New app crowdsources quick, expert tips about life in Brussels

Summary

A new app aims to offer expert answers to all your questions about life in the city

Facebook meets Yelp

Looking for a new bar, somewhere to treat your pet, a secret park or a reliable plumber? A new app developed by a Brussels entrepreneur offers instant answers to all your questions about life in the city.

Gunter Boutsen came up with the idea for Manyguide after endlessly swapping tips with a friend in Amsterdam on what to do and where to go in their respective cities. The pair are two of the five international partners behind Manyguide, which was launched in December to provide quick-fire answers to people on the go in Brussels and Amsterdam.

“If you’re on the move in the city, you want good advice, fast,” Boutsen says. “You’ve got websites like Yelp, but so much of the advice on there is out of date, and you don’t want to have to scroll through lists to find what you’re looking for.”

His answer to the problem was to harness the collective mind of a few hundred smartphone-wielding experts in various fields, who are invited to register as guides. “You might know about cafes, restaurants or bars, but you might also be an expert on pet shops, and we’re seeing a lot of questions like that,” he says. “We really want to make this for everybody.”

The questions asked on Manyguide fall into two broad categories: novel and useful. Do you want to discover something fun and new, or do you need practical information? Among the 350 guides so far registered in Brussels, someone is bound to know the answer.

Quick and dirty

It works like this: Once you’ve downloaded the free app, you ask a question in English and the built-in processing software automatically allocates it to the most appropriate guide. The guide gets a notification, inviting them to answer within a certain time. If they decide not to answer or don’t respond within the time limit, the question passes on to the next suitable guide in the system.

“We enrich the answers people give, too; we make it super simple,” Boutsen says. Information cards related to the places mentioned in the answers automatically pop up to provide addresses, directions, opening hours and contact details. With a tap, users can add it to their contacts list. 

You’ll only ever get questions on subjects that you’ve told us you know about

- Gunter Boutsen

All communication is done via the app; the intention at this stage is not to build a community or to start a conversation, but to be a quick and easy interface between questioner and expert. The questioner gives feedback on the quality of the answers they receive, and they even have the option to tip their guide a euro or two using mobile banking.

“The biggest fear we had was whether people would be motivated to answer when they were sent a question,” Boutsen says. “But in the end, that’s the least of our problems: They love it because it’s so easy. You’ll only ever get questions on subjects that you’ve told us you know about.”

Manyguide is only available on iOS for the moment, but an Android version is promised later.

Photo courtesy Manyguide