Personal Location Tracking

I’ve been pretty fascinated with the idea of recording my own location for a while now. I started using Foursquare at SXSW in 2009 and have mostly continued to do so since then (I have over 3,700 check-ins). You can see my check-ins being syndicated back to this website (using Keyring Social Importers), and if you scroll back through the history of the main page, you’ll get maps aggregating a few check-ins at a time.

TripIt helps me keep track of all (most) of my travels, and provides back some data (via API), which I also import into this site. Here are all of my trips since March, 2008.

In February last year, I started using Moves, and quickly came to love its simplicity. It’s a background app that runs on your phone and keeps track of your location. Using server-side data processing, they crunch the raw location information to figure out when you were walking, running, riding, or on some form of transit, then give you back a timeline and a map showing what you’ve been up to. It’s a really nice “set and forget” way of keeping up with how many steps (roughly) you’re doing each day, plus your other forms of exercise. The app has continued to make small improvements, and then on April 24, Facebook bought them. I can’t say I’m stoked about the acquisition, but regardless, it’s a cool app, and it collects some fantastic data.

Since it’s all data, and there’s a growing sphere of location/movement-related data services out there, shuffling your data around is just a matter of a little programming. As I mentioned, I’m importing my Foursquare data into my blog already. I also have a Moves importer that’s currently creating a text-only summary of my information. I’ll probably add simple maps to it at some point. Moves-Export is a pretty neat service that will automatically import your Moves data and can give you a better breakdown of things, plus auto-post to Runkeeper and Foursquare (if you like) when activities are over certain thresholds (e.g. riding for more than 15 minutes). Pretty awesome.

Today, Chris Messina tipped me off to Move-o-scope, an awesome web app that will slurp in your Moves data, and give you back a rich visualization of it all. It lets you toggle things on and off, pan around the globe and see what you’ve been up to. It’s fascinating. Here are some places I’ve been since last February!

It’s fun to turn on the “Transit” layer (orange/brown, seen in the last picture above and the first one in the post), and follow the lines around the globe to see where you’ve been, then turn it off and zoom in to get a feel for what ground you covered while you were there.

Where is Your Digital Hub/Home?

I’ve been using WordPress to power my own website for a while now, and working with it in some way or another for even longer. Over the years, I’ve developed the belief that it’s a pretty perfect platform for people to build their own “digital home on the web”, considering the range of plugins and themes available, the flexibility of the publishing options it offers, and the fact that it’s completely open source, so you can do whatever you want with it.

That last bit is important in more ways than you might immediately think. Apart from just being able to write my own plugins or tweak my themes, this also means that I own my own data. I think in this MySpace/Facebook generation, people are all too loose with the data trails they create — giving up ownership of their digital self at the drop of a hat. In case you didn’t realize, when you use something like Facebook, it is not the product, you and your data are the product.

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Federated Social Web Summit

I’m in Portland today and taking part in the Federated Social Web Summit, before attending OSCON for the next week. Today is so far packed with lighting presentations from all sorts of companies, projects and protocols in the space to bring us all up to speed. After lunch we’re going to all be discussing and looking at how we can put together all the building blocks and bring to life this concept of a federated social web. Here are my (long) notes on all the projects etc from the morning:

Apologies to any names I’ve misspelled, product names I’ve left out, etc.

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Web Service Authentication APIs

For a project I’m working on, I’ve been looking at a lot of web service authentication/verification APIs lately. I thought folks might be interested in the results. Here are the methods available for a variety of web services/applications online, with links to their appropriate docs:

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On Social Customer Support

Through my work with Automattic, I’ve had the privilege of working with the guys over at Intense Debate. I’ve been helping them improve their WordPress plugin and get it ready for some new features. Along the way I made the blunder of releasing a version that had a pretty serious bug in it, and that triggered a lot of customer support issues/cases.

In the “old days” (or in a lot of big corporates today), those support cases would have been handled behind a corporate “veil of secrecy”, tucked in a back end system somewhere, responded to by anonymous “Customer Service Representatives” via a generic email account like “support@intensedebate.com”. While we’re also making use of a generic email address, the similarities between our approach and that of big corporates ends there. End to end, the differences are pretty stark.

Keep Reading about Social Customer Support

Twitter vs Facebook Status

In the past few weeks I’ve been asked by at least 3 different people why they should use this new “Twitter” thing they’ve heard about, rather than just updating their status on Facebook. I think it’s a pretty valid question, so I thought I’d put together some of the reasons why I use Twitter, rather than Facebook’s Status update.

  1. It’s Open: I’m a fan of the idea of “open” (as in open source, portable data, etc etc). Facebook is not. Twitter is. Putting my status updates through Twitter means that I can do fun things like load them into my sidebar (on the right of my blog) easily (via an RSS feed). If I updated in Facebook, those updates become useless because I can’t get them back out.
  2. Client Apps: I don’t want to have to go to the Facebook site all the time to update my status. I can run a Twitter client (currently DestroyTwitter or TweetDeck) on my computer and update my status in a couple of key-presses. I also have options (there’s that “open” thing coming in handy again) as far as clients go, so I can pick and choose something that I like.
  3. Be Part of Something Bigger: Facebook is great and all, but it’s owned and controlled by Facebook. It’s a world unto itself with an established set of protocols and expectations. Twitter is something new. It’s a new type of “web” as we know it. It’s “live” in a way that not much else is yet. I’d like to be a part of that, so that I can see what’s really going on, which brings me to…
  4. Search: Twitter’s search system is a whole new ball-game. It allows you to see what’s going on and what people are thinking/doing/asking now.
  5. Community: Twitter’s omni-directional “follow” system means that the community/network is fundamentally to Facebook’s bi-directional system. I don’t “allow” people to follow me. If they want to, they do. If they don’t, they don’t. I can reach a whole different group of people on Twitter that I am not connected to on Facebook.
  6. Laziness: Last but not least, I have a Facebook app installed that loads my Twitter status into FB anyway, saving me the hassle of updating both 🙂

So why do you use Twitter (or Facebook Status)? Chime in on the comments and I’ll add any good ones to the list!

Idea: Comment Aggregation via WordPress

There are lots of “conversation platforms” out there, and more arriving daily. FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader (now that it has commenting functionality); you name it. These systems are all great for getting your content out there and exposing more people to it, but the problem (in my opinion) is that it becomes really hard to follow the conversations on all of these different platforms. They all generally act as either a kind of content aggregation platform (e.g. FriendFeed/Google Reader), or as a unique content creation/delivery system, which is heavily used to redistribute existing content (e.g. Twitter). With all this aggregating going on, why not do the same thing in reverse? Mashable has just started doing something along these lines and that prompted me to finally publish this draft post.

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