Radar Love

22 06 2012

In days of old, the only way we knew if an acquaintance were nearby is if we actually bumped in to him or her. It was a completely random crap shoot, much akin to traveling to Chicago only to find your third cousin walking down Michigan Ave. At the same. Exact. Time.

Yeah, pretty random.

More recently, the social graph and mobile devices have combined forces to let our friends (or us) check in at places, and then this breaking news appears on Facebook and Twitter feeds. If you happen to have your settings for this person assigned to All Updates, or have chosen them as a Close Friend, this stunning announcement of whereabouts will pop straight to a user’s smartphone. How easy it would be to stalk people and…um…casually drop in at a bar or restaurant 15 minutes later. “Oh, what a surprise! Fancy meeting you here!”

But now it is getting way too easy to not only know if a friend or acquaintance is about to cross paths, but also people of like interest. You know. Strangers.

Jeepers creepers.

The advent of SoMoLo (social, mobile, local) apps like Highlight and Glancee. Better start wearing a disguise if you don’t want to keep running into people you know. Or who want to know you.

So significant is this trend that Facebook bought Glancee on 4th May 2012 (right after Instagram, but before Karma). It plans to shutter Glancee and roll it completely into the FB experience, software engineers and all.

I suppose we had better get ready for a new-and-improved Facebook location-based service coming soon. This will make Timeline seem like a breath of fresh air.

Of course, this will bring another series of changes in privacy settings. Every time there is a new feature, FB manages to make it a little more difficult to not broadcast your entire life.I can only imagine the uproar that will ensue when this goes live to 900 million happy people.

From a marketing perspective (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), it presents numerous opportunities for precision ad placement. For example, suppose that the Glancee/FB feature sense your best friend is right around the corner. Knowing what it already does about both of your likes, past check-ins, etc., it could easily serve up an ad that is a good match for an impromptu dinner and drink (because it knows you will bump in to said person).

Furthermore, the whole concept is similar to developments in near-field communication (NFC) in which we are constantly being monitored by our service provider or other app. Basically, GPS is a two-way transaction, not just data we are pulling down. We are unwittingly pushing it back up. “Hey there, ATT! I’m headed south on Soncy…it’s 5:15pm…there’s gotta be a Starbucks around here somewhere…”

Wait. That’s ATT’s job…tell you about the Starbucks next to Sports Clips, and, oh, here’s a little coupon for your next purchase. “Turn right after the 7 Bar & Grill, Nick. Hot coffee. Mmmm.”

I have mixed emotions about all this right now, but I also did when LBSs like Gowalla and Facebook entered the fray a couple of years ago. Now I check in fairly regularly on FB. I was a little squeamish when I saw how well FB could geo-tag my photos, but I got over it. In fact, photos are probably the most frequent thing I post.

Which is another way of saying I will probably learn to embrace Glancee when Facebook unleashes its power. And if you don’t want to run into me when we both round the next corner, either learn to run fast, or start carrying a disguise.

And as for total strangers who might share interests in me (thank you very much, Facebook), I can always pretend to speak only German, or, better yet, scare the daylight out of them by launching into a fit of fake glossolalia. Just a glance of them getting out of Dodge would be the highlight of my day.

Dr “Off The Radar” Gerlich


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