Check out our proof of concept, PeerSquare. And read on why we built it.

Twitter as we pointed out before, is not in the location game.

Foursquare, on the other hand, has recently been in the news because of its fantastic levels of growth (see this infographic). Brian Solis has been waxing lyrical.

Meanwhile Godzilla Facebook has announced Facebook Places. Exciting times for developers wanting build cool location based applications?

Not yet.

As this Tweet from Wednesday night by Made by Many co-founder Stuart Eccles points out, neither Foursquare nor Facebook is showing dramatic numbers yet:

Emirates stadium, attendance 60000. 68 @foursquare checkins, 44 @facebook places checkins.

We did a quick check during the first day of the Davos conference this year. We found only 5 people checked into the main conference venue, and two in hotels nearby.

More anecdotal evidence from accross the pond with RWW’s co-editor Marshall Kirckpatrick Tweeting this week.

Have any illusion that @Foursquare is mainstream? I’m at a packed mall on Sat night and only 1 other person is checked in here.

Foursquare is of course famous for its use of game mechanics to drive usage and interaction. But it seems that while it might get people interested at first, these mechanics, like many games, do not have staying power (Point well made by Anjali Ramachandran).

Think about it. If Foursquare boasts over 6 million registered users, and a whopping 38,157,6000 check ins, it means that the average user has checked in only 63 times!

For Foursquare to have a point, it needs to be more useful. Just this week Foursquare hosted a hackathon in New York. Some good ideas there. We liked the winner best, precisely because it starts to make Foursquare more useful. It allows you to leave a private message to a friend that checks in to a specific venue.

Our idea – PeerSquare

Foursquare’s Tips is one of its most useful functions. They tell you a lot about a venue. But what about the people that are there now? What about the type of people that frequent the venue? (names and profile pictures are not that descriptive).

I have often checked into a venue and seen others who were also checked in there, but Foursquare did not tell me anything meaningful about them. What is missing is an identity layer.

So, we came up with this little mash-up combining Foursquare with Peerindex. It has two exciting use cases.

  • It allows you to get a better idea who is with you at a venue
  • It gives a measure of you how influential a venue is, or the type of people that go there

This was something we knocked up in a couple of days. Any ideas or suggestions to make it better would be grand. We are working on a souped-up mobile version.

Chris O’Shea is an artist/designer who uses technology “to make the unimaginable come to life”. He focuses a lot on interaction design to make fun new ways to engage with people and their environment.

The piece that got him lots of attention was his ‘Hand From Above’ installation, a big video screen on a public square where a giant hand would interact with and transform the people on the square.

Why do we feature him this week? Because he’s just written about his new installation called ‘Little Magic Stories’. O’Shea sits on the board of the the kids charity Action for Children’s Arts and does a lot of work around kids, engagement and digital toys.

‘Little Magic Stories’ is a holographic projection system that helps children to bring their drawings to life, interact with them and playfully develop them into scenes and stories. It’s O’Shea’s first prototype version, but the plan is to use it in workshops to get kids excited about narrative and stories.

This post on his website has a great video and also explains the technology behind it.

a still from Hand From Above

The other day, while following the penalty shoot out between Everton and Chelsea, I noticed it was quicker to get score updates by following the search term #facup on Twitter than by reading the live BBC website. And those guys at the BBC are not slow.

So yeah, even though it’s my job, every now and again I’m still amazed at the power of Twitter and how its speed makes the distribution of news lightning fast. But trying to explain that in words to someone who doesn’t ‘do’ Twitter, isn’t always easy.

So a while ago we tried to visualise the Twitter speed of news. On Friday 11 Feb, when the story broke that Mubarak had resigned (I heard it on Twitter first), we recorded the stream of Twitter messages that mentioned the term Mubarak for a few minutes. Simply watch the video below and see the info come in at an incredible speed. Tweets fly by so fast that many profile pictures don’t have the time load.

Also look out for the top message, which is a Promoted Tweet from Al Jazeera. Throughout the events in the last few weeks, AJ has been incorporating Social Media in their coverage in various ways. But this shows very well how clued up they are about the impact of Twitter on news distribution.

Think about it: a media brand that leverages the people’s thirst for info and grabs that opportunity to do some relevant advertising. In real time. That’s what makes the media world exciting right now.

