The mobile revolution has enabled some supposed new forms of human behavior. The ability to leave a footprint of everywhere we go is one of these. As is our ability to geo-locate ourselves with a ‘check in’ and even share this information with whomever we chose.
A lot of people I talk to tell me it is weird and the mobile web going to far. Personally, I feel it is nothing new. It’s just a new iteration of existing human behavior which probably hasn’t changed in centuries. They also say it has massive implications on privacy and that new forms of communication are putting the private lives of all people into question. But there is a simple fact about privacy which straddles all communication – and that is this:
The idea of communication and privacy are naturally juxtaposed to each other.
This means that every iteration in our ability to communicate, takes an equal amount of privacy away. The reason we continue to chose connection over privacy is simple: Improved communications improves the living standards of our species.
Why is geo-locating not weird: Sure, we’ve had and used maps for centuries to guide us. But even the simple idea of a cave painting or a book is a form of geo-locating. It is telling a story of what we saw or what we found, or where we were. I’m sure this process of documenting our experience in these forms seemed weird when it first arrived. The only differences a geo-locating mobile device has is accuracy and immediacy.
How does communications improve the human plight: Knowing more, leads to all of us either having more, or access to more. Sharing, collaborating and specialization is a way to reduce scarcity and increase efficiency. We intuitively share data and lessons because we know subconsciously it is what puts as atop of the food chain. The challenge in the short term is coping psychologically with new methods which seem out of place.
We have a choice: Ultimately these ‘so called weird’ behaviours of sharing, collaborating and pinpointing our location and activities are chosen ones. We can choose not to do any of it. We can chose not to participate in the culture. But as mentioned in my previous post, this will chose to self exclude most often leads to reduced self opportunity and benefits.
Human tracking is a normal and historically relevant activity to improved civilization and living standards. While recent technology has given it a jolt in what is possible, my advice is simple: we are all better off when we embrace the evolution and share in the benefits.
Are not who we expect them to be. It’s not Jakob Nielsen or even Steve Krug. In fact it is Joe Citizen.
Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.
We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.
The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.
There has been a deluge of cool startups happening in our local community lately. So I thought I’d feature a few of them here to spread the love, as well as give my honest views on their potential.
Wealie is a digital loyalty card which can be used in and by multiple retailers. It’s an interesting space that is starting to emerge as we move closer and closer to the digital wallet. Which Bill Gates first spoke about in his book from 1995 – the Road Ahead. I really think that NFC (Near Field Communication) will open up a huge amount of opportunity in the app space. Anything that happens on a card or paper in our wallets, will be digitized. Early movers like Wealie, will have a big advantage as they learn from their mistakes before everyone converts to their digital wallet.
I’m totally in love with Cheatspeak. As far as I can tell it is a foreign language phrase book Wiki. So, so cool. Being someone who speaks a foreign language or two, it’s premise is very solid – Living language – that represents the spoken word, rather than a text book. The idea of creating a book or language guide with the ‘simplest way to say it’ is so ‘user focused’ it is revolutionary. I’m sick of have to learn 7 ways to say one thing in a foreign language – if the goal is speaking it, then cheat speak is on the money. It has smart exit options too.
Put simply Pygg is way to send and receive money through twitter – without any fees. Micro payments for a micro blog. Another smart startup which seems to flow nicely into NFC and the digital wallet. Another thing which just adds a level of goodness to it, is the fact that it is money in ‘public’. Good deeds and rewards are on display. I reckon this could really add a layer of fun to what Mick and the team are up to.
Started by all round good guy Mike Boyd – Cupstart is another ‘money remover’, in the sense that we don’t need actual dollars in our pockets to use it. Cupstart is a platform used to order & pay for coffee online at your favourite cafe, skip the queue and pick up your coffee on arrival. Which could move into all sorts of payment system / retail options. A web enabled retail POS system anyone? I like the idea of starting in cafes a lot, because the frequency of usage (buying coffee) moves the startup up the learning curve much quicker. (as a side note Mike is looking for a ‘tech’ partner based in Australia….)
So the virtual assistant is well known and successful on-line. Get ready for the physical version. TaskWant is a geo-locating app to help you find people to do stuff for you. You can either be a task provider or doer. It’s a great way to take advantage of idle labour and get cashie jobs. I love it. I reckon this could blow McDonalds out of the water for teenagers and be a much better option – which is just one of the potential strong points. Not to mention Charlie the Squirrel.
Another cool thing is that everyone of these is from people in our local startup community in Australia. The world is changing, the only question remaining is whether you want to be a change maker or change taker.
Get out there and launch!
Mark Zuckerberg has promoted the idea of the Social Graph for sometime. And it is true that Social Networking has changed the way we use the web. The only problem for me is that sometimes the people in my social life are there not by choice:
people I work with
Neighbours in my my street
People who drink coffee where I do
People I went to school with
Friends of friends
You get the picture. These people are in my life by geographic default. Whether or not we are interested in the same things is another question. In fact our values and interests may be entirely juxtaposed. This is starting to make me think much more about finding people who are interested in the same things as me. The social space is such a deluge of opinions and data, it is hard to sift through the noise to find what I care about. I am not necessarily interested in people just because they are in my close geographic space. It needs to be much more. We must share an an interest as well – we must intersect on the ‘Interests Graph‘, not just the social or geographic one.
In fact, my circle of acquaintances has never changed as quickly in my entire life as it has in the past 3 years. People are coming and going at a rapid pace. Sure, close friends and family are bonded by forces much deeper than digital technology, but we need another layer added to the social graph to make more meaningful connections.
It’s already happened on a business and career level already – coders, entrepreneurs, advertisers, bloggers, lawyers, artists, photographers etc all have connection potential in existing digital forums. But what about the marathon runners, surfers, cyclists, and basket weavers? (Insert personal passion here) They need to be able to find each other too.
I really feel like this is a massive opportunity space for startup entrepreneurs. Connecting interests, socially and geographically to using temporal mobile devices to create deeper meaning. The question for all of us, is how can we do it in the things we are involved in which don’t yet have a commercial context?
Our lives are increasingly being influenced by what I like to call ‘Screen Culture’. Which I posted a piece on here. I thought it would be worth showing the idea in action – hence the video I made below. Many of the statistics to support the concept were garnered through ‘Eye on Australia‘ which is an annual Grey Advertising study on consumer sentiment. The video explores the impact screens are having on our lives in the geographically specific & connected world. Enjoy!