The Next Digital Experience – Davos Session

January 31st, 2009

Here I am inside fm_generate_button

Brightkite received a brief mention (at 0:24:10) at the Next Digital Experience panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Overall this is a great conversation about social networking, the future of mobile, location, privacy issues, etc. It was especially relevant to us because the discussion touches on many of the things that we have been working on at Brightkite, many of which we haven’t released yet (but soon, promise). The panel video below is well worth watching, particularly Professor Eric Clemons’s push vs pull argument at 0:36:30.

Eric Clemons argues people are currently “hiding from push”, the wrong model. The push model creates a constant bombardment of ads and useless information of which only a fraction is useful. The pull model allows for relevant information to be available on demand, such as where my friends eat, what events they attend, or products I might like. Clemons suggests this shift from push to pull scares the hell out of media buyers and advertisers. As mobile evolves and pull models become the norm it will be interesting to watch how advertisers and media deal with the shift.

What are your thoughts? How would you like the privacy model for services like Brightkite to evolve, and what kind of advertising do you feel comfortable with?


Posted by Brady Becker at 5:46 PM in Culture, Research

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January 31st, 2009 at 18:50 | #1 
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I agree with Prof. Clemons. I have spoken with countless people who told me straight out that they didn’t want to sign up for location-based services because they would be “stalked by their own media. I have no rebuttal. Perhaps I’m more cavalier about issues of privacy and access to/by media, but who wants to feel unsafe with a gadget for which they paid hard-earned money, even out-of-control. That’s all the argument I need for pull over push. Let the marketing folk apply their creativity to delivery of their product.

February 1st, 2009 at 06:15 | #2 
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Relevance: simple put. I use Brightkite because I see its potential in championing the semantic AND social web. From Brightkite we can mine first, relevant information as it pertains to the user and; secondly, relevant information as it serves the advertiser. The model should mirror Google's model for contextual search/advertising. My location should be a beacon (kite) to advertisers to bombard me with useful information. It should also serve as a data point in an algorithm sophisticate enough to generate profit for them. With data like my a singular location, the amalgam of my placestream, the points of intersection of my and other's placestreams, the frequency of my visits to a specific location, the times in which I visit that location, the content of the post I make at each location are all amply relevant on a magnanimous scale. Mining this data in ways that are useful to the end user and advertisers while prompt the ascension of Brightkite to Google-status. 
I see Brightkite as a platform much like Google in that it can shift how we consume AND produce information. Google started with just web search and now has an arsenal of applications and services that all stem from this one function. Brightkite can potentially rate the popularity of a physical destination by how often users visit it and what they say when there. It can generate news feeds that are pertinent to your location. It could add a shopping function that generates coupons when I check in at a store. I await the day when there is a Brightkite Zeitgeist. 
In regards to privacy, I must again reiterate that each user be treated as no more than a data point in a complex algorithm devoid of names and personal data. My location and the content I produce, independent of personal information. Much like Google, there could be a time span limit for the hoarding of my data. However, I suggest this wearily as the core of microblogging (as the service now is concieved) is individualized search of information generated by the users. To make all information anonymous would degrade the service. A user should have the freedom to elect that their contribution to the service be left for discovery if it will enhance functionality and user experience.

 Martin May 
February 1st, 2009 at 06:27 | #3 
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Great thoughts. That's more or less in line with our thinking. I'd also love to hear thoughts on privacy as it pertains to being tracked constantly (which is convenient, but not very private), versus manual checkins (which is less convenient, but more private). 
We're working on ways to fuse the two and get the best of both worlds, but it's quite challenging to find a good balance without providing too many options that confuse the average user.

February 1st, 2009 at 14:06 | #4 
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After after I and a couple of friends having some rather scary experiences with people wanting to get to close I've given up on Brightkite and similar services. People are free to post whatever in BK and there is no way of editing what they say, save deleting the entry overall. Add this to the fact that your public history, is, well public forever more simply wasn't acceptable since the service was opened to public beta. 
There simply aren't enough safeguards and privacy options in place. The prospect of given that data to third parties simply isn't something I want to be associated with at this point in time.

    • Martin May 
February 2nd, 2009 at 04:14 | #5 
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Simon, we try to give people as many options and safeguards as we can without sacrificing usability. We'd love to hear what other privacy features you would like to see on Brightkite. 
In general, you can delete any of the stuff you create. We don't let you switch the visibility on things you posted in the past just yet, but that's coming very soon. However, changing privacy after the fact doesn't deal with any syndication that might already have happened (i.e. Google indexed it, it was shared to Twitter, nearby users were notified, etc.), that's why we've been focusing on giving people the tools to keep things private to start with (e.g. new user accounts default to private mode). 
Of course, there is always room for improvement. Location-stuff is complicated. Striking a balance between convenience and control, all while maintaining a good user experience, is something that we strive for with everything we do. Please keep the feedback coming, we really appreciate it.

      • Simon 
February 2nd, 2009 at 07:29 | #6 
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I'm afraid we've all left the service and deleted our accounts, it simply was the only way to get back any modicum of privacy. That's probably all the feedback you need.

February 1st, 2009 at 22:22 | #7 
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brady just had to post after watching the pull mode is…transparent hypervideo or flash based hotspots…. and the math is all getting done.

February 6th, 2009 at 21:38 | #8 
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The privacy hype surrounding Google Latitude is similar; the authors of this stuff (doesn't reach the standard of journalism) don't understand the technology and probably haven't used it first hand. I imagine most B'Kite users are aware of privacy options and use them regularly.

February 6th, 2009 at 21:46 | #9 
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Managing Placestreams is an exciting feature of B'Kite – I've already added a few photos and some text to locations which are businesses I regularly patronize – sort of gratis advertising for them. I imagine the business model for B'Kite includes promotions managing placestreams – geo-focused, time-sensitive messaging is the way forward!

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