Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Check In, Get Acquired, Check Out. Farewell Gowalla

With the benefit of hindsight, it was probably inevitable but 5 years after the location based, check in social network we know as Gowalla launched and 3 months after they were acquired by Facebook, Gowalla is no more.

Despite launching in 2007, 2 years prior to Foursquare, Gowalla never seemed to be able to capture attention from either users or from the media in quite the same way as Foursquare. The similarities were many; both social networks used location as a key facet, allowed users to check in to locations they were at or near and to share those locations with other users and other social networks. But while Foursquare’s game mechanics of badges and Mayors seemed to hit the right note with users, Gowalla’s ill explained and ever morphing system of virtual items, spots and trips never seemed to make sense. No-one I’ve ever spoken to could explain exactly what the point of Gowalla was, whilst Foursquare’s mechanics were simplistic and easy to grasp.

After loosing ground to Foursquare, Gowalla tried to act less as a sole source of checkins and more as a central aggregator of the disparate checkins from itself, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, amongst others, but this move did little to slow Foursquare’s ascendancy.

And now, 3 months after they were acquired by Facebook in December 2011, both the Gowalla smartphone app and website started to announce

Thank you for going out with Gowalla. It was a pleasure to journey with you around the world. Download your check-ins, photos and lists here soon.

So long Gowalla. You were one of the first movers in the so called check-in economy. It was fun while it lasted. Only time will tell whether Foursquare’s seemingly unbeatable lead will continue.

Wikipedia’s Gowalla entry has the final word on the subject.

Gowalla was a location-based social network

The past tense says it all.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Another Category Of Place You Really Don’t Want To Check In To

There are some places you really don’t want to check into using one of the many location based social networks. There’s a variety of suggestions of this nature on the web including funeral homes, an ex-partner’s house, jail or the same bar (every night). It now seems you can add military bases (when you’re in a war zone) to the list.

Camp Phoenix

A recent report highlighted concerns that the US Air Force has over troops using location based apps, with the Air Force posting a warning on an internal web site on the matter.

“All Airmen must understand the implications of using location-based services,” said a message on the internal Air Force network.
The features, such as Facebook’s ‘Check-in,’ Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt “allow individuals with a smartphone to easily tell their friends their location,” it said.
“Careless use of these services by Airmen can have devastating operations security and privacy implications,” said the message, which was posted on November 5, according to spokesman Major Chad Steffey.

The age old adage about Military Intelligence being an oxymoron springs to mind.

Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin (52.5308072, 13.4108176)

Facebook Places; Haven’t We Been Here Before?

A week and a half ago Facebook finally launched their Places feature to a predictable media furore over location privacy, regardless of whether it’s justified or not and, to location industry watchers at least, a strong sense of deja vu. Haven’t we been here before?

Let’s look at the key issues that seem to be getting people hot, bothered and generally up in arms.

Deja vu the first. According to Facebook, at the time of writing they have 500M users. But how many of them will actually use the service, regardless of whether they’ve updated their privacy settings?

Deja vu the second. So you decide you want to use Facebook Places? Only on an iPhone I’m afraid or from Facebook’s HTML5 mobile web site. Want an Android or Nokia app? You’re out of luck, for now. Want to use it outside the US? You’re even more out of luck, for now.

Facebook Places. The UK Version

Deja vu the third. So you decide you don’t want to use Facebook Places? It’s a location app so there’s bound to be privacy implications. Granted, Facebook have chosen to go down the opt-out route for location privacy, though you still have to physically use the service, but even the most cursory of web searches for “disable facebook places” yields loads of different takes on the same basic set of actions. Cult of Mac and ReadWriteWeb have great write ups, in non threatening, non technical language for how to ensure Facebook Places never sullies your Facebook stream.

Now take a step back, re-read the three points above and substitute, in order, Google’s Latitude, Foursquare’s, err, Foursquare and Yahoo’s Fire Eagle for Facebook Places. Granted the opt-out vs. opt-in approach to location sharing differs substantially (for Latitude, Foursquare and Fire Eagle it’s implicitly opt-in) but we’ve been here before. Many times. A new location sharing service is launched, people get worried due to media coverage and eventually the status quo is restored and everyone gets on with their lives as before, maybe with an additional bit of location richness added, maybe not. It’s worth bearing this in mind before you buy into the latest media coverage which over-uses the phrase “sparks privacy concerns“.

Update 1/9/10 – turns out I’m not the only one thinking along these lines. After I originally posted this, my daily trawl through my RSS feeds uncovered a post from Jonathan Crowe over at The Map Room blog that draws pretty much the same conclusions over Facebook Places as I do.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Facebook’s (Creepy) Bid For Your Homepage

Most browsers have a variation on the theme of a home page, which automagically loads your favourite web page when you start the browser or open a new browser window or tab.

A lot of web sites try to capitalise on this, offering earnest entreaties to “make me your home page” … “no make me your home page” … “no, choose me for your home page, I have so much personalised content”.

They’re needy and somewhat neurotic entities these web sites, it’s not like I can have all of them as my home page.

Most of them personalise their content for you, based on a registration setting or some other insight, to give you what they think is the information your looking for.

This is not creepy.

A large amount of web sites are advertising supported and serve up ads which, again, are personalised, either from a demographic, behavioural or geographic point of view (sometimes it’s just from plain old fashioned key word matching with often hilarious results).

