Welcome to VYou (Virtual You), the latest social platform dubbed “Formspring + video + crack” by contemporary tech journalists. Despite the witty portrayal however, it’s hard to pin this social platform down with a satisfying enough description. The most anyone is sure about right now when it comes to VYou, is that the start-up beta is a virtual venue that thrives on the act of asking a question – oh, and that it’s really, really addicting.
Pioneered by CEO Steve Spurgat and Chuck Reina in November 2010, the New York-based VYou was created to help information-seekers find what they are looking for quickly. While this might sound like any other social network on the digital planet, what distinguishes VYou from all of the others is that it really is based primarily on the act of users probing for their data through inquiry. At the time of VYou’s inception, Spurgat’s prototype case for the idea was a World War II veteran who had the desire to air out his war storie to all of those interested. By asking questions about the vet’s experience, Spurgat rationalized, viewers would most efficiently be able to grasp the fullest sense of the soldier’s story.
And so the platform is, so far, being used similarly by many experts across the spectrum. America’s Test Kitchen uses its VYou presence to provide solutions for epicurean explorations such as “How cold should my refrigerator be?” (Answer: between 35 and 40 degrees). VH1 taps into the power of online plugging by using the platform for interviews with stars as well as customized integrations for some celebrities. Most profiles on the site, however (and there are currently about 500,000 of them) do not revolve around a specific topic, rather they serve as a pivoting point for regulars like you and me who just want to share our everyday thoughts and experiences…by answering nosy people’s questions.
The Question and Answer paradigm certainly makes for a more exclusive and intimate experience than that which you will find on a plain old video sharing application like Youtube. Says Spurgat, a former play-writing major: “When people are talking about their knowledge and opinions, the camera is turned facing in…Whereas with experiences, the camera is facing out…. In the theatre the actors and the audience are all together. Then there was film where the audience was together looking at a screen, TV where the audience is in different rooms looking at a screen and now its computers with one person looking at a screen. … Now it’s coming full circle, and that’s part of the background for why we created VYou. There’s this need for intimacy. Social media kind of takes our interactions and puts it into the form of news. And in real life we interact one-to-one.”
That being said, it’s mighty tempting to go in the direction of the mainstream social platform with giants like Facebook and Twitter hovering over – and just last week, VYou launched an an for the iPhone which allows users to post a status update on their profiles without the need for being asked a question first.
So, before you dive head first into creating a Virtual You, let me warn you that the start-up is just that: a start-up. Meaning a baby, a beta. So, don’t be too frustrated when you find the experience – and the site for that matter – lacking in anyway. Spurgat and his team are working on it. For now, the VYou process is simple, as explained on the site itself:
1. Receive Messages. Friends and visitors enter messages and see your recorded responses to them.
2. Create Video Responses. If you have no response to their messages, you are notified and create some, and even personalize videos for friends.
3. A Virtual You Evolves. Over time, an interactive database of your knowledge evolves, and is stored for life. You may easily add, change, and update it to stay current.
And that’s really all there is to it, right now at least. And I mean that literally – the site doesn’t even have anything written on its “About Us” page yet. You create an account, you follow users, you log in to view your “feed” containing all of the video-taped answers which the people you follow have provided in response to questions they’ve been asked, and of course – you’re free to shoot away your inquiries, too, as well as answer your followers’ questions.
While it may seem a bit dinky, don’t forget to throw the beta a bone – - and on that note, I should tell you that the service is being compared to the more popular Q&A giant Quora. In fact, VYou has been successful enough already to reel in some pretty interesting talent like pop culture author Chuck Klosterman, writer Will Leitch and Gawker TV guy Richard Blakely.
Keep checking with Consumer Priority Service on the development of VYou. In the meantime, remember there’s no question about it: when it comes to top-notch service plans for all of you electronics, CPS is the place to be.