Tuesday, January 29, 2013


      Have you seen our website? Lots of great stuff to explore, so fire up your desktop and check it out. While you're at it, bring the site up on your mobile phone. See that? It's completely different! Thanks to the wonders of CSS, it's all the same code. I've also programmed a simple sample game that you can play on Telegraph Hill. Here are some screenshots. Let us know what you think!

Landing Page
 Options, options...
 In case you need a little help...
 Think you've got it?
 Need directions?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Week (and Year) in review

Seems like just yesterday I was sitting here in the Mechanic's Institute tapping out a few first thoughts about the Urban Explorers Guild on this blog and dreaming up new plans and ideas. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago!

A lot has changed since then. I've gotten a new job with a very interesting tour company, The Urban Safari (an eerily similar logo, yes?). It's lots of fun and has led to a very rewarding tour season spent in the company of a dread-locked former teamster, a demanding boss, and lots of Australians. SO MANY AUSTRALIANS!

But every season ends, and now with only three days of work per week and the end of daylight savings time, here I am looking back at a year of fits and starts, and forward to the future. This year has seen a lot of successes:
  • A very cool pitch video, edited by our talented Curator of FACTs, Tiffany! See some of the drafts here.
  • A nice website. (A huge feat when you consider the web developer we hired for the project had absolutely no experience with CSS, HTML 5, or mobile optimization! That is because the web developer was me!)
  • A mobile-optimized alpha-test version of the game that you can play right now. So go play it right now!
  • A Kickstarter campaign page filled out with some pretty rad thank you gifts. You can check out a preview here.
  • A Facebook page with (almost) a dozen likes, including some people I don't know!
  • A charming backstory dreamed up by Tiffany.
  • A branding package created by Artist Extraordinaire Aidan O'Flynn. (Everybody comments on the business cards!)
  • A handy cross-platform organization system called Asana that I cannot recommend enough.
And still there is more to do, so much more before the Urban Explorers Guild can come to fruition. Check in frequently over the next few months to see us create a virtual demo game, do a voice over for that awesome pitch video, go live on Kickstarter, raise a pile of cash and build the best damn donation-based alternate reality game of discovery accessible for free on your smartphone ever!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Walk with Wild Wes

Just finished a very fun tour with the dapperest ukulele-playing guide in the city - "Wild" Wes.

We met at the Adelaide Hostel on Isadora Duncan lane, a few blocks from Union Square, and got in the mood with a charming song reminding us - "don't call it 'Frisco". And then we were off!

The walk covers Union Square, Chinatown, Financial District, Jackson Square and North Beach. Lots of well trodden stops, like the Fortune Cookie Factory, were included but so were some unknown places (including a very special secret finale that I will not reveal) and each was enlivened with witty commentary or song. There was even an impromptu hoe-down jam session with an old Chinese barber and violinist!

There were only three people in the group the day that I went out, so things weren't too "wild", but Wes' abundant passion for San Francisco shone through at every turn. Thanks for a wonderful morning stroll!

Check it out at http://wildweswalkingtours.wordpress.com/book-a-tour/

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Experiencing Vertigo at Fort Point

Fort Point has always been one of my favorite "touristy" places in San Francisco. I lead groups there almost every day, and I would love to be able to say I know every boom and cranny by hand, but I feel like I discover some new nook or cranny every time I turn a corner.

And this summer it got even better with the introduction if "International Orange", and exhibit of art works capturing artists' "responses" the Golden Gate Bridge on her 75th anniversary. Sixteen different pieces are hidden all over the Fort (full list at http://www.international-orange.org/exhibition/) Discovering them for the first time this spring was a blast and watching tour groups discover them again and again is so rewarding. My favorite by far is "Vertigo" the giant Camera Obscura installed in the East Bastion by Abelardo Morel. Bringing the monumental structure of the bridge inside is a mind-bending surprise, and allows for careful close up inspection if the bridge even in the most heinous weather.

But the grand irony of the image inside the camera obscura? If you try to take a reflexive tourist snapshot inside the dark room, the automatic flash on a standard point and shoot camera lights up and obliterates the image. Without the flash, it's too dark to capture. Some things were made to be simply enjoyed.

The exhibition runs through October 31st.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The world is our oyster - or maybe I am

My wife Tiffany said something amazing to me yesterday. "You're like an oyster, and this project is like a grain of sand that you're slowly polishing into this perfect pearl. But now it's just Irritating you. Tme to spit it out!"

And everything clicked for me. As you can tell if you flip through the archives of this blog, I've been working on and off on this project for almost 9 months now, but I've been reticent about sharing it and promoting it. I feel like there is something still left to do before it's ready - bugs to fix, typos to find, irregularities to smooth over. But it's time to bare everything that I've been working on to the world and get moving. So today I finally opened The Urban Explorers guild project page on Kickstarter. It's not ready yet (we still need upload a pitch video and sort out some financial details) but the final phase starts now!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Straight Pitch script - second draft

The straight pitch video that I posted earlier didn't feel quite right for me (it was basically cribbed from sections of our business plan) so I decided to rework it from the ground up. Tell me what you think! (More video to follow shortly.)

This was posted from my iPhone...

"More than 16 Million people visit San Francisco every year, and as a guide with an offbeat, locally-owned tour company, it is my delight to bring this dynamic and always surprising city alive for a few of those people. But most tour companies run in the same tired loop from tourist trap to tourist trap, dealing "death by microphone" from double-decker buses wherever they go, and snarling the streets with traffic congestion and noise.

I think San Francisco's biggest industry needs a boost from it's fastest-growing industry - technology. San Francisco startups like Vayable and Airbnb are revolutionizing the way we find experiences and book a place to stay all while promoting entrepreneurship, cultural exchange, and community building. I want to do all that and revolutionize the way we interact with the city itself - so I founded the Urban Explorers Guild.

The guild is a community built around a donation-based game of discovery played on your smartphone. Think of it as a self-guided tour brought to life as an alternate reality game and carried in the palm of your hand. It's goal: to immerse players in the living city around them and challenge them to discover the hidden sights, oddities, and forgotten stories right under their noses. To bring San Francisco's little-known treasures to light, and to help players see its established attractions in a new light. To turn locals and tourists alike into explorers!

And that's where Kickstarter comes in. Your donations will fund the hard work of programming the backbone of the game and the high-quality artwork that will bring it to life. Rewards range from a copy of the app and a heartfelt "thank you!" to a live, immersive, alternate reality game experience for you and your friends, and there is plenty of other interesting stuff in between.

So, if you're in San Francisco, head to the Filbert Street Steps on Telegraph Hill and play our demo. If you're not, try the virtual demo on our website and remember us the next time you visit. And keep discovering!"


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rough Draft Pitch Video (now via You Tube)

It looks like the original video we uploaded to Blogger was not playing correctly, so here we are via our snazzy YouTube channel! Watch it embedded, or watch it directly right here.