[QUICKTIME 258 779 false false]

Facebook Pages get an overhaul

Exciting news from the Facebook camp, as they have revamped the Pages. Main thing: they're bringing them more in line with how personal pages work. Which means you no longer will use Tabs to navigate; instead these different sections will sit on the side. And you will also be able to integrate the Like button on individual sections (i.e. the ex-tabs).

And what strikes us a major one: as an administrator, you can start interacting as the Page on content outside of your page. That's big news for brands.

As always with Facebook, the changes are extensive and finicky. These 2 blogposts on Econsultancy and Dose Of Digital give some good detailed info on the ins and outs of the changes.

Does social media create & sustain flat hierarchies?

Sociology prof Zeynep Tufekci – watch out for her – does a brilliant analysis in a post titled Can “Leaderless Revolutions” Stay Leaderless? She argues that while social media might have made the Egyptian movement more flat, networks are not designed to stay non-hierarchical. She outlines a few reasons, one could be users that some users are better at stuff:

…how will people know your tweets are so good? One mechanism, of course, is retweets. The number of retweets, however, may depend on how many followers you have to catch and retweet your posts in the first place. This means that those who have a large number of followers end up with an advantage even in terms of being recognized as meritorious.

Or what she calls preferential attachment:

Multiple mechanisms can facilitate preferential attachment — this need not be a mere exposure effect but will likely be confounded by a popularity effect. In almost all human processes, already having a high status makes it easier to claim and re-entrench that high-status. Thus, not only will more people see your tweets, they will see you as having the mark of approval of the community as expressed in your follower count.

She made a fascinating graph of the ten most popular Egyptian bloggers / Twitter users; while they start out on more or less the same level, Ghonim, the Google marketing exec, and the seasoned Elbaradei, rise dramatically.

Another infographic of note is this one on the Egyptian influence network, which is a snapshot of about a week ago. Try and spot Ghonim.


The dirty secrets of search

In another piece of fantastic investigative journalism, the New York Times caught out a large American retailer, JCPenny, whose website suddenly rose in search rankings. As they say:

But even links that have nothing to do with Chinese cooking can bolster your profile if your site is barnacled with enough of them. And here’s where the strategy that aided Penney comes in. Someone paid to have thousands of links placed on hundreds of sites scattered around the Web, all of which lead directly to

Perhaps you remember our description of how search engines like Google work. But paying for links is cheating. Google promptly demoted JCPenny to several pages down the search ranking.

Social is the answer to content farms

A much bigger problem for Google for some time now has been the so-called content farms. These are websites that scrape content from other sites like Wikipedia or Quora or pay people to create mediocre but keyword-rich pages. The key though is that they rank highly in search, generating lots of traffic and earning their owners advertising dollars.

A few weeks ago we suggested that Google should go the social way and allow users to report these sites. Interestingly enough Google announced a plugin for Chrome this week that does exactly that, it allows you to join the battle and report the content farms.

Porsche's Social Media thank you

As far as symbolic gestures go, this is a strong one. To celebrate the fact that they got 1 million Facebook Fans, Porsche decorated one of their cars with the names of their fans. Not all 1 million of them, but the 27,000 who indicated on the Facebook Page that they would like to be part of it.

Cute idea. Shame it's built in Flash, which means all those Porsche lovers can't see it on their iPads. And shame that the find-your-name-on-the-car function doesn't really work. Still, it's the gesture that matters.


Demographics are so old-school-Marketing

While keeping our eye on interesting new influence measuring tools, we stumbled upon this excellent post on Traackr's blog.

The point being made is that, because of increasingly sophisticated ways of measuring people's interests, marketing is entering an era where demographic becomes meaningless. Demographic is essentially a way to make crude statistical assumptions about users' interests, given that they fall within certain social parameters, like age, gender, and geographical location. Once it is possible to search for users by topic of interest, demographic becomes almost useless.

Burning platforms & mobiles at dawn

Nokia's new CEO, Stephen Elop – an ex Microsoft man – has exhorted his company to jump off a burning platform to save themselves. In other words: ditch Symbian and partner with Microsoft. It must rank as one of the most emotive corporate memos ever.

