Non-Visual Augmented Reality | Geonotes, Proximal Notification Systems, and Automatic Check-ins with GPS and SMS

If you don’t know Aaron Parecki (@aaronpk) yet, you should. You have an excuse if you don’t yet. He moved to Portland in October 2009.

The reason you should know him is because he created a system for automatic location check-in two years ago. He’s been taking GPS data every day for those past two years, and he’s got major data visualization skills. And Aaron innovates. The system he built keeps getting built.

I first met Aaron at Beer and Blog when he had just moved to Portland from Eugene. I forgot who introduced him to me, but I was very excited. I’d been talking about so many of the systems that Aaron was actually building. I promptly told him to present at the second Portland data visualization group, which he did.

Since then, we’ve been working on micro projects together. I started carrying around a GPS with me starting on 12/28/2009. With the exception of Japan, I’ve been logging pretty much everywhere I’ve been.

Having two GPS devices in play makes for some interesting opportunities, which is the subject of this post. This will all make sense in a minute.


Automatic Location Check-ins

A while ago, Aaron set up an automated check in system based on GPS coordinates. The system allows one to check into locations without having to load an interface. This was about 2 years before any of the geosocial systems were readily available. Parecki was not living in Portland, and his audience was small.

Now, social sharing platforms are hot, but they still require user action. This means that one still has to pause social flow to look down at a device, poke a few buttons, and check in. This is normal when one is around a tech-focused crowd, but should one still do this on a date? Or in the presence of a non-geek?

Checking in and Social Punctuation

Checking in can punctuate social flow. I ate lunch one afternoon with and experienced this. A group of five was sitting at the table next to me. One of the guys in the group got excited when he sat down. “Oh! I have to check in on Foursquare!” he said. His tablemates looked at him with blank faces as he tapped away at his mobile device. When he realized this, he started trying to describe Foursquare in order to explain why he had stopped to check in on his mobile device. It didn’t work. There is a way to avoid this.

Quadrant-Based SMS Alerts

Early on, Parecki’s system was able to SMS messages depending on quadrants of Portland, or pre-defined locations. Every time I go home, I get a text message on my phone telling me that I’ve arrived at home. Instead of actively checking in, I can simply dismiss the message. This reduces the time and space it takes to check in because I don’t have to load an app, wait for the location, and then check in. When I leave SE Portland and enter Downtown Portland, I get a SMS message telling me that I’ve changed locations.

Co-Location Negotiation proximity-notification-aaron-parecki

But there’s a lot more to the social equation than just automatically checking in. GPS is useful for a number of things. For instance, co-location negotiation, or “meeting up”, is one of the most text heavy social protocols currently in existence. It gets worse when one party hops from place to place, because one can’t constantly text their location or forward motion. Two people who haven’t met before must also negotiate by multiple texts. One might sit in a coffeeshop and wait for quite a bit of time without knowing when the other person should arrive. New visitors to buildings need specific directions in order to enter the location.

Instead of receiving a text message like “I’m late!” or “stuck in traffic”, I’ve been able to simply look at Aaron’s GPS. The picture is worth a thousand text messages. I can see if he’s left the office or if he’s crossing the Burnside bridge. If the GPS lines are squiggly and slow, I know he’s having trouble finding a parking spot.

In this situation, there is no need for text messages. Looking at a GPS map still takes user effort and load time. This punctuates task completion and social flow if one must always be checking and refreshing a GPS map 15 minutes before someone arrives.

In an effort to reduce the need to look at the GPS map, Parecki set up what has proven to be my favorite part of the entire system: proximity notification.

Proximity Notification

Instead of having to look at Parecki’s GPS map, the system detects when Aaron and I are in a certain distance of one another. I know when Parecki is near when I get a text message that says “you are 0.4 miles from aaronpk”.When I get a message that says “you are 0.1 miles from aaronpk”, I know that he’s arrived.


I can wrap up client work or finish what I am doing right up until the moment he gets there. I don’t have to waste time waiting. I get a warning “0.4 miles!” and then a confirmation “0.1 miles!”. It’s the equivalent of “on my way” and “here”, the two most common co-location ‘drags’. I call them drags because they are redundant and repetitive communication protocols. They’re actions that can be costly, especially when struggling to split concentration between driving and texting, or the sheer inability to text while on bike.


Bridge Notifications

A few nights ago, Aaron created bridges as locations, so that one could be checked into them as well. I got the text message you see here on my iPhone when I crossed the Burnside bridge.

Aaron wants to take the two years of GPS data he’s gathered and use it to visualize how many times he’s crossed the many bridges in Portland. It’s kind of amusing to get an SMS when crossing a bridge.

Why is any of this stuff important?

I’ll tell you why it’s important. Computers are evaporating. Interfaces are dissolving. Innovation in technology comes from reducing the time and space it takes to preform an action, or compressing redundant actions in order to free up time. Computers used to be the size of gymnasiums. Now we have computers in our pockets, begging for attention. We’re constantly planning for our future selves. We look at Yelp! reviews to prepare our next culinary adventure. We want to guarantee that our future selves will have a good experience. We’re connecting to tons of people to do this, connecting to the collective wisdom of a data set that consists of many samples. The more samples, the more accurate the data set. Why ask one person when you can ask many?

Tablet GPS

Xerox PARC had little tablets in the 80’s that allowed everyone to see where everyone was. There were little local GPS maps in the offices, so people could co-locate more easily. One of the guys working there was very excited about the tablets. “This is the future,” he said, “in maybe 20 or 30 years, everyone will have one of these. What works within these walls will work everywhere on Earth”.

