a few things to think about…

It’s very interesting to observe the landscape of human computer interaction in a mobile social networking context in the US…especially with a European sensibility. (I was born and raised in Europe – although I still found time to watch Welcome Back Kotter as a kid – so not all is lost)

I’m talking about UX (user experience) as distinct from UI (user interface) here because sharing privacy related information raises many issues of course – just to name a few

how often are private details being shared and with whom?
how much visibility does the user have over what details are being shared?
how much understanding does the user have over what details are being shared?
how much control does the user have over what details are being shared?
and why not also add for that matter
how much control does the user WANT over what details are being shared?

When twitter first started I vaguely recall thinking it was just noise – but over time I grew to understand that even if 5% of the users created 95% of the data – there was still some value to it….as a sort of real-time-pulse of the web.

However (not to put too fine a point on it) there’s a massive difference between sharing what you ate for breakfast…and sharing your physical location.

As I’ve written before in this blog – in the location-check-in world (the microblogging broadcasting of foursquare for example) if you apply a similar dynamic – it breaks down – because if 5% of the users are creating 95% of the traffic – the value of that traffic is zero – because unless you are a friend/colleague/family member of mine – I have no real interest in precisely where you are.

Trending data…sure maybe (we’ll see what simplegeo/skyhook make of that) – but that’s a more civic/governmental issue than anything else.

I think we as developers – and of course the manufacturers all the more so – have a responsibility to create software that will enhance users lives without sacrificing privacy – however tempting it may be not to do so.

That’s why I worry about what facebook is doing – and even with what foursquare type platforms are doing.

They are using a game mechanic to incentivise use of the network – because they are attempting to monetise the network with various partners….but this is approach is at direct odds with protecting user privacy.
(same thing with the Facebook “Like” button that you can place anywhere on the web)

That’s why we work so hard to optimise speed and simplicity in echoecho.
Users struggle enough to understand software anyway – so we want to make it simpler and more useful at the same time.

In the next few weeks you will see a 1.6 release of echoecho roll out on different platforms – featuring functionality that allows you to set your phone to automatically respond to queries from your friends.

It’s a very different approach from the privacy-less “I’M HERE” world of check-in services – and one that I am confident can cross any chasms the world might throw at it.


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