But many people are not having it. A few young ex-employees wrote a memo to Nokia shareholders, asking to be elected on the board. They agree that Symbian has to go, but they feel Nokia should speed up development of its own operating system Meebo. And ditch Elop.

But today the wildly popular Facebook page they had created to gather support, vanished along with their Plan B manifesto. It turns out it was a hoax from a bored engineer, that "really likes his iPhone". Or was it?

Stream that music, baby!

This week the Virtual Music website released their yearly 'heat map', a visualisation of web-based music consumption in the US. The first graph shows that a lot of services are green, i.e. online music consumption is up.

But what made us sit up is the second graph, which shows that YouTube as a platform for music consumption is 3 times as big as all of the other Pandoras, Last.FMs and Groovesharks combined.


We want more!

The Guardian reports the operators around the world are running out of bandwidth because of the hogging of new smart phones. Smartphones are the fastest-growing sector of the information technology market, growing 74% last year. And the problem will only get worse:

The ITU forecasts in a forthcoming report that the number of smartphones in use will rise from today's global estimate of 500m handsets to almost two billion by 2015.

Creative of the week – Jordi Parra

Jordi Parra is an interaction designer who manages to seamlessly blend technology and aesthetics. The project that travelled the Twitter waves this week was his Spotify player, which he developed to explore a the ways we interact with digital music. Read More >>


Tech insight of the week – Facebook, the Mobile Operating System

Disruptive technology never fails to excite us here at RAAK. When that technology is applicable to social, it makes us dance. You can just image what happened when the following morsel of news hit our timelines:

Gemalto, a company that brands themselves as world leaders in Digital Security, has just managed to get Facebook to run on a SIM chip.

Random? Not at all >>

Gemalto, a company that brands themselves as world leaders in Digital Security, has just turned the social media world upside down (or at least on its side), by getting Facebook to run on a SIM chip.

Random? Not at all.

Facebook running on a SIM chip

What does this mean, exactly?

Facebook is making a land grab for the mobile market unlike any we’ve seen before, and it’s doing it in a completely unexpected way.

Like Google is doing on the desktop with Chrome OS, Facebook is turning itself into the Operating System in the Cloud for mobile phones.

By implanting Facebook onto a SIM chip, users of old or basic GSM phones without any Internet connectivity like GPRS or 3G, can now, if the phone’s firmware supports it (ie one routine firmware upgrade away), use basic Facebook functionality, like posting, commenting, poking, liking, etc – through the phone’s basic menu system.

So, if a phone doesn’t have GPRS or 3G connectivity, how on earth does this work then?

Your updates go to Facebook via SMS, and Facebook downloads its data to your phone via Class 2 SMS – a type of SMS that does not end up in your inbox, but is meant to be read by an application on your phone.

Simple, eh?

Targeting mobile is not exactly a new strategy for Facebook. Let’s have a look at its mobile past, and try to get a hindsight view on the bigger picture:


Scarcely 2 years after being born (the linked article still referred to Facebook as Popular college social networking site!), Facebook launched the mobile version of

This was, at the time, becoming the norm for any website, and seemed pretty harmless.


Facebook Connect has been all the rage in 2008, and in 2009 Facebook launched Facebook Connect for iPhone apps

This move did make it seem like Facebook was starting to own the universal login, not only on web, but also on mobile.



In a bold, unforseen move, Facebook launched Facebook 0, a version of its mobile site that is free of any data charges in selected developing countries.

This was clearly a very clever step towards owning mobile in territories where it’s predominant – a territory largely ignored by the rest of the traditional online world. (Note the irony in the use of traditional here?)

What exactly have they been up to? The speculation commenced:

later in 2010

Leading tech blog Techcrunch took the first step: Facebook is secretly building a Phone.

No, replied Zuckerberg, we’re not.

More precisely:

The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a “Facebook Phone” (even internally) because that’s such an attractive sound bite, but our real strategy is to make everything social and not build one phone or integration.

Which, obviously, meant: We are actually building a phone, but not in any way you lot are going to expect.


Finally, the answer. Tight Integration. That’s what they’ve been up to. Working closely with mobile handset makers to integrate Facebook so tightly into the operating system, that it almost becomes the operating system.

It all starts to make sense now, doesn’t it?

Think of the typical smartphone, and the default applications on it, and see which of those boxes are ticked by Facebook.