This is still not creepy.

But then this morning Facebook told me it wants to be my home page.

We've noticed you use Facebook regularly ... That's Creepy

Like most people I’ve evolved a filtering mechanism which understands why I’m being asked and which either ignores such pleas or uses the minimal amount of effort and mouse clicks to convey the message “buzz off, you’re not going to be my homepage and don’t bug me again“. I’m politely paraphrasing here you understand.

But when Facebook offers to be my home page because, and I’m quoting here, it’s noticed I use Facebook regularly … that smacks of Big Brother and is most definitely creepy, whichever way I look at it.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Placebook … Facebook “Places” In The Wild

After much teasing and tantalising, one of the long rumoured Facebook location features is out in the wild in the form of place community pages. They vary in scale from a hamlet in Spain

… through to New York City.

It’s clever though not particularly sophisticated at this stage; a simple exposure of Wikia’s underlying geo metadata and it probably took very little effort to implement. Facebook appear to treat places as people, hence the exhortation to connect with the place.

For now there’s very little additional geo element present though what is there is probably enough to get people to connect with and like local community places or places they already feel a connection with, their home town, neighbourhood, honeymoon spot and so on. That alone should yield valuable demographic and (geo)targetable information.

This is pretty much a classic case of  picking low hanging fruit for Facebook and a far better exemplar of a place than the somewhat clumsy rebranding of Google’s small business listings as places, though the browse places page seems to suggest otherwise as it’s very POI heavy.

It will be facinating to track how this feature of Facebook develops and matures.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Genius or Desperation?

I’m sorry Facebook but your ad targeting systems are wildly inaccurate and reduce that valuable screen estate to the right hand side of my browser window to irrelevant line noise. Google’s and Yahoo’s ad targeting is pretty darn good but looking at Facebook right now offers me:

  • Omniture Research; which Obama used, apparently.
  • Free laptop from Vodafone Business; I’m not self employed so a business tariff is a non starter.
  • Everyone plays Mafia Wars; except me and most of my friends.

So when I do actually look at a Facebook ad, it’s because it’s caught my attention, like this gem from the Royal Mail.

You already have the LP, the CD and the MP3 … now get the Collectible Stamp.

Royal Mail Classic Album Covers Facebook Ad

A click through yields the latest campaign from the Royal Mail which exhorts us to buy stamps (but not use them, but to collect them instead, at least I think that’s the premise) which reflect the classic albums we already own in a variety of formats (but what about 8 track or cassette tape?).

Royal Mail Classic Album Covers Ad

Given the amount of competition the Royal Mail faces and the fact that 25% of First Class letters fail to arrive on time, I’m not sure whether this latest ad campaign smacks of genius or of desperation.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Deliciousness: hairy landings, Twitter (mis)identity, escaped cat, the United States of Facebook and

The latest batch of social bookmarks from my Delicious stream:

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For, But Sometimes You Get It For Free

Here in the UK we’re used to bad or non-existent customer service, so much so that it’s virtually ingrained into our genes. We’re well aware of the oft used expression that you get what you pay for except that you actually don’t; you continue to pay and act pleasantly surprised when you actually get what you’ve paid for, murmuring “well that’s a turn up for the books“. We look longingly across the Atlantic to the US and talk admiringly of the “American service culture” whilst conveniently overlooking the fact that our US counterparts get paid rock bottom wages and have to work damn hard to garner enough tips to make a living.

But there are exceptions and the global geographic reach of the Internet means that those here in the UK we get to benefit from these exceptions. Consider the following case of Internet startup (and yes, it’s a US Internet startup but let’s just conveniently overlook that for a moment) Now I know I’m writing about Posterous a lot at the moment but indulge me for a moment.

Whilst playing with Posterous’ free, yes free, service I noticed a slight … deficiency which I documented here. Posterous claims to handle links to images in a sane manner; their FAQ says

“We’ll do smarter things for photos, MP3’s, documents and video (both links AND files)”.

So I tried a sample post with links to TwitPicYFrogFlickr and, pushing it a bit, Facebook. YFrog and Flickr worked flawlessly, Facebook didn’t but that wasn’t unexpected, but TwitPic didn’t and that was unexpected. So I noted this in a Twitter post directed at the Posterous Twitter account:

And there I left it, either expecting a non committal response, or none at all. Twenty four minutes later, two four, twenty four, I got a reply.

And I tested it and it worked. Conditioned as I am to the UK norm, this was pretty unheard of, hence the need to write this experience up. So on the Internet, at least, you don’t always get what you pay for, but sometimes you get it for free.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous

In the Spirit of Experimentation

Posterous is a service that just begs for experimentation; not only because it’s a beautifully simplistic yet rich service but also because the Help and FAQ pages can be a little bit light on detail for some of the less obvious questions; probably to avoid scaring those of a less-power-user-frame-of-mind away.

So the Posterous FAQ at says this “We’ll do smarter things for photos, MP3’s, documents and video (both links AND files)”.

Link eh? In the spirit of experimentation let’s try this, firstly from the easy and obvious one …

… and rival …

… and from my Flickr photostream …

… and finally a more challenging one, from my Facebook photo album …

… there’s only one way to find out, so let’s send this to Posterous right now and see what happens; all in the spirit of experimentation naturally.

Posted via email from Gary’s Posterous