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But what does it all mean?

March 30th, 2010 1 comment

When I was a lad you you used to check into hotels. And then only on special occasions. But today dear blog reader you can check into offices and houses, streets, cabs, planes and even, in the case of minor web celebrities, people.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about FourSquare. I’m talking Gowalla. Or maybe I’m alluding to Brightkite.  Oh but then sometimes when I’m in a particular mood I do like to give Whrrl an…. erm whirl.

And who can of missed all the endless tweets and status updates (including my very own) that proudly announce that so and so is at such and such.

What on earth does it all mean?  And…. what’s the point?

Using these location based services is oddly addictive. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been using FourSquare and every check in you perform gives you points, and sometimes badges.  These points and badges aren’t actually worth anything except status on the service, but it’s still fun to get them. Check into a location more times than anyone else and you become Mayor of that place. Which is kind of cool.

When I was at SXSW, everyone seemed to be using the service, and with that level of local usage it was interesting to see where people I knew were and the trending local locations.  I noticed that in the US, when you checked into some locations (eg a coffee shop) they would have an offer setup for FourSquare users – I’ve not seen this in the UK yet, but I’d be more inclined to check into  a place (particularly somewhere like a Cinema or a Bar) if I thought I might get a real time offer from that place.

Social integration is quite clunky at the moment – I can see who else has recently checked into a place, but if I wanted to contact that person it would be down to using the contact details they have provided on their FourSquare profile: there is no native chat or poke or anything like that included in the service.

I’m quite surprised how willing people are to share their location info. Sure, you have to actively publish a location (so you won’t accidentally publish that job interview you sneaked into during lunch at the rival agency) but sharing your location does have consequences.    Will your clients or employer mind you seem to spend an awful lot of time in the pub during the day?  Do you really want to publicise when you are in and out of your house (we’ve all seen pleaserobme.com) and do you really want everyone in the world to know your preferred kebab shop at 3am on a Sunday morning?  Things to muse on readers.

I’ve also been playing with Google Latitude on my Nexus One.  This takes the above to a whole new level and is frankly quite scary.  Add a friend to Google Latitude and if they also have a similarly enabled GPS device you can see their real time location overlaid on Google Maps.  Wow.  Great… right?   Hmm I’m not so sure.  Great until those little white lies (“Sure, I’m 2 minutes away” ) start to be verifiable via Latitude.  Great until one of your friends decides to do something clever with the API and plot how late you are into work most days and then tweet it.   As soon as people (ie marketers) work out how to contact you based on your passive location (ie locations you’ve not physically checked into, but have been noted at) the floodgates start to open.  Visit a hospital often, will you get “Hey it looks like you are dying! Check out our funeral plans for only $99″ type emails?  I guess time will tell.

I’m going to keep playing with these services for the next few weeks then make a decision as to whether to continue .  Part of me likes having an audit trail of my movements (Go to sleep? No! Let’s review my last year by movement!) but part of me loves and cherishes anonymity.

And I predict anonymity is going to be the next big thing. Really.  More on this soon.

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SXSW

March 28th, 2010 No comments

On Wednesday I got back from the USA, where I’d been for just over two weeks, spending most of that time in Austin, TX.

I was there to attend the Music, Film and Interactive portions of South by Southwest (SXSW for short, or – for those really in the know – simply “South by”).

What is SXSW? From Wikipedia:

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of interactive, film, and music festivals and conferences that take place every spring in Austin, Texas, United States. SXSW first began in 1987 and is centered on the downtown Austin Convention Center. Each of the three parts runs relatively independently, with different start and end dates.

The music event has grown from 700 registrants in 1987 to nearly 12,000 registrants. SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive events attract approximately 11,000 registrants to Austin every March.

I’d heard lots about SXSW from various people over the past few years, and since my interests span Music, Film and Interactive I didn’t need much persuading to go this year.

2 weeks is a long time to be away from the office, but I figured it would be time well spent if it enabled me to learn some new things and get inspired.

SXSW delivered. It was time well spent. I learnt lots of new things, thought about some current things in a different way and it inspired me lots and lots. It reminded me why I set up Acknowledgement in the first place and reinforced how privileged I am to work in one of the most exciting and fastest changing industries in the world.   Austin also provided an ideal change of scenery that enabled me to have some thinking time around the future direction of the business and indeed the industry as a whole.

