locative media is the big thing at south by southwest this year, according to an interesting article in nytimes.com. in particular, locative social media – you know, the kind that lets you broadcast your location to all your friends. very practical for those of us that just can’t find the time to answer all those sms’s saying: “where are you? i’m dying to meet you again!” people, you have to understand: it is great that you care so much about me, but there are just too many of you, please just check the radar and i’m sure you will find me.
but of course, sometimes you just want to shield yourself from the throngs, so the new innovation is services that let you check in at a location whenever you want to be found, and just skip it if you don’t want it – as opposed to just an automatic tracking service that you must actively shut off if you want to hide.
here from the sidelines it seems kind of obvious that the latter is preferrable – using automatic tracking, obviously people will forget about it and find themselves being tracked at the wrong moment. remember donald norman’s golden rule: design for error.
so the new poster boys are the guys behind foursquare (fronted by Dennis Crowley, one of the guys behind PacManhattan). interesting to see that google bought this guy’s concept first, but then let it go and replaced it with latitude, which is based on constant tracking – and, in my own experience, is fairly useless for that very reason. i can’t help seeing an analogy to the google buzz, eh, fuzz-up. in both cases there seems to be a failure to put appropriate weight on the desire of the user to control the data that is being broadcast – how much, when, in what ways, to whom etc. it seems clearer and clearer that managing this balance – essentially, making users feel that they are in control of their own information – is a big criterium for succeeding with social media in general, and with locative social media in particular.
update: after writing this i read this summary of danah boyd’s keynote at sxsw, where she says the same thing only with more depth and insight. also bringing up the recent changes in facebook’s privacy setting, where users who just clicked through unknowingly agreed to publish everything to the world. designers: don’t opt users in by default. put users in control.
favourite quote: “there’s a big difference between publicly available data and publicized data.” amen!
If you want to read the entire speach, it is here.