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Probably just about everyone over 25 remembers the game and show 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?' If San Diego were around today (maybe she is, who knows), we would all know exactly where she was because she would broadcast her whereabouts by tying her FourSquare account to Twitter. It wouldn't be much of a game. Publish 2 CEO Scott Karp pretty much nailed my feelings about FourSquare announcements on Twitter the other day when he wrote:

When you connected @foursquare to Twitter, you assumed everyone wanted to know where you are. Time to revisit that assumption.

The fact is most people don't need to know you're dropping off your kid at school or stopping at Dunkin Donuts for coffee or sitting in the terminal at Airport X. 99 percent of the people who are see your location-based tweet don't give a rat's petutti where you are.

Location Overload

We thought we were down to the lowest level of personal minutiae when we all started using Twitter. At first, people not sure how to use it, broadcast their meals. As the medium matured so did the level of tweets, and now we get actual insight such as the previous tweet from Mr. Karp. But we were wrong when we though that Twitter was the final frontier. It turns out that we can actually broadcast our every move if we are so inclined.

What I've found is services like FourSquare and Gowalla do is clog Twitter with mostly useless nonsense and it's really time to stop.

Do These Services Have a Role

I do suspect these services have a place, but we just haven't quite discovered what it is yet, and that's the problem. Much like the early days of Twitter, we are still trying to figure out just how to use these services to best serve us.

Microsoft announced an interesting use of FourSquare this week. Instead of using FourSquare data to find out what your friends are doing, you use it to find out the most popular places in a given area (a kind of on-the-fly Yelp). I'm not convinced this is a great use of this information either, but it's heck of a lot better than a random broadcast of your current location.

Privacy Issues Aside

The thing that bugs me about these services aside from the obvious nuisance factor for everyone who has to read them is that you are broadcasting your location in some cases to strangers. I could imagine some woman, for instance, being tracked by some creepy guy who likes her avatar and would love to watch her drink coffee at the Brew Room on 4th Street.

I suppose, social media tools have to go through these growing pains and eventually, we will figure out the purpose, but for now, I would be very happy if people stopped broadcasting their every move and confined these announcements to those few people in their lives who should actually know where they are right now. The rest of us don't care. Really.

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Last Post by Techwriter10
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Thanks, Mark. I haven't seen the service used in this fashion, although I have seen some folks using Gowalla in this way. It certainly raises its value if you can add comments over and above your location. As I say, I'm not a fan right now, but it doesn't mean I can't see that at some point it could have some practical application we are just not seeing yet.

Thanks for commenting.
Ron

Edited by Techwriter10: n/a

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Ron - definitely a concern in oversharing exact location information, from a safety perspective, and I have to say it's worth thinking before you "check-in" with any of these services.

Even though I'm an "ex-paranoid security guy" - I still play this type of personal information a bit close to the vest.

There's definitely value in these services, and I know of some local (Boston) businesses that have seen a definite uptick in both repeat and new business, as they've literally jumped off the mobile map and into users hands.

Contextual information is powerful - whether it's geo-location or semantic-location. On both fronts, it's pretty early days, but there are definite benefits.

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Hi Dan:
Thanks for commenting. I use the Around Me app and Yelp when I'm in a place where I don't know the area to find restaurants, pubs, coffee, breakfast and so forth and I've found this works really well, especially when there are user comments to help you decide where to go and what to avoid. I think these types of services have tremendous value, but I'm still not sold on the ones that are just telling me where *you* are right now. I agree it's early and it will be interesting to see where this goes.

Thanks again for your insight.

Ron

Edited by Techwriter10: n/a

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Ron - agree, the "real-time" updates as to where my friends/followers are isn't as interesting (unless I'm traveling, or it's a live conference and I'm trying to find where everyone is) as the "Long Tail" of the collected data, which supports finding "the best" restaurant, etc. nearby.

From a business standpoint, if you can get people competing to be "the mayor" of a spot, that's a great psychological lever to pull.

Raving Fans are a heck of an asset to have, and if these services spark *that* (assuming a product/service worth raving about in the first place), then that's awfully powerful.

Definitely worth tracking - and it's great to have you raise the skeptics flag. We shouldn't just accept every new idea as a gamechanger and run amok.

Dan

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I agree with you. I do think that these services not only provide additional information about you and your whereabouts, but it will also be information that can be used by advertisers for relaly atargeted behavioral targeting. I also can see a smart stalker using such information to haunt somebody or a criminals sewing up crumbs of information for their malicious purposes. Something to think about.

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InsightsDigital:
That marketing info could work in our favor too, as in a restaurant knowing you're in the area and offer you special pricing or a free drink, but you're right there are a lot of privacy concerns associated with these services and it's really something we have to think about.

Ron

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