The Mayor of Everywhere

Using Social Tools to Be More Places at Once

Jessamyn West

On Trends...

Some tough love about smartphones.

Hi. This is one of my favorite conferences. My slides are online. Etc.

This is a variation of a talk I gave at Dartmouth in October. If you've seen it, this is similar but with new examples. I'm going to be talking about smartphones a lot and I know I'm in the land where many people, well, adults, don't have them. Okay. Here are some quick stats about phones.

According to a study by ComScore, over 45.5 million people in the United States owned smartphones in 2010 and it is the fastest growing segment of the mobile phone market, which comprised 234 million subscribers in the United States. One in every seven people has a smartphone. 75% of teenagers in the US have cell phones. This graphic is from crunchgear, being all glowing about smartphones and it's from four years ago.

About seven years ago O'Reilly began the Web 2.0 conference. Now the same folks are talking about Where 2.0.... so that's what I'm talking about today.

"Location Services"

Privacy? Intent? HTML5 vs. Apps

When I used to talk a lot about libraries and patron privacy, one of the cautionary tales I'd mention was guyswithiphones. Do not look at this website when you are at work, please, it's a little porny. Actually it's very porny.

It's basically a cruising site where men post photos of themselves, with their iphones. Now the thing about smartphones that makes them smart is that they know where they are. This is one of the ways in which they are smart. So this isn't just a photo of yourself, it's the equivalent of a photo of yourself along with a map to your house. Huh. That changes things. Maybe it's what you want, maybe it's not.

And these phones have their own operating systems, and they run their own applications. Things you can't even access via what we know as "the web" That also changes things. It's a whole new digital divide if you're into that sort of thing (more on that later). So as I said earlier, we're using the web [in this case] to look at things that most people only interact with on their phones. It's necessary, but will be a little confusing, and it's changing. Bear with me.

More than just dots on a map

This example is probably best seen large.

Our previous experiences with locations and data have been mashups where we'd combine cultural data [movies or photos or maps] with some sort of map you could interact with. "this photo was taken here" sorts of things. These tools are great, and their applications are great. Tons of libraries set up Google maps with clickable dots indicating their various branches. People could click them and get directions. Or, in this instance, click an intersection, get a historical photo.

This website, incidentally, makes money. $50,000 from the purchase of personal images. Huh.

So that's all great, but here's the thing that's changing.

Now available in your local browser!

HTML5 has a spec. Works in all modern browsers.

New HTML spec, HTML5 includes an option for location-aware browsing. This is sort of shruggo if you're working from your desktop computer "Duh, I am where I always am!" but useful for browsers that move around, browsers in phones, browsers on laptops, or on ipads. Some people call this "the end of apps" and other people call it the end of everything because people just like to freak out, but it's worth understanding how this changes the face of the interactive web we're used to.

Instead of us delivering content to users where they are generally (facebook, on the phone, twitter), the shift is to delivering contextually appropriate information BASED ON WHERE THE USER IS. It's new. It's challenging. For a lot of people it's fun. Some interesting models are emerging.

See how simple.

Here is a very simple demonstration (and a simpler one).

Location Service Games

Next step? Make a game of it.
Summer reading was the original gamification.

I remember back in the early days of cell phones -- did you know that in 1964 there were already 1.5 million mobile phone users in the US? "The headlights of a car would dim when user was making a call." -- but I'm thinking more like when I was in college in the 80s. My dad was an early adopter and when he drove me to college his phone would ring with a message for him "welcome to Unicel [or whoever the company was] when he'd drive from one zone into another.

The phone knows where it is. And it knows where you are when you carry it. And if you're using the internet, it's like calculus, it knows where you are over time. It knows where you're heading, how you're moving. I can remember the first time I used my iphone to get directions when I was lost in New York city and I was walking down the street like every other dork with a phone and I was watching the blue dot move while I moved. It was sort of chilling. And sort of "oh man, this is theat future I've heard so much about"

So location services, apps and tools that use the GPS features of your phone, are often used for stuff like "Where am I" and "How do I get home?" "How do I get food?" You know, survival stuff.

But companies started getting more creative, helping you answer other questions like "Where are my friends?" and "Where's a tech-friendly place I can get a cup of coffee?" This sort of stuff got big around tech conferences like SXSW, a conference with thousands of people. Where it was useful to know which panels your friends were at, or whether they were any good. I'll try to explain some of the basic mechanisms of these "games".

And the thing to remember is that while these really are sort of games, at the same time they're serving a purpose and solving a problem (for you and for businesses). The fact that they're fun shouldn't detract from that.

How it Works 1

  1. Run the app, your phone knows where you are.
  2. You have the the option to check in or add the venue.
  3. You can tell people where you are. You can see who is there.

So here is Foursquare as an example, but there are others that do basically the same thing and everyone's still jostling for market dominance. The basic deal is like I've outlined. You can keep a record of your check-ins. You can accept or reject friend requests. You can tell your friends where you are, or not. And it might have just stayed a quiet little nerd party except for one thing.

How it Works 2

Sometimes fun things happen.

How it Works 3

Sometimes you get to be the Mayor. Sometimes the Mayor gets gifts.

There are prizes, some of this is just what we like to call "whuffie" you know the cultural currency and reputation sort of thing. But you might also get something real. Free coffee for the Mayor. A tote bag. I don't know if any of you know Lush but they were giving away something that sounded cool. Enough that I thought maybe I should stop in.

And being able to offer these specials is as easy as dropping Foursquare an email, "claiming" your location and saying what you want to give out, how you want it to work. It can be stuff for the Mayor, stuff for your nth visit, stuff for the nth visitor. There are stats, people who claim sites can track things. It's sort of neat.

There was a big online fuss recently where Starbucks was giving away free frappucinos to the Mayor and then many of the desk clerks were sure how to cash a coupon that only appeared on people's phones. My local coffee shop, in Randolph, gives free coffee to the Mayor. Of course we all know this means "free coffee for Jeremy" but whatever.

The Tweeting & Etc.

People enjoy this because it is: social, private & immediate.
Sharing it:

So this is what my title is about. In places where this sort of thing has caught on, places with ubiquitous good internet and a well-to-do population of smartphone owners, this is a lively back and forth. For a long time, this must have been last year, my twitter pages were all full of "I just ousted soandso as the mayor of such and such" and it took me a while to figure out what was going on.

And even now when I use it, if I'm around home, I'm more often adding venues than checking-in to them. I'm adding a dot on the map, and maybe something about them. I like to think I'm supporting the local BBQ place when I say "good BBQ even if it's in the parking lot of a gas station" Of course you can only add dots when your phone is working. And yes, I'm mayor of everywhere, mostly.

There are other ways people are using these systems, and these apps. Here's some show and tell. Links are on the credits page.

Other Applications 1

Food near me. Food & friends near me.

Other Applications 2

Search results near me.

Other Applications 3

Augmented reality? All that's missing are the goggles.

Libraries Could....

Go simple. Go creative.

Libraries Could....

Solve problems.

Libraries Could....

Do this right now.


The map is often mistaken for the territory.

There are a whole host of cautions, of course. One of the things I like about things like 4sq as opposed to things like facebook is that I feel that people need to more affirmatively decide to share stuff, it's not just "whoops, we shared that by accident. That said a few caveats. Foursquare is new [anecdote about the screen scraper guy]
Also here is a map of my local check-ins. As I've said I check in pretty much everywhere I can.

Final Words

As so as we look towards future trends in service delivery, we've come full circle. From library as place, to online and "going where the users are" with Web 2.0 to .... to bringing the users services where they are, and bringing where they are into the services. It's Where. Where 2.0.


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