Yes. This is another post inspired by things that happened during SXSW.
This one is about a former darling of the conference, Location Based Services. Here is the primer: Location is a textural piece of information that gives a piece of context. Location alone is just a latitude and longitude. It becomes Place when you add structure like address, phone number offers and other content.
Location based services (LBS) are an interesting category because they lead with the wrong data point. Place by itself has very little utility. Add to that the fact that early LBS are based on people actively notifying people where they are via a checkin and a cluster of often odd ways to redeem an offer, and you top out at a small amount of people who will use an app like foursquare.
Location IS interesting, but it should be a backing element in an app ala Path, Instagram, Superbetter, Twitter and Facebook. These applications take your location information into consideration, but they do not oversell the value as the second coming of Elvis.
LBS have taken a turn for the horrible with the introduction of tools like Highlight and Ban.jo whose sole purpose (now) is to tell you via a notification, who is near you, when they are near you by mining your social graph for location elements from checkins, tweets and other content.
Seriously? Who needs to know EVERY TIME someone in your stream is near you? At SXSW this is exacerbated by the fact that 80% of people in the average social media maven’s graph is at the conference, turning iPhones and Androids in very expensive vibrators and causing us all to charge more often than we should have to.
It’s ridiculously painful to test these tools as they were meant to be used. They’re noisy, inefficient (Jeremiah Owyang and 46 other people are near you.) and creepy for everyone but an assassin with an expansive social graph.
How to make them useful? You could mine the data in connected social graphs for important people. (Yes, Highlight tells you things you and people have in common, but it does not use these to eliminate the noise.) Only notify me of the people I tweet with a lot or have in my address book or are in my Facebook news feed or my Path. It’s not that hard. And I know, I can turn off notification, and I did, but they don’t want me to. The problem with these apps is that they have the same problem as Google+. And furthermore, the strategy for these applications must be to be acquired. Come on guys. You’re SMART enough to build these applications. Acquisition is supposed to be the 2nd or 3rd option out. Surely you can come up with a viable business model.
OK. I will help you.
1) Start by building an application that is useful.
2) See #1.
Leave your questions, comments and ridicule below.
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SchneiderMike has over 17 years of experience in tech and marketing and now runs the Digital Incubator for Boston’s Allen & Gerritsen. SchneiderMike is mobile obsessed and works on brand, SoLoMoCo, content and app strategies for startups, retail, restaurant, CPG and B2B brands. He is a beer extremist, loves longboarding, soccer, wine, tea and food.