[Gal Mor is the owner of a leading digital life blog in Israel, HolesInTheNet (in Hebrew), a UI consultant, co-founder of thewadi.com - Israeli Technologies Revealed, blogger and a knowledge seeker. Follow him: @galm]
As someone who avidly embraces any new technology I too joined the location-based social networks trend, and have been religiously updating my friends about my presence in restaurants, coffee shops and even cemeteries. Until I realized that location updates are not always in place: people don’t react to them, and usually they don’t really care where I am, and quite righteously.
One friend has just checked-in in the Ben Gurion airport. Another is kicking off a meeting in a Tel-Aviv hotel. A third is enjoying his lunch at a local restaurant in Petach Tikwa. A fourth is meeting some HR agency – that’s a faithful description of location statuses I’ve been getting from the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook. And yes, it’s that boring.
Location-based social networks, like Foursquare or Gowalla, are “the next big thing” on the Internet for some time now. These networks allow you to publish your presence in real-life hangouts using GPS-enabled mobile devices and broadcast these updates to your friends.
The interface between these location-based network and social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Places, Facebook’s new location-based service, has flooded the news feed of many social networks users with location “white noise”.
I don’t argue that location is not important: mobile handsets have freed the Internet from the personal computers and location-based networks expose our location at any given moment. With this information we can find out where are our friends, so that we can communicate with them better, and that’s even before discussing the marketireal implications that such information has.
Still, updates like “I’m eating Falafel at the Falafel King” are the location-based synonyms of “I got up, got dressed, washed my teeth” updates in blogs – the triumph of banality. Most of your social network friends/followers just don’t care where you’re at.
People that use Twitter and facebook to update their location assume, for some odd reason, that everyone is interested in these updates. The truth is often the opposite. Whether you’re taking the kid to school or munching on sushi, for 99% of the people connected to you this exciting information is not relevant. The result – TMI. Too Much Information. Location status overload.
Location based services are an important evolution, and they play a major role in evolving human communications in a social media age. But at this premature stage, it seems as they haven’t really matured yet. The real challenge of these social networks would be to offer us relevant location updates. For instance, update me when my friend is sitting alone in a near-by coffee shop, just as I finish working, have an open slot in my calendar and this is someone I haven’t met for over a month now. Another example: update me that three of my friends are already at a party I was invited to too – a sign for me to hit the road.
Integrating advanced algorithms that will assure relevancy may dramatically affect the future development of location based services, together with advancements in privacy that will enable us to “hide” some of these updates from some of our friends. On the other hand, most just don’t care. Time for you to realize that.