If you’re that important, they’ll find you again


On Twitter, the numbers for friends (people you follow) and followers (people who follow you) are being misreported. The most common tweet today is about one’s follower count dropping off. This is telling of your personality, and not in a good way.

If you’re complaining about your follower count dropping off without your realizing your friend count dropped too, you’ve probably only been paying attention to building numbers. You’re also describing to the world that you didn’t care about losing touch with your friends.

For the record, I first noticed my friend count dropped. Over the year or two on the service, I’ve built up a friend list of ~6200 extremely interesting people (~2100 follow me). When I saw my friend count dropped, I checked my followers to verify. My tweet was, “Wow – number of people I follow and who are following me just dropped by more than 1000 each. Not good!”

While they reboot the service and get your numbers back to normal, take a moment to consider what matters. If you’re that important, they’ll find you again.

Philly Geek Dining

I’ve been wanting to organize a meet-up in Philadelphia for a while. Combine that with having a list of 30+ restaurants stored as a note on my phone, wanting and waiting to try, and you get opportunity. An opportunity for the geek in us…

So I’m finally kicking this off in an official manner. The upcoming.org page is up. Eventful, too. I’ll have a venue picked out this week.

If this works out we’ll keep it going on the first Tuesday each month.

Cheers and looking forware to meeting you!

Mobile phone GPS a security risk? Only to those who follow you

Steven Hodson, in a post over on Mashable, describes security risks and the waste of information that mobile phone GPS use brings (when pinpointing and announcing our locations). He poses some extremely valid points in regards to announcing one’s geolocation via Twitter, Brightkite, or FriendFeed being useless noise.

Telling people via a highly conversational medium such as instant messaging or an SMS text that you are currently at 13th St and Ash Lane is nothing more than noise. It’s a waste of precious conversation. To a few of your closer friends it may be relevant, such as a buddy that would meet you for coffee. But for the masses, it is unimportant and you’re guilty for wasting their time.

I’m guilty of this lately. I’ve been trying various mobile phone GPS services. It’s been fun and interesting, but I’m in agreement with Steven about this announcement being a waste (at least if it’s without background information). Steven doesn’t mention it, but my thought on optimal geolocation announcement is in a widget placed on one’s blog. It’s there for interested followers, but not intrusive or annoying.

But that’s where we agree. He describes broadcasting one’s geolocation as a security risk and I strongly disagree. Yes, there are some situations where it is. US soldiers in Iraq will not benefit from this feature. Folks in witness protection programs, runaways, victims of domestic violence, those being stalked, cheating spouses, and those in organized crime probably won’t either.

The typical citizen without conflict is not at risk. It’s easy to figure out when someone is normally at work, so knowing an optimal time to break in to someone’s home is already simple. It’s easy to find a person in a public place, so it’s already easy to find the optimal time to commit physical harm.

Note: If one is being stalked or believes him or herself to be in a situation where announcing location is dangerous, it’s simple to turn the feature off.

As I’ve said before, people are inherently good. They don’t go around looking for someone to damage or rob. There are some people who commit these crimes. These people use crow-bars instead of Facebook, and are stopped by alarm systems and deadbolts rather than a lack of geolocation data.

Mobile Phone GPS – Where are we going?

BlackBerry 8800 GPS

Most smartphones slated for release over the next 12-months include a GPS receiver, built in. After that, it will be a marked failure to not include a GPS in a phone. The functionality that comes with GPS is outstanding – mapping, directions, location based experiences, etc. We’re about to enter an age of advancement in technological capabilities that we’re just beginning to imagine.

Consumers are moving to smartphones. The hottest smartphones (iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Bold 9000, most of Nokia’s Symbian and HTC’s Windows Mobile offerings) all include GPS and an exposed API for developing applications utilizing their hardware. Anything people can conceive of for location based mashups will be coming (more on these mashups in later posts)…


Here’s a first application…

BlackBerry is a leader in mobile phone GPS. Recently a few services that announce the location of one’s phone emerged. Initially these were billed as a sort of low-jack for one’s phone, a security service for the insecure (or those who want to spy on their kids, etc).

I decided to try a few of these. Most felt slimy, like, “you always know where your phone is, and you could also know where your wife is!” … I don’t know about you, but my phone is loyal and doesn’t run off with strangers… And I trust my wife far more than a phone.

My goal with trying these services was to mash Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, and other social networking services with my location. Such a mashup will allow me to share my real-time location with all friends. I came across BlackberryTracker.com. Much like the others, the idea is to provide you with the location of your phone. However, they have something the other’s don’t… Facebook and Google Earth integration (as well as a drop-dead-simple semi-RESTful API).

Friends can pinpoint me down to the meter on my Facebook profile, updated every 30 seconds. To be honest, it feels strange to openly publish this data. Security, and lack thereof, has us believing we shouldn’t share such information. But this fear is caused by the exception and not the rule. And in reality, my location in public isn’t private. Additionally, there are laws and common courtesies we live by, and I trust that people are inherently good.

Soon these services will be in the mainstream. Everyone will be able to pinpoint the location of anyone. Let me emphasize that… Soon everyone will be able to pinpoint the location of anyone. Not publishing your location will be like not having a mobile phone.

Homeless, Keyless, Wednesday

Today was strange…

I am homeless

Image courtesy of Malingering on Flickr – it is not of either of the homeless men I met today.


I started off the day by going for a great morning run. On my way home I realized my house key fell out of my shorts pocket, so I was looking around on the ground for it.

A homeless man asked if I lost something, and immediately followed up asking if it was a water bottle before I could respond. After telling him it was a key he informed me the water bottle he saw earlier was very nice.

I walked away cursing the fact I would have to break in to my house, but also thinking about a man with concern over my loss who didn’t have keys of his own to lose.

Breaking in requires scaling a tall wall, jumping through a window a-la Trinity escaping in The Matrix, and finally possessing the key to our inside apartment (which I still had).

At the end of the day I hit the bank for a friend and locked my keys in the car in the process… Two key losses in a single day. It would have been my first key loss in years if it were only once.

As I waited for my wife, bringing the spare key, a homeless man with a harshly weathered and flushed face approached. The conversation went like this:

  • Homeless man: Hello, sir?
  • I kept silent, posting to del.icio.us.
  • Man: Sir, is that your car?
  • Me: Yep?
  • Man: <upbeat> Where are you from?
  • Me: Here, Philadelphia…
  • Man: Sir, I could use a cup ‘a coffee, could ya spare some change?
  • Me: …
  • Man: <poorly rehearsed> Sir, I’m homeless, hungry, scared, and need something to eat. Anything you can offer will help.
  • Me: I’m sorry, but I won’t give cash, but I’ll get us cups of coffee.
  • Man: <confused, back pedaling> But I’m hungry. I have 55-cents <jingles pockets> and only need a little more for coffee.
  • I twittered
  • Man: Sir, pay attention to me. I need some help.
  • Me: I’ll buy us cups of coffee and a snack then.
  • Man: <pausing again> But… I’m hungry.
  • Me: <Genuine smile> Let’s go get a cup of coffee, Starbucks is two doors down.

He turned his back to me and walked off without another word. His “hello, sir?” introduction was repeated to each passerby.