Archive for social networks

BrightKite: Privacy be Damned!

Posted in Social Networking, Technology with tags , on May 7, 2008 by webzealot

If you’re being stalked by a former spouse, or lover, or coworker, or if you are a celebrity, you can pretty much stop right here. BrightKite is NOT FOR YOU.

If you’re not being stalked, then read on… maybe.

BrightKite( is another of the myriad of Web 2.0 social networking aps that seem to be popping up on an almost daily basis. But, its unique spin is its attempt (at least theoretically) to put folks in direct physical contact with each other by tracking them through the use of Google Mapping technology.

Hmmmm… make sense to you?

Like some of the other fairly recent networking sites, it is very dependent on mobile phones, specifically the ability of its users to “check in” via SMS or email. Checking in involves self reporting ones location… Whether that be the name of a state, a city, a ZIP code, or even a specific street address.

People who are following you can then see your last reported position plotted on a map. Yeh, pretty cool I suppose. And, if you are so inclined, you can then upload a photo of your location, or otherwise post a message. And I suppose if you are really inclined, you could go and actually meet up with other folks nearby. But let’s not get too crazy here… That would involve actual HUMAN interaction.

And here, in this one site, is the manifestation of the dichotomy that is today’s Internet user. In an age where many people claim to be very, very concerned about their privacy, comes a website that asks you to divulge what is potentially some very personal data… Namely your exact location on the face of the earth at any particular time.

Pretty amazing.

Now mind you, you can choose varying levels of location information you reveal, and that can be pretty vague. So if you report your location as “New York City” that’s still going to leave a lot of ground to cover. And there are additional privacy settings that can block the information from people other than those in your circle of friends. But still, as I play around with BrightKite, I can’t help but wonder… “Do I REALLY want people to know where I am?”

I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest. I can see where it might be handy. Suppose you are taking a road trip and you want friends or family to know what sort of progress you are making. Okay, that’s pretty cool. But what if you are sitting at home, just kicking back with the family… Do you really want just anybody to be able to locate you? That’s a little unsettling in my book. And I’m not even being stalked or running from the mob. At least not that I know of.

Then again, I suppose there is always the possibility of throwing somebody off my trail. I could check-in at Boca Raton, Florida, just for giggles. But then that brings up another point. If you are concerned enough about privacy that you only give BrightKite your approximate location, then really what is the point?

I am looking at BrightKite with a skeptical eye, very similar to the way I first looked at Twitter. But I do think BrightKite might be a harder sell for the daily user than Twitter. It seems like one of those “Hey, look what we can do” websites but with rather dubious real-world use or value. At least not yet.

But, I’ll keep an open mind about it while I’m hanging out in the 28277 ZIP code. As far as you know.


Life with Twitter Continues

Posted in Social Networking with tags , , on May 4, 2008 by webzealot

The very first post in this blog was about my first week with Twitter. If you’ve read it, you know I sounded a bit skeptical. I wasn’t really sure I “got it” as far as what all the hype and hub-bub was about.

So now that I have been using Twitter for a bit, I thought maybe it was time to revisit the topic… And the truth is, I’m not sure my opinion has changed. I’m still not sure I get it. But, I am using it. Using it a lot in fact. And recommending it to others. Just call me a walking/talking dichotomy. Here I am referring my friends to this thing which I myself seem strangely skeptical of.

But it does have its hooks in me. I check it just about every day, usually several times a day. I am following close to 50 people now, and for some reason I have managed to attract nearly 100 followers of my own. I have installed a couple of Twitter clients, and I occasionally find myself texting in updates via my BlackBerry.

So what gives? I have given it some thought, and I can only come up with one conclusion. It’s ego. Yeah, I hate to admit it, but that’s what I think is going on here.

I’m not proud of this mind you. But the fact that there are nearly 100 folks out there (most of whom I have never met) who care enough to read short little updates about me several times a day… Well… You’d get a big head too. Now I realize that most (okay, maybe all) of my followers are just skimming my updates for something that catches their eye. For the most part I’m sure they are ignoring what I write (with the exception, of course, of my Mom, but just the thought that maybe, just maybe these people care… Boom! There, my head just grew two sizes.

I can see where Twitter does have some practical uses. My Mom does now get a virtual play-by-play of my life, probably more so than she does in our weekly phone calls. Usually she will ask “So what’s new?” to which my inner-teenager rises up with the stock “Oh, nothing really.” Now with Twitter on the scene, I find she asks me questions that take me a second to figure out… Then I realize “Oh yeah, I posted that on Twitter…” So, she’s probably learning more about her grandchildren than she is ever likely to learn from me directly!

But aside from the practical (or impractical) purpose of Twitter, there was the looming question in the back of my mind… How does it make money?

The answer dawned on me about a week ago. Simply put, it doesn’t. At least not yet. What Twitter is all about (and I suspect a great many other of these little nifty Web 2-point-oh aps) is that what this is really all about is eyeballs. Get lots and lots of traffic on your site. Make it indispensable. Then when the time comes, and you have a proven track record of a few millions visits per day, a player like Microsoft, or Time Inc., or Google will swoop in and write the big check. If you are willing to sit back and wait for that day, then the paycheck can be big… Big enough to justify the lack of revenue leading up to that point. That seems to be pretty much the way it played out for YouTube, MySpace, and others. It’s the Field of Dreams principal. “Build it, and the money will come…” Or at least you hope so.

In the meantime, I dig Twitter. It has grown on me and become part of my daily routine. Enough so I don’t mind that it may be my set of eyeballs that helps to make somebody a millionaire some day.

My First Week with Twitter

Posted in Social Networking with tags , , on March 21, 2008 by webzealot

twitter.pngSo after all the hype and hub-bub from the TWiT Geeks, I finally decided to check out Twitter. I mean, seems like half the world must be on it based from all the hyperbole.

Well, yeh, everyone is, if your world is somewhere around 950,000 folks.

I signed up Monday. Sign-up is quick and easy. What’s not so easy is figuring out exactly what happens next. All you see is a web form that asks you what you’re doing, and only gives you 140 characters to do so. Hmm. Okay.

So, I started adding friends. Started with Leo Laporte. He’s the only person I know for sure is on Twitter, although he doesn’t know me from Adam. Then, I looked at who his friends are, and I recognized some names. Still, none of these people know me, but that’s okay.

I posted a few things. Nothing exciting. Then I get an email. Somebody is following me… On Twitter? Yes, on Twitter! Then another email. Than another…

Now, after my first workweek, I am following about 30, and being followed by about 20.

On top of that I was on Steve Gillmour’s NewsGang podcast on Thursday. A brush with fame? Hardly. But it was fun.

Okay, I think the hype is more than the reality. Twitter is a blast. It really is. But is it all that? You can make a few friends, and there’s some interesting dialog… But color me skeptical.

I’ll keep using it and see what comes of it.

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