What it does: allows users to make notes on Google Maps

Photo by Lindsay MacMillan

Three young Ottawa entrepreneurs have released a “geo-social playground” app that makes sharing people’s opinions and advice easier. The app is called Notewalk and uses the map program on the user’s device to allow anyone to leave digital notes that can be viewed by other users.

Adnan Patel and Mahmoud Hosseini, two University of Ottawa graduates and software developers, and Medhi Jourabbaf, a fourth-year political science student at Carleton University, met at a birthday party through mutual friends. Together the three men created Notewalk, and it is steadily growing in popularity on a global scale. Preproduction for the app began in June 2013, development in September, and it was released January 28.

Notewalk uses the mapping program on the user’s phone to determine their location, as notes can only be left in real time. People can leave notes describing their current location, whether it’s at a restaurant, café, park, or any other public space. Notes can be displayed publicly so others can see it and follow any advice, or privately, making the app a personal point of reference for the user. These interactive digital notes allow for exploration, learning, and communication among people.

“I was always fascinated with maps,” Jourabbaf said, “but they were kind of boring. I thought that people’s experiences should be made public. I made a mock-up and showed it to Mahmoud and Adnan. They liked it and we started planning.”

Pre-production began in June 2013, and the free app was released on Jan. 28 after two weeks of testing. Hosseini developed the software, Jourabbaf the user interface and website, and Patel the database and web service.

“It was definitely a learning experience for all of us,” Jourabbaf said. “But by October, we knew what we were doing,” Patel added.

The developers said the app can be used for more than just reviews. It also allows for real-time coverage of current events or warnings of crimes that recently occurred in the area. It can also act as an outlet for people to leave a story about their day.

“It’s authentic,” Jourabbaf said. “You make notes right where you are, so you know what real, local people are thinking at that moment.”

The three have big plans for Notewalk. The ability to leave comments on other user’s notes is the next step and adding capability for photo and video notes is also a goal. Following a certain location, like the U of O, for example, users can be notified of new notes.

“You’d know class was cancelled before getting there,” Patel joked.

Jourabbaf said the group is looking into ways to expand and possibly monetize the app.

“There’s potential to monetize it,” Jourabbaf said. “Businesses could advertise for a fee.”

However, the ability to leave regular notes would remain free, as they recognize the app is built on their users.

“It’s a place for collaboration,” Patel said. “People can share what matters nearby. Without the users, it would just be a blank slate. We want people to leave notes in their cities.”

Currently, the app has more than 4,000 users in 15 countries.

“It’s pretty cool knowing that someone in the Philippines is using this,” said Patel.

Notewalk can be downloaded for iOS, and the developers hope to make it available for Android in the near future.