Monthly Archives: May 2010

API is the new black…

yes. doesn’t it seem like everyone has one.

I mean it’s not so much the obvious monster ones – like google, twitter, ebay, facebook, bing, amazon, or even the location based services like gowalla, foursquare, brightkite, simplegeo

no. those alone all make sense. you have a service – make some user authentication, some inputs and outputs – and boom…mashups galore.

Gone are the early days when a craigslist google maps mashup was cool and new. Nowadays if you don’t have an API you don’t have anything.

Which means even odd-sounding stuff like the Mastercard API – which in theory sounds great but is kind of scary. I mean can you imagine a Bank of America API – or a Blue Cross Blue Shield API 😉

(ok fine – you can build services on top of APIs and still have something)

I guess the point is more that we are now very far removed from a walled garden application/service model. Future native (or html5) apps on mobile phones interact with APIs on your handsets to read sensors in your device.

So let’s see…we have

(a) authentication
(b) protocol definitions and function calls
(c) results/datastream

This is all well and good – but where do you manage all these infernal APIs. Permissions, Privacy, Preferences – the bugbears rear their heads again – because the cloud is not just one thing. Every dataset which is API accessible in the cloud in theory needs its own set of preferences.

Messy…and in some instances not ideal in our opinion.

But then…that’s a subject for the next post 😉

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me. w3gconf. keynote ;)

Gary Gale is organising a one day Geo-unconference in Stratford-upon-Avon in late September.

W3Gconf

He’s asked me to be one of the keynote speakers. Cool

WIPJam May 2010

Written by Remy Kozak

Yesterday I moderated several sessions on Location & Privacy at an event coordinated by Caroline Lewko of the Wireless Industry Partnership as part of DigiBC’s Vancouver Interactive Digital Week activities.

The sessions themselves were quite insightful. There was a great mix of social media, mobile, creative and advertising folks in attendance and I had a good cross-section in each of the session. There was also a mix of European (primarily Dutch) and Canadian participants.

One of the things I was surprised to learn is how some companies that I never considered to be “in” the location space have gathered quite a bit of data. Of course Skyhook and Google are well known, the NAVTEQs and the TomToms of the world a little less so but clearly, as providers of turn by turn directions, they have the opportunity and the need to acquire a load of location information.  One name I was surprised to hear, however, was Sirius Radio. Evidently, they not only track “what” people are listening to but “where”. When you think about it, it makes total sense. They can offer local and regional advertisers the opportunity to insert ads to only those people listening within and X mile/km radius. At least I assume they use the information for that purpose…

Another thing that became clear through our discussions is that many knowledgeable people are “pissed” that companies are storing location information. Their biggest question was “Why?”, “To what end?”  if there is no discernible value to the user of storing their location on the cloud. Of course companies like Sound Of Motion that track athletes with GPS for training purposes have a reason to store location info. But why would other companies? I guess storing user locations makes sense for check-in applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla, where users essentially go around marking their territories so that their friends and other interested parties can sniff them out later. In fact, persistence seems to be the point of people using those services.  Regardless, the overwhelming majority of session participants wanted:

1) To have a clear opt-in option which informed them what was being stored

2) For how long it was being stored; and

3) How it was going to be used i.e. was there any value to them

By far the most interesting discussion, however, was about who was responsible for privacy and location. The first session was split between “Buyer Beware” and “Government Regulation” being the solutions. The second (by far the largest) and third sessions, dismissed personal and government responsibility and put the onus squarely on the shoulders of the Brand/Companies doing the collecting. They felt that if a company was going to collect personal information (especially location) they needed to educate the users as to risks and to institute best practices in the handling of such information.  What was most encouraging was that several companies themselves e.g. Canpages and ZipLocal, that were gathering such data fully agreed that it was their responsibility.

Of course, we firmly believe in best practices and do not store our user’s location information once an echo is paired. I think that makes us unique but it was good to see that others were discarding location info once its usefulness had expired – or at least depersonalizing it.

Advancing in NVBC Competition

Written by Remy Kozak

Good news!

The jurists at the New Ventures BC Competition have found it in their hearts to move us on to the 3rd Round of the competition. Purpose Wireless is 1 of 16 companies moving through. Another 14 will be added over the coming weeks. Nick and I are both excited at the prospect of working with the mentor we will be assigned to attempt to make it to the final 10.

I guest blogged on geoapplab…

Michael Castellon over at geolocation blog GeoAppLab asked me to guest post something of interest.

This is what I came up with

Sample quote:

Despite the best efforts of fanboys like MG Siegler, using check-in services to find where your friends are is disingenuous.

You can only use check-in services to find where your friends were, at best.

Enjoy.

did a bit of reading on windows phone series 7 development…

namely the way in which they would implement push notification

it’s all fairly sensible stuff – not unlike google’s implementation of Cloud to Device messaging I discussed previously…but there was one thing that really surprised me.

Microsoft has decided not to allow background running applications.

Yes. You read that correctly.
No 3rd party background apps allowed – so they are using the old iphone model.

Here’s the quote from that first link up top –

The WP application model doesn’t allow you to write code that will run in the background while another application occupies the foreground (in other words, it does not allow 3rd party multitasking).

Well ok – it’s no biggie for echoecho – we’re happy to use push notification as and when we can – in the case of WP we’ll need to use a combination of Raw and Tile notifications to optimise the user experience – but it just seems like an odd step backwards for Microsoft – when they find themselves in a situation where everything should be about stepping forwards…

changes in latitudes…changes in attitudes…

I guess I date myself by referencing Jimmy Buffett – but it’s suitable since I’m writing about Latitude (again).

I read Josh Kopelman’s post on his RedEye VC blog – which curiously has gotten quoted in quite a few places (RWW twice no less – for example)

Leaving aside the issue of the bulletpoints of stuff that josh suggests (not that there’s anything wrong in particular with those ideas – just that the key ones are straight off of google’s own list ;)) – it’s interesting to consider the comments by SimpleGeo.

This is Matt Galligan’s (simplegeo CEO) post on the subject on the SimpleGeo blog

I agree with Matt that there are some reasons to be concerned about google owning all of the location data in the cloud – and as readers of the echoecho blog have already seen – Matt and I both make the same connection to FireEagle.

I am curious however about the Google Places API and the impact this might have on SimpleGeo’s bottom line (something that might well worry Josh Kopelman – since SimpleGeo is in the First Round Capital portfolio)

Matt says it’s no big deal – and quickly points out that there are other things SimpleGeo does besides funky reverse Geocoding with a list of POIs…hmmm (don’t at least some of those other things belong to SkyHook – kinda/sorta)

Anyway I’ve responded to Josh on his blog – because the devil here is most definitely in the details…the exact manner by which permissions are handled is something that it seems tempting to ignore…but with echoecho it’s precisely the complete absence of all settings and privacy preferences – yet simultaneously complete privacy and sense of control – that our users get excited about.

It’ll be an interesting few months.