Is that a Blackberry in your pocket or?


I’ve spent the last 3 days at the GeoCart’2008 Conference. It was an academic conference with speakers and attendees from all over the world. The content was excellent and I found it fascinating to see not only the results of academic research in the modern world of geography, location based technology research and web mapping, but also some of the great products that have and are being developed. But this is not what today’s blog is about. Perhaps more on the conference in the next few days.

I was an exhibitor at the conference and during the quiet times, was checking my phone for messages and emails as the Internet services at the venue at Auckland Univesity were shocking. I was in a building next door to the Auckland university IT Campus and the best local internet I could get was 128kbps. This morning I was listening to a podcast while I was in the shower about Internet services in Mali and how their pipe was only 2Gbps. Being landlocked they have to rely on other countries for access to the submarine cable. They would be horrified at the speed I got in Auckland, but I digress.

A number of people asked if my phone was a Blackberry and how did I like it. My answer was, yes, indeed it is a Blackberry, as issued by my company. Do I like it? I intensely dislike it. I’m a power user of mobile internet, after all I wrote the book, Unleashing the Roadwarrior and I taught companies how to improve efficiency in the field using mobile and wireless devices. Unfortunately I no longer walk the talk.

You see, to me mobile and wireless computing is about efficiency and touching things as few times as necessary. I’ve come from the world of touch screens and along with the book, published texts including Mastering your Palm and Mastering your Pocket PC.

For people who only use the phone ‘killer apps’ of voice and text, the Blackberry is a wonderful device. It has a qwerty keyboard so if you don’t use txt abbreviations, you can type your messages without having to remember the buttons and as a phone, it is perfectly adequate. If you are a Baby Boomer, the ability to do these things as well as read, send and receive email is wonderful. Attachments are another story, but you can send and receive email and you can do it securely through your MS Exchange Server which makes the IT Department happy. It does also synch wirelessly with Exchange for my contacts and calendar, but that’s pretty much where the fun and utility ends for me.

Here’s what I did with my Blackberry over 3 days at the conference. I sent and received a couple of urgent emails. I sent and received a couple of Twitter messages (which all but exhausted the ability of the browser.

Here’s what I could have done if I still had a Windows Mobile or Palm device. Actually I do still own old models, but they are old and I don’t really want to carry multiple devices anymore, although I could possibly consider a new Windows Mobile, Palm or iPhone, given the right opportunity, especially since there is now an iPhone Reader:)

I could have made lots of notes using handwriting recognition on the touch screen. I can write Graffiti or block characters without having to look at the device, so that I can concentrate on the speaker. These would have been written straight into MS Word, so that I would have them available for other purposes, such as copying and pasting into my blog. Instead I used scraps of paper, one of which I have already misplaced.

I could have taken photos of exhibits, slides and delegates for future use and reference.

I could have beamed my digital business card to others who used similar devices.

I could have shown off some of our mapping technology on the IE browser, even richer if the phone also had GPS, which my Blackberry doesn’t. (Mine is probably 2 years old) Relevant given that I work for a mapping company, specialising in web mapping API’s, routing, tracking and car navigation.

I could have quickly referenced web sites discussed during the papers and bookmarked them on the spot for future reference and integration with my favourites on the desktop.

I could have drawn mind-maps to enhance my note taking.

I could have read one of my eBooks, after setting up and while waiting for the delegates to arrive in the morning, or checked the daily paper.

I could have made audible notes and embedded them into an email, or even recorded segments of a presentation.

I could go on, but if you want to know all the other things I could have done, read my eBook, which you can purchase at ReadingIt.

It’s about efficiency, about touching things once but having access to them in lots of ways. It’s about being able to combine real time research with the discussion on the browser. You see, we can think and take in a lot more in the time that a presenter speaks, and in terms of our points of reference. It’s about then being able to access any of those pieces of information, communicate them and collaborate with other people.

Instead I have a few pieces of paper that I hope I won’t lose.

I guess this is about the dichotomy I live and work in. On the one side there is an infrastructure designed to keep data secure and cater to the lowest common denominator, for the most of whom, without training and motivation, even a Blackberry is overkill. On the other side, a busy person who wants to make the most of the information, people and media available at any given point in time. To leverage it.

