Google has launched Schemer, a new service to make exploring the offline world around you a whole lot easier, currently in beta testing and accessed by invite only. They have teamed up with National Geographic, Bravo, Entertainment Weekly, Google-owned Zagat, and the US Department of the Interior just to name a few to help users create schemes. What, exactly, are schemes?
Schemes: A “To-Do” List for Fun
Google claims that Schemer will be the way to find new and exciting things to do in your area and beyond. Find fun places to visit locally or in a state far away, see what movies your friends are recommending, share schemes with your friends, and create lists of things to do for later. Sounds kind of like Foursquare, right?
Just like Foursquare, one can compile a list of interesting things to do for future use, gather ideas from friends and relatives, and notate which schemes are completed. As Google is always trying to drum up competition against services that seem to stand alone, this is not surprising. Even the Schemer pages of Google's partners are reminiscent of Foursquare's brand pages.
At first glance, it appears that Google might eventually give Foursquare a run for its money, if it can drum up enough users (unlike Google+, still a sort of ghost town of social media sites.) Schemer is, by the way, linked to a user's Google+ profile, streamlining the sharing of schemes among friends.
How To Start Scheming
I received an invite to the service, and here's a rundown of what it's all about. Once you log into Schemer, schemes from members using the service from all of your circles in Google+ will be displayed on the home page. As I don't have anyone in my circles using Schemer, it was blank. There is also a text box labeled “I want to...” which is where you add your scheme, clicking the “new scheme” button when you are done.
On the right are suggestions of people to add to your circles on Google+ in the hopes it will give you some useful and interesting schemes. On my page: Real Simple, Idealist, and Time Out New York to name a few. Basically, a few of their brand/partner sites in list form, not one of them piquing my interest.
Choose the 'Find Stuff to Do' tab and you will see a list of recommended schemes, all schemes added by others you probably don't know. It really wasn't helpful for me, as it recommended things I really don't want to do, like 'buy a Kindle', 'write a mobile app,' and 'get a haircut.' Someone actually needs Google to tell them they need a haircut? Please. My iPhone takes care of this just fine, thank you. More interesting to me, 'Visit England.' Now there's a scheme to aspire to complete! If you see a scheme you're interested in, click it.
You will see location information of the user suggesting the scheme (only helpful if it is someplace to visit or something to do) and a list of people who've added it to their list of schemes ('who wants to do it') and 'who's done it.' Click 'I want to do it' to add it to your list of schemes, or 'Already done it.'
I decided to try to make a scheme and began entering 'Climb' as I enjoy hiking. I didn't really need to come up with a mountain on my own as numerous other schemes popped up. I chose 'Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,' and it brought me to the original scheme where I saw that 7 others wanted to do the same thing. One user had already done it, and there was a comment at the bottom from National Geographic. I was expecting maybe the one person who had done it would comment with pointers, tips, or general information about the climb, but instead it is one of Googe's partners. Intersting. Their comment: general information about the mountain. Another user commented they are planning a climb in the summer of 2012. Nothing really useful, but nice to see others aspire to climb the beast of a mountain.
The page of recommended schemes features a list of categories, making it easier to refine the list, and has the clever heading ' Pick your poison.' It gives you a list of options like 'once in a lifetime', 'kid friendly', and 'by land sea and air.' Do you think the scheme you've found is super awesome and your friends are going to want in? You can click the 'Heads up' button to email the scheme to your friends and relatives.
How To Get It
I did a simple Google search for Schemer, and found a few people giving away invites. Out of three people, one did email me an invite. As it is in beta testing, it is invite-only as Google+ was. From what I have seen, it has potential to be a really great service, and I like that it ties in to Google+. I wonder, however, if this is a 'scheme' to lure folks away from other social media sites and switch over to Google+, rather than merely competition for Foursquare.