Cody Peterson wants to lead you on a tour of someone else's weird experiences.
Here's how it might look: You open an app on your smartphone and select from one of a dozen or so tours of Omaha. You could journey digitally, through a handheld display of text, images and video, or you could actually visit the spots in person, letting the app — and someone else's life story — be your guide.
The idea springs from a two-part premise.
“People are obviously what make the city,” Peterson said. “And people have the craziest stories.”
Peterson's story: Last summer, after five years with the branding and design agency Secret Penguin, he struck out on his own. Today he works as a Web designer and consultant operating out of the New BLK building in the Old Market. In short order he has racked up a number of local clients, mostly small businesses and startups. He's as busy as he could want to be.
On the side, Peterson plays drums in the local band Honeybee and Hers, but these days he finds the figurative side keeps getting slimmer. In fact, he's busy enough to start hiring others to help with the workload.
It's quite a turnaround for a guy who readily admits that in high school he was doing no work. Not long ago, Peterson found one of his old Millard South midterm report cards, and the notables are almost impressive in how dismal they are: a failing grade in PE, 38 percent in one class, 19 percent in another.
For him, algebra held zero interest.
“I wasn't going to do math homework — are you kidding?” he said.
He preferred skateboarding and creating websites for his friends' bands, a hobby he assumed (incorrectly) most other kids his age shared at the time.
“I didn't realize it was kind of weird and that not everybody was into it,” he said.
After high school — general disinterest aside, he managed to graduate on time — Peterson took a few courses at Metropolitan Community College and the Creative Center before deciding to get some real-world experience.
He landed at Secret Penguin, starting out as an intern before being hired full time.
Despite his experience and how he spends a majority of his workday, what really moves Peterson isn't a piece of technology or a beautiful new website. It's the content behind it.
Enter Personal History Tours, a new collaboration between Peterson, local filmmaker Lindsay Trapnell and graphic designer Ellen Wilde. Right now the three partners are soliciting story ideas through the project's website (personalhistorytours.com), where submitters are prompted to imagine they're leading a bunch of strangers on a walking tour of Omaha, only instead of the usual landmarks, “those curious weirdos want to know and hear about the stories and places that have shaped you.”
The project will launch as an app, but Peterson is more concerned with the stories it will tell than the interface itself.
It probably won't be profitable, but that isn't the point. The larger goal, he said, is to make his own side projects a bigger part of his life — because the idea of working hard just to have more hard work to do strikes him as the craziest story of all.
“I'm always going to be 100 percent busy, so I need to make some of that my own aspirational stuff,” he said.
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