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WEB REVIEW: Stamping your approval around the Internet

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Jim Cota

If you took a moment to jot down a quick list titled “The Last Things I Need,” there’s a better-than-even chance that “another social network” would be hovering somewhere in the top five.

With all the time spent on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or any of the others, it’s hard to imagine there is any spare time or brainpower left to devote elsewhere. But this excess may be the very thing that makes a new application, called Stamped (http://stamped.com/), so compelling.

As a starting point, you should know that Stamped is primarily an application running on your iPhone or iPod Touch (apps for other platforms are in development). It works by allowing you to “stamp” the things you love. Since this is the main point of differentiation, I’ll say it another way: When you stamp something, it’s the same thing as giving it a five-star, glowing, couldn’t-get-any-better review. It’s a digital barometer of your love, the social network equivalent of standing alongside a busy street dressed head-to-toe in gold polyester with a neon sign that has a big heart on it and an arrow pointed toward you and another pointed toward the object of your affection. We’re talking LOVE. 

So what should you stamp?

Pretty much anything. By tying into OpenTable, Fandango, Amazon and the iTunes Store, the app is designed to make it easy to stamp restaurants, books, movies, music, etc. But you can stamp anything you think is great, with your stamps showing up for your friends in both list and map views. The map view is particularly handy if you’re trying to find something nearby to do or see or eat. You can also share your stamps on Twitter and Facebook if you like (but this seems to be beyond what the developers intended in creating a closed loop of friendly recommendations).

The other important concept is that the number of stamps you have available is limited. Though you can earn more, you start with just 100, so you’ll find you won’t be stamping things willy-nilly. And, the creators hope, other people will be a little stingy with theirs, as well, which will serve to improve the experience for everyone. Earning additional stamps sounds a little easier than it is. You can get more if three people ‘like’ what you’ve stamped or if people ‘credit’ you after trying something you suggested. Otherwise, if you run out, you’ll have to delete one of your previous stamps to free it up.

Stamped is quite a bit different from other similar tools. Most people are familiar with ratings and reviews. Yelp, for instance, is designed to crowd-source opinions to provide an average rating from the most possible people. Stamped, on the other hand, is trying to do very nearly the opposite: They want to provide only the best things, and from only people you know and trust.

You might be thinking that stamping something is a bit like using the Facebook “like” button. The creators would argue this point. They contend that “Facebook ‘likes’ are designed for quick feedback around Web content, while a stamp is designed for a meaningful recommendation of a real-world experience.” And with the initial limitation of 100 stamps, they point out that Stamped is more about quality than quantity, a point supported by the equality of a stamp to a five-star recommendation.

Stamped works best when your friends are using it as well, and the application will help you find your friends from your address book, Twitter followers, or Facebook friends. In a perfect world, all the people you trust would be sharing their best bets for products, places, books, music. But until they climb aboard, there are several experts you can follow if you’re interested in specific topics. Stamped has recommended users like Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers, New York Magazine, and designer Michael Kors. Stamped is available as a free download in the iTunes Store (http://tinyurl.com/7osh6xu).•

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Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

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