geo, geomob, mobile, Web 2.0

At the #GeoMob

Hey folks, long time I haven’t blogged – been very busy at work and home! Let me resume my techie stuff by summarising some of my thoughts after the #GeoMob night at the British Computer Society, last 30 July.
The #GeoMob is the London Geo/Mobile Developers Meetup Group, and it organises meeting of developers interested in the geo/social/mobile field, usually with participation from industry leaders (Yahoo!/Google), businesses, startups.

This are my thoughts about the night, grouped by talk:

Wes Biggs, CTO Adfonic

  • AdFonic is a mobile advertisement provider that launched 1/7/09 (their home page doesn’t work, though. You need to go to http://adfonic.com/home)
  • what about user interaction and privacy? if I don’t get it completely wrong (reading here it seems I haven’t), the actual user experience is to have some kind of advertisement bar on your mobile application. If it’s just this, it’s simply the porting of an old desktop idea to the mobile environment. The problem is that it was not a hugely successful idea. Here the user is rewarded even less compared to the desktop bars (I guess by getting the app for free?). I’m not sure this can be a really successful venture unless the ads are smartly disguised as “useful information” – but, hey, I’m here to be refuted :P
  • getting contextual information is difficult, even if you know the location of the user you don’t know what he/she’s doing. Good motto from the talk “advertisers are not interested in where you are, but in where you’re at“. But how to get and use these contextual information was not really clear from the talk. From their website’s FAQ, I read:
    • You can target by country or region.
    • You can target by mobile operator.
    • You can define the days of the week and the time of day you wish your ad to be displayed in the local market.
    • You can choose to target by demographics by selecting gender and age range profiles.
    • You can choose devices by platform, brand, features and individual models.
    • You can also choose to assign descriptive words for your campaign using tags. We compare these tags to sites and apps in the Adfonic network where your ad could be displayed, improving your ad’s probability of being shown on a contextually relevant site.

    This raises a couple of privacy concerns, as well as technical ones ;-)

  • I would say this talk raised more questions than those answered – nonetheless it was, at least for me, good for brainstorming about mobile targeting
  • some of the issues with this service – which I’m really interested in watching to know where it heads to – are interestingly the same of a paper about leisure mobile recommender systems that I reviewed for MobBlog

Henry Erskine Crum, @henryec, Co-founder of Spoonfed

  • Spoonfed is a London based web startup (Sep. 2008) that focuses on location-based event listings
  • 12 people work there – which makes it interestingly big to be a startup
  • very similar to an old idea of mine (geo-events but in a more social networking fashion) – which prompts me to realize I need to act fast, when I have such ideas :-)
  • I would have liked the talk to dig deeper into details about user base, mobile apps and HCI issues, but it was not a bad talk and it provided a very operational and yet open minded view of how the service works and evolves
  • oh, and Henry was congratulated as the only guy in a suit (:P lolcredits to Christopher Osborne)

Gary Gale, @vicchi, Director of Engineering at Yahoo! Geo Technologies, with a talk about Yahoo! Placemaker

  • get here the slides for this talk
  • Yahoo! Placemaker is a useful service to extract location data from virtually any document – also known as Geoparsing. As the website says: Provided with free-form text, the service identifies places mentioned in text, disambiguates those places, and returns unique identifiers for each, as well as information about how many times the place was found in the text, and where in the text it was found.
  • I see it very interesting especially as it is usable with Tweets and blog posts, and it can help creating very interesting mashups
  • only issue: its granularity is up to the neighbourhood – which is perfectly good for some applications, but I’m not sure it is also for real-time-location-intensive mobile apps

Steve Coast, @SteveC, founder of OpenStreetMap and CloudMade, with a talk about Ubiquitous GeoContext

  • OpenStreetMap can be somewhat considered the community response to Google Maps: free maps, community-created and maintained, freely usable – CloudMade being a company focusing on using map data to let developers go geo
  • the motto from this talk is “map, please get me to the next penguin in this zoo” – that is, extreme geolocation and contextual information
  • success of a geo app – but according to me also applicable to many Internet startups – summarized in 3 points:
    • low cost to start
    • no licensing problems
    • openness / community driven effort
  • it was an absolute delight to listen to this talk, as it was fun but also rich of content – the highly visual presentation was extremely cool, I hope Steve is going to put it online!

Oh, and many thanks to Christopher Osborne, @osbornec, for organising an amazing night!

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