Dodgeball: When New York City Is Your Playground

“We think of it as technology facilitating serendipity. As to whether anyone is going to get laid from it, all I can say is that our engineers are working day and night to make this happen.”

Beep beep
Dodgeball Alert:
Dens @
Bowery Bar
555 Bowery

Four years ago, my cell phone partied every night, thanks to Dennis Crowley. Dens worked with me at Vindigo, and was truly excited about the possibilities when people could communicate on the go. He is rare: a gadget freak with a genius for people.
“I just want to call up his mother and tell her what a good job she did,” said a senior colleague not given to overpraise.

He made Dodgeball for his friends. If Orkut is what you build when you’d like to collect people like stamps, early Dodgeball was for the real, beer-on-the-floor world. Clouds of people floated around Dennis, and for fun he built them tools to get more Best Days Ever(tm) out of life.

The idea was simple. Make a list of your friends’ phone numbers, or join someone else’s list. “Check in” when you get to a bar or a club. If they’ve agreed to it, they get a quick text message saying you’re there. The service supplies the address. Dodgeball kids didn’t talk pompous talk about Virtual Social Networks four years ago; they just used it to make real ones. In New York City we pay fat rents to live near good stories, but people shoot around the place like pinballs. Dodgeball made sure friends–and now friends of friends–collided once in a while. It’s not a lot to ask, and the geeks and phone company apparatchiks will pick it up eventually.

Seems Dens has been working hard since I last checked in to his Dodgeball Circle. He went back to college, and turned a hobby into an NYU Interactive Technology Program project. Now Clay Shirky, his NYU professor (and my favorite technology essayist), says Dodgeball is ready for the big time. Duck.

6 thoughts on “Dodgeball: When New York City Is Your Playground”

  1. Awesome logo! Not that _I_ ever got hit while playing dodgeball, of course.

    I’m not sure I’m social enough to use it, but it’s a lot more appealing than any of the other so-called social networking junk I’ve seen.

    I’ll sign up if you’ll sign up . . .


  2. I’ll have to think about getting a cell phone. Have never known one, never seen the seen.

    After reading about Dodgeball I’m still not certain I have the need. A PowerBook with Airport (WiFi) joins me in my travels along with a digital camera. That’s too much tech for me already.

    Color me a dinosaur.


  3. Hmm.. Must be late: Correct that to: Have never owned one, never seen the need.

    (Sort of a gaggle of Freudian slips?)


  4. I don’t have a cell phone either these days. Or any gadgets other than my laptop. I try to keep my unpaid life offline, but it’s a struggle.


  5. I have been experimenting with Apple’s iChat DV a bit. Bought their little camera so I can do both video and audio and it works rather well. I don’t really find it all that useful except when one of my children wishes to show me the latest lost tooth, bad bump on the knee, or artwork of one of my grandchildren. 🙂

    My PowerBook and little Nikon digital are my constant companions. I found a lens attachment for the Nikon that’s equivalent to a 35mm lens of 300mm and with my Fisheye attachment I have all kinds of interesting opportunities I might miss if I were chatting on a cell phone. 😉

    The value of tech gadgets is obviously relative and each makes a choice. My youngest son, a teacher, carries a PowerBook around and on his belt he has a PDA, digital phone, pager, and digital camera. With all that equipment all he needs is a helmet and flak jacket to be a well dressed man about Baghdad. The folks over there strike me as being encumbered with a good many gadgets.

    Wouldn’t it be something to have the exclusive battery franchise for Iraq? But I suppose that’s already taken by Halliburton. 😉


  6. Thanks Dervala. Not only is your blog brilliant ( if – ahem – not updated as frquently as we would like 🙂 ) but you link to the best stuff.

    Not talking about Dodgeball necessarily, though it is interesting, but Professor Shirky is an absolute gem.


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