Monthly Archives: July 2009

but I don’t want people to know where I am…

this is something we hear a lot.

And not just from the Amish luddites who don’t want all this modern technology interfering with  their lives.

No no no.

This comes even from regular twitter users or serial facebook updaters who are quite happy tweeting stuff like.

@IkeMikeSpike: Watching Kobe miss another freethrow. Asshole plays like a girl.

but  aren’t quite so sure when it comes down to somebody knowing their latitude and longitude.

You see – the layer of anonymity (or privacy) that comes from chat room handle and twitter ids is somewhat removed when people know where you are.

Location sharing is a little tricky.

Twitter (as with other microblogging tools) broadcasts info.  When you tweet you don’t really care who is listening. In fact the system is designed so you don’t have to or need to care – the more people that are listening the better you’ll be heard (retweet after retweet simply extending your reach)

However – when you share your precise location you do care.

Often you care very much. Whether you are a girl worried about freaky stalkers or a guy who just doesn’t want his buddies to know he does yoga – who you tell where you are and when you tell them is of huge importance. So the social network solution to this is as follows:

  • Pre-approved lists – Force people to become your friends/buddies (delete as applicable). If you approve them as your friends then they can receive information about you.

Well that’s all well and good in a social network context but what about a twitter type context – where you have no significant control over who is following you.

Doesn’t work quite so well.

Hang on – let’s make it even more complicated.

  • pre-approved groups of friends
  • level of location detail (or if you prefer a single word – accuracy)

What does all  that mean? Well suppose Jenny (the one worried about freaky stalkers) has a 5 people as facebook friends.

Jill, Sheila, Colin, Jake and Wendy

Jill is her BFF – Sheila’s dating Colin and Wendy is in her Algebra class in school. She doesn’t mind telling them where she is. Jake on the other hand is a little weird – she friended him because she thought it was mean not to. So she doesn’t want Jake to know where she is. Jenny would need to have a system where she could create a subgroup of friends she shares location with – and a different subgroup of friends she does not share with.

Messy – but we’re just about following so far – except…what about this level of detail/accuracy stuff.

Well  Mark thinks yoga is for wussies but his girlfriend insists on going so he tags along. He doesn’t want his buddies knowing where he is because they would give him no end of shit for going to yoga. However he doesnt mind his parents knowing he’s in town (but he doesn’t like the idea of his parents tracking him too closely) so he shares only Town-level detail.

His parents would know what town he is in – but not exactly where.

His girlfriend gets maximum accuracy – as do his buddies when he wants to meet up with them – but when he’s at Yoga he wants to be invisible to his buddies.

Bloody hell.

Can you see the mess that this could become?

Every person on your friend list would need a location sharing preference (or a preset group membership) – this sharing preference could change depending on the time of day, day of week or your mood.

But it could change differently for each person.

So surpringly enough – we decided not to do it this way. We decided we wanted to do permission based location sharing.

You always have to ask (by sending an echo) – and they always have to answer (by echoing you back).

The trick is of course – to make this process as simple as possible – you will find out how true that is soon – but in the meantime a big clue is in a previous blog posting about social networks


first usage videos of echoecho

since we’re getting so close (yes yes I know – it’s taken a little longer than expected) – here’s some final stage video of the beta builds due to be released to the public shortly. We thought it would be cool for people to see how easy the system is to use.

Iphone, Blackberry, Android are under active development…

If you use receive an echo and your platform is not yet supported – you will automatically get notified by SMS when that platform goes live.