people to introduce. This is how big my smile was last night when I heard that the app was up in the store:

I was with my friends Sloane and Taylor (who is a very good photographer) in line for Ignite NYC when Taylor took the picture.

Thank You

This project would never have been possible without amazing friends who cheered me on as I leapt, once again, into the unknown, all of whom are pursuing inspiring personal projects and new directions of their own. Margaret Rosas, Kevin Slavin, Karen Barbarossa, Ethan Zuckerman, Catherine Bracy, Clay Shirky, Laura Hertzfeld, David Sasaki, Solana Larsen, Dave Coustan, Liza Kindred, Jessica Smith, Brian Oberkirch, Tricia Wang, Andrew Hyde, Nina Walia, Fil Vocasek, Keryn Gottshalk, Sarah Graalman, and my sisters Kat and Kass—-thank you more than I can say.

UPDATE 9/28 6:15p: I knew I forgot someone important in the list above, and that would be Lisa Williams, who also gave me a wonderful piece of advice; “You can’t see the final destination with the headlights, but leave them on and you’ll see far enough ahead to make it all the way there.” (The other best advice I received was from Ethan, who encouraged me to do the thing that was scariest when I left my job.)

How Galvanize Works

Now, let me walk you through what Galvanize does right now, starting with the home screen:


There are two big things to do: hide a gift and find a gift. Both have notifications attached—-e-mail for now, SMS as an option later, that arrive in your inbox when you have joined Galvanize, when someone adds you as a friend, hides a gift for you, and when you have new points in the game from finding a gift or when someone finds a gift you have hidden for them.

For hiding, choose your style of map (street view, satellite, or hybrid from the buttons at the bottom), go to your hiding location, secret the gift (be sneaky!), and then hit the “hide here” button.


The next screen (that we’re making more beautiful even as I write this) lets you title the gift, choose the recipient, and leave a hint. When someone leaves you a gift, you will receive a notification, then be prompted to join Galvanize if you’re not yet a member, and after that, be taken to a map. The present icon marks the spot of your gift.


After you have located your gift, take a picture. There will be ways to share the story of how you found the gift soon. For now, when a gift is discovered, both the hider and the finder are awarded points that show up in your dashboard. You can give these points to one of three featured organizations that are doing truly awesome (and serious) work making the world a better place.


Right now, we are featuring three social good organizations that I met through my time at PopTech as their Director of Community. Each of these orgs is part of the PopTech Social Innovation Fellows program; I so admire the work of Erik Hersman and Ory Okolloh at Ushahidi, Josh Nesbit at Frontline SMS: Medic, and Tevis Howard at Komaza.

Expect more in this part of the application after we work through a few wrinkles in sponsorship; ultimately, Galvanize points may become support from outside sponsors to these organizations and others that we feature. We want to reward your attention and effort with a gift you give to one of the featured organizations.

Who Made It Real

And now, let me introduce the really incredible people behind this first version. Galvanize is a bootstrapped group right now, and I’ve funded it out of what I have saved the past few years.

I cannot say enough about how Jason Wolfe of Technicolor Grayscale made the ideas and wireframes real. All the code is his, and I am so impressed with his passion for making things work and bringing the rest of Technicolor Grayscale into the project. If you’ve ever wanted a developer to stand beside you and be supportive of your strange and wacky ideas while figuring out how to code them, this is that guy. (I also know that the app is lightweight, all kinds of things are cached and others stored in the cloud, and other smart technical things to tell you more about in future posts.)

Matt Benson of TS directed design, iterating wireframes and solving for a way to make sure adults and kids both know this is an application for them—not an easy task. I asked Matt to make it feel fun and snazzy without being slick and he delivered.

Stephanie Ross of TS smoothed out userflow and used her background in social good (remember Hands Across the Sand this summer? That was Steph.) to think through how points in Galvanize roll up into support for featured organizations. We hope later this area will be sponsored and those points will become incremental donations, making everyone in the game a microphilanthropist.

The wonderful illustrations are Chris Bishop’s work. Chris is one of my favorite illustrators, a former colleague at PBS HQ, and I am so delighted that characters he drew show you how to hide and find gifts in Galvanize. If you’re wondering where you’ve seen his work recently, it might be in his recent illustration in Longshot Mag (more on the illustration and the prints in his Tumblr post).

Another former PBS colleague of mine, Cameron Nordholm, is also helping out in his free time on product development as we plan for the next builds; more about Cameron’s work in future posts too.

When I first had the idea, I met with my friend Aaron Taylor-Waldman, who came up with the original logo and first set of wireframes. I like Aaron’s tidy design sensibility, and I think his initial sketches are one reason we’ve being able to simplify some of the intricacies of geocaching and focus on the fun. (And a contact of Aaron’s, Adam Varga, did a proof of concept using a shared SMS service and some Symfony in the spring too.)

What’s Next

We are already hard at work on the next few updates for Galvanize and planning some exciting events in the coming months. If you have an idea for how to use Galvanize and/or you think it would be great to host a Galvanize gift hunt in your neighborhood, let us know! We’ll make those ideas happen.

We would also love to know your thoughts and questions as we begin to test Galvanize. The best way is: hello {at} galvanize {dot} us and we’ll keep you updated here!

28 September 2010 ·

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About Me

Galvanize is a game for you to hide and find real gifts with your friends in your neighborhood.

Want to play? We like you already. Download from the iPhone app store (more platforms coming 2011!)

Let us know how we can make it better.

Flickr Images