Good interfaces disappear. Good work is invisible. Good technology dissolves. A book is a good piece of technology. If the writing in it is good enough, one’s consciousness dissolves into the pages and one has a consensual hallucination of an alternate reality.

All that is Solid Melts Into Air

The mouse is melting. The button is evaporating. Why check in physically when you can do so automatically? “Buttons are losing their shape,” says Interaction Designer Bill DeRouchey in a recent speech on the History of the Button at SXSW, (Bill’s slides on SlideShare) “Before [the computer monitor], buttons always had a sort of tangible border around them, whether physical or visual”. Automatically checking into a location means that the button does not even have a center. It is just a state that one physically walks into, or something that occurs after a certain amount of time has passed. An environmental button.

This is very similar to a video game, in which pieces of the environment closer to the avatar are loaded more fully than far away variables. Our lives are turning into video games, with plus one follower, and plus one friend. Our phones are our friends, giving us statistics about who we are and what we can do. They are our remote controls for reality.

Button Evolution

“Steve jobs hates buttons”, DeRouchey continues, “He sort of has this mandate to not have buttons. This is evidence if you consider how long they resisted having a two button mouse. It’s a all about hiding the buttons, hiding the barrier between us and technology”. Good design is reducing buttons.

A vehicle is a physical transportation device. There are limits to how small it can be made. But a computer is a mental transportation device. It need not be limited by tangibility.

Geonotes – Attaching Notes to Place

Location sharing platform Gowalla has items that one can collect when they check in, but they have to physically check in on the interface in order to retrieve the item.

This Sunday, Parecki developed the ability for users to send geonotes. That is, an outsider can open up a Google map and drag a circle over an area.

You can leave a Geonote for @aaronpk. Just drag your cursor, choose a geo size, and leave your message!


If you leave your E-mail address, you’ll get an E-mail when @aaronpk gets your note. Also, the bar will let you know @aaronpk’s likelihood of receiving your message, based on 30 days of GPS history. You can also leave a Geonote for me as well.


Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds and Augmented Reality

When one takes automatic check-ins further, one can add streaming data, allowing one’s device to collect SMS messages for hyperlocal areas without the need for QR codes or any visuals. This could be called non-visual augmented reality.

At WhereCamp 2008 in Portland, I wrote about the possibilities and opportunity of Geolocal Autosubscribing RSS Feeds.

I began the session by drawing a big grid of Portland’s on the white board. I drew 5 circles representing Portland’s 5 quadrants on the white board, and labeled them NW, NE, SW, SE and N. The circles represented ranges of ‘hearing’ that a mobile device might have to RSS feeds. I pointed out that as one progresses from street to street, quadrant to quadrant, one’s phone should understand this and automatically subscribe the user to the geolocal RSS feed for that area. That way, data could be very relevant and contextual to the area.

Aaron Parecki has developed a framework that does just this. Locations are defined by circles on a map, and SMS messages are triggered to send when one enters into the area defined by that circle. One can set neighborhoods, areas, and blocks.

Privacy, GPS, SMS and Check-in Exhaustion

Privacy is an enormous issue with systems like this. One does not always want SMS updates, open GPS map data, or text notifications of another’s proximity. In our case, it works well because we work together frequently. If, on the other hand, we were to get proximity notification texts all the time because our commutes were similar, the data fuzz would be annoying and unvaluable. We’re the only two people using the system right now. Anyone with more than 10 active friends on Foursquare or Gowalla and has probably experienced a Push Notification nightmare of endless texts.

Relative Location Value

Here’s a definition: One’s location is valuable to another if and only if that location or person is socially relevant during that time period. The basic case here is the meeting. Person A and Person B need to meet each other, but GPS data is only shared between them when they have a scheduled meeting. When the meeting ends, the data wall closes off, giving them back their privacy, kind of like a wormhole of temporary transparency between two people. This solves the problem of extreme bouts of “checkin-ism”., as well as the issue of remaining privy to one’s whereabouts all the time.

If more people were on the network, this sort of action would have to be taken. Negotiations of privacy and messages would have to be structured so as to prevent push and SMS notification exhaustion. When done correctly, the system is a valuable time saver that decreases anxiety, showing that technology is not inherently good or bad. It is design that is important.

Want to Learn More?

There’s a lot more. Hours and hours worth. But if you’d like 45 minutes of it, come to our talk at Open Source Bridge session: Non-visual location-based augmented reality using GPS data.


The presentation will cover the topics discussed above. It will also highlight the advantages and disadvantages of visual and non-visual augmented reality. We’ll cover alternate types of augmented reality techniques and how they have been saving us time in the past few months.

We’ll demonstrate how we’ve been merging available technologies with custom programming to create location-aware social networks with custom proximity notification. Finally, we’ll describe other uses for location sharing, such as automatically turning off house lights when leaving for work, and wayfinding with piezoelectric buzzers. Privacy and data transparency will also be discussed.

How is the GPS data taken?

Aaron Parecki uses They have windows mobile, java, and blackberry versions of their software. Parecki says that, “when the GPS device has a lock it is very accurate, you can tell what side of the street I am on”. The program logs data about every 6 seconds, so it ends up being a very smooth line when drawn on a map.

iPhone Software

iPhone users can use a program called InstaMapper. However since it’s an iPhone you will be limited to running the application in the foreground, which means you’ll stop tracking if you get a phone call or want to check twitter or something. But as long as the program is open you’ll be tracking. IIRC it doesn’t end up with as high resolution data as the program on my phone.

boost-mobile-phone-gpsSince I have an iPhone, I can’t run a GPS apps continuously unless the device is jailbroken, so Aaron set me up with with a pre-paid Boost Mobile phone, which the InstaMapper program runs on as well.

