Why we built dot.


Look again at that dot.

That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

Carl Sagan

I can clearly remember the day I realised the world was much bigger than I had ever imagined.
I was a toddler and was spending the longest 3 hours ever driving to the beach. To keep me busy, my mom gave me a fold-out map. One of those huge ones that keeps on unfolding. The whole of Europe was on there, and where we were coming from and where we were going, separated by barely a centimeter. Just over the thickness of my thumb!
I spent the rest of ride pointing to things and asking my mom about all these places that I had never heard of.

It was the start of my fascination with maps.

Like most kids I also made countless treasure maps, most of them twice ’cause I never really gotten the hang of burning just the edges. Later when I got into skateboarding, we made maps of all the skate spots in Brussels, to be xeroxed and distributed in skate shops, just for fun, or, in social media speak: to build social capital.

When Google maps came around, Mind=Blown.

I’d spend hours zooming in to the most remote areas, switch to satellite view and wonder what I was seeing. Who lived there? What is their life like? What is this? What’s it’s history? The more I discovered, the more I realised I hardly know anything about the world out there.
Just like that time my mom handed me that map.

Not long thereafter, I, along with 40 people from all over the world, got invited to Portland. With the invitation came this link. A map to Portland, made by our host, Jelly. His places, his context, his view on what was worthwhile visiting. It was the first time I discovered the ‘My Maps’ feature of Google maps and it was the best thing ever.
In a strange twist of fate, one of the other 40 people was Biz Stone, one of the Twitter guys, Twitter than being the new “thing” (I don’t remember ‘app’ being a word back then) that was starting to take the world by storm.

I’ve since built a house, had another kid (that just turned 6), gotten married and gone grey, but the seed of what is dot, was planted there and then.

With twitter you can find context about the now. You can find anyone’s take on what’s happening at this very moment, whether they’re celebrities, authorities, your friends or your mom.
The map Jelly sent me was his context about the here.

His context.

I’m sure there are other people who made “their” map about Portland, but I had to know about them or find them.
What was lacking in the ‘My Maps’ feature was everything that made Twitter so interesting and addictive: serendipity, a social graph, interaction, a platform.

So that’s exactly what we set out to build with dot: a platform that lets anyone create or discover context about anywhere in the world, on any subject imaginable.

We’ve been at it for almost two years, but today the product, our platform, is finally at a point where I don’t cringe every time I open it. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty, pretty, good.
Now an even more daunting task awaits us: fill it with users.
Which is, as with any new platform, the hard part. Because when people ask me what dot is about I can only answer: About here.
We don’t impose a use, a theme or an about. Dot is a tool that allows freedom of expression, it’s simple, and because of that simplicity, the possibilities are endless.
But, just like millions of people found their own way of using Twitter, we are confident they’ll find their own way of using dot. I’m sure 7-year old me would use it to make treasure maps and 14-year old me to map and write about skate spots. My wife uses it to map her city-guide bucket lists, my oldest uses dot to review ‘street art’.

I’m pretty sure you‘ll find your own way of using dot. So give it a spin, sign up, download the iPhone or Android version or toy around with it in your browser. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

Christian, one of the guys that built dot.