CloseUp in a Nutshell – The Pitch

Community-Driven Live Online Search Engine (CloseUp)is a real-world Q&A platform for asking location and time-specific question – that is question referring to specific locations and whose answer are typically only valid for a short period time. The following screenshots show various examples (not that these example include only Yes/No question; this is not a principle limitation):

In general, these kind of question can typically not be found on website, which also renders Web search engines like Google or Bing useless. Most of the time, the answers to such questions can only be provided by users who are currently close to the location of interest – or were there recently or will be there in the near future.


Basic Idea

CloseUp, internally an acronym for Community-driven Live Online Search Engine (CLOSE), is a spin-off of OneSpace towards are more concrete application platform to conduct users studies and maybe more. In contrast, OneSpace is rather a demonstration platform to showcase various ideas and features, and is a bit off a buggy and bloated prototype.

In the spirit of online forums and traditional Q@A platforms, the goal CloseUp is to provide a platform for live and social geo-search, e.g., to ask and reply to question that are typically location and time specific, for example:

  • “How crowded is Gardens by the Bay at the moment?”
  • “What’s the current deal at Chewy Junior’s in Bugis Junction?”
  • “Is the advertised camera XYZ still available at Harvey Normans?”
  • “Does M Hotel Singapore provide fast free Wi-Fi in the rooms?”

Answers to such questions can typically not be found on websites and are also out the scope of existing online forums and Q@A platforms. The most useful source for information are here users that are at or around the point of interest at the time of issuing a question.

Core Concepts

CloseUp distinguishes between 2 types of question:

  • Private question: Similar to an email or chat message, private questions have a unique recipient, denoted by a unique user id.
  • Public questions: Public question are similar to posts to a online form or “traditional” Q&A platform. Given the context of geographic locality, each public question is assigned to a geo-coordinate.

Both private and public questions share a set of basic attributes:

  • created_at: the time the message has been created / posted
  • expired_at: the time the message will expire
  • time_to_live: auxiliary field (expired_atcreated_at in minutes)
  • urgency_level: numeric value to reflect importance (not used right now)
  • status: status of messages (undelivered, delivered, answered)

Important: Compared to more traditional Q&A platforms or online forums, CloseUp currently assumes that a question (both private and public) also comes with a (small) set of possible answers. The rationale is that answering a question can potentially been done with 2-3 clicks / taps via a multiple-choice form. In the long run, this can be extended to support also free text answers.

Privacy Consideration

To send private question to the “right” users, i.e., to the users that a closest to the point of interest, CloseUp requires to keep track of the users’ current locations. However, this information is only used in the backend and the location of a user is never directly shown to other users. Some methods that show the approximate distance of a user to a point of interest (in terms of distance in meters) are conceivable.