One downside is that I have to carry and charge another device. This isn’t bad at all, because I can carry 8 hours of GPS tracking, and it feels kind of awesome to have a physical GPS tracker instead of some claustrophobic invisible mobile app within a device. Not to say that the Boost Mobile interface isn’t archaic. In a way, it’s the age of the interface that makes it nice. Switching between the two makes one constantly appreciate and consider the extremely fast evolution of interface design.

Boost Mobile Phone as GPS Device

You can pick up a Boost Moble phone for $50 at Target, and get a $10 prepaid card. You wouldn’t be using any voice minutes on it, but the credits expire after some time. It would only cost $10/month to run it all the time. Over the summer I loaned a friend my Boost phone and she took it on a bike ride from NY to LA logging most of the way.

Instamapper has an API which provides a CSV file of the last 100 points logged. Aaron then imports them into a MySQL database.


More about Aaron Parecki

You can follow @aaronpk on Twitter, or you can go to or visit, the mobile version.
Leave Aaron a Geonote if you’d like. If that’s not your thing, enjoy some Data Visualization that Aaron’s done with his GPS data.

And if you liked what you read, I suppose you can follow me on Twitter as well, or see if I’m in town.

Social Media Club on the Rooftop with Jeremiah Owyang


On Wednesday, Jully 22nd 2009, Webtrends hosted a Social Media Club event with Jeremiah Owyang (@owyang) on the top floor of the building. 

Attendees were excited to see Owyang before his keynote speech at the next day’s Internet Strategy Forum (ISF) on Thursday, July 23rd, at the Governor Hotel in Downtown Portland.

Questions and Answers for Jeremiah Owyang

As we drank Widmer beer and pizza, Owyang answered some of our questions – some of which cam through Twitter (through tweeting @SocialMediaPDX).

If you want to follow along with what was said, you can check out the hashtag #smcpdx.


Can journalists engage the Groundswell and retain their abilities?

Take for example Megan McCarthy of CNET – she’s a traditional journalist but publishes as fast as the bloggers. She publishes a post immediately and then lets people know she’ll be updating the post as the news increases.

I’ll let you know something – Embargoes are almost dead. TechCrunch doesn’t honor Embargoes when they get them from large companies. As soon as that Embargo goes – it gets published. But it’s all real time now – kind of a free-for all. The rules have changed.

What do you think of web companies as long term businesses?

The think is – startups are cheap. It takes 15K -20K to get a startup running And VC’s are going to honor that. There’s still going to be money coming into the space. Because it’s cheap to run a startup these days.

Lets talk about the challenges – they’re focusing on the tools and features, not about what consumers and business want and need.
You can tell whether these companies are going to survive or not by just looking at their homepage. Are they focused on the tools and the features, or are they focused on ‘how can I help you?’

Are there any companies that are doing that well?

I was just over at Jive. They understand that very well over there. Radian6 is getting the hang of that in the startup space. They’re hiring people out of enterprise.

Is Twitter a waste of time for small businesses?

That’s the wrong question. The right question is – is the audience for that small business on Twitter? There are a lot of people out there that should be asking clients this question when they provide social media marketing services

Most small businesses and restaurants are Using MySpace, and then Facebook comes around.

At Forrester we have a methodology. The POST methodology. It’s in that order. Not TSOP – that’s backwards, and not even a real word!

First is Demographics, Psychographics, Technographics. How do they use technologies and where are they online? Are they reading blogs.

The O in POST is the business objective. What are you trying to do? Make them do things better, listen to them more?

The next piece is Strategy.
What is social media strategy? It’s not the tools. It’s all the things that happen behind the scenes to make it successful. The policies. The engagement.


Then, at the very end, the Tools. The Tools come last.

In review:
And then

It is better to focus on the long-term piece – what are people doing? And how to work with them?

What are some pieces that people can look to?

Chris Brogan does a lot of good stuff. I’ll just start with the blogs. Razorfish has been doing a lot of good stuff. I think the best way is to go to the companies and pick apart what they’re doing well.

Comcast, Dell, Half-and-half Microsoft, Dell.

And those changing things? Best BUy is tryin to do a lot with social.
Intercontinental Group.

One of the best persons to follow is Obama.

We see corrpoations merge all the time and cultures change all the time. Amazon and Zappos, for instance.

I was with Tony a few weeks ago.

I think the big difference is that the culutes are very difference. What you might expect is that a lot of the inventory will appear on Zappos.

This is important to know. Social media doesn’t scale. If we’re all about building one on one social media with these tools. It doesn’t scale.

Zappos is about one to one relations. You ask them a question and they’ll give you a response. But that means they have to hire one person for every 100 interactions. If you do, you’re going to have to start outsourcing.

One thing you can do to solve this problem is to focus on word of mouth marketing on the customer side, or get the customers to help each other. They haven’t built a tool that has customers help each other yet. Maybe they’ll build a page that lets people correlate certain items of clothing with shoes.

We’re just at the early stages of references and recommendations. Our research on Trust. You should expect your friend recommendations to appear on
rather than being supported by people you don’t actually know.

There was an article in Wired about the Facebook wall. With my friends telling me what to buy and what to eat. That is their exact strategy.

The social networks are Facebook and Twitter is not to be a destination site but to get the content out there. And they know that.

My most re-tweeted tweet was “IBM is afraid of Microsoft who is afraid of Google who is afraid of Facebook who is afraid of Twitter who is afraid of whales”. I know this because each of those companies has told me who they are afraid of.

What about walled gardens?

Consumers don’t think of walled gardens. Most people don’t know or care.

People don’t remember that Email is the biggest social network – and no one has leveraged that yet.

