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.

Keyring v1.5 & Social Importers v1.4

Yesterday, I released version 1.5 of Keyring, and version 1.4 of the Keyring Social Importers bundle for WordPress. This update moves the Social Importers away from using a postmeta value (keyring_service) and introduces a new taxonomy that keeps track of where posts were imported from. It’s optimized towards management within wp-admin, but you can also use it for front-end queries of your posts. The update for Keyring introduces a new service file for Moves, and fixes a bug in the OAuth2 base service.

The new taxonomy for the Importers is called keyring_services on the backend, and is labeled “Imported From” in the admin UI. It will auto-create itself based on all of the importers installed. You’ll see it within wp-admin under the Posts menu, and will be listed on the “All Posts” listing as well:

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 9.10.59 PM

Clicking the name of a service under the “Imported From” heading will filter the posts list by that service (e.g. Twitter). The main reason that the taxonomy is exposed through the admin UI is so that you can tweak the slugs if you’d like to. I noticed that on my install, I’d already used things like ‘twitter’ and ‘foursquare’ as tags, and so they had claimed the namespace for that slug. WordPress’ shared terms are annoying like that :). So, if you’d like to use the slugs of source services in URLs, you might want to rename them:

  1. Go to Posts → Tags
  2. Search for and rename the slug for each of the services (e.g ‘twitter’, ‘foursquare’, ‘flickr’). Name the slugs something like ‘twitter-3’
  3. Go to Posts → Imported From and rename the slugs for each service to the “clean” version (without a ‘-2’).
  4. Optionally go back to Posts → Tags and rename those tags again back to the -2 versions.

As part of this change, you’ll want to update any previous posts that you imported to using the new taxonomy. I’ve included a quick and dirty script to do this. It’s called migrate-keyring-postmeta-to-taxonomy.php and can be found in the root of the plugin. To use it, you need to move it to the root of your WordPress install, and then you can just access it through your browser. It’s likely that it’ll run out of memory or time out, but it’s written in a way that you can just run it over and over again until it finishes cleanly. On my server, once it was finished and produced no output, Chrome decided to display a “friendly” error message instead of anything useful. Once that’s done, your existing posts should all be converted over to using the new taxonomy, and there should be no more postmeta entries for keyring_service.

If you’re doing a clean import, I recommend doing it without auto-import enabled, and then once you’ve fully imported everything, enable auto-import and let it run from there.

Exploring a Neighborhood Like an Engineer

When I moved to Brooklyn in June, I decided that I wanted to get to know my new neighborhood reasonably well, reasonably quickly. Being an engineer, I figured a methodical approach was the best solution, so I got a map and got to work.

Based on a rough understanding of what was where, and letting the nearby Prospect Park somewhat dictate the area I wanted to cover, I drew out a grid with my new home roughly at the center, covering the bulk of the surrounding area that was of interest. The grid looked like this: (more…)

WordPress is Your Digital Hub

This post continues on from a previous post: Where is Your Digital Hub/Home?

In a previous post, I talked about POSSE and PESOS, and publishing on your own site vs other platforms, syndicating content back and forth and content ownership. I mentioned that I’d opted for the PESOS approach, and that I was publishing content on other platforms, then syndicating it back to my own site. Let’s take a look at how that happens.

First of all, I’m running WordPress. Since I’ve been working with WordPress for years, and since my full time job has me working with it as well, this made a lot of sense. Even without those motivators though, WordPress has a huge community, is open source, is a really solid publishing platform, is built from the ground up to be completely customizable through plugins, and has an incredibly powerful themeing system (which basically allows you to do whatever you want).

One of the other things WordPress has going for it is a long history of providing data import and export tools. You’ve always been able to get data into and out of WordPress with relative ease, so it seemed like getting a bunch more data in there would be a reasonable goal. With the advent of Post Formats (in WP 3.1), WordPress also has a native way of hinting at how different types of data should be displayed, plus Custom Post Types (since WP 3.0) mean that if you really want to get crazy, you can step completely outside of the normal “Post” model and get really custom.

One of the things that got me started down the road of actually getting control over my content was “The Great Twitter 3200 Tweet Debacle” (I made that name up). Because of technical constraints, Twitter only allows you to access your most recent 3200 tweets. I’ll give you a few seconds to let that sink in. Twitter. Only allows you to access. Your most recent 3200 tweets. Your own tweets. Has that hit home yet? Here you are producing all this stuff, thinking it’s yours, and Twitter actually decides what you can and can’t access. Before I hit that 3200 mark (I was up to around 3100 at the time), I vowed that I’d get something figured out to get a copy of all of my tweets stored somewhere that I controlled.


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.