There’s an inbox (check), there’s a calendar (check), there’s a photo album manager (check), there’s an address book (double check). The list goes on.

Then there’s an application framework (check – in 2006 already – the Jurassic era of social).

How could we have missed this? Facebook is, and have always been, a mobile platform.

Maybe by accident? Or maybe mobile platforms just turned out to mimic Facebook, and vice versa, because they developed more or less at the same time, both fulfilling social needs.

Either way – Facebook is a mobile Operating System.

And now, while the big dogs of iPhone, Android and Blackberry are attacking the mobile beast head on, Facebook is slowly but surely eating its way up its long tail.

SIM cards – who would’ve thought!

Some good stuff is coming out of the Swedish interaction design schools these days. And one dude that caught our eye this week is Jordi Parra, who manages to seamlessly blend technology and aesthetics.

Look at how he turns an iPhone into a cute interactive Piggy Bank. But the project that travelled the Twitter waves this week was his Spotify player, which he developed as part of a school project to explore a the ways we interact with digital music.

Parra’s player makes the digital a bit more tangible. Not only does the Spotify player and its packaging look beautiful and sleek, Parra applies some interesting technology. Using RFID tags to store Spotify playlists, he effectively uses them as mixtapes.

You play them by simply sticking them onto the volume knob, which also acts as a magnet. And the LED lights that sit behind the cover act as a screen to display information about battery life,…

Simply yummy. It’s only a prototype, but you can just see this sitting on a shelf in a Muji near you.

And for the tech dudes: on his blog Parra has documented the progress of the whole project in great detail and with nice videos.

Photos are the new location data

One of the most exciting things about web businesses is their ability to open up their engines to others via APIs. The wildly popular Instagram has just done exactly that and it looks like it includes all their functions. 

That made us think: we have written in the past about the paucity of location information on Twitter. Google is as bad, and Facebook not much richer in location data (yet). FourSquare punches above its weight, but its check-in frequency is still very small. But Instagram, where most of the pictures are taken on a mobile, includes a hell of a lot of location data. We can hear those potential-bells ringing!

Is Twitter the killer app for social tv?

An American survey by Sidereel found that traditional TV viewing is starting to supplement online viewing and not the other way around. So we can't help but think that telly people are not having an easy ride to integrate social, especially not when it comes to the format of the tv ad. At this panel chat we attended at Social Media Week, a lot of expectation was put on the technology of internet-connected tv sets and about new forms of multi-layered transmedia narrative.

But isn't Twitter the one killer app that enhances the 'old medium'? It's a natural platform for people to discuss tv content. And it could also enhance the content in simple but creative ways. Like Audi did with their Superbowl ads, which pointed people to a Twitter-driven competition.

The social side of music

Since Spotify has integrated their social recommendation service through Facebook integration, traffic from FB has increased by 400% in a year. A while ago the streaming service claimed that the amount of paying subscribers doubled after implementing Facebook Connect.

The most powerful Facebook 'campaign' ever?

On Tuesday evening Wael Gnonim, Google's MENA marketing manager, revealed that he is the secret administrator behind We Are Khaled Said Facebook page. It's on this page where the date for the current uprising was announced, January 25. Newsweek provides some background.

At home in Cairo, Wael Khalil, a democracy activist since 2004, saw the post and scoffed. “Come on,” he remembers thinking. “We can’t have a Facebook revolution. Revolution has no time and hour.”

On Tuesday evening, a brand new Fan page created in honour of Wael Gnonim himslef, was growing by 50 people per second.


Influence is the new black

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on the growing significance of systems that measure your influence/reputation on social media like Klout and PeerIndex:

Last year, Britney Spears' managers, Adam Leber and Larry Rudolph, requested a meeting with Klout Chief Executive Joe Fernandez in San Francisco. Over a lunch of Chinese food, they grilled Mr. Fernandez on why Ms. Spears' Klout score, then around 64, was lower than Lady Gaga's 78 and Ashton Kutcher's 77.

Even politicians are subject to the new pecking order. The Twitter accounts for President Barack Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are both registered on Klout, with scores of 90 and 80, respectively.

We checked Elbaradei, President Mubarak and Ghonim and can report that the pecking order is: Elbaradei: 74 – President Mubarak: not registered – Ghonim: 84.