Email does all of those things – Email signing your name, CC’ing, E-mail lists and groups.

Would you say that Email is broken?

No Email is not broken. All the A-List bloggers communicate by Email. I’ve totally seen it happen. They don’t use the tools. They use Email.

Yahoo Gmail, ect. These are the dominant social networks.

Do you think people appreciate Yahoo! and what they’re doing? Like with Yahoo! Pipes?

There’s a lot of innovation at Yahoo!, but we only see it in pieces and spurts.

That’s definitely a trend we’ll see in 2010. Aggregation.
Right now the trend is pollination – that everyone is trying to get things out there. That creates a lot of buzz. Friendfeed, Google Wave – all of these things will be trying to aggregate the signal.

And people are saying –“ is this going to be a tool used in Enterprise?” Well, it’s going to be as successful as Google Docs is in the Enterprise. Google is not an enterprise play. We’ll have to see how that plays out.

Kelly Feller: The goal is to minimize the touch points .We think
“Oh my gosh” Twitter might increase that – Kelly Feller – From Intel social media.

Audience: Is there a cost differential for Twitter vs. calls?

Owyang: If people are Tweeting about Best Buy in their free time or off hours? Should they get paid? No – because they’d be doing it in their free time. This is something that’s not been solved yet.

Here’s something that’s happening. CRM – Oracle. There’s basically a huge database about you and what you do. Lots of companies are pulling in data about you and what you like. And then if someone says, “Arggh! This Sony TV has 4 dead pixels” – they know to send someone out – via a tweet or comment – to help them with that. But if people use a different ID, it is difficult to know where something comes from.

The second thing is that companies are not ready for this – they’re just like “woah”.

Regarding Mobile

Mobile in Japan is big. Did you know they only use the phone for 4% of the time to talk on it? It’s a different type of behavior – it’s a different type of engagement.

Audience: Why do they have two?

UncleNate: One for talking and one for data?

Audience: Youth don’t E-mail. They have E-mial accounts just to set up social accounts and things.

Owyang: One of my relatives in college says she only uses E-mail to talk with old folks like me.

But as the digital natives move into the work force, they’ll be forced to use Email.

Owyang: It’s interesting that Twitter is more skewed towards older people. But youth have been using SMS for years.

About Jeremiah

As an analyst at Forrester Research, Jeremiah is on the cutting edge of all things social media. He authored the recent report “The Future of the Social Web” and is #2 on the “Twitter Power 150 List.”


About Social Media Club of Portland Oregon

Social Media Club (SMC) was started in 2006 by Chris Heuer, co-founder and partner at The Conversation Group, and Kristie Wells, Co-Founder and President of Social Media Club, with the core mission to:

  • Expand Media Literacy
  • Share Lessons Learned Among Practitioners
  • Encourage Adoption of Industry Standards
  • Promote Ethical Practices through Discussion and Actions

Social Media Club Portland is one of a growing number of SMC chapters across the globe.

Interested in getting involved or would like more information? Feel free to contact us.

About Internet Strategy Forum

Internet Strategy Forum Summit is a way to engage with six global brand executives in a single day at an affordable price and gain actionable Internet strategy insights at the Internet Strategy Forum Summit on July 23 and 24 at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Join other Internet executive attendees and our thought-leading presenters from top companies such as Forrester (Jeremiah Owyang), Hewlett-Packard, Intuit, Xerox, Intel, Portland Trail Blazers and WelchmanPierpoint.

These experts will share their experiences and ideas on how to best leverage the Internet and integrate it into your overall business strategy. Register for the Internet Strategy Forum and save 15% with our discount code: SMC.

About the Author

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and new media consultant based in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Who Killed Social Media? Reputation, Community Management, and the Future of Branding

<strong>Dave Allen</strong> @pampelmoose speaks on the Who Killed Social Media Panel at Nemo Design

On Thursday, June 4th, 2009, members of the Portland Advertising, Tech, PR and Social Media community gathered to watch a panel event called “Who Killed Social Media?”. It was moderated by Marshall Kirkpatrick @marshallk, VP of Read Write Web, and one of the most prolific and RSS-informed people in the technosocial universe. The panel was a partnership between Portland’s Nemo Design (who graciously provided beer and a nice meeting space), and Group Y Network.

Marshall started off the panel by saying that terms are strange, for instance, “social media tends to be a little bit more broadcast and marketed, vs. the social web, which is a little more a way of life”.

Social Media Panelists

James Todd – @jwtodd

Software Engineer – Worked at Sun for over 50 years. Involved with Twine.

Lee Crane – @leecrane

Action Sports Media Veteran (Does that mean he’s wounded?), and proud blogger.

Matt Savarino@Ridertech

K2, worked with the XGames.

Tony Welch@frostola

Leads the Social Media strategy at HP, does the social media strategy for the laptop division.

Dave Allen – @pampelmoose

Community Manager, Director of Insights, Nemo Design

Who Killed Social Media? – The Panel Begins

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Just like when you open a fortune cookie and add “in bed” to the end, we add the “how will it make money”, “how will we market it” to the end of each social media question.

First question was for Tony,

Tony Welch: The alpha geeks validate our technologies. There is someone you go to when you want to know about computers. They validate what HP is doing. From there, hopefully you can use that relationship to bridge down to the rest of the mass audience.

James Todd told everyone go to, and said this name multiple times throughout the panel. But by the end, it was apparent that he truly believed in twine and how it is a true filter for information streams, be it social or not.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Twine is like a social bookmarking tool that automatically grabs material from the content of web pages and places in a tagged, semantically linked structure. Last month, Twine surpassed Delicious for number of unique visitors. Some people love Twine, but there’s also ample people who follow them around and criticize them.

