Tech Notes: Diaroogle Disappoints


For all we hear from the tech blogs about cool apps, most apps really are not cool at all. The proportion of tech innovations that live up to their hype is dismayingly small; if even a tenth of the widgets, gizmos and plug-ins you read about in a single year were as good as advertised, your computer would be making you coffee and giving you a foot massage every morning.

Still, even the most jaded of us will get our hopes up when the topline is promising. That’s what happened when we got a tweet about something called Diaroogle, professing to be “the premier toilet search engine” for New York City. You put in a zip code, it finds you toilets. It even includes reviews. Useful, right?

We put the zip for the Voice offices, and our heart rose: nine bathrooms appeared. They weren’t all, strictly speaking, convenient (they ranged from Varick and Grand to 30th and Second Avenue), but a few of them were within sprinting distance, and in any case it was good to learn about some of them for future reference — that the Guitar Center on 14th Street, for example, has an at least functionally public restroom is good news to anyone who regularly begins long subway rides from Union Square. If the reviews were annoying (“Don’t hesitate to buy a burger while you’re [at Five Guys] because they have some of the best”), we saw glimmers of general and genuine utility.

But then we pushed Diaroogle’s envelope and tried our Brooklyn address in the search field. It looked a lot like the first map. Well, some of the locations were different: one of them was in the Waldorf Astoria. But none of them were in Brooklyn.

Diaroogle is a “community authored database,” so we guess the expectation is that grateful users will fill in the gaps with their own contributions. But we’ve been down this road before. Remember Garbage Scout? When we first heard of it a few years ago, it sounded great: real-time updates on wonderful stuff (furniture, musical instruments, curiosities) thrown out on city streets. It was as exciting as the notion of renting or borrowing a car to pick up this awesome dresser you saw uptown — which is to say, it was exciting until you actually had to do something about it. Go look at Garbage Scout: it seems not to have been updated in about 10 months. That “Cat Condo Play Toy Scratcher Furniture” is probably gone by now.

That’s what we expect, alas, for Diaroogle. There will probably be a flurry of updates, and then users’ attention spans will revert to their normal lengths, and it will be forgotten. Eventually we’ll be led back by some nostalgic impulse or willfully obscure reference on a tech blog, and find listings for businesses that have gone out of business, in buildings that have been torn down. The geek mind is pioneering and covers a lot of ground, but it is not so great at putting down roots. And, frankly, when it comes to a business model? We doubt that, even in these days of endless loss-leading, many vendors are eager to be known for toilets you can use without buying anything.