Layar now a platform

Remember Augmented Reality? It was all the rage a few Tweets ago. One of the most-anticipated AR apps was Layar and we only just discovered how interesting it is.

We were always under the impression it was a stand-alone app, but turns out it's actually a platform that allows developers to create content layers. Which turns Layar into an app-store for AR apps. So within the same app you can check which museums are close-by, play all kind of games or discover that the Wiley album cover was taken not so far from RAAK HQ.


Twime traveling

With Twitshift you can follow yourself on Twitter, but the Tweets you will get are the ones you sent a year ago.

A very simple but great idea. We were thinking, perhaps 50 years from now, our grand-children will be tuning into our timeline and thinking, wow granddad was obsessed with Egypt!

Mobile video is the new video

We all know that mobile internet usage is rapidly increasing. That's especially true in development countries. Proof in point: South African video service Zoopy (previously seen as the SA version of YouTube) has repositioned itself completely as a mobile platform. Here's an infographic they made with lots of beautiful stats on mobile video usage.



We love Flickr. But we fear for its future. It has what seems to be a dysfunctional adoptive parent in Yahoo! Users accounts have been deleted without explanation why, and when people query this behaviour on their forums, they shut them.

Perhaps serious photographers should start thinking of another platform? Or move to Tumblr or WordPress?

Tech insight of the week – Cyberbattle of the Tor Brigades

At the start of the current tumult in Egypt, the Egyptian government attempted to cut off communications in and out of Egypt, including the Internet. While succeeding to a large degree, a small group of people, more specifically, a guy called Jacob Applebaum, worked day and night to keep a communication lifeline open to Egypt using literally a handful of routable servers.

This is a snapshot of what happened.

And not to be ignored

  • Video service Vimeo has added a few new features, including the ability to create custom URLs for your videos.
  • After we talked about ASOS a few weeks ago, both Dove and French Connection will be launching fully-integrated shops on Facebook.
  • Oh, and there's the small matter of Twitter being in sales talks with Google and Facebook and Anyone Else. Gordon McMillan has an overview of what it could mean for Twitter.
  • How the Internet reacts to being cut off

    At the start of the current tumult in Egypt, the Egyptian government attempted to cut off communications in and out of Egypt, including the Internet. While succeeding to a large degree, a small group of people, more specifically, a guy called Jacob Appelbaum, worked day and night to keep a communication lifeline open to Egypt using literally a handful of routable servers.

    This post is a snapshot of what happened on the weekend of 27 January to 1 February 2011.

    Jacob Appelbaum

    @ioerror (Jacob Appelbaum)
    If Egypt just took down everything except for banking/trading systems, I think the internet knows what kind of action to take! #egypt #jan25

    Who is Jacob Appelbaum?

    Dubbed by Rolling Stone magazine as the most dangerous man in Cyberspace, Appelbaum is a core developer at Tor, a product that uses encryption to help people stay anonymous on the Internet.

    He is also a Wikileaks volunteer, who is probably being investigated by the FBI for his involvement with Wikileaks.

    In 2008 Appelbaum co-demonstrated an exploit on Apple’s file encryption, FileVault, and subsequently released the exploit under the name VileFault. In the following video he speaks to Xeni Jardin about some of the cracking techniques involved.

    Most importantly, though, Appelbaum created a the virtual bridge that allowed Egyptians to stay connected to the Internet during the blackout.

    WTF is Tor?

    Tor is a brilliant piece of software that uses a clever peer to peer encryption technique called onion routing, to ensure its users absolute anonymity on the Internet.

    Tor was instrumental in keeping net savvy activists from Egypt anonymous while orchestrating and reporting on their revolution (clearly demonstrated by these usage stats, and these).

    This is Tor’s normal, everyday function.

    More interesting, though, is the role people who work on Tor, like Appelbaum, played in keeping Egypt online when the Egyptian government switched off the Internet and phone networks.

    There are many ways of looking at this, but probably the most interesting is to, using Appelbaum’s Twitter timeline as a reference, look at a rough timeline of Egypt during the blackout:

    Jan 27, 2011 – 12:30 EET:

    Tor is being widely used in Egypt. Appelbaum notices and remarks on the fact that SMS is down, and some websites are being filtered.

