While waiting and assisting in daughters recovery (which is going well but slowly you’ll be pleased to hear), I’ve been pondering big questions as is my occasional want. Afterall, wasn’t it Eleanor Roosevelt who said:
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
In my mind’s eye she may have been a batty old biddy in a similar vein to @CatBinLady although in reality, history records her as a powerhouse of a woman and far more than just the first Lady of the USA (while her husband was President) I suspect she was actually something akin to the tough 80’s Margaret Thatcher.

Now, to my big-ish question. Well, it’s a big sort of question in my world because I think it will have an impact on a large portion of the planets population eventually. Geo-located Social Media stuff again…. I seem to be harping on about this a bit, but to be fair, it’s moving along rapidly.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) usually have interesting and acurate speakers who follow their mantra with “Ideas Worth Spreading”, but for the first time I found myself heavily disagreeing with one of them. Just before I get into it, If you’ve not watched any of the TED speakers, I’d highly recommend their Top 10 Talks of all time. To get back to the point – Seth Priebatsch gave a talk entitled “Building the game layer on top of the world”. I hadn’t heard of him either, but it turns out he’s one of the guys behind the application “SCVNGR”. Here he is in action:

So can you guess where I’m going to disagree with him? I’ve long espoused my views on Facebook so it should come as no surprise that I was very pleased to hear/read that the new facebook will be arriving soon. (ed: Actually this article isn’t 100% correct. The source code will start to become available on the 18th, but the public alpha won’t be open until October). Hopefully it will bring some healthy competition that might shake up the zuckerberg machine. It’s not that I’m a facebook hater, but it is broken and needs fixing. If things go particularly badly for the FB crew there might even be enough material to make a second ‘Social Network’ movie. See, there’s always an upside. For their brand at least.

So for me, to hear our “Proud Princeton dropout” (who is self titled the “Chief Ninja” at SCVNGR – Oh dear) suggesting that Facebook is the Social Layer framework for connections and that it’s construction is complete and if you’re not happy about that, there is nothing you can do, just sounds naive and mis-judged. Half a billion people (the membership of Facebook) means that there are still a further 6 billion people (at least) that don’t use it.

You often find sites and applications now that will enable you to login using your facebook credentials rather than having to re-register with the particular system you’re about to use. This implies a level of trust with facebook which I’m not convinced exists. I’m concerned that developers and users alike are rushing headlong into a facebook disaster and we still have no alternative in sight. In fact, Seth’s only argument for facebook being the ruling force in terms of social network connections, is this lack of an alternative. This is why I still have high hopes for both Diaspora* and the heavily rumoured Google Me

That’s the first problem with Seth’s little chat. The second and more fundamental to his plans is that of the “game layer” or the “location-based social application market”. I hope you’re already aware that facebook is trying to join this game, all be it belatedly in the form of facebook places (So if you’ve got a facebook account, make sure you’ve got your security settings for “places” sorted out -Ed). Luckily, most of europe don’t have this functionality just yet, but it’s just around the corner. You have been warned. The big player in this market though, is Foursquare who seem to have a far more mature approach to the way it works and hot on their heels is Gowalla who both do fairly similar things.

They have both made a much bigger splash in the US than this side of the pond as yet, but they are starting to gain momentum as news of their existence surfaces. It’s all about checking in at locations like The supermarket, a football match, a concert, a shop…work, anywhere… In it’s early days (and we’re still in this phase in the UK to a certain extent) all you’re doing is sharing your whereabouts with your friends – or the world in general if that’s what you’d prefer. Over time, you earn badges for doing things (25 check-ins for example) and this provides you with a sort of status not unlike that outlined by Seth. Foursquare’s favourite badge has to be that of Mayor, which you can earn by checking into a place on multiple occasions over a period of time. Imagine being the Mayor of Lidl! – will wonders never cease?

So this is all well and good, but the bigger problem is “Do people want to broadcast the fact that they are in a particular location just for the sake of gaining a badge?”

I think the answer is most definelty no. So, Seth – to overlay gaming onto social networking is fine for the kids, but where is the benefit to the greater good??… However… When it starts to get interesting is when checking into a supermarket, for example, means you get your newspaper that you collect in store for free or something similar. Customer rewards!! In the US, the GAP store have already been trialling this, with a 25% discount for foursquare users checking in. It’s safe to say, that once the retailers and the public get behind a concept like this, it will go viral, and it will be big news.

So there we have it…. The idea is Geo/Social networking, the event is the launch of such products and the people? Well, they’re us dumb schmucks using it all….

Have a great day.
Sincerely, the Mayor of Golfy’s Office.

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