What do you get when you put together one celebrity chef, one gadget guru, the 5th anniversary of a blogging community, 200 bloggers, food, booze, contests, and apps by a mobile phone giant? An enjoyable and enthralling evening, peals of laughter, camaraderie, a fist-pumping chant that goes “Hurr-Hurr”, a tête-à-tête with the amazing IndiBlogeshwaris, and live-demos of Nokia apps, most of them focused on food and drink. [You also get women fawning over the Master Chef ("I want to take Vikas Khanna home!"), women swooning over the witty, suave techie Rajiv Makhni, and people under various degrees of alcofluence, but that is another matter.] Of the seven Indiblogger meets I have attended, the Nokia Apptasting Indiblogger Meet held in Mumbai on Sunday, was arguably the best.
Apptasting by Nokia alludes to sampling mobile applications the way one would taste food or drink at a tasting session, introducing MS and Nokia apps into the space of the non-techie Joe. I went gingerly, half-expecting it to be a swirl of gastronomy and technology, half-wondering if most participants would simply come for the free booze and celebs, and if Nokia would showcase apps such as the… erm… Ovi Suite or Angry Birds. At Taj Land’s End, where the venue was done tastefully in the Nokia Apptasting theme, I was greeted by Indiblogger’s loveable Vineet Rajan (who remarked it was good to see me in every city he went. I still haven’t decided if it’s a good thing or bad that I am so nomadic). The ballroom had stations that classified Nokia apps as if they were F&B — Bite-sized apps, Shots, and so on. This was probably a way to co-relate the apps to the way they were “consumed”. The meet started on a high note with participants exchanging high-fives, hugging each other, and pumping their fists in the air chanting “Hurr Hurr” at the direction of Anoop from the Indiblogger team, who also informed the audience that the two celebrity hosts had been voted the hottest chef and the hottest anchor. (The other ‘high’ notes included bloggers getting hammered, Rajiv Makhni telling bloggers to look at their phones with lust, say the three magic words to the mobile phones and kiss them, and Vikas Khanna
flooring the womenfolk by blushing red.) The air was thick with excitement.
In Indiblogger-style, every blogger introduces himself or herself within a few seconds. This time, the practice came with a twist. A random selection of bloggers was called upon to term themselves either techies or foodies, and choose between being on either Makhni’s side or Khanna’s. With their witty exchanges and charm, the two hosts had us captivated.
The most technologically gratifying part of the meet was the showcasing of some of the newest Nokia Phone apps in action – Nokia City lens, Morfo, Vino Match, Food and Wine Pairing, Silent Film Director, Foodspotting, Alcohol in Blood and a photo merging app, most of them ‘field tested’ on stage with the help of volunteer bloggers. The app that piqued the most interest was the augmented reality app Nokia City Lens, which is still in beta. It marks out nearby places located in the general direction the phone is held in, along with the details such as the user’s distance from those places, address, and phone numbers. Morfo, which reminded me of the Morpher software I used to fool around with in school, had the confusingly named Simran as the photo subject. The Alcohol in Blood app turns your phone into an alcohol meter and tells you if your blood alcohol content is within legal limits for driving. I kept wondering if it’s a 2-people app; my phone’s touchscreen is lost on me when I am not sober. Silent Film Director transports your (YouTube-quality) videos back into the era of silent films, handling the post-processing for you. The three food-and-lifestyle apps brought forth some discussion how the use of apps by consumers had changed in the restaurant business. While some chefs are squeamish about detailed photos of their creations being freely visible, circulated and commented upon, Khanna was all for the feedback and buzz created by apps such as Foodspotting. The corresponding foodie activity had Vikas Khanna displaying a new technique of chopping onions efficiently, and an onion-chopping contest. A few bloggers managed to turn it into an onion-marauding contest, and one managed to nip his finger.
Poonam Kaul, Country Head, Corporate Communications at Nokia India announced that next month the company will declare an open invitation to contribute ideas for a “dream app”. Nokia would put a few chosen ideas into development. The crowdsourcing of apps to combat the competition! Bloggers were asked to talk about their own dream apps, and they came up with some creative and imaginative ideas, and some very wishful ones. An app to slap ill-behaved auto-rickshaw drivers, one to tell what women want and how they want it, one that displays the traits – and importantly, the GPS co-ordinates – of the dream man, one that lets the user smell food, a carpooling app, an app that reads minds, one that provides real-time updates about available parking spots, and one that lets the user remotely cast a vote.
In the food and consumer technology quiz that followed, I was ticked that a team was earning quiz points for breaking into a dance with every answer. One of their questions was passed to the audience and I ended up winning a Nokia Portable USB charger off it. The last round of the quiz was a rip off from the Master Chef India show, in which blindfolded participants tasting soup had to list out the names of as many ingredients as they could.
Halfway through the event, it started trending on Twitter. A group photo session, a delicious chocolate cake, drinks, and networking concluded the evening.