As a lowly blogger and consumer rights lawyer, it is a little hard to put myself in the shoes of a shale oil tycoon. But that is who Bracewell & Giuliani (as in Rudy) must be hoping will download its new ShalePlay app for iOS. The app aggregates fracking news, legislation, and studies, which you would expect. It also includes feeds from Bracewell’s blog and @bgenergy Twitter feed (the followers of which are probably a decent place to start finding shale oil tycoons on Twitter).

The more-interesting part of the app is its interactive map of shale basins and “shale plays” — which I take to mean “places where fracking is happening.” I imagine most shale oil tycoons already have lots of maps like this, but it’s really interesting to see the scope of fracking laid out, geographically.

Finally, the app includes a graphical history of hydraulic fracturing and a glossary of fracking-related terms, including a lot of different kinds of gas (acid, flaring, shale, sour, sweet, tight, wet, etc.) Browsing the glossary is a basic education in fracking. “Fracking,” if you wanted to know, is:

Hydraulic fracturing


(hayh-draw-lik frak-chur-ing)

Hydraulic fracturing is an essential process used in the development of unconventional resources, such as gas shale, shale oil and other tight formations. Hydraulic fracturing is accomplished by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives, into dense rock formations deep below the earth’s surface under pressure. This causes the target formation to fracture. The fracture network created by the process of hydraulic fracturing facilitates the recovery of oil and natural gas.

Notably “sinkhole” does not appear in the glossary. Maybe it should.

Environmental asides aside, this is a pretty nice app. It looks good — especially the map and history graphic. But the only component of ongoing value is the feeds with news, legislation, and studies. In 2013, app use “exploded,” but guess who was left out of the party:


Alexis Madrigal points out at The Atlantic that this chart does not necessarily mean people don’t want to read news and magazines. But it does seem to suggest they don’t need or want apps to do it. So the question is whether ShalePlay is more like a news and magazine app, or whether it fits into one of those other columns.

If you just want aggregated news about the shale oil industry, it seems you could find easier ways to get it. The ShalePlay app is slick, but it’s not the best browsing or reading experience. I’m guessing you could get all the industry news you need on Twitter, or by stopping by a few key websites (maybe even Bracewell’s) once in a while. Or with an app built for discovery and optimized for a great reading experience, like Zite.

That said, I think Bracewell is on the right track with ShalePlay, just like I think this family law firm’s app was on the right track. I’m not yet convinced that law firms ought to be building apps, but at least the current “wave” of law firm apps are more than just a firm news feed and contact information.

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