Monthly Archives: June 2010

back in NYC again – where it all started (RWW realtime summit)

Thanks to Richard, Marshall, Frederic and the rest of the RWW guys for inviting echoecho and me to the summit

The format wasn’t as unfamiliar to me as before – having been invited to the RWW mobile summit a few weeks prior – however familiarity did not make the process less interesting. (although I have to say the acoustics in the NYC location blew chunks in comparison to what we had in Mountain View).

Anyway – here’s a quick look at the topic board:

topic board

Since the theme was Real-time web not surprisingly the topic I hosted (or convened to use an un-conference slightly PC term) was about the Real-time-where…echoecho being about – you know – locations.

my panel

As you can see from the overall board it was originally scheduled in room B – but was moved to room D – evidently our discussions were deemed more interesting for the Justin TV audience. Here’s a link to the recorded discussion – only problem is that the microphones were crappy so you can barely hear it.

Needless to say issues with privacy and permissions (by themselves more pronounced with location – above all other things) are multiplied tenfold when you consider the trend to real-time sharing of information.
There was ample ground here for a fertile discussion – particularly around the particular unique aspects of echoecho’s friendly and intrinsically private location sharing.

I enjoyed all the other panels I attended – but particular standout ones were Mike Rose‘s (of TUAW fame ;)) on truth and the realtime web – i.e. what happens when false information can spread as quickly as real information, and Nitya Narasimhan‘s panel on interactivity and the real-time web – on broadcast television… (yes I know…it still exists apparently ;))

Of course – the speedgeeking itself was a whirlwind. A surprisingly dynamic 1 hour (5 minute demos to continuously rotating groups) – in 5 minutes you don’t have as much time as you think but you have more time than you need…this seems like a good summary.

I thought it was quite cool – I had a few demo slides running in the background (there’s only so many heads that can fit around a mobile phone screen) – here’s a sample

where are you?

I’ll put more of these up shortly – in general people were extremely impressed with the ease of use (many couldn’t believe the app ran on five platforms – windows mobile not shown on the slide – yet was free to download). Lots of interesting initial discussions – (and I didn’t even show anyone the 1.6 and 1.7 stuff that’s coming out… ;))

Other than all that of course – I met a whole bunch of interesting people – seems that my linked in network is getting ever stronger….but then that’s the whole point of these things…network, talk, have ideas, build stuff, change stuff (repeat ad infinitum)

Oh and – if you ever start seeing twitter streams in TV shows – during the commercial breaks…yeah I’m going to claim that idea right here 😉


we will be at WIPjam unpanel – July 1st San Diego

Caroline Lewko and the team at WIP have invited echoecho to participate at the next WIPjam event – at the tail end of Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference.

It’s an unpanel – which I presume bears the same kind of relationship to a panel as a conference does to an UNconference.

I’m well versed in the official mode of dress of the Unpanel (which is board shorts and flip flops) so I look forward to lots of heated discussions about all things wireless/geo or otherwise…

oh goody – another unconference ;)

RWW real time web event

echoecho has been selected to present as part of the speedgeek sessions at the next RWW unconference.

So look out for us there.

Thanks to Marshall, Richard, Frederic and the rest of the RWW team for continuing to believe in what we are doing.

future = cheaper smartphones or more expensive featurephones?

or will they all become one and the same.

According to what Orange says in this article at The Register the answer is perhaps a bit of both.

If the numbers are honest – then Orange anticipates over 50% of its portfolio will be smartphones (and by smartphones I think we can safely assume a phone with internet browser and some form of app market).

All this is very cool for LBS and in fact for mobile developers of all sorts – but what will happen to data plans. For all this new-fangled app stuff to spread everywhere we need everyone with a smartphone and with a data pipe. If unlimited data pipes are still cost prohibitive then progress will be slowed.

It feels almost like the days of Free-dial-up ISPs which some UK users will remember. Perhaps we need some enterprising new network to offer free-prepaid 3G data if you are always watching ads…

ok I’ve linked to the Register now for a change – you happy?

how to solve privacy issues with location sharing…

I know I know. very boring blog title.
I toyed with the idea of calling it

“to cloud or not to cloud”

but then I figured people would have no idea what the hell it was about etc etc…so there you have it.

