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Quickly Noted: Thinking about Where You Are

January 8, 2010

All of the social media talking heads are talking about how the big mover in 2010 will be in geolocation. Basically that means that your phone, or computer, will tell everyone where you are as you interact with a social media tool or service. Twitter can already do this, calls for Facebook to adopt location services are mounting, and there is an ongoing competition for which geolocation service will establish itself as the Facebook or Twitter of the field (the big ones right now are Foursquare and Gowalla , though others are certainly agitating).

What’s the big deal with geolocation? It’s a natural progression, really. We’ve spent the last few years telling our friends exactly what we’re doing (see the proverbial “I just ate lunch” tweets), now folks want to let our friends know exactly where we are. This kind of thing can come in handy for felicitous meetings (“Hey, you’re in my neighborhood, let’s grab a beer!”), organizing parties or meetings, and hyperlocal advertising (if you check in at certain restaurants or pubs, you can get a deal. The downsides are obvious (if you’re out, you’re obviously not at home), and are the reason that I haven’t taken the plunge personally, though I admit that’ll probably change some day.

What does that mean for us? Tons.

Consider how knowing where people are can help in our response activities. Besides the obvious US&R implications, if volunteers “check-in” at a POD, we could track staffing levels without having to require a POD manager to give hourly calls reporting that information. Beyond volunteers, what if clients – folks standing in line at a POD – “check-in” and let folks know what the wait time is, report problems with how the POD is begin run and offer suggestions on improving the flow. As a communications guy, I can totally see myself watching for tweets or “check-ins” from POD locations to monitor rumors. As I noted in yesterday’s post, a huge part of response is epidemiological tracking related to targeting response. What if we could match publicly available geolocation data with name-based disease reports to establish where people were when they got sick?

All that said, none of this could come to pass, but apparently tons of money and effort are being thrown at geolocation tools right now, and something will come out of all of that. There are obviously lots of pitfalls for government agencies. We need to start the conversation on how to do that now.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2010 11:30 am

    Already ahead of you, Jimmy.

    When I accompanied my daughter on the door-to-door Girl Scout Cookie Sales Marathon of 2010, I took my phone along.

    After each sale, I walked to the street and took a picture of the house in Evernote, added the name, exact order, and method of payment. I also had GPS turned on.

    When we got home, I just exported those notes directly to Google Earth, and now my wife has a record of where the deliveries need to go on the map. (And, since my daughter has already temporarily misplaced the order form twice, I’ve got the sales data backed up, too.)

    Evernote is right up there with Posterous for me – but back to your main point, Geolocation is going to be a fantastic tool for those who even try to leverage it in the new technology.

    • January 10, 2010 10:45 am

      Wow, that’s amazing, Ike. What an innovative use of all of those tools. And for a good cause, too, cookies!

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