Presence Means Combining Cyberspace with Meatspace

In Ambient Findability, the author Peter Morville talks about how The Sea of bits is rolling onto the shores of the land of atoms. This to me is at this point one of the most interesting and promising areas of web development, and a logical next step of the direction webapps took with social software. Putting relationships first in your tools makes presence and location awareness suddenly worthwile, where it wasn’t before when the web was filled with information, more a repository and less a meeting place. I have been playing with two applications exploring that interesting new place where the information landscape meets our geographical landscape, using our social landscape as an intermediary. And I am eagerly looking forward to getting my hands on the beta of a third. Those three applications are Plazes, Jaiku and Imity.

Plazes
Plazes SMS numbersPlazes is already pretty old in internet terms. I first heard Felix Petersen about his Plazes tool in the spring of 2004, and joined their beta later that year. It allows you to share your geographic location with others, and see who is near you, or where interesting locations are around you. They have been building on the concept continuously. Recently they brought Plazes to your mobile phone, though for a limited number of models. And now SMS-features have been added opening up all mobile phones to Plazes. The mobile features allow for more granular location-resolution (based on cell tower triangulation) and getting information quickly on nearby free hotspots for instance, or contacts present in your area.

Jaiku
Jaiku takes presence a step further than Plazes. Where Plazes focusses on geographic location, and presenting information on net access, contacts, and photos around that, Jaiku aims to generate a continuous presence stream, or ‘chatter’. It takes your different RSS feeds, accepts SMS messages, and blurbs you enter on the site, and combines them into one stream. This allows your contacts to be peripherally aware of what you are up to, and estimate the chance and desireability of hooking up. Perhaps not something to publicly share, but again a good example not of having mobile access to information on the web, but of bringing mobile information to the web around your person. The information you share can of course be accessed by others both on the web, as well as on a mobile client.

Jaiku presence stream

In the image above you see examples of delicious bookmarks, a Plazes Traze, an SMS text, a Flickr image and a text blurb entered on the site, being combined into my presence stream.

Imity
Imity is yet another angle on presence awareness. It builds on bluetooth signature detection. It allows for you to see who is in the area, or if a friend perhaps just passed through the same location. I first got a glimpse of Imity during this years Reboot conference (see their presentation), and they are now accepting e-mail addresses of those eager to beta test. The Pocket Radar, as Imity calls it, allows you also to see alerts that someone in your social network platforms (such as Xing, LinkedIn etc.) is near you, enabling chance meetings. It can also be used to ‘log’ who was on an event, and thus build a list of participants for later on-line interaction after the event took place. I am eager to try this out.


(Bluetooth map of Reboot conference rooms, picture uploaded by Pollas.)

Three interesting tools, and worthwile to keep track of their development. You can track them yourselves through their blogs of course: Plazes blog, Jaiku blog, Imity blog.

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4 thoughts on “Presence Means Combining Cyberspace with Meatspace

  1. Interdependent Thoughts

    Plazes, Jaiku en Imity: Virtuele aanwezigheid wordt mobiel

    Omdat ze dinsdag ook op Le Web 3 staan (Plazes en Jaiku dan), hier ook maar even een Nederlandse versie van mijn eerdere Engelse posting: Drie Europese initiatieven, drie maal gericht op het verbinden van de wereld van bits met…

  2. Ton Zijlstra

    Hi Edward,
    Yes, I am aware of Twitter. I saw Phil Wolff mentioning it together with Jaiku, and created an account earlier this week. First impression was that the whole SMS update thing feels rather annoying….so switched that off again.
    When I look at a Twitter stream, or Jaiku stream for that matter, I do not care about the actual entries themselves, but about the pattern of behaviour it shows (like radio in the background, not really listening but aware when something is up). A chatter stream. The SMS-ing by Twitter totally destroys that effect for me, by asking attention for each singular item. So that did not work much for me. 🙂
    I’ll play with it some more.
    best,
    Ton

  3. Edward Vielmetti

    Yeah, I’m having mixed feelings about getting a steady SMS stream from friends. Too many interrupts already in my life, I don’t need them for these very small things.
    It was very interesting though to get instant notification of a recent earthquake near Berkeley – the Twitter network moved news of that around quite effectively. So I hold out some ongoing utility of the multicast SMS tool as an emergency notification network tool.

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