This blog post started (as a couple of recent ones have) as an email discussion with Gary Gale (formerly Yahoo, now Nokia).

Lemme see…

Do you remember Jaiku? the particular aspect of jaiku I have in mind is the networked “presence”…i.e.
Remember when nokia phones all had

Loud, Quiet, Normal, Meeting, Silent, Vibrate (or something like that) profiles

The coolest thing about Jaiku for me was being able to see what mode someone was in…(before actually calling them)

Now it might sound tempting to translate this to location but for reasons a number of people have spoken about it’s not quite the same. In other words think about this – I may want my phone to be in Silent mode for work calls and Loud mode for personal ones (or vice versa) in the same way as I have umpteen context + person specific preference on my location sharing…

So for sharing personal data – (be it location, status i.e. phone profile, birthday, biography etc etc) sure there can be lots of models.

What we should not lose sight of is that some of this data changes very rarely if at all (e.g. my birthday) whereas other data changes on an ongoing basis – and my preferences for sharing said data may well change on an ongoing basis.

For example I frequently answer phone calls from my parents but not always.

If you tried to make me a set of cloud based preferences for whether the network should let a phone call from my parents go straight to voicemail or not – I would hate that – because I would have to change them so often I would never use them.

This is why some of Danah Boyd’s stuff is interesting – because she’s approaching privacy/sharing from an ethnographic/behavioural point of view.

Let’s look at this another way.

1. If your handset has some kind of LocateHandset() geoAPI exposed to developers then the spray and pray model of sharing location is there by definition.

Send a Tweet (add location to it via the LocateHandset())
Do a Facebook update (add location to it via the LocateHandset() call)
Take a photo with camera and share it via email app (add location…etc etc etc)

You don’t need a separate location managing backend to handle this – the privacy is handled by choice by a sort of caveat transportor model (and yes I had to look that up – and yes it means sender in Latin ;))
sender beware

When you sorely need location managing back end systems is when other objects (C2C or B2C) can query your location. (be they cab companies, bank/credit card entities, friends etc etc)

So that’s when it gets tricky.

And that’s when the one-to-one stuff becomes necessary.
Danah talks about the fact that privacy is not context specific (time/place) or person specific but it’s both.

So although you can do this in a cloud (just slap a bunch of settings on there and hope for the best – if you wish the FireEagle and Google) we think it’s more sensible (and quicker to manage) done on the device itself.


yes it’s a good old echo flash – easy to understand and super easy to control.

Or as I kept commenting much to the consternation and awe of anyone listening – it’s privacy without any settings or preferences required.

Rolling out over the next week we have a tweak on this functionality – which allows you to easily configure a friend for automatic response. Needless to say we did not add this functionality lightly 😉 – look for a blog post in the next few days as we roll this out on all our platforms.

So wait – if one-to-one location sharing preferences are on the device and automatic location sharing preferences are on the device – what does that leave for the cloud?

In theory – the obvious answer is a continuously updating live location stream so that you save yourself the data pathway roundtrip to my handset.

(this also has the side effect of giving you my last known location in the event of my phone being out of service or out of network (or simply – OFF ;))

But then you have a pandora’s box of preferences…who’s allowed to access this always on location, when they are allowed to do it – and to what granularity. (in other words it’s FireEagle all over again, with the worst aspects of Facebook’s privacy rolled into it and multiplied by 100)

The echoecho model can certainly extend in that direction and both models can of course co-exist. But they are both important for different reasons.

If you accept that networks/handsets are tending towards an always on – always connected model…then effectively the cloud extends to my handset…

so the argument (with regards to where the preferences are) ends up being somewhat semantical.

That’s why I frame the location sharing discussions as push vs. pull…because I feel that the privacy considerations (not to mention the UI simplicity) are overwhelmingly in favor of the echoecho approach.