First look at Oink, Kevin Rose’s app for rating stuff

Oink, Kevin Rose’s much discussed app about rating not places, but the things they contain, is now live in the App Store. It’s a little like Yelp, and a little like Foursquare, and a little like Foodspotting. But will this pig fly? I kicked the tires to find out.

As mentioned, Oink is all about rating items, and for now, that seems to be mostly about picking out favorite dishes on the menu at local restaurants. But people are already experimenting with a wide variety of items to rate, including the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography and Oink’s own UI. You can see how it could have very broad uses down the road.

Trust issues

The first thing Oink asked me was whether I wanted to become a “Builder.” I did indeed, because I guessed (correctly) that there’d be precious little content in my neck of the woods here in Toronto. But you can’t just start creating content in Oink; you apply to become a “Builder,” and will be notified by email when your application is accepted (and/or denied?).

While I’m disappointed I can’t get posting things immediately, I think the idea of somehow gatekeeping who gets to do so is actually a good idea. In the long run, it’ll make for more meaningful content and item ratings, so that people can actually feel confident in following its recommendations, by keeping bots out of the system until there are safeguards against such potential abuses in place.

Many ways to Discover

Leaving aside ratings and content creation for the moment, the app is actually really beautifully designed, and even with limited, spectator style interaction, it stands out thanks to good development. Finding things through the Discover tab is a perfect example of why.

You can browse for stuff that’s popular, popular and near you, or look for things by their proximity to your location. You can also keep track of incoming ratings in real-time as they go up with the “Live” monitor. This displays a visually pleasing stream of photos from recently approved and disapproved of objects. These are global for now, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to narrow the focus of the real-time stream to a more specific geographic location, but it’s a fun way of doing some minor globe-trotting without going anywhere.

Lots more inside for builders

Once you achieve coveted builder status, you can add friends from Oink, as well as gain “Cred” through ratings, reviews and photos to help establish yourself as an Oink expert in your chosen field. You can also create a profile where all your Oinked info is stored. Unfortunately, as mentioned, you have to wait until Oink starts expanding its Builder pool before you can do any of this.

So Oink looks great, and the UI is full of smooth animations (like the loading ball near the top of the screen) and transitions that avoid the pitfall of being annoying. It already has a lot of active users in highly populated areas, and people lucky enough to be early Builders seem to be having fun. My advice? Do like me and pick up this free app and apply for Builder status now, because Oink provides a useful service in a slick, smart package, so I expect membership requests to start flooding in quickly.

Disclosure: Milk, which created Oink, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.