The Semantic Web

James Todd: Semantics have been around for many ears. It’s pretty easy to screenscrape and provide APIs to that data, which Twitter does really well (it’s API). Down the road, consumers actualy have the ability to be in the driver’s seat.

The semantic space has really been driven by academics. While it is easy to talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk. Providing a list of distributed databases to provide access and crosslinking to those databases allows you to be able to know your customers much more.

The bar was set high; as Marshall said, he lives 5 years in the future and sometimes comes back to visit us. We hadn’t quite delivered some of the API features that we wanted to. Some of those future features. We use a lot of Open Source. A lot of it which only works on White Boards.

Let me just be really candid here — there’s been a lot of sidebar discussions. If you have a social application, you really have to have engagement. The promise has not really been delivered yet, but it is on the way. We’ve been a little bit burned by the alpha users in our experiences. We syndicate with Twitter now, and we’re getting a lot of people to use that. Really, we just want to average person to use it.

Marshall Kirkpatrick:
So, realizing that some of your critics have financial interests, realizing your shortcomings and working them out. But what James really wanted to talk about is the future and what’s coming down the night.

Not sure how many of you have heard of the new product Google Wave, but James has been following that particularly close, and if that’s one of the visions of the far-out future and how it can work…then.

Social Collaboration

James Todd: I have a problem with formal names, such as the Social Web. To me, I think the social web is just allowing people to communicate — bidirectional- back and forth. I think that what the Wave is going to allow collaboration. Allowing the average person to casually use applications. Google Wave allows people to do things on top of those applications naturally. It’s built on XMPP Jabber, which is the technology that instant messaging is built on. I think the consumer will be in the driver’s seat on which services will be allowed to integrate with each other.

I envision a point where pople will be able to choose which services to interoperate.

I used to work on a JUXTA project at SUN (where he worked for about 15 years), which we put XMPP on top of. This stuff can be small group oriented, which I really like better than large group orientated. I think that communication/collaboration is going to be the next bit thing.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: So the future will be a bunch if little groups talking with robots coming in giving updates on the snow conditions on the slop that the small group is going to go snowboarding on later.

So lets talk with Lee on the transition that we’re going to be going through in the transition from analog to digital media. He’s been in the television industry, but he’s also a blogger as well, so I think he has an understanding of this space really well.

The Transition from Traditional Media to Social Media

Lee Crane: When the cotton gin came, it actually made people’s jobs a lot easier. But now people want to be able to communicate 24 hours a day, so the marketer has to be available at all times. Traditionally, a marketer would make segments and send out some marketing, and set back and say “cool”. Now people know when they’d not doing a good job because no one is responding to it.

The difference is today that it is no longer the marketers that are doing the communicating — It’s the customers that are doing the communicating, and they’re doing it would your consent.

The difference being that it is…more difficult.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Is it fair to say, lets not do push marketing media type stuff and instead communicate with our users, or…

Lee Crane: The media landscape is so fragmented now that people are being so bombarded with little bits of information that our job becomes bombarding them with lots of relevant information. The game becomes and instantaneous battle of having relevant information every minute of the day.

Who Killed Social Media Panel at Nemo Design

Marshall Kirkpatrick: While maintaining authenticity.

Dave Allen: Yes.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: So lets say someone was crazy enough to want to get into that, what do you think a good way to get into that would be?

Lee Crane: Well, it’s that if people are saying you have to Twitter, you HAVE to Twitter. When they say you have to Blog, you have to Blog. And the problem is that to understand it, you have to blog for a while.

There was a conference — and Ev was asked, “why is it that 50% of Twitter users don’t don’t Twitter after signup”.

When I first signed up, I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so there was no real point in updating.

That’s kind of what is happening, “there’s this Twitter thing going o, so we should have to Twitter. So can someone just say something that just happened in the Office?”.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Let’s talk to Matt Savarino next. He has a lot of experience with Extreme sports, has long been interested in geolocation, and has a substantial Facebook presence.

The big question I have for you is, are all these freaky things you’ve been interested in finally picking up speed with the general market?

Matt Savarino: Basically, the question of who you know and where you’re at is becoming commonplace. I bet most brands here don’t have a mobile website, and they should. In the future, I think it is important that sites have one to prove that they are not subpar.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: We discussed youth marketing in general. Do you think that’s important now for people under the age of 25?

Youth Marketing

Matt Savarino: In my experience, kids don’t have the iPhone. They generally have ht free flip-phone, ect. Parents generally don’t invest in something that, if dropped once, will be broken (I don’t agree with this. I’ve seen 13 year olds with iPhones, the middle class market, definitely). But when I look at middle school kids now getting out from school, all of them have their heads down, texting.

Crowd before the panel - Who Killed Social Media at Nemo Design

Social Media Decision-making in a Multi-Channeled World

Marshall Kirkpatrick: We’re making decisions like that- do we do a mobile site, do we do a web app? It is difficult to have the conversations without first discussing ROI.

Matt Savarino: There is a large problem with having g the data be tracked, ROI tracked. The people who know and see and use these things, and the people who don’t. Justifying to them that if 30 people Tweet the post to their friends, that that has value, even if they didn’t buy a ticket. And with apps, I have to prove to them that I am giving them engagement, when they want me to give them traffic. But the problem is that these brands have traffic already, they just don’t have the engagement.

You can choose NOT to do it, but your competitor will. Burton snowboards doesn’t capitalize on Twitter, which is a tremendous opportunity for us to prove that we have something they don’t. Because they’re one of the biggest brands out there, and they’re not doing something important.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Would you like to share your insurance analogy?

