Wednesday, January 23, 2013

(Response invited, please comment!) App Idea : Bass, Social Learning [Reblogged]

Reblogged (with permission) from

I’d like to start with a quote :
“If I were the king of the world, tell you what I’d do;
Throw away the cars and the bars and the wars,
Make sweet love to you” – Joy to the World, Three Dog

Today I want to discuss an idea for an app that I had
for roughly three months. I will only discuss the non-
technical side here, for two reasons : 1) I want a wider
audience to respond to this idea 2) Great ideas come
when there are no limitations on people’s imagination.
I don’t want to impose a limit on people without the
technical know-how.

Okay, let’s start. A good portion of students in my city
have smartphones. And almost all of them have a PC at
home. Elders usually scold them when they find their
child using the computer or phone. They think their
children cannot use technology for education related
purposes, only for playing games or using Facebook. To
them I say, you are wrong. Students can use
technology to study. In fact, they are already doing so
in the form of Wikipedia (but as many parents will tell
you, it only helps them copy down stuff for homework,
not actually learning something). They may be right in
a sense.

My idea is for an app that allows and aids you to study
on your smartphone/tablet/PC. Now, what exactly do
we mean by “studying”? Different people have different
definitions for the term. For some, it is simply
memorizing facts and numbers. For some people, it is
learning a certain concept and then solving problems
based on that concept. For some people, just reading a
textbook is studying.

There’s one common denominator in all of these
definitions. And that is the learning material. Where
will you memorize stuff from? What will help you in
learning a concept? The answer is the material which
you are using to study. And that’s important for my
idea. How? I’ll get to that later.

This app (let’s call it Bass, for the lack of a better
name) won’t be a single purpose app. Rather, it will
comprise of many parts with different purposes, all of
which have a common goal : to help you learn.
Studying is not complete without some Q&A, is it?
Right now the only Q&A functionality possible is
multiple choice questions. Although this leaves out
some subjects that don’t use MCQs like English
literature, it is pretty much enough for most subjects.

So where will these questions come from? Am I going
to write them all? For an initial period, yes. There is a
lot of free course material lying around the web. I just
have to do some copy-pasting. After Bass gains some
momentum, I will activate a feature which will allow
users to put up Q&A sets of their own in the MCQ
format. There will be a tool in Bass to allow you to do
that. Once you have created your Q&A set, you can
upload it to the web to share with friends’ who are
studying the same topics as you. You can trade sets
over the web. You can use it to test yourself. You can
ask your teachers to make one and upload it.
The Q&A sets which are publicly available will be
organised, rated, reviewed and discussed on an online
quiz library, from which you can browse through and
download quiz sets.

Discussions are also a key part of studying. Bass will
provide students with what I call a “discussion board”.
Basically it is just like group chat. But that’s not it.
Along with your friends, Bass will group you with a
bunch of strangers all around the world who are
studying or have studied the same topic as you (if you
want to). As someone said “A conversation with a wise
man is worth reading hundreds of books”.

Bass will also offer integration with apps likeEvernote, which is a great note taking app. I use it myself.

As I said before, the learning material is important. E-
Textbooks are getting more and more popular. Bass
will either 1) offer integration with an e-Book reader
2) offer reader functionality itself and allow you taking
clippings* out of your e-books, which you can use for
reference in discussion boards.

A very, very key part of Bass will be the thing parents
dislike the most. Facebook. Facebook is the largest and
the most popular social networking platform out there
right now and it is still growing. But the greatest thing
about Facebook is the software platform it provides.
I’m not saying I’m making another Facebook app. We
all use a lot of apps on Facebook, don’t we? These
apps are no better than normal apps, but we still use
them. Why? Because they integrate with Facebook’s
social networking features. Facebook will serve as a
“connector” for us. It will be used to join the different
parts I’ve outlined. Facebook offers almost the all the
web based functionality needed by Bass. And Bass will
be helped by Facebook’s popularity.

Think about it. Say you want to take a quiz. What do
you do? You fire up Bass on your device. You browse
through the number of Q&A sets available. You
download a set and you take the quiz. You can share
your results, or you can keep them private. Say you
had difficulty solving a problem. You go to the
discussion board, get on the topic the problem was
based on, and then discuss the problem with fellow

Here’s a rough schematic:


Target OS (by priority) :

0) Facebook platform (pre-requisite)
1) Android
2) Cloud/Online
3) iOS

The reason iOS is on number three should be obvious.
I will use Adobe’s AIR platform to make a non-mobile
version. This has an advantage making it platform

Model : Open-Source (under consideration)

Payment model : Not decided

I don’t want to starve, so I’ll have to do monetization.
The “free version with ads, paid version without ads,
no change in features” model is nice, but for an app
that is meant for studies, I don’t think that ads are a
good idea. The “free, donate to the author if you like
it” model will probably leave me starving, atleast
initially. I’ll try a modified version of Whatsapp’s
model. Free for a year, after a year, you’ll start getting
ads. You can pay to remove them if you want.

Expected arrival : December 2013 (alpha version),
mid-2014 (final release)

So, how was the idea? Did you like it? Any suggestions?
Any improvements? Do you think it will fail? Or do you
think it will succeed? I sincerely request you to
comment, whatever you think of it. Don’t hesitate. I
need your feedback. Let me know in the comments section. Thank you.

Suryansh Pradhan

*May depend on copyright issues

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