What Would Proximity Sensors Do For The Mobile Web?

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Our dumb web is getting smarter. It already knows who you are and who you know, and it won’t be long before it will be able to leverage those connections on your behalf wherever you go. Our mobile devices are already being outfitted with sensors of all types. There are currently two common scenarios for sensors + mobile phones:

1) Everyday objects with sensors pumping out data on things like temperature, noise and activity; the mobile phone reads and analyzes this data.

2) The phone is used as a sensor itself. For example the iPhone has a built-in accelerometer, which is basically a motion detector. This is used for game control and also for re-sizing your iPhone display from portrait to landscape. The iPhone also has a microphone (which can be used as a noise sensor), a proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raneko/3971359430/

We’re starting to see GPS-based Geosocial networking services like Whrrl, Loopt, and Hotlist gain some ground, but I’m really interested to see what will happen when mobile devices are embedded with proximity sensors (i.e. when the mobile device gets close to another short range sensor, data is shared). It may never happen, but I think it’s a great idea because, while GPS based social networking works for people who know each other, it doesn’t work for sharing contextual relationship data between a person and an object or an organization. You could imagine many of different/unique use cases based on foot traffic for business and being social…

New Kinds Of Retail and Restaurant Loyalty Programs

What if  a store or restaurant had it’s own short range sensor that knew when you walked in the door and alerted the sales staff about your sales history and personal shopping preferences? What if you were fed instant information on in-store sales based on your favorite items or wish lists? How would any of this change your relationship with your favorite venues?

Enabling The Smart Home

What if your home automatically knew your preferences for lighting, music, air temperature etc and automatically adjusted the environment and your devices as you walked from room to room?

Navigating People & Businesses

What if you were at a conference and you’re in a crowd of people. Would it be useful if your device could tell you when you last saw a person you’re about to run into, or that six steps behind you is someone you went to high school with? What if it could tell you that the product that’s being sold at the store you’re passing is on sale at another store in the same area? The web knows these things, we just don’t have a useful way to get that information automatically fed to us when we’re on the go.

Why Mobile Devices?

Using the phone as a sensor (instead of an embedded RFID chip in our skin, for example) seems like a logical next step for these types of applications because it makes participation optional and manual. It might seem whacky now, but you’d probably be surprised how many people would be on board if the the privacy-to-utility ratio was right.

What are your thoughts on this? Too far out there, or is it where we’re headed?

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Here Come The GeoWeb Wars

around meOne of the very first apps I downloaded on the iPhone was Around Me, and it’s still one of my go-to’s. It’s simple and it does exactly what the name implies – it finds your location and shows you all the critical services around you — banks, coffee shops, bars, gas stations, hospitals, movie theaters, restaurants and so on. It comes through in the clutch whenever I’m in an area that I don’t know well, which makes it an indispensable travel tool. It makes you a local expert in less than a few minutes. At a conference in a new city and want coffee? Instead of wasting time asking strangers, you’re already on your way to the Starbucks that’s around the corner, exactly 119 yards away. Need an ATM? Gas? Medication at a pharmacy? Hungry and want to know what your meal options are in a 2-3 block radius? You get the picture. The app orders the services by their proximity to you and gives you quick access to mapped directions, and touch-to-call phone info. The latest release also includes Twitter and Facebook integration so you can share the location of meeting spots or recommendations etc with your friends. Enough said. For this app alone, it’s worth moving to an iPhone.

Here’s a quick video overview of what the app does.

Expect Competition For Geolocation Services To Heat Up This Year

There have been a lot of apps like Around Me to hit mobile devices over the past 12 months. Google (of course) is the sleeping giant for geoweb services and they’ve started to release location based offerings this week that will start to challenge the space and put the squeeze on smaller players. Last week Google announced a mobile search service called “Near Me Now” that makes their mobile search page location aware, giving mobile users access to a lot of the same type of information that apps like Around Me do.