Social Media Insurance and the Case of

Dave Allen: It is difficult to convince executives to pay someone $55,000 a year to scrape the web. So I tell them, put that $55K into insurance. Because if your brand doesn’t own the message, the message owns the brand.

A company that did not share in this idea was Emusic, who was smashed this week.

833 people on Emusic’s blog said “Goodbye”, and Emusic did not respond.

One of the people who should’ve responded said, “I’m going to go on vacation for 2 weeks”, and, as you know, 2 weeks in Internet time is infinity.

What they ought to have done is completely pool their subscription base, 400,000 people, and say “hey, we’re thinking of acquiring the Sony music collection – are you interested?”. And I be you that 98% of those subscribers would’ve said, “no thank you”, and then set up a tiered system so that the 2% that is interested would pay for this additional music collection so that the rest of the subscriber base could’ve been grandfathered in and still had access to the independent music that they’d been so supportive of for the past 10 years.

They need to get the CEO onto Youtube to say, “I’m sorry, we blew it, really, really badly — and then apologize profusely to the subscriber base”.

Now that we have access 24/7 to spread our thoughts across the web, then

If you’re the manager of a brand, you have the ability to control the message – to jump in and interact with it, help shape it.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: (Sarcastic) Are you sure it wouldn’t just be a good idea to just be really nice, and just tell everyone about your products?

Dave Allen: Why should we do that?

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Because that’s what’s made money for the majority of people in this industry since the industry began.

Dave Allen: Well, that’s not how I make my living.

So, is Social Media Dead?

Rod Pitman (audience): Well, I have a question. Is social media dead? Isn’t that the name of this panel? And if not, why? I think that, if you don’t have a story, you’re dead.

Dave Allen: I agree. A story is necessary. But there is the name of the panel, which I am responsible for, and the question behind that is what is behind social media, and to also start a discussion.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Would anyone else like to speak about push marketing pushed over social media tools, vs. the opposite, which is engagement?

Matt Saravino: Social media is by no means dead. I think that over time, your intent becomes obvious. So if your intent is that you’re going to constantly tell me that your products are 20% off, I’m going to realize that. To be genuine, and to realize that people can see right through you.

If you’re trying to broadcast deals, then call your Twitter account “BrandDeals” or something, so then people at least know what to expect.

Lee Crane: Social Media is not dead, it’s actually the other way around. The Social is killing the “media.”

Watch What You Predict

Tony Welch: How many of you do SEO or SEM? SEO and SEM will be dead as you know it within 6 months. Google is going to take into account now much more about what’s happening. Now, when people talk in your name, people will see social conversations about your company showing up in Google results, from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr. It’s now about brand management vs. SEO.

Dave Allen: Great, so you can take all that money you put into SEO and SEM and put it into community management. And you should not retain your assets but spread them as far and as wide as possible.

If we are moving away from SEO/SEM and into community and reputation, then it is of tremendous importance to protect and monitor communities and reputations.

Tony Welch: Anyone know what the second largest search engine is? Facebook. Twitter is coming next. People are spending a lot more on relationship analysis.

Self-Censoring and Social Media

Marcus Miller (audience): I guess that Dave has no self censoring problems. Tony you speak to – the idea that when you do any Twittering, then it is you. What degree do you find yourself self-censoring?

Tony Welch: There are some things I would love to Tweet about, but as I do work at HP, there are some constraints: for instance, I can’t just post anything because I’m also representing part of HP, and what I say can reflect on the brand.

Lee Crane: I use pseudonyms. I use fictional constructs, which also blog for me.

Dave Allen: Do you pay them well?

Lee Crane: I do. Very well.

Dave Allen: I’m not as wide-open as you think. I have a 30 second rule, and if it still reads well after that, I post it. I also don’t do anything online after 11 O’clock. Because I drink a glass a glass of wine. That’s a new rule I’ve decided to follow.

Technological Adoption and Social Class

Carri Bugbee (audience): brings up a questions about kids having flip phones, but per danah boyd’s research, social class plays a bit role in having iPhones or not. The man from New York who sent this question says, “all my kids have iPhones”.

Matt Savarino: That sounds like a very nice family to be in. But the majority of kids don’t have these technologies.


Lee Crane:Right now, it seems like there’s so much volume of information out there that we can ignore everything.

Marshall Kirkpatrick: Some people who tweet as many as 5 times a day feel like they’re flooding the world with too much information. I prefer to get RSS feeds from people and companies so I can keep track of all the the updates in an organized manner.

Community Management – Tracking the Social Web. Monitoring, then Participating

Tony Welch: We use a social media tracking program called Radian6 to track what’s happening on the social web. I’m not actually participating in conversations but am watching them happen.

Dave Allen: That’s classic community manager. Monitoring the network is the first step to maintaining reputation. You should not start right away by saying ‘We’re such-and-such a shoe brand”, or we have to jump in and get a Twitter or Facebook page, ect. If you don’t have a plan for that, it’s going got be a bit of a nightmare. There’s always this expectation or practice built around it. I wish there were such a way that I could get across to these companies about the need or them to have an insurance policy.

Tony Welch: One time, when I was looking at what people were saying about the community, and this one guy said, “I hate HP so much that it hurts when I pee”.


Tony Welch: And so I think, what am I supposed to do what that? Do I engage? How do I engage?

Lee Crane: Well, he’s probably not using the product correctly.

(More laughter)

Nicole (audience): It’s not going to be who killed social media, but who killed the companies, because they didn’t participate? How, if you’re in one of these companies and have them understand the insurance principle, or the stupidity of companies?

Tony Welch: You pull up Google and pull up their name, you go to Twitter and pull up their name, you go to Facebook and pull up their name — and you say, “look at all of these people having conversations about your brand without you participating.

