3 x Location

A couple news items from last week have me thinking about location-based services again.

First, a location-based social networking tool called Shizzow launched a private beta. Similarly to other services (Brightkite, most notably), Shizzow helps you stay in touch with people IRL, but the secret sauce is that you don’t have to know the address of where you are. You can shout that you’re at a place (e.g. the Green Dragon), and your friends can then find you there.

Processing “I’m at the Green Dragon” is far easier than processing “I’m at 928 SE 9th Avenue, Portland, OR”. Unless you’re a GPS device. In which case, you and your friends should have no trouble finding each other. But I digress.

Shizzow is Portland-only at this point, in case you were salivating for an invite. If you’re still interested in beta-testing, drop a comment.

The second item from last week was that Fire Eagle finally launched to the public. I blogged about Fire Eagle a couple times in the Spring, and I still think it’s a sweet idea, i.e. brokering your location data to apps you want to use.

As of this Spring, none of the services I use had fully integrated the Fire Eagle API, but it appears that Brightkite has done so since then. When I checked in at the Palms in Las Vegas (I’m not really there, FYI), within a few minutes, Brightkite had updated my Fire Eagle location. This is what I was expecting back in April.

Still, I’m expecting that the other applications I have authorized to use Fire Eagle (Dopplr and Firebot) will poll it for changes and update my location accordingly. Somehow I doubt this will happen; it might take a day or so, if they do it in bulk. So, I’ll wait. Still, it’s a stretch, since I don’t think Dopplr wants to encourage me to use another service for location.

Incidentally, I think Firebot is kaput; it was a side-project, not a business, but still, I liked updating my location and querying other people’s through Twitter. This concept has legs, so I hope someone revives it.

Location is an important dimension of social networking. It helps you meet people you’ve “met” online in person, and this is one thing I love about Twitter in Portland. I can actually meet people I interact with over Twitter. So, layering location over the network strengthens these ties.

The network is key though. Remember way back in early Summer when Twitter couldn’t stay up for more than an hour or two? Services like Plurk and Identi.ca promised to fill the uptime void, but like Pownce and Jaiku before them, they fizzled out before making any headway.

Why? Because the network is already on Twitter, and I have no reason to start all over again, no matter how annoyed I am with Twitter’s downtime. Until data portability is a reality, the network isn’t yours, so unless you want to drag everyone kicking and screaming over to a new tool and rebuild your network, you’re kinda stuck.

Location-aware services should take note. Fire Eagle already has the pole position for location brokering, and because sharing your location has a creepy feel to it, people are likely to go with a known (and possibly trusted) quantity, i.e. Yahoo.

Ideally, now that Fire Eagle is public, more applications will integrate with its API and use it to add a location dimension to their service offerings. I’d love to see Firebot resurrected, or a similar service that lets me use Twitter to set and query locations. My Twitter usage has declined a lot since the bad old Fail Whale days, but even so, it’s the only social network I use regularly.

Protip: Try out TweetDeck, an AIR app, that lets you group your followers. Finally. Hat tip to Dawn for that.

Anyway, I’m excited about what location data can add to a social network. I’m hoping Eddie and I can huddle to brainstorm some thoughts about cool things we can do at OpenWorld next month. Stay tuned.

Find the comments to tell us what you think about location-aware services or any of this stuff.




  1. You've reminded me – I wonder if the MyBlogLog people would be interested in deploying one of their Bluetooth-based Mobile MyBlogLog demos at Oracle OpenWorld. It seems like an ideal place to deploy it.

  2. I'm intrigued. Know anyone over there to approach? I know some folks on this side, although it's probably beyond too late by now.

  3. “Still, it’s a stretch, since I don’t think Dopplr wants to encourage me to use another service for location.”

    Hi Jake – actually we're really happy when we're plugged into lots of other services so we deliver Dopplr in the way that suits you best. We hope we're like a really good hifi separate that enhances the total sound 😉 Hope you keep enjoying Dopplr /mj

  4. Hi Matt. Thanks for replying. You didn't address the question of how you're using Fire Eagle. I assume you're updating FE, which I may test later today.

    However, it looks like you're not pulling location from FE, unless I missed the window yesterday, and it hasn't run yet today. Why not? I'd enjoy Dopplr more if it did that.

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