CritPick: New App Turns Social Stream into an Opinion Machine

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In His Quest to Compare Design Ideas Side by Side and Get Feedback, Designer Ozzy Benn Launches His Latest Brain Child: CritPick.

Design wizard, Ozzy Benn, has just launched his newest creation: CritPick, a social media site that allows users to compare up to three pictures or images side by side, comment and give feed-back, and vote on their favorite. Initially launched using the Twitter API, CritPick will eventually have Facebook and cell phone apps.

An enthusiast of the Python coding language and the new Google App Engine Platform, Benn spent months researching what was working (or not) on similar apps. He decided to launch CritPick using Twitter’s API initially, especially since most of the popular Twitter photosharing sites limited Tweets to viewing just one photo at a time. “I was excited," explains Ozzy, "because I felt that no one had really done what I wanted to do yet: share multiple pictures and get votes on favorites. Plus, being a designer first and foremost, who also loves to code, I also wanted to create something solid that also looked great.”

A London-born native now living in Kansas City (with long stints in LA and Chicago), Ozzy Benn is one of those brilliant designer types, much like the quirky guys in the Facebook movie. Known by close friends for his rocker-style shaggy hair and thick Cockney accent, Ozzy’s also known in the professional interactive world for his cutting-edge designs; and in particular, as the creator of DesignCharts, a website many ad agencies go to for inspiration, or to search his Chart’s weekly “Top 40” list of the hottest websites from around the world.

What makes web-gurus like Ozzy Benn tick? Solopreneurship many are starting to call it -- that is, spending one’s own time, money, and creative know-how hoping to launch a new online business model that rocks -- and if one’s lucky, maybe making it as “the next big thing.” But that was never the impetus for Ozzy’s recent obsession.

“Like DesignCharts” laughs Ozzy, “with CritPick, I didn’t sit down and think, ‘Now what could I do next that would impress my mum and make lots of dough?’ Not that I’d mind of course. But honestly, most of my independent projects come out of my own desire to use such a site myself, something I’d like to see that just doesn’t exist yet. I think so many of us designers and coders like a challenge too. It’s the thing that keeps us working late into the night, learning and researching, and trying to do code and design something new and really useful, a site that’s solid too, but one that’s also beautiful.”

Working on his design ideas in the past, Benn was going to sites like Dribbble or sending out Tweets and Skypes to colleagues to get their feedback, but he felt something was missing. “I just wanted to create something that everyone could use, that was free, open to all, and well coded, where you could share more than one picture or image at a time -- a site where you could also have a running total of votes to show you which option was the winner. That’s how it all started with CritPick.”

Twitter recently announced its own new photosharing feature using Photobucket as its partner. For the likes of TwitPic and other popular Twitter-based photosharing sites, this may be difficult news. But Ozzy remains optimistic about CritPick. “I was never really trying to compete with TwitPic, since my intention was a bit different: to create an app that was more about debating ideas with a question, posting multiple images or pictures, and allowing people to leave their comments then pick their favorite. I think there’s room for all of us, and honestly, I hope the best for everyone trying to keep ahead of the game.”

Ozzy, under the auspices of his company Ozburo LLC, plans to launch a Facebook version of CritPick and cell phone apps soon. “It’s been a long hard slog, as they say, but I’m excited to see how users will turn CritPick into their own thing. People can discuss what brand of printer to buy, what movie they liked that week, graphic design ideas, or funny topics. Businesses could use it to do market research too. That’s what’s so awesome about working with the Internet. You often create a site and then find it turns into something entirely different from what you’d planned. I love it!”

Ozzy Benn is a free-lance interactive designer and coder working under the auspices of Ozburo LLC. He has won many prestigious design awards and his work is featured in international design books.


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