Early in the film The Social Network, the actors playing Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin pull an all-nighter in their Harvard dorm room to create Facemash, a website that ranks and compares female students. The website is such a hit, it crashes Harvard's servers.
Now, ethics (and good taste) aside, one wonders how much of an impact environment had on such a collaborative effort. Would Facemash, a precursor to Facebook, have come about had Mr. Zuckerberg and friends lived in separate apartments off campus? Or did their close proximity play a part in the eventual outcome?
That, in a nutshell, is the inspiration behind the University of Waterloo's VeloCity program.
Launched in the fall of 2008, the program accepts as many as 70 of Waterloo's budding developers and entrepreneurs and houses them together in their own dormitory. VeloCity's "dormcubator" was envisioned to foster a culture of collaboration and to provide resources and mentorship to help students turn their bursts of genius into something tangible.
And it's working. Some VeloCity students have gone on to form startups. To date, the most successful is Kik Interactive Inc., created by Ted Livingston, who came up with the idea for his Kik Messenger for many types of mobile devices during his term at VeloCity.
If Grandma and Grandpa shun your digital lifestyle, the brains behind photoflo.tv may have a way for them to catch up on all of your posted photos and videos right through their own TV. When the Web service launches, users will be able to sign up for the service and link to photos and videos on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr or Picasa. The digitally-shy connect a set-top box to their TV, and when it's turned on they'll be able to scroll through the content when tuned to channel 3.
Inflo, the company behind photoflo.tv, is still in beta testing and plans to partner with retirement communities first before launching their product in wider markets. Their goal, according to Inflo president Max Brodie, is to prove their business model before designing a custom TV box.
SimplePost.ca is a free service that helps create, address, and send a physical letter to federal politicians. After addressing and composing your letter in a series of simple-to-fill text boxes, the site uses your home address to build a list of relevant politicians. Once you have chosen recipients, the website creates personalized letters and envelopes address to each politician. The envelopes are designed to be printed on standard letter-sized paper and folded around the letter.
UpPhoto.ca is a fast and easy photo uploader for Facebook that was created during one of VeloCity's 24-hour hackathons. The downloadable application creates a folder on your desktop into which you drag and drop pictures. The images are then automatically uploaded to your Facebook account.
Students who hang out in the library a lot need this bibliography time-saver. Quickcite.it is an iPhone and Android app that makes creating a bibliography simple and easy. All you do is scan the barcode on the back of a book with your phone and the app sends a properly formatted citation to your e-mail. From there, copy and paste the formatted source into your term paper.
People who have found themselves walking blindly through a mall or airport searching for a specific store will want MappedIn. The Web and mobile app aims to be the Google Maps for indoor places, connecting users with a database of interactive indoor maps for places like malls, airports, museums and university campuses.