Going Out

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Notewalk app combines high-tech with city lore

By Nicholas Savage

Three young Ottawa entrepreneurs have set out to revolutionize the way you use maps. Why? As Mehdi Jourabbaf puts it,  “because maps are boring.”

Mahmoud, Mehdi, and Adnan are the brains behind Notewalk.
Mahmoud, Mehdi, and Adnan are the brains behind Notewalk.

Mehdi and his partners, Adnan Patel and Mahmoud Hosseini, see traditional maps — even digital ones like Apple or Google maps — as rather bland and simple means-to-an-end tools, helping you get to where you already knew you wanted to go.  That’s why they have created a new smartphone app called Notewalk. They want Notewalk to make the map your first destination for discovering what to do, learn, and see in a given community.  Basically, a map that helps you create your journey rather than simply guiding you.

In a nutshell, Notewalk is an interactive, digital map that allows the user to explore the history, community, and goings-on of an area they are looking at on the map. Or, as Mehdi likes to say, Notewalk creates a “geo-social playground” where users can share with one another their knowledge and experiences of a given geographical space.

So how does it work? Notewalk piggy-backs onto whatever map program your phone uses to give you the “map-view,” a map covered with clickable “note” icons.  The “notes” contain information left by previous visitors about everything from an upcoming concert at a nearby church to local traffic reports to the history of a particular house. All content is user generated and, as long as it’s not perverse or offensive, everything goes. Users can also choose to view the “notes” of a particular area on a “list feed”, ie., a vertical list that allows the user to scroll through notes.

At this time, Mehdi and his team are still working out the bugs — better to launch slowly than introduce the app before it’s absolutely perfect, he says. But you can visit the site now and sign up to be notified when it’s play time!

Visit Notewalk.com to sign up for a free account — and updates on the app.
Visit Notewalk.com to sign up for a free account — and updates on the app.

While the “notes” of Notewalk will at first be limited written blurbs, in time users will be able to post video and audio so that other users can see and hear what a particular street or park in a given area looks and sounds like.

For example, if you’re looking for a park to play some ultimate frisbee in a part of town you’re not familiar with Notewalk can show you all the parks in that area, video of what their field space is like, and how much noise each park produces.

These guys are certainly tech-savvy, but they have some business acumen as well and they can see the moneymaking possibilities of their new app.  For example, Notewalk will allow businesses that want to advertise in “notes” to do so for a fee.

However, one consumer area where Notewalk clearly has some potential is in real estate:  Notewalk could be used by do-it-yourself home sellers to show what the environment in their neighbourhood is like simply by creating audio and video “notes” of where they live.  Those “notes” would also be useful to homebuyers: you saw a little house for sale in Vanier on a Wednesday afternoon and the street seemed nice and quiet, but what about on a Saturday night?  Notewalk will make this kind of information accessible to buyers through those same audio and video “notes” without forcing them to revisit the neighbourhood.

We at Ottawa Magazine are very excited for Mehdi, Adnan, and Hosseini.  A Carleton University grad and two Ottawa University grads respectively, it’s great to see some young hometown talent develop what is quite possibly an Internet game changer similar to Facebook or Twitter.