    Jan 28, 2011 – 00:01 EET:

    Up to this point, TE Data, one of Egypt’s largest ISP’s, haven’t been blocking Facebook or Twitter. Suddenly, at midnight, this situation changes:

    ioerror: TE Data blocking again includes Facebook,Twitter,, and others. Networks seems seriously rate limited; gathering more data. #jan25

    Appelbaum starts investigating, capturing network traffic and analysing it. It appears to be a very deliberate, carefully set up filter. Definitely not something that could be the result of an operational fault.

    Jan 28, 2011 – 00:34 EET:

    Suddenly, things take a turn for worse:

    ioerror: Intense – it appears that Google is now filtered on TE Data DSL in Cairo. #jan25 #egypt

    ioerror: @estr4ng3d Same – I’ve just lost two machines at once on TE DATA; something big just happened. Motherfuckers 🙁

    ioerror: I just lost all of my machines in Egypt. #jan25 #egypt

    Appelbaum ramps up his investigations. He’s on the outside now, trying to get in. He suspects that the Seabone cable into Egypt (the International Backbone of Telecom Italia) was pulled on the Egyptian side. The last machine between him and any machines in Egypt seems to be a router with DNS name, suggesting that the cable is intact, but has been pulled by TE Data.

    Jan 28, 2011 – 00:51 EET:

    It pays to be persistent!

    Noor, another large Egyptian ISP, is still up. As far as Appelbaum can tell, this is the only way into (and out of) Egypt at the moment.

    Inside Egypt, the only workable network seems to be the SS7 network (the telephone switching network), and Appelbaum puts out a call to any X25 hackers to contact him. At this point the only way forward might literally be to rebuild the Internet in Egypt using the SS7 network.

    ioerror: I have contact with people in Cairo – the entire internet isn’t shut off yet. The SS7 network still works. #egypt #jan25

    ioerror: Any old X25 hackers online? If so – please hit me up? #egypt #jan25

    Jan 28, 2011 – 02:37 EET:

    At this point connections are possible from inside Egypt to the outside, not the other way round though. It’s not clear if this is due to links built on the SS7 network, but at least this means Tor functions, and because Tor uses its own routing protocol between different Tor servers, getting data in and out of Egypt is pretty much taken care of.

    Jan 28, 2011 – 06:25 EET:

    Since hackers are at this point targeting sites related to the Egyptian government, Appelbaum asks the community to not attack Noor, since it’s their last link with Egypt.

    ioerror: It is extremely important that Noor DSL and the Noor ISP is not attacked. It is the last free standing point of access. #egypt#jan25

    People post dial up howtos, and international ISP’s who created public dial up accounts specifically for Egyptian use.

    habibh: Egypt can use this number for dial up: +33172890150 (login ‘toto’ pass ‘toto’) – thanks to a French ISP (FDN) #egypt #jan25

    The rest of the weekend, with all the ISP’s in Egypt technically offline, Egypt as a whole gets more and more connected through various informal ways, like dialup, and Tor networks.

    Later that weekend Google and Twitter steps in to create a voice-to-tweet service that Egyptians can use to leave reports on Twitter by phone.

    The rest is history in the making.

    These are very unique times. Many of the gospels preached by some of the first Internet evangelists are being put to test for the first time.

    If anything were proven beyond any shadow of a doubt on the weekend of 28 of January 2011, it was this:

    The Internet is as much, if not more, of a social construct than a physical one. Any attempts at shutting down the Internet should be compared to attempts at shutting up people. Not only does it violate a lot of what we stand for, but it is also futile.

    UPDATE 2010-02-08: After posting this, a great, accurate post turned up detailing the exact sequence of Communication Shutdown in Egypt.

    Whoop whoop – it's the sound of the police

    The UK police has launched a map where citizens can type in their post code to see crime data in their area. Hoorah! Not so fast says Conrad Quilty-Harper.

    It’s useless to residents wanting to find out what was going on at the house around the corner at 3am last night, and it’s useless to individuals who want to build mobile phone applications on top of the data (perhaps to get a chunk of that £6 billion industry open data is supposed to create).

    He goes on to list six reasons why the site is useless. Go read it.

    Nokia pushes the mountains

    Back in the days brands sponsored cool events to raise their profile. Now they make cool shit themselves. 

