Welcome to what might just be the next big thing in the social networking landscape: LifeGunk. Launched in Greenpoint in January 2011, LifeGunk aims to be the ultimate life enhancement tool. It is unique because it combines several powerful elements; it’s a life management system that helps users organize their lives, and it’s a social network allowing them to connect and collaborate in accomplishing their goals.
LifeGunk’s founder, 34-year-old Javan Joel, was inspired to create it after finding that he was organizing his highly goaloriented life in so many different ways—on scraps of paper, in Outlook at his office, on his smartphone, on his laptop, in his notebook—that it was becoming impossible to keep track of it all. What began as a way to manage all of his ideas, goals, tasks, and appointments in one central, easily accessible system, eventually grew into something much bigger.
Javan, who gave up his very successful web development company to focus on developing LifeGunk, has lots of ideas. He wanted to develop a way to share his ideas and goals with his friends and family that would allow people to see, help contribute to, and perhaps even join each other in reaching their goals.
No goal is too big or too small for LifeGunk—whether you’re trying to lose weight, become a millionaire by age 40, travel the world, develop a business idea, or just organize a group to go to a movie. The main feature of LifeGunk is the “AGI” tool, an acronym for Activities, Goals, and Ideas.
According to Javan, it is based on the way that an idea develops: when you have an Idea, it can turn into a Goal, and a goal can turn into an Activity. When users set up a free account, they open to their AGI dashboard, where they can see their daily lists, favorites, conversations, and a calendar where they input goals and target dates for reaching them. The AGIs are always private unless you choose to share them. Javan himself has over 100 AGIs, with some private, and some collaborations. Users can share AGIs and send invites to join their activities and brainstorm ideas.
According to Javan, “When you’re on Facebook, you’re mostly bored and just passively reading status updates. You’re not really doing anything productive. With LifeGunk, you log on to be productive, to share your progress, to see how your friends and family are progressing and help them to be productive. It’s meant to help you connect with others and get involved in each others’ lives on a deeper level.” It’s this combination of tools to personally organize all aspects of life, and the ability to collaborate with others to track your progress and reach your goals, that makes LifeGunk unique—and potentially poised to be the next social networking phenomenon.
Javan explains, “Say someone wants to lose 20 pounds. If they make their goal public to me, I can comment and wish them good luck. Or I can go further, and make a suggestion or refer them to someone I know who can help them. Or I can go even further and join them in that goal. If I do that, then we can make a combined effort, and I actually have a vested interest in helping them out because I want to accomplish this goal too, and that’s where LifeGunk really stands out, because of the collaborative aspect. It gives you tools to collaborate on something productive.”
For Javan, LifeGunk can turn something from “just being an idea in my head to becoming a real-world execution, to making it really happen. Most of the time we have a goal, we write it down or keep it in our head and forget about it, and years later we look back and say, oh I still haven’t done it. I’m really the type of person that believes that when you put something out there it comes back to you in some way, but you have to put it out there. So this is a tool to really help you put it out there, and have a way for people to help each other make it a reality.”
One of the most significant differences from a networking site like Facebook is that LifeGunk is designed to respect the privacy of its users. As explained by Javan, “Unlike Facebook, which is public by default, LifeGunk is private by default. For myself, as the guy who started it, I knew I was going to put really personal stuff onto my profile, about my own ideas and goals, and I wanted to protect myself as well.” Everyone’s personal information is encrypted. There are strong privacy settings that will allow you to choose how to unlock your personal data, who you want your data shared with, or if you want information totally public.
LifeGunk is free for the average user, but will involve a charge for premium services for businesses and project management, depending on how much space a user needs.
That’s why it’s not dependent on advertising, and why Javan assures users that it will not allow data mining. LifeGunk will eventually allow targeted advertising, but according to Javan, “We only want advertising that is useful to the user. Our goal is that a user never feels it is intrusive”. Users will be able to opt out of seeing any advertising altogether, if they wish. Javan explains, “Another beautiful feature of LifeGunk is that with most other sites, when you click on an ad, you are usually led out of the site and onto the advertiser’s page. LifeGunk will only allow advertisers that set up a group page within the system. If you want to lose weight and an ad for a gym in your area pops up, you can click on it and it will take you to its LifeGunk group page, so you can see who else is part of it, and join activities right then and there.”
For Javan, “websites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we communicate. Unfortunately that has come at a price. We have lost the human interaction that we were once accustomed to. Our ‘connectedness’ has brought us more disconnectedness.” The social networking that LifeGunk allows has a purpose: to actively facilitate offline, real-world interactions around life-enhancing activities.
“One of the main reasons I invented LifeGunk is because so many sites annoy me. They’re not private, they waste time. They have bullying. I wanted to focus on positive things, goals, and enhancing productivity,” Javan says. To ensure this, he is developing a ‘thumbs down’ button. If somebody puts up something offensive, and it receives enough thumbs down, it is removed. He’s also developing a new feature that gives each user a store of ‘kudo points.’ If something gets enough thumbs down, it can lose kudo points, and if you give someone a kudo point you give it from your pool, so you have to really like it. Eventually, users can rack up points and get rewards for them. Since everyone that can give thumbs down or kudos are people you are personally connected to, Javan believes this will be a way to keep a positive atmosphere for the LifeGunk community.
LifeGunk currently has about 16,000 members, and Javan is projecting that in about six months to a year it could really take off. His sister, Dishan Elise, owns a gym in Greenpoint called Human@Ease, and she’s the president of LifeGunk.
Javan’s father, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar software development company, is also actively involved. They chose Greenpoint for their offices because it’s “a hip and happening area and we both love it. It’s good having our businesses here because we are surrounded by creative artists and we feel that it’s a hub for a lot of great things coming out of New York, now and in the future.”
For Javan, who is very interested in motivational learning, LifeGunk expresses his belief in life enhancement. People are excited about it because “it fulfills a basic inherent human need to be social, loved, connected, and to be validated by our community.”
At press time, Javan rolled out a brand new product designed to help small businesses and freelancers called GunkSites. See it in action at lifegunk.com.