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20 August 2015

The “Pooductive” toilet chat app has a hidden social mission

A new app lets users swap toilet anecdotes while using the loo - but its real intention is to raise awareness and funds for sanitation around the world. 

By Barbara Speed

Full disclosure: this article is about an app which allows people to message one another while sitting on the toilet. If you’re a fan of scatological humour, it’s probably hilarious, but if, like me, you’d rather not read peoples’ real-time reviews of their own deposits, the app is mostly just kind of gross. 

“Pooductive” is a free app which lets you connect with individuals or groups of users to chat while you’re using the loo. At the moment, there aren’t enough users for you to get far with the “local” option, which lets you set a radius, Tinder-style, and connect with people nearby, but the “Global” option gives you access to people around the world.

When I log on (at my desk, I’m afraid), a Global group chat is in full swing, full of openers like “Anyone pissing in this room?” and “Anyone got any thoughts on Corbyn while we dump?” (no one did). The number of people making the joke “this app is shit” is enough to threaten your faith in humanity. Every so often, a user avails themselves of one of the app’s only two features: a button which sends a pre-set “I’m Wiping” message, and a menu which lets you choose from a list of songs, including “Chocolate rain” and “Some kind of monster”, to describe your poo. To leave the group chat, you press “Flush”:

The app suffers from the fact that many users, like myself, are probably just looking out of curiosity, and if they are logging in on the loo they probably won’t be around for long. But just as I was about to flush my way out of the pit of poo jokes, a user claiming to be one of Pooductive’s creators popped up with a more serious message.

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The user, “Pooductive”, asked whether any of the people in the group would be interested in beta testing the next version of the app, which will include some “major changes” and would introduce a new, consciousness-raising element:

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We’re actually wanting to turn the app into raising social awareness…

We are currently working on sorting out some minor details with charities that work in developing countries on hygiene and disease prevention”

The man behind Pooductive is Ricardo Gruber, a developer who floated the project on Kickstarter last year but only raised €184 of a €10,000 goal. The Kickstarter description doesn’t contain any mention of hygeine awareness-raising, simply describing the app as a chat and games platform:

Think of it as a magic wonderland where ’pooducters’ from around the globe can anonymously meet to enjoy their time of zen, peace and quite together, by conversing, philosophising, playing games and sharing ideas with each other. You can add friends, have group chats or simply play 1 on 1 games.”

I approached the appmakers for comment, and they confirmed that the aim is to create an app that would raise both awareness and money for sanitation – and also that the app has received media attention far earlier than they expected. 

Marco Hernandez, one of the co-founders, tells me:

We’re hoping to work with charities to raise awareness of sanitation – that was always the original idea. Lots of charities have tried to raise awareness around this, and so we asked ourselves ‘How can we crate something the media will talk about?’ 

We only put the app online two days ago, and since then it’s blown up – the hype will help us, and we’re excited, but also disappointed as we’re being painted as an app that connects people who are having a poo, when our intention was always something different.” 

The app is currently in talks with various sanitation charities, but Hernandez gives an example of how a partnership might work:

Once we have a larger user base, we’ll charge, say, the price of a bar of soap for one of our partner charities in the app store. We’re also updating the app with a second landing page explaining our mission.” 

Toilet humour: there’s more to it than meets the eye.

This article was updated shortly after publication following a conversation with Marco Hernandez.