Two years ago, 22 year old Leonardo Gjoni and his family, of the Pelham Bay Park area of The Bronx, experienced one of anyone’s top fears: Their home had been burglarized and thieves had made away with a bicycle, some construction equipment and other items.
“We contacted the local police to tell them about the break in and they informed us that other homes in the area have also been broken into,” Gjoni told us when he reached out to Welcome2TheBronx last week. “Later that day, we approached our neighbors and told them about the break in, only to find out their homes were broken into a few weeks prior to ours.”, he added.
And that’s when the savvy young programmer came up with Shoutloc, a free smartphone app for Android and iPhone devices aimed at connecting communities, particularly urban ones — much like a modern-day bulletin board you would see at supermarkets and local establishments. Not only does Gjoni envision people using the app to alert others within the communities in real time about incidents so that residents can be on the look out but he also sees it as a way where people can connect by posting local events that may be happening.
Born in Albania, Leonardo Gjoni arrived in the United States at the age of 9 and his family eventually settled in The Bronx when he was 13 years old. A graduate of Lehman High School, he went on to attend Westchester Community College but decided to put school on hold as to focus on Shoutloc.
He describes the app as, “…a mobile application for iPhone and Android with the mission to bring together like-minded local residents in urban communities by providing them with the platform for communication to effectively express their interests and concerns within the community.
Gjoni told us that he did some research online and, “…and quickly realized there is a huge lack of transparency in urban communities like the one I live in. Citizens these days are very divided due to economic reasons, racial and cultural differences and don’t realize we’re all part of our communities together and what affects one of us, affects all of us.”
“With Shoutloc, people can Shout about a burglary in the community, a crime they just witnessed to make others aware, a community basketball event that’s taking place or whatever they feel is important to share. Shoutloc offers an efficient way to keep up with your surroundings and to discuss local topics.” he added. With concerns to crimes, he hopes that Shoutloc will encourage people to talk more freely about incidents since many times, crimes go unreported out of fear of retaliation.
We had the chance to test the app (as it’s not yet available and is pending approval by Google Play and Apple’s App Store) and quickly found it to be quite easy to use. The potential of this app can be immediately seen by its simplicity.
Check out the Shoutloc video below:
The app works using your phone’s geographic location (your personal information is not shown other than your chosen screen name, nor is your current address shown). Once you enter a ‘Shout’, you have up to 50 characters to give it a heading and up to 200 characters for a description. You can even add up to 3 images to your ‘Shout’ and once you enter it, it is visible to all users of the app within a 3 mile radius from where you posted it.
Much like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media applications, you can follow fellow subscribers (Shouters?) and see what they’re posting. There’s even a notification panel which gives you updates as people interact with your ‘Shout’ by commenting on it or even liking or “not” liking it by giving a click on the downwards arrow.
Gjoni also went as far as to make sure that objectionable content such as spam or that is racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, abusive, or otherwise offensive can be flagged for removal. Also, no exchange of private information such as phone numbers or home location is allowed as all shouts are visible by users of the app in the name of safety. Any violators will have their accounts permanently deleted.
Another great feature about the app is that you are not just limited to seeing what ‘Shouts’ are being posted within your 3 mile radius but you can input an address anywhere in the world to see what’s going around that immediate area giving you a portal into those communities as well but you can’t post in those locations unless you are physically there. This is pretty cool for travelers to see ahead of time what’s going on around where they’ll be staying since this is a
There are many other features and plans for Shoutloc in the future but Gjoni is currently focused on getting a few thousand users first once the app is officially approved so that he can further study user behavior. Once enough people are using the app, he’ll be able to determine how to further develop the innovative app.
You can sign up to be notified once Shoutloc is ready for download at over at their website and if you’re on Facebook make sure to join Shoutloc’s page or Twitter to also receive the latest updates. (Please make sure you do sign up and also like their Facebook page, it’s important that we support our small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Once the app gets a critical mass of users, we definitely think this will be one of the most useful social apps out there because of the heavy focus on community and community building.
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