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Chorus Should Sound Great Once More Singers Join In

By Paul Hartsock MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 5, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Chorus Should Sound Great Once More Singers Join In

Chorus, an app from envIO Networks, is available for free at the App Store. The iTunes App Store became 100,000 applications strong this week, and it took less than a year and a half to get there. Would it surprise you to know that not every last one of those apps is a perfect work of art?

Yes, believe it or not, many of the apps that compete for your attention in the App Store are pretty worthless. I definitely don't think they should be banned or anything. Who knows, maybe one flatulence simulator really is 10 times better than another and completely worth three bucks.

It's just that the garbage apps, whatever you believe them to be, too often get in the way of finding the real gems. The App Store is crowded, there's no accounting for taste, and Apple's own lists of top apps are just as likely to throw stinkers your way as they are to help you find the good ones.

That's why third-party app finders exist. They're applications that are automatically updated with the latest app releases in order to keep you up to date about what's available. One of the more sophisticated finders out there, Chorus, ties it all in with social networking.

Getting Started

Upon starting up Chorus, you're offered a short tour to find out more about it. The tour is a video presentation about what Chorus offers ("intelligent social genome technology"), though not so much about how exactly to use it. It plays more like a TV commercial than a tutorial. I'd obviously downloaded the app already, so is this "what are you waiting for" pep talk really necessary? I don't suppose it takes up all that much data space on the phone, but every little kilobyte counts.

In order to get going with Chorus, you have to create a free account -- register with name, email and a password. I see many, many promo offers in my inbox's future.

Next, you're given the option to connect Chorus to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you give it the keys to your Twitter profile, Chorus will automatically tweet your latest app downloads for all to see. Letting it into your Facebook account installs a Facebook app to your page -- now all my Chorus activity will be shared with my friends. It asks you to invite friends from Facebook to join your Chorus network. It also gives you a note on how to disable Facebook updates -- just go to Settings in My Profile. Well, that's nice and up front.

Finally, you're presented with a few screens of app icons, some of which you may already have. Highlight the ones you like, and you're set to start Chorusing.

Feed Me

In Chorus, you get most of your information from feeds, much like in Facebook. You have an All feed, with everything everyone on your network is saying and doing; a Posts feed to organize the missives your contacts happen to write; a Reviews feed with your friends' commentaries on apps they've tried, and Downloads to keep track of who bought what recently.

In order to see anything here, of course, you have to have actual friends. Granted, Chorus has only been out for a very short time, so I'm not surprised to see that zero of my friends on Facebook have any messages on my feed. Chorus does throw you a few pre-loaded contacts to get you started -- so-called app mavens who write short reviews every so often. To get more friends, you'll have to send out invites and requests by way of Facebook messages, emails from you iPhone's Contacts list, messages sent directly through the Chorus network, Chorus' crew of app mavens (all of whom are apparently my friends by default), and a "Near Me" function that uses GPS to sniff out Chorus users in your vicinity (none near mine at the time of testing).

The My Profile section lets you keep track of your personal info, including apps you've recently reviewed, downloaded or discussed, as well as your personal inbox. Privacy settings are limited to an on/off switch for whether you want to publish your purchases -- default is "On."

What Do You Recommend?

Since I apparently have no friends on Chorus except the default maven personalities, I was hoping to gain some insight from Chorus' Apps section. That's where I expected the app to be most useful right off the bat -- look at the apps I have on my iPhone now and use some sort of genius algorithm to make spot-on automatic recommendations for me, right? Unfortunately, this section seemed like more of a random app generator than an intelligent guide. Where did it get the idea that I'd like something called "Baby Builder"? Or a $42 app called "CoPilot Live UK & Ireland"?

Perhaps this recommendation machine factors in the interests of my "friends." Since the only friends I have on Chorus at this point is a troupe of random mavens with whom I have few common interests, my turnout is perhaps skewed. OK, let's see what happens when I de-friend them all and become a total Chorus soloist. Nothing personal, guys, but this is goodbye.

OK, now I'm being told "You have no friends." Perfect. Back to the app recommendation engine, we see ... Ambiance (which I have) ... Things (might be OK) ... a baby names finder (what!?) ... and something called "iPeriod Period Calendar" (sorry, no).

It turns out that Chorus is much better at reading your mind for apps if you download and install a program on your computer called "Gobbler." This looks through your iTunes purchase history to make better recommendation decisions. When I eventually make some friends, Gobbler will even take their opinions of apps into consideration.

If you do find something you like through the Apps section, clicking on it will take you to a page with a description, a button for shooting over to the App Store to buy it, the option to write up a review if you've already used it, and an Apps Like This feature. This also had me a little baffled about how it was making connections. I'm curious to know what eBay Mobile has to do with something called "Beer Hero."

Finally, Chorus' search function lets you seek out both apps and other Chorus users.

Potential and Realization

At this point, Chorus feels like it has a well-designed structure but not much activity.

All the ideas it works in -- creating a network for app junkies, sharing reviews, porting them to Facebook and Twitter, and making some kind of sense of the teeming App Store jungle -- sound good. But in order for that to come together, the people I already know need to be there too. Chorus' success might turn into a sort of chicken-and-egg scenario: It won't be really useful unless a lot of people in your social circles are using it, and they won't use it unless it's already useful. The app maven contacts you start out with are helpful, but they don't get you any closer to getting recommendations from people you already know, which seems to be Chorus' main point.

It's not possible to tell yet. Facebook probably looked pretty dead during its first few weeks, too. If you're an app fiend, and you have some app fiend friends, it might be interesting to set up shop on Chorus and see what it grows into over the next few months.

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