Posts Tagged ‘social’

Just Because You Can Put Things On A Map Doesn’t Always Mean You Should Allow Anyone To Put Things On A Map

Crowd sourcing data is a laudable approach. Crowd sourcing data and putting it one a map seems like a good idea. Crowd sourcing data and putting it on a map without any verification or checks? You might not end up with what you originally intended.

This is a lesson that Benadryl, the hay fever medication, has sadly learned the hard way. At first sight it seems innocuous enough; a hay fever relief brand teams up with the UK’s Met Office to crowd source areas where there’s a high pollen count.


You take that crowd sourced information and put it on a map so fellow hay fever sufferers know what to expect in their neighbourhood and with the presumed side effect that if you are a hay fever sufferer then maybe you might want to pop out and buy some Benadryl to help cope with the symptoms.

But people are … creative and whilst you might get an accurate map of high pollen count areas you might also find that people want to be … well let’s just call it artistic.

First of all a series of map markers across Westminster, on the bank of London’s River Thames seemed to spell out a word that rhymes with duck. Note that for those of you with a sensitive disposition or who are reading this at work, the screen shots below have been pixellated out for your comfort and convenience; you can click through for the NSFW versions if you so choose.


This was followed in quick succession by another word, this time rhyming with bit, appearing across London’s Docklands area.


Who knows how far the creative hay fever sufferers of the United Kingdom would have taken this but it wasn’t to last. Benadryl noticed this new form of map art and quickly took the social pollen count site down and it has since reappeared, though this time there seems to be some checks in place so that users can report high pollen count areas and only high pollen count areas. But whilst their developers were frantically trying to put some safeguards in place, it has to be said that Benadryl put up a temporary replacement that shows a certain sense of style and a whole lot of class.


Screen shot credits: Us vs. Them.
Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Revisiting SoLoMo in Istanbul

If any industry sector is uniquely poised to benefit from the triumvirate of social, local and mobile, it’s the classified listings industry. The last time I spoke about whether do embrace SoLoMo or just embrace social, local and mobile I cautioned against the tick in the box approach and against adopting new technologies just because you’re exhorted to.

But at first glance, a business running classified listings does seem to put all the right ticks in all the right boxes.

Firstly local. Classifieds are inherently local, offering a way for local businesses and individuals to offer … stuff … to other local people. Implementing a local strategy needs your mainstay offering to have a strong geolocation quotient and what could be more local or more geolocation than addresses and postal codes?

Then there’s mobile. Most classifieds businesses have either fully or partially transitioned from print to online and if you already have an online presence, you’re more than half way to having a mobile online presence.

Finally there’s social. Again, there’s a strong affinity with classifieds. Nothing spreads faster than word of mouth reputation and harnessing the power of social media to allow people to say “hey, I just found this really cool stuff” is a compelling case for social.

So when the International Classified Media Association, the ICMA, asked me to talk about SoLoMo at their Social, Local, Mobile: Classified Media Strategies conference in Instanbul last week it was an ideal opportunity to see whether my preconceptions to be skeptical about SoLoMo were borne out in practise or whether I’d just overdone the cynicism a bit too much.

As it turns out, I think it was round about a 50/50 ratio. Most of the classifieds people in Instanbul fundamentally got the basic precepts around each of SoLoMo’s constituent elements.

But there were two major flies in their respective ointments.

Firstly, as with most industry sectors, the classifieds businesses are experts in … classified. They’re not experts in social, local or mobile. They’re far too busy running their business to become experts in anything other than their business. Which means metaphorical toes are dipped in equally metaphorical waters without maybe understanding or appreciating what is meant to be achieved.

Secondly and closely linked with my first point, even if a social, local, mobile or SoLoMo strategy is put in place, it’s still not clear what’s going to be achieved or how to measure success or failure. Many of the classifieds players I spoke to openly acknowledged that whilst they have social media dashboard and metrics in place, it’s a major challenge to interpret a sea of figures and work out what this means in the context of their business area.

I’m still strongly of the belief that if applied sanely and in a way that makes sense for a business, there’s a lot to be gained from social, from mobile and from local.

I’m still equally strongly of the belief that SoLoMo, even if it does have a manifesto, is too vague and wooly to be understood by people trying hard to make their business succeed and needs the basic tenets broken out and explained in language the people SoLoMo is trying to help can understand.

As usual, the slides from my talk, which will be just a tad familiar to anyone who read my last SoLoMo post, are below and my deck notes follow after the break.

Read On…

SoLoMo, Or Just Social, Local And Mobile?

One of the many things I like about writing talks for a conference is that the talk often morphs during the writing process as I research the theme and try to make the narrative at least vaguely coherent. Of course, it also helps that when you’re asked to be a speaker at a conference, the organisers often want the title and abstract up to 3 months ahead of proceedings. 3 months is a long time in the tech industry and a lot can change.

