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 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 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 meeting 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.
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 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.)