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GemShare is like Yelp written by only people you know

Leah Yamshon | April 4, 2014
Online user reviews have completely changed the way we shop and select service providers. I use Yelp religiously for finding hot new restaurants. I scour through online comments when buying clothes, decor, and furniture, to look for tips on fit and assembly. I wouldn't ever consider a handyman without making sure someone has vouched for him first.

GemShare's main landing page is your activity feed, where you can see what your friends are searching for or recommending. For example, one of your friends might be looking for a live band for his upcoming wedding; tap on the listing to respond. You can respond with a gem of your own, point him in the direction of a friend you think could help, or just give a simple acknowledgement that you can't help this time.

If you're looking for a recommendation, start with searching for a service by using the search tool at the top of the screen. GemShare will search for your network's gems to see if anyone has a listing that matches your needs. Results are shown by location, but you can switch to view results by connection. If nothing comes up, tap "Ask for a Gem" to reach out to your network. Fill out what you're looking for, and leave a brief description with more info. That post gets broadcasted to your direct network and friends of friends, who can respond if they have a lead.

Of course, the network can only thrive if everyone posts their gems in return, which Ryan says hasn't been an issue during testing.

"Being in a network with friends is a big motivator," she said, "so about 70 percent of users are contributing content to help out their friends."

To list gems, tap the Give Gems button and enter the info you'd like to share. GemShare connects with Google Places, so if you enter a business by name, it will give the full listing and contact information. You can also list a specific person to recommend, and leave a quick review about why you like that business or professional. Finally, mark your listing as a gem (which has your full stamp of approval), a gem for some (for businesses that are great, but might not suit everyone's needs), or heard good things (for businesses that you haven't tried yet, but have heard good feedback). Everyone in your network can see that recommendation after you've posted it.

Apps like this are only as good as the community behind it: GemShare is a great idea and was clearly designed with our busy, mobile, go-go-go lifestyles in mind. Yet, the pilot sample was based in the Bay Area, so new GemShare users have to start essentially from scratch to get more users onboard in their local community, perhaps relying again on word of mouth.

Still, I think GemShare will catch on, mainly because it fills a void that other apps haven't met. Personal recommendations directly from friends are probably the most trusted sources you can have, especially because you can comfortably ask follow-up questions or call your friend directly for more details.


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