    Together with snowboard company Burton, Nokia have started Push Snowboarding, an open innovation platform that combines technology with gaming and great footage of dudes bombing down a mountain. It has developed a technology to capture data from snowboarders movements and they're making that available to developers. Curious to see where this goes.


    Google keen to increase check-ins

    Despite Foursquare's immense user growth, the amount of check-ins it generates is relatively low. Same with Twitter Location or Facebook Places. Google seems to understand this and is adding a few features to its Latitude service that could potentially increase the amount of check-ins.

    First one is that the app (Android only – for now?) will recognise when you haven't moved for a while and suggest a location close-by to check-in to.

    Second is that you can set up your app to automatically check into your favourite venues when it notices when you're at that place.

    Facebook Deals launches

    Facebook is doing their own bit for location-based services by finally launching Facebook Deals in Europe. Based on Facebook Places, it checks for venues around you with special offers and turns your mobile phone into a digital loyalty card.

    For now Facebook has launched with a limited amount of deals with the big boys (Starbucks, Debenhams, O2, Yo Sushi,…). But in the future any business can create their own deals (for free) using a very simple interface. If I were Foursquare, I'd be getting nervous.


    Facebook more mobile

    Already 200m users – more than a third – are using Facebook on their mobile devices and according to Facebook's own numbers they are twice as active than non-mobile users.

    In other news, Facebook has made a bold call for developers to use HTML5 instead of Flash. With both Apple and Facebook swinging to the anti-side, one has to fear for the future of Flash. RAAK won't shed any crocodile tears mind.

    The winds of change

    It's been an incredible week. We might just be witnessing an historic moment, similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall, as a series of revolutions spreading through the Magreb. Taking the long view the Globe and Mail muses:

     … the emergence of social media – Web 2.0 – has presented a major challenge to the state’s ability to control the message and contain popular dissent.

    When the internet was completely cut in Egypt – an unprecedented step – Google launched SpeaktoTweet to help circumvent the problem, setting a new benchmark for corporate social responsibility.

    Similar tools that have seen an increase in usage are Tor, the anonimity project which you can use if you don't want people to find out from where you're blogging. And then there's Streisand Me, a project that helps set up your computer as a mirror server for content not welcome in places like Belarus.


    The unearned follow

    Robert Scoble has kicked off an interesting debate.

    I’ve been getting too many follows on too many services without earning them. On PicPlz I have 2,034 followers. On Quora I have 17,713 followers. On Instagram I have 9,249 followers. Did I earn these by having the best participation? The best photos? The best answers? No.

    On PicPlz the people that follow you on Twitter are automatically made to follow your pictures, even if they are crap. Why do companies do this, Scoble asks?

    Because it gets popular users onto the system, which drags their social networks onto a new social network. What does that cause? Virality.

    Of course. It means that those with a large Twitter following can leverage their audience from one platform onto another.

    Creative of the week – Alexander Chen

    When code meets creativity, nice things do happen. Alexander Chen's Conductor is a piece that turns the NYC subway lines into a musical instrument. Read More >>


    And not to be ignored

  • It looks like Google caught Bing cheating.
  • The smart people at PSFK have done another one of their great reports, this time on the Future of Real-Time.
  • Interesting article in the New York Times on how apps are reacting to the way we read on the web.
  • Data visualisation is all the rage. But interaction-designer-slash-musician Alexander Chen adds a level of beauty that resonates.

    Conductor is a piece that turns the NYC subway lines into a musical instrument. Using the MTA’s public API, Chen checks for trains leaving the station and then creates a moving map of the subway system.

    That it in itself is pretty gorgeous to look at, but what makes Conductor so interesting is its use of audio. Every time 2 lines cross, it triggers a string sound. So it’s not just about the visualisation of data, but also about the sonification (yep, that’s an existing phrase).

    What makes this work stand out is that it doesn’t become a slave of the data. It begins in real-time but then goes through an accelerated loop (which I guess is predicted). So rather than stick to the numbers rigourously, Chen uses it as a starting point and combines real-time data with creativity; he bends the rules to fit the sounds or the visuals.

    The work uses HTML5, Javacsript and some Flash for the audio, so you won’t get the full experience on your iDevices. Read more about the how and what in his blogpost.