Which brings me to the talk I gave a month ago at the Location Business Summit in Amsterdam and again today at the Click 6.0 Digital Marketing conference in Dubai.

I’d originally wanted to talk about the importance of digital maps in SoLoMo, the much touted convergence of social, local and mobile. The more I researched this, the more a feeling of déjà vu crept into my thinking. I was sure I’d seen a much talked about and much feted tech phenomenon turn out to be more hype than substance. Much as hyperlocal, which I approached from the point of view of a hopeful sceptic, turned out to be more hype than local, SoLoMo gave me the same feeling of unease.

For those of you who like this sort of thing (and I really need to check my web analytics sometime to see if anyone actually does like this sort of thing or whether I’m merely deluded; either one of these options is entirely plausible), the slide deck, with titles helpfully annotated into Arabic by one of my colleagues in Nokia’s Berlin office, plus notes are below.

Read On…

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)

Communicating To The Communicators (At The CIPR Social Media Conference)

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my comfort zones when it comes to speaking at conferences. If there’s maps, geography or location involved, however tenuous the connection, I’m well within my comfort zone. But speaking to a room full of seasoned communicators, such as Public Relations professionals? That’s way outside of my comfort zone.

Nonetheless, on Monday of this week I found myself at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, in London’s Russell Square, at the CIPR Social Media Conference 2011, allegedly talking about something called The Smartphone Web, to just such a room full of seasoned communicators.

Smartphones Are Always With Us

I say allegedly talking about The Smartphone Web, as that was the theme and title that the conference organizers asked me to opine on. But as is so often the case, when I sat down to start to write the talk, it morphed into something slightly different.

There’s been a meteoric proliferation in social media over the last few years, driven not only by increased awareness and availability of social networks but also by the increasing use of smartphones and the sensors that these devices have built into them. Whereas before, social networking was chiefly about sharing thoughts, comments, views and links, social networking now also allows the sharing of photos and videos, the sharing of location and checking-in to locations. You’ll note that I cunningly managed to work location in there, thus retreating ever so slightly to my comfort zone. And so it was that what started out as The Smartphone Web, ended up as The (Geo) (Mobile) (Smart) Social Web.

After a brief introduction and displaying my own set of social media credentials, I looked at the history of social media, of smartphones, of the sensors within these devices and of the convergence of all of these factors into the social media experience we now know and use on a daily basis.

As so many times in the past, writing this talk was an education in itself, and my initial assumptions that social networking and media was a relatively recent, post Web 2.0 bubble, phenomenon, were quickly disabused as I traced the forebears of today’s social web as far back as the late 1960’s when CompuServe was founded.

I also touched on some of the side effects of today’s social web; how social media accounts have become the single-sign-on for lots of online services, bypassing contenders such as OpenID and how you can build web presences entirely from existing social media content with a few simple lines of PHP code. How social media acts not only as a social broadcast medium but also a social conversation medium. How our own social media interactions can form a valuable aide memoire (where was that bar we went to two weeks ago?) and provide insights into our own lives.

I finished the talk with a brief look to the future; how the next billion people getting online are predicted to do so via a phone and not via a laptop or desktop computer and how social media has drawn attention to some of recent time’s tumultuous events, such as recent natural disasters and events in the Middle East.

Due to pressures of work I wasn’t able to attend the entirety of the one day conference but was lucky enough to arrive in time to see Euan Semple give a fascinating (and at times highly amusing) talk on What Wikileaks Has Taught Us About The Web. I’ve always liked reading Euan’s Twitter stream and to finally meet a social media contact face-to-face was a great way of rounding the day off.

Photo Credits: Lily Monster on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin (52.5308072, 13.4108176)

Geolocating Yourself? In Europe, You’re Not Alone

Exposure 2010, the recent study by Orange and TNS, makes for some interesting reading for the location industry. Although it should be taken with a large pinch of salt from the pot labelled lies, damned lies and statistics, the study’s report shows the significant increase in use of geolocation services within the mobile space.

Pushpins in a map over France and Italy

In the UK, France, Spain and Poland, geolocation services occupy the 3rd, 2nd, 1st and 2nd slots respectively for most used mobile services. While the report only breaks geolocation down into two categories, streetmap/GPS and social networks, it’s not difficult to see how the perception that location is finally going mainstream is worth some merit.

It would have been nice to see a deeper breakdown by mapping service and social network but, in Europe at least, location and place seem to be making significant strides towards ubiquity.

Coverage of the report is available in a variety of places online including the EIN presswire as well as an overview of the study from Orange UK.

Photo Credits: Marc Levin on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Berlin (52.53105, 13.38521)

Quantity Or Quality? The Problem Of Junk POIs

In my recent talk to the British Computer Society’s Geospatial Specialist Group, I touched on the “race to own the Place Space“. While the more traditional geographic data providers, such as Navteq and Tele Atlas are working away adding Points Of Interest to their data sets, it’s the smaller, social location startups, that are getting the most attention and media coverage. With their apps running on smartphone hardware, Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places, amongst others, are using crowd sourcing techniques to build a large data set of their own.