The conference providers gave the delegates a CD with copies of all of the presentations, which was great. But it is pretty analogue and although I am very interested, I will probably never get around to looking at it. I will hopefully get to some of my notes, along with notes from other events that I havebeen to recently, scribbles on pieces of paper or the backs of business cards.

Then of course there are podcasts. I am big on maximising my time and whenever I am in the car, walking, exercising or doing chores, I am connected to my iPod.

So, yes it is a Blackberry in my pocket. Would I recommend it to anyone? No. Not unless all you want is a phone that does exchange / text email really well. That’s all it was designed for. I want more! I’m a busy person who wants to multitask. I want a touch screen, preferably multipoint. I want efficiency.

What can they find out about you on Facebook and who is looking


I was having a discussion with my new Sales & Marketing Assistant today about permission and proximity based marketing and the impact that social networking is going to have on this market. The topic of Facebook came up and how it is different to other consumer facing networks. The key difference is that unlike ‘most’ social networking sites people use their real identities, names and other information rather than nom de plumes. This means that a huge amount of information could be available, much more than they might want known.

Who might want to use this information? Potential employers, lending institutions, the police, security services, marketing companies, loyalty companies, asociations, manufacturers, brands………………… Why? Lots of reasons, some good, some bad.

I may have mentioned in a previous blog that a major university in the UK is doing some research to find out what they can learn about their current students from Facebooks, and I’m assuming the exercise is to find out what they can learn without people’s informed consent.

It’s no secret that brands like Coca Cola are very interested in the ability to market to users of Facebook and I’m sure they will come up with some very cool games or other applications to get people to participate and then the fun begins.

Now the areas I am particularly interested in are proximity based marketing, in the long term using GPS based mobiles. Currently less than 4% of all phones have built in GPS and therefore tracking people’s whereabouts now is not a marketing proposition, but it will come. Subject to controls, and that is already looking difficult to impose, I would have no problem with a music shop sending me a text message saying “Luigi, we know you are close by, come and show us this message and we will let you have a play on our new Roland Guitar Synthesisor just in from the lab and if you by a set of strings while you are here, you can have a second set to the same value free.”

We know that in future fashion stores will have a database of their clients measurements, colours, likes and dislikes. I see in the future a scenario where a woman will get a PXT or Video message, saying “seeing as you are in the area, we’ve sent you this photo to show you what you will look like in the new autumn-wear that has just come in from Milan. Drop in in the next 30 minutes and we will give you a 25% discount on your purchase.”

But I digress as I often do. In marketing and collection of information, the theory is that you have consented to companies or organisations collecting and holding information about you and often you have unknowingly consented to their sharing your information with others. I am concerned that the definition of consent is blurring. If you put personal information onto your Facebook profile and for one reason or another people you have no direct relationship can access it, did you consent to their having it and did you understand what that meant.

For example, if you send a message or email to someone you don’t know via certain applications in Facebook, you will get a message saying that the recipient will be able to see your profile and information for 1 month, even if you don’t accept them as friends. Is that scary or what? People tell me that they don’t allow their information to be seen by strangers, but that’s what they think!

The thing about this phenomenon is that Facebook is not an application, it is a development environment that anyone can use to make applications that link in to the Facebook network through a range of API’s and Widgets with commonality in functions. In an environment like Bebo or even MySpace, you are really dealing with one company who have control of the environment, even if they allow people to add little Flash applications or plugins. Facebook is quite different. If I had the smarts, or the inclination, I could build a Facebook  application. Let’s say for example I decided to build an application for Flashmobbing. It may be a little old concept now, but I’m sure if I focussed on a High School or University as a start up location I could get hundreds of people to join up and I would then have access to their profiles.

There are lots of more criminal or sinister things I could do, but I don’t want to even mention them and give other people ideas, but I’m sure you get the gist.

I’m going to stop now, I have things to do, but this is what I’m thinking about. On the one side I would like to see a world of permission and location based marketing that knows what I am interested in and where I am, but on the other hand I want to be able to ensure that I am not pestered with spam and that my personal details remain personal.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)