Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Location based myths

I was replying to a comment on a post about MobiLuck and thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts here because it's important to get a few things straight about location based services as they apply to social networking.

Myth 1: Location based services need to have GPS accuracy to be of any use for social networking.
You don't need to localise someone as precisely as GPS does for it to be useful for social networking. Just knowing someone is in the area is already interesting because it's possible to join them in the near future, regardless of knowing exactly where they are. In fact for privacy reasons, some users would prefer to be only approximately located. Cell ID localisation in cities, particularly with such a high density of transmitters, is therefore a perfectly viable localisation method, and cities are where you find the critical mass of users.

Myth 2: You don't need LBS social networking to keep in touch with friends living nearby.

Friends who live nearby can not be assumed to be near you most of the time unless you all work from home and hardly ever go out. They will be away from home at the times when it is most interesting to know where they are - lunchtimes, weekends, evenings out. In fact it is friends who live in the same city and participate in the vibrant city life who will derive the most benefit from mobile LBS social networking services.

Myth 3: Knowing what someone is doing is more useful than knowing where they are.
Ok it's a trick question: there are always situations when one could be more useful to know than the other but it's more powerful when you know both things at the same time. What if a friend is watching a sports game at a bar but they're too far away for you to get there before closing time? Twitter lets millions of people say what they're doing now, but imagine adding location information to that too. MobiLuck is aiming complete the other half of the equation by sending SMS alerts whenever a friend is nearby. What your friend is doing is often implied in their place localisation (bar, restaurant, cinema, museum, ...) however they can also tell you what they're doing if they wish.

Until the next myth-busting comment response...

PS Hang on whilst we iron out the problems some of our users are experiencing with the location selection engine and thanks to Dennis and our users for their continuing positive feedback!

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