For them to do this, the barriers to entry have to be very low. Ask a user for too much information and you’ll substantially reduce the number of Places that get created; and thereby hangs the biggest challenge for these data sets. Both the companies and their users want the Holy Grail of data, quantity and quality. But the lower the barriers to entry, the more quality suffers, unless there’s a dedicated attempt to manage and clean up the resultant data set.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Foursquare entry for the BCS itself. According to the BCS website, the London HQ of the UK’s Chartered Institude for IT is at The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London, WC2E 7HA. Now compare that to Foursquare, which lists BCS HQ LONDON as 5 south hompton road, The strand, london, london uk. Complete with interesting use of capitalisation. That’s the first problem.

Foursquare helpfully shows this on a map but evidently uses the provided address information as opposed to any associated geo-coordinate that was gleaned from the onboard GPS on whichever smartphone was used to create this “place“. Google has evidently tried to interpret south hompton road and displays the map at the first entry that Google’s reverse geocoder returns, which is 5 Hampton Road, in Hampton Hill. That’s not Covent Garden. That’s not even Central London. That’s way out in the suburbs of Richmond-upon-Thames. That’s the second problem.

But there’s also more than one entry in Foursquare for the BCS in London which highlights the third problem; large amounts of duplicate Places created by users either unwilling to search too closely for an existing Place or who are trying to subvert the gaming aspect to social location apps in order to gain points or recognition in the community for number of Places created, number of Mayorships gained and so on.

Quantity? Yes. Quality? Sadly no. Foursquare are reliant on their user community to clear up their data and as this example shows, that’s not always an effective strategy. As an industry we may be building a massive Place based view of the world but we’ve a long way to go before we can rely on data produced in this manner.

A geographic nod of the hat must go to Harry Wood for spotting this classic example of a “junk POI“; I’m not singling Foursquare out for any particular opprobrium here by the way, all of the social location data sets have their own howlers, as do the commercial POI data sets, ready and waiting for people to stumble across.

Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Berlin (52.53105, 13.38521)

The Plains Of Awkward Public Family Interactions And The Bay Of Flames

Not content with pointing out the fun you can have with tracking your location, xkcd, the webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language has branched out into making maps. The updated map of online communities shows the volume of daily social activity across all of the online world, and not just the high profile ones that get the press coverage.

Click through for the full size versions and loose yourself in the plains of awkward public family interactions, the Bay Of Flames and other geographical wonders.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Retiring The Theory of Stuff; But First, A Corollary

It’s time to put the Theory of Stuff out to pasture. It’s had a good life. It’s appeared in 5 of my talk decks (or so Spotlight tells me), in 3 of my blog posts and continues to generate hits on my blog (or so my analytics tells me).

When I tell people I’m going to talk about my theory, a Mexican wave of shoulder slumping passes through the room, coupled with a prolonged sigh from an audience who’ve just resigned themselves to a slow painful death over the coming minutes. Luckily things perk up when my introductory slide of Anne Elk (Miss) and her Theory appears but even so, it’s time to quit whilst you’re ahead.

You may well ask, Chris, what *is* my theory?

But before I do …

One of the great thing’s about O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference is the vast number of people you meet who just fizz with ideas and intelligence in this somewhat nebulous space that we call location, place or geo. One such person is Sally Applin; she owns the domain so that’s got her off to a good start. After Where 2.0 she pointed me to her own theory that voyeurism and narcissism sell software.

People like to look at themselves and at other people. If they can do it at the same time–then the application will succeed! Look at Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Skype–basically any software that allows for both looking at others and self viewing, self reading, self posting etc…will sell. We’re on the chimp ladder. We like to compare ourselves and compete.

If you generalise software out to the slightly more generic terms ofservice or product; you’ll see that Sally’s theory complements the Theory of Stuff quite nicely and even provides an exemplar of those businesses and ventures that prove the theory.

Korean unisex toilet?

This is especially interesting when you look at the success (to date at least) of ventures in the social space, such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. What else are these is not an online way of saying “look at me, here I am, this is what I’m doing” and in doing so generating a vast sea of highly localised and personalised data into the bargain?

Photo Credits: wili_hybrid on Flickr.
Written and posted from the Yahoo! London office (51.5141985, -0.1292006)

There Isn’t An App For That

Want to upload photos to multiple social networking and photo sharing sites, such as Flickr and Twitpic? There’s an app for that. Pixelpipe seems to work for me.

Want to update your status on multiple social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook? There’s an app for that. Tweetdeck seems to work for me.

There's an App for (almost) everything

Want to check in to multiple place based services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla? There’s an app for that. seems to work for me.

Want to change your profile photo or biographical information for all of your online accounts. There’s an app … oh … wait. There isn’t an app for that. But there’s a app crying out to be written.

Written and posted from the Yahoo! London office (51.5141985, -0.1292006)