Panel Conclusions

The battery on my laptop died just before the end of the panel, but Ed Borasky (@znmeb) came up to the mike and asked a very potent question.

“Some people got in on the ground floor of Twitter,” said Ed, “but it’s too late to do that now. My question is what is the next service to get in on the ground floor of. For instance, there’s no way to be Scoble, or Oprah, now that it’s been done”.

I’m not sure who it was that responded, but a number of the panelists did, and the response was along the lines of personal branding. “There’s always opportunity to develop a brand. And there’s never been a chance to be Oprah,” they said.

Nate DiNiro (@unclenate“) also asked if social media was going to backlash, because now “aren’t we all just looking at screens?”. He wondered if there was a point when we wouldn’t be able to take the inflow of information anymore – when we would just ‘snap’.

Dave Allen: I don’t think so. I’ve had a greater ability to meet people through Tweetups and get to know them in real life more than if I didn’t have the technology. In many ways, looking at a screen has made me more social.

The panel ended on a high note, with Dave Allen saying something really awesome, and the networking continued into the night, moving from Nemo to various bars and pubs. Thanks to everyone who helped up the event on, including Nemo Design, GroupY, and the panelists, and special thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick, who did an excellent job of moderating.

Who Killed Social Media Recorded Livestream

If you missed the event, or want to make fun of the lousy job I did of trying to type way too quickly during it, then you can watch the saved livestream of Who Killed Social Media at USTREAM.

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and social media consultant living and working in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic. She has a background in qualitative and quantitative analysis and is available for short-term projects involving new media, online presence, digital branding, data aggregation and event coverage. If you’re not on Twitter, reach her at caseorganic [at] gmail [dot] com.

A New Way to Interact With Data

MIT Media Lab

A lot of times we wait around for technology to just “appear” like we see in films. But if we continue to do that, nothing will get built. Thankfully, people are out there filling in the gaps.

There’s a set of a new sign language for controlling movement from a distance. Very intuitive and simple to learn. Especially with the rewards of being able to move things across the room without touching them.

The rest of this post is over at the Blog, as it relates directly to the event.

Gesture Recognition Demo at the MIT Media Lab with Jamie Zigelbaum.


Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist who also posts over at the Makerlab Blog, which is something you might enjoy reading if you enjoyed reading the post above. It’s about more experimental tech and activities related to pushing the limits of art and technology. If not, you can always follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Wordtracker Experiment | Finding Out What People Search For

Wordtracker Labs Logo

People are searching for things all the time on the web. If you’re a blogger looking to write good content, it is a good idea to get out there on the net to find what people are searching for. There are a few tools for doing this, but I wanted to isolate one of them and play with it for a minute.

@marknunney posted a link on Twitter about a “new tool from Wordtracker for content ideas”, so I clicked over to the site and read the following:

“People often type complete questions into search engines: if you find these questions and answer them, you could get some great search traffic”.

Below it was a box for entering in a word, so I tried a few words out. The results were amusing enough for me to want to share them. Further analysis follows.

Find Questions People are Asking

Results for Life

I found the results for the word ‘life’ to be what one might expect. Right now, people are wondering about life insurance. However, the ‘color of life in ancient egypt’ is something that is phrased in such as strange way that it could warrant further research — especially since it was looked up 156 times. At #6, ‘what is the meaning of life’ is asked. I guess life insurance and ‘how time of my life was chosen for american idol’ were more important.

Life Wordtracker Results

My personal favorite is #13 — ‘how to summon a real life dragon’. I bet if someone were to write a post on that, they’d get lots of hits. Maybe lots of Diggs too. I’m not sure how I’d go about researching that one. It’s probably better than trying to write a post on #8 — ‘how to ruin someone’s life’.

Results for E-mail

How does E-mail work? Apparently people are asking this question. But there is an important trend happening elsewhere in these question results. That would be the address of one (or rather two) ‘cole sprouse’. They happen to be identical twins, and are, according to the Cole Sprouse Wikipedia article, “known for their roles in the film Big Daddy…and for portraying the title characters on Disney Channel sitcoms”. Good luck finding their E-mail address, as well as the address of Prince Harry, Zac Efron and Jamie Spears.

E-mail Wordtracker Results

But you can write about how to E-mail pictures, or #9’s ‘who invented E-mail’. That one actually seems particulary interesting. The narrative histories of everyday things are always a joy to read about.

Results for Business

‘How to write a business plan?’ Can’t one just download a template from Microsoft Word or something? That question is really a broad one. It depends on what kind of business one wishes to start. #3’s ‘how to start a cell phone business’ is pretty good. #10’s ‘what is the best business opportunity’ is a really intense question that cannot totally be answered. #11’s ‘how to start a web design business’ is actually very answerable by a variety of sources such as Design Float and Smashing Magazine.

Business Wordtracker Results

#8’s ‘how to start a business with no money’ is interesting. I think it’s never been easier — and more difficult. It’s probably time that’s the big issue. Taking a lot of time really works. A cell phone business might manifest as an online reseller of cell phone accessories.

Results for Google

I was confused by these search results. I didn’t think they’d be this broad, or this ill-informed. Are Google founders Larry and Sergey that obscure? I wonder what sources Wordtracker is using for its search queries.

Google Wordtracker Results

It might also be interesting to create a post on the founders of Google just to see what happened to it. I’m sure Wikipedia and Google have this question answered already.

Results for Yahoo

I queried Yahoo! just to see what would happen. Very similar to Google’s results, except there was a question of what Yahoo stood for. I’m actually wondering that myself right now (goes off to find the answer).