Yesterday, Google also announced Place Pages targeting local businesses, which many believe is another maneuver meant to dethrone Yelp as the de facto resource for local venue information and customer review data. We’ll see how this one plays out. You can expect a lot of me-too players to show up very soon, so it’ll be interesting to see how (if at all) Google innovates and sets the pace. As the web gets denser and geo tagging scales up to put all the data into context, there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for innovation across the board, so we can only hope for startups to think way outside the box and give us all things we’ve never seen before. I know one thing – access to location information and maps on my iPhone has turned me into a heavy user of geoweb services in my daily life and I’m itching to see what’s coming. The war is on.

An In-Depth Look at the Most Active Users on Twitter

sysomos-logo150x68When Sysomos published its initial “Inside Twitter” report last month that looked at the people on Twitter and how it was being used, we discovered that 5% of users accounted for 75% of all activity. This finding was based on indexing 11.5 million accounts, and then looking at the top 5% users who accounted for most number of Tweets. Now they’ve taken it a step further and done an in-depth analysis of that top 5%. Here are some of the highlights of the findings…

  • BOTS Tweet The Most: Of the most active Twitter users updating more than 150 times/day, nearly all of them are bots operated by sources such as hotels offering deals, regional and national news services, regional weather services, the top news within Digg, games, anim services, tags within del.icio.us and financial aggregators. These very active bots account for one-quarter of all tweets.
  • 4 Of The Top 5 People That Tweet The Most Are Celebrities: Among the most active Twitter users with more than 50,000 followers, we find singer Tyrese (@tyrese4real), actress Alyssa Milano (@alyssa_milano), celebrity Tila Tequila (@officialtila), tv host Jonathan Ross (@wossy) and evangelist Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki).
  • The Most Active Users Live In the U.S. - 60.6% of the most active Twitter users live in the United States, while 6.9% are located in the U.K, 4.7% in Japan, and 4.3% in Canada.
  • The Top Men Tweet More Than The Top Women: The split between genders among the most active Twitter users is fairly balanced, but the men post more – 54% male, 46% female.
  • They Rarely Miss A Day – 88% of the most active Twitter users have never missed a day without making at least one update, while another 2.1% have only been inactive for one day.
  • Only Half Of Them Have More Than 100 Followers: 48% have more than 100 followers, compared with 6.3% for overall Twitter users.
  • They Follow More People Than The Average User: 44% have more than 100 friends, compared with 7.5% overall.
  • Most Of Them Are Veterans: 33.7% of the most active Twitter users have joined Twitter this year, compared with 72.5% of overall Twitter users who have signed up this year
  • A Higher Percentage Of Their Tweets Get Retweeted: In examining more than 80 million updates made since July 23, ReTweets among the most active users accounted for 5.06% of their activity – about 20% higher than overall users which is 4.02%. Given that some of these people are Tweeting as much as 30-50 times a day, this is quite surprising. It gives some indication that for all the noise they’re adding to the ecosystem, they’re adding more (perceived) value than most.

Interactive World Map Of Social Network Dominance

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[tweetmeme]Vincenzo Cosenza has mapped the most popular social networks by country, according to traffic data gathered on Alexa & Google Trends (June 2009). While Facebook’s growing dominance over MySpace in the US and other countries comes as no surprise, it is interesting to see the few smaller networks that most of us have probably never heard of that are country specific. It’s also important to note that that while Facebook is all the rage in the west, QQ (China) is still by far the largest social network in the world (300 million active accounts). As people continue to focus their time and energy on dominant networks, and the successful networks grow and take over, you’ll likely see many of these smaller social networks die out. It’ll be most interesting to see what happens if and when China becomes more open over time. We tend to forget about large networks like QQ and companies like BIDU that dominate the waking giant.
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5 Unmissable TED Talks On The Future Of Technology And The Web

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#1 Tim Berners-Lee On The Next Web of Open, Linked Data

20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. For his next project, he’s building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: Unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together. (Recorded at TED2009, Feb 2009)

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Do LinkedIn Recommendations Matter In the Reputation Economy?

There is an interesting conversation going on this week between some of the web’s heavy hitters on the subject of the actual value of LinkedIn recommendations in the reputation economy.