SXSW is big. Too big in fact to cover in one blog post, so I’ll be making several posts over the coming weeks talking about different aspects of the festival, and what I found interesting or memorable. And what I think could be done better. Having lost my SXSW virginity there are also some performance tuning issues from my side I want to hone for SXSW 2011. I’ll be sharing those on this blog too.

I even took some video footage when I was out there, so I’ll edit some of that down and post so you can get a taste of the general setup and atmosphere.

Categories: Digital, Film, Music Tags:

Breaking news is best on Twitter

February 15th, 2009 No comments

As mentioned in my earlier post, on Friday evening I was at London City Airport en route to Amsterdam. I love London City Airport: it’s small, quick to get through, £20 in a cab from my office or flat (compared to £15 for Heathrow Express or similar fares to Gatwick or Luton) and the staff treat you as human beings rather than cattle.

Also, as I’m not the biggest fan of flying, what I like about City is that I can get there early evening on a Friday, have a few beers and something to eat and before I know it I’m on the plane enjoying one more beer and then I have landed at my destination. The place is full of city boys doing the same thing, so there is a sense of camaraderie. (Or, alternatively, I am just a bit odd).

Anyhow, on Friday there I was waiting for my flight to Amsterdam, which was showing as being delayed by almost 2 hours. Annoying, especially as the VLM flight due to take off at the same time made it away quickly. But then, all of a sudden the status changed to “Cancelled”.

As we now know, the crash landing of the incoming flight from Amsterdam was unfolding.

Not that you’d know from inside the airport! As other flights started to show “cancelled” or simply disappeared from the departure screen people started to gather round the information desk. All the staff would say is that there had been an “incident on the runway” and that we couldn’t leave.

People speculated perhaps someone had run on the runway? Out of the windows people could see fire engines, but no fire.

Bar staff said they knew what had happened and it was serious but they couldn’t tell us.

An announcement said the airport was now closed but we had to stay where we were and couldn’t leave. A further announcement asked passengers to return their duty free!

London City has free Wi-Fi. I fired up my laptop and nothing on BBC News or Sky News: but then Twitter came to the rescue….

First entry I could find was cryptic:

“hope everyone is ok at london city”
@exatco

then they came thick and fast:

“Something odd at London City airport. All flights canceled no one allowed to leave. Talk of a crash. Website says due to “an incident”…!!!”
@burgesg

“LCY London City Airport Incident. What happened? Runway closed?!”
@interchris

Finally some clarity:

“Serious Incident at London City Airport: BA 8456 from Amsterdam landed and LCY and the front gear collapsed. Pax evacuated via slides”
@TransWorld

My own tweets were soon re-tweeting their way around Twitter too. I even got a few direct messages from people I didn’t know. One claimed to be a journalist. All very exciting.

Fellow passengers were tweeting too:

“All flights from LCY are now cancelled, but noone is allowed to leave the airport. Noone seems to know what’s going on.”
@philip_clarkson

Then the story appeared on BBC News and Sky News and soon a small crowd of people were queuing to use my laptop to look at other flight options, contact hotels or read the news reports for themselves.

In true British spirit passengers who 30 minutes earlier were looking at each other with thinly veiled looks of contempt were all chatting together, giving each other advice on how to handle travel plans and collectively wondering what had happened.

Throughout all of this there were NO official announcements form the airport as to what had actually taken place!

Free tea and coffee were obviously part of their rehearsed emergency plan as they started to serve them en mass! I opted for more alcohol but had to pay!

Then, all of a sudden, security started throwing everyone out of departures very rudely and very quickly. I had no checked in luggage so didn’t have to queue, but many people did! On the way out the police asked each passenger if they’d seen anything on the runway before they could go.

Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured, but it did give a strange insight into how these situations are handled. I wonder if the refusal to give any information to passengers is a paranoia that giving the wrong information can result in a law suit?

All the BA staff had gone home and BA’s phone lines were closed so people had to guess at what was the best course of action. We headed off to Heathrow – others tried to book themselves into local hotels.

One thing is for sure though: as the Hudson River plane crash also proved breaking news now belongs on twitter. Forget news wires: twitter is the wire of the people!

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