Monthly Archives: March 2010

Check in on this: can location-based services get any hotter?

If you’ve been reading Techcrunch or Techmeme lately you know just how in love tech bloggers are with location-based services like Foursquare. Just yesterday Facebook announced its intention to check in on this hot market.

Even the major players, like Gowalla, know that they must innovate to stay relevant. Gowalla’s CEO, Josh Williams, told me yesterday in a video interview that everyone knows that the check-in gesture will be a commodity pretty quickly, if it isn’t already (even Yelp added the “check in” gesture).

Gowalla and Foursquare this morning checked in new iPhone apps, both of which make the experience of using these services a lot nicer. You can see Josh showing me Gowalla’s new iPhone app in the video here.

Why do these matter? Because of three reasons:

1. By letting the world know your location you can enable a new kind of search. Yelp will show you restaurants near you. Foursquare will show you tips near you. Gowalla will show you tours, or trips near you.
2. Several of these let you play various games, like collecting badges, or just collecting cool locations. You can show your friends all the places you checked in on your European vacation, for instance.
3. A rolodex of your friends organized by location is very powerful. I use this all the time to setup meetings near me with new execs I want to meet.

Gowalla and Foursquare aren’t the only ones trying to thrive in this space, though. Brightkite, Loopt, Whrrl,, and others are releasing new versions this week and are trying to find communities that will love them.

But for me the real fight this week is between Foursquare and Gowalla. I’m using both and neither has come out with a set of features that make me totally want to use one over the other.

The longer term fight (IE, between now and June) is whether any of these will be able to defend themselves against Facebook and Google.

Google’s Buzz should give some of these startups some hope. Before Buzz came out I expected it to be much more competitive with Twitter and Facebook. After it arrived we realized that Google isn’t as smart in the social arena and I thought they might be.

Already Foursquare’s co-founder is saying that Facebook is losing its “real friendness” when compared to these newer services and he does have a point, but it seems it’s way too early to poke the bear. Ask Mark Andreessen how that works out (he made Mozilla seem far more important than it actually turned out to be and woke up the Microsoft bear which proceeded to chase Mozilla off of its lawn).

Anyway, this space is white hot and the next week will decide which team or teams will get to do battle with Facebook and Google in the real test for this space.

Can this area get any hotter? Will something surprising that none of us are expecting come out at SXSW?

One thing I like is just how articulate Josh Williams of Gowalla is on this space. Anyone interested should definitely watch this video.

By the way, if you haven’t read the Google Buzz thread on this topic yet, you should. I lay out why I still like Foursquare the best there.

Augment your SXSW reality (News: first indoor AR app released)

No, no, I’m not talking about going to the Diggnation party and downing a couple of drinks. This year there’s some geekier ways to augment your reality while you walk from panel to panel or event to party.

Here’s a few.

1. Win $1,000 by using SXSW version of the Junaio augmented reality app. The game is called ScavengAR and you can get details on the game here. Sorry, only for iPhone 3GS users. If you see me at the Rackspace Revolution party on Monday night (I’ll be working the door so should be easy to find) I’ll be wearing one of the T-shirts that can help you win this game (and the augmented reality stuff it does on my shirt is pretty mind-blowing. ).

2. Get the SXSW QR code app. There will be a ton of QR codes at SXSW, including on everyone’s badges. If you have a QR code app on your phone you’ll be able to easily exchange information without having to collect old-style business cards.

3. Use Gowalla, MyTown, and Foursquare and watch out for other location-based games that will do something fun at SXSW. Foursquare just announced their SXSW badges and I’m meeting with Gowalla’s co-founder later today to get the skinny on what they are doing. Foursquare is releasing a new iPhone app tomorrow, which has a much better design and new features. Gowalla is expected to do a lot too, and has a huge party at SXSW that’s already sold out. Are you not sure which one is best for you? Check out the shootout I put up on Google Buzz that got hundreds of comments.

4. Plan out your SXSW fun with Plancast (a new kind of event planner). They have a whole page dedicated to SXSW and most of my geeky friends are using Plancast to find events.

5. Prepare for wireless troubles. I talk about some of the preparations that AT&T is saying they’ve made to get ready for SXSW over on Google Buzz, but we still expect troubles so some of this stuff might not work at all. I’m carrying a Droid that will be on Verizon. At CES that served me well. Unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford two devices. AT&T says they’ll have a bunch of wifi access points throughout downtown, though, which should help reduce the load on their cell towers.

6. Get some Stickybits and hand them out like business cards and stick them to all your friends’ computers like I will be. Hah. What are these? Little stickers with a barcode that you can put information into. Or, turn into a forum. Techcrunch explains.

Stickybits photo

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of apps that we could use to augment our realities, so please leave your favorite apps that you recommend other SXSW attendees to use in the comments here and I’ll probably write another post later in the week.

Oh, and the news? The ScavengAR app is built on top of the new Junaio 2.0 platform that’s the first Augmented Reality app that is designed to be used indoors where GPS might not work properly. That makes it great for using it at parties, or at museums. They are also shipping two new channels, one for BART (Bay Area transit, will show you station locations and estimated arrival times) and one for Eventful, which will show you event data from Eventful, which is a comprehensive calendar of local events. You can download Junaio 2.0 now from the app store (the video for ScavangAR shows you how) and there will be more details on 2.0 on Junaio’s website by the end of the day.

Do we need a new tech literacy? (Behind the “big data” services like Twitter, Facebook use)

The technology that lies underneath the services we use every day is complex and changing quickly. Technologies like Hadoop, MapReduce, are changing how developers and architects build these services. As I was talking with Mike Olson, CEO of Cloudera (a company that builds technology to help developers deal with these larger-than terabyte databases) I realized that by learning about the technology underneath these services I was better able to understand why these services can’t give me some of the features I want.

Anyway, he talks me through some of the changes in the database world and explains the technology and terms that lay underneath. Good primer for people who want to have a better tech literacy of the terms and technology underneath big data services like Twitter and Facebook.

Do you agree with me that we need a new tech literacy? That we should be teaching this stuff in high school so kids can get at least some understanding of where technology is and where it is going? Tons of startups hiring thousands of people have already started up in San Francisco area using these technologies and they will only get more important and people who understand how to develop on them will only become more in demand. But how many people outside of the development world know what Hadoop is? Not enough.