Here’s the time line of the conversation so far…

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Sticky Just Got Stickier

timoreillyAlong with a tune up and a face lift, the latest release of Glue boasts some new features that heavy social media users are really going to find useful.

If you haven’t heard of Glue, it’s a browser add-on that allows you to carry your social network with you as you browse around the web and do a whole host of really cool things with social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Digg etc. Like Firebug or del.icio.us, it’s become an indispensable part of my browsing toolkit. I use it multiple times a day to quickly share articles and books I read, music I’m listening to, restaurant reviews I write etc. to Twitter and Facebook as I’m browsing. There’s a lot of power packed into this little add-on and, because it allows you to do so many things on so many platforms, it’s replaced quite a few of my single purpose add-ons. For it’s integration with Twitter and Facebook alone it’s worth installing, but the new social features they’ve added today are worthy of applause. Read More

How To Say Thank You On The Social Web

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[tweetmeme]Whether or not you chose to acknowledge it, your ability to sink or swim on the social web depends on how you participate, engage others and embrace the customs of the virtual gift economy – this is as true for individuals as it is for big brands who have a web presence.

The concepts of “FREE as a business model” and sustainable gift culture generally makes sense to people in the context of products, services, brands and community building, but the understanding sometimes breaks down when it’s mentioned in the context of individual relationships and social media. Seasoned vets know that there are a host of unwritten rules and customs for reciprocating that we should follow when we benefit from free content and receive help and advice from others on the web. I’ll discuss some of those rules, explain why they’re important and offer some ways to act on them below. Read More

Twitter’s Starting To Out Smart Spammers

Jesse Stay, Marshall Kirkpatrick and Dave Winer recently posted some interesting and insightful pieces on how Twitter is going after people who game Twitter to get more followers. There are some solid arguments made in each post in support of Twitter’s move, as well as on the dubious and controversial nature of Twitter’s suggested users list (SUL). When it comes to the issue of eliminating spam and improving usability, I fundamentally support what Twitter is doing. That said, Dave Winer makes some excellent points on Twitter’s SUL. The three posts in tandem are great reads if you want to understand the core issues and what’s going on. There are also many gems in the comments.

Twitter Is Apple’s Support Forum

The iPhone 3.0 upgrade software was just released and, within minutes, #iPhone and #iTunes popup on the trending topics list as the iPhone community rushes to their computers to upgrade their phones. Between the time I ran the search and took this screenshot, there were over 1000 new twitter posts mentioning #iTunes – literally in the space of a minute. Hundreds of people are all having similar problems, asking questions, helping each other. Amazing. And Apple is no where to be seen in the stream. Lesson learned…get your community manager and techies monitoring Twitter when someone pushes the “RELEASE” button. Read More

How To Use Google Trends Like A Pro

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Google Trends is one of my favorite tools to come out of the Google Labs. While we data junkies are forced to envy people like Bill Tancer who have access to tons of rich, real time data about what’s going on on the web, Google Trends is the best thing that we can get for free, and it’s still very useful for basic analysis and research. In this post I’ll show you a few great ways you can use Google Trends to do research on the web like a pro and give you a quick list of hacks you can use to build your “Google Ninja” skills. Read More

Built It, Then Make Them Experts

There’s a lot we can learn about best practices for creating and releasing software or web services to the masses from watching the video gaming industry. Successful video game companies know how important it is that they engage and immerse users quickly because they know they aren’t just in the software business, they’re in the fun business, and there’s nothing fun about sucking at a game. Recognizing this, they’ve developed innovative methods for getting complete novices engaged and enjoying the product as quickly as possible. I call this the “zero to fun” metric.

Getting a user from zero to fun as fast as possible isn’t just a gaming industry must. Everyone wants to enjoy the experience of using software and the web, and how much we enjoy the experience is largely a function of how adept we feel as users. Making a user feel like an expert is key to making their experience remarkable, and for that reason, giving a user that feeling quickly should be one of the primary goals of any company releasing software or web services to the world. Read More