Yahoo Wordtracker Results

The answer as to what Yahoo! stands for comes from’s ‘Internet for Beginners’. The answer is that “Yahoo! (spelled with an exclamation mark) is short for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”. Apparently, “The original name: “David’s and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web”, was appropriate, but not exactly catchy“. You can read the rest of Paul Gil’s Yahoo! article for the whole story.

Results for Money

The search results for money really surprised me. I had no idea that so many people wanted to know about ‘what presidents are on money’. I wonder what demographic asks this question the most. Is it youth? Is it due to a bet? Is it a homework assignment? Perhaps it is to clarify the use of slang words.

#2 and #3’s ‘how much money does it cost to open a bar’, and ‘how can kids make money’ are interesting. I’m wondering if more kids than parents searched for that phrase and if there a way to tell. As for #2, a lot of people seem to dream of owning and running their own bars.

Money Wordtracker Results

I thought that #7’s ‘how to make money’ would be higher up on the results than that, but apparently the presidents on money trumps that. It’s also a much easier niche to write for than the seedy ‘how to make money’ post. #8 and #9’s ‘millionaires who give money to help’, and ‘millionaires who give free money’ make a lot of sense. Those questions make me wonder how many millionaires out there actually give money out to strangers who ask for it over the Internet. Generally, processes and charities are involved. Darn! Perhaps Google or a blogger will write about another way?

Results for Puppy

Puppies. They’re somewhat irresistible. So irresistible that a lot of people question just how large they’re going to get, apparently. It would be useful to make a site that gave information on how large any breed of puppy was going to grow. It would be complete with a puppy weight calculator, to answer question #3 as well. One would simply have to enter in the breed and the age of the puppy and the Internet robots would do the rest. Hooray for calculators.

Puppy Wordtracker Results

I wonder how many new pet owners typed in #7 after watching their new puppy pee on their freshly installed carpet? Is there any way to tell? Perhaps they should’ve just stuck to drawing a puppy instead of owning one, like those who searched for #4’s ‘how to draw a puppy’.

Results for Read

This was wild. I did not expect to get results on horoscopes, tarot cards or reading palms. I’m not sure what I expected originally, but it wasn’t this. I thought people liked books more than daily horoscopes. My college experience has given me some explaination for these results. Everyone in my dorm was obsessed with reading their horoscopes to each other. Some of them even printed out astrological charts. I didn’t participate.

Read Wordtracker Results

But result #6 makes a lot of sense in this respect. Aside from horoscopes, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of those books that’s assigned to the majority of school districts across the United States. I’m assuming a lot of kids didn’t want to purchase the book, lent it to someone else, forgot it at home or at school, or were looking for a quick way to read a chapter before an annoying quiz after lunch or homeroom period.

Results for RSS

What *is* RSS? Oh man. It is probably the greatest thing since the last iteration of really cool stuff that people enjoyed. It allows the quick and easy access of content without having to browse for it. I recommend watching RSS in Plain English instead of searching for RSS in Google. It’s an extremely short video by the Common Craft show. Totally sweetopian.

RSS Wordtracker Results

Hmm…#13’s ‘how do i find my twitter rss fed url’ is curious. Not only is fed spelled incorrectly, it is searched for 7 times. I’m sure there’s a great tutorial on this out there somewhere. …Or is there? I suppose that’ for random people to find out.

Results for SEO

These were not surprising. ‘What does seo stand for?’ Search engine optimization, of course. How does one ‘become a certified seo?’ Well gee whiz, that’s a hard one. Probably from showing it on your own site, and the sites of your clients. And by not selling links from bad sites. Also, by educating people thoughly about your techniques.

SEO Wordtracker Results

‘How to set up seo?’ Go through a standard checklist on your website, checking for alt tags, title tags, a sitemap, ect. I like the free Website Grader from HubSpot for a really quick website check and grade.

Results for Six

I wondered about numbers next, so I checked out an the number six. Purely arbitrary (by arbichance? arbitration?). I was amused to find such a long phrase at the top of the question results. ‘The six basic fears and how to eliminate them’. That is totally a book by Sharry Harris. #2’s ‘what are the six terms of geography’ totally sounds like a query taken directly from a homework assignment.

Six Wordtracker Results

#3’s ‘what are the six parts in a business letter’ has reminded me to re-examine my business letters for the correct number of parts. Perhaps I can do that while developing a six pack while using Six Sigma techniques.

Results for Twitter

‘What is Twitter?’ Ahh…if only there were an easy way to explain that. ‘How to use twitter’ is even more complicated. See, it is the emptiness of a vessel that gives it use-value, and Twitter is an empty vessel. The question of ‘What are you doing’ is never fully answered. Thus, how to use Twitter is like telling someone how to use a vase. The emptiness gives it many uses, whereas a tutorial can only give a finite amount of use-cases.

Twitter Wordtracker Results

Finding the Twitter RSS feed URL is another matter. Simply scroll down to the bottom left corner of your Twitter page and click on RSS. Or you can right click to ‘copy the address’ to place it elsewhere with ease.

Results for Unicorn

So Unicorns are very important to the state of the world. They give us a fantastic antithesis with which to view things. I assumed that I would get different results because of this mindset, but I did not. The number one search for unicorn relates to finding free Unicorn pictures to color. That is a total let-down.

Unicorn Wordtracker Results

I guess people are interested in drawing Unicorns, though. Perhaps they’ll make some awesome viral Unicorn videos when they get older. Like Charlie the Unicorn.

Final Verdict

WordTracker’s new tool is pretty fun, but I’m not sure how terribly useful it really is. I think you’re the judge for that.


Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and Internet Marketing Consultant from Portland, Oregon. You can follow her online @caseorganic.