Saturday, June 27, 2015

Attend Our Mobile Cultural Mapping Workshop

Mobile devices get criticized for distracting us from our world. Yet, I've found that mobile media - in the form of location-aware technologies and user-generated content - is growing increasingly sophisticated thereby enabling people to use their mobiles in various ways to enrich their relationship to their places.

Mobile devices can be used to record, geolocate, and share experiences and feelings about a place. They can also be used to access and benefit from reading another person's account of a place in the location that it applies to.

I have enjoyed exploring this topic and continue to research locative media.

However, I don't have a lot of experience in creating my own locative media content (aside from reviews via Foursquare or geotagged photos on Instagram). Last year, I was able to attend and help with a workshop at Mobile HCI conference that taught me the tools and methods to create my own locative stories and artworks.

The workshop was developed by Dr. Martha Ladly, a professor from OCAD University in Toronto. Professor Ladly led this workshop before in Buenos Aires and Florence and she will offer it this August at the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA) in Vancouver, BC.

This year, I am helping lead the workshop as well. Our workshop called People, Places & Things: A Mobile Cultural Mapping Workshop, is a day-long event on Saturday, August 15, 2015.

The workshop is held at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University. From there, we'll take our mobile devices and explore the area including the Woodward redevelopment project.  It will be a fun, collaborative, and informative day spent experiencing local culture and history, creating digital art and narratives, and adding it all to mobile maps.

Participants will learn how to annotate their places and geolocate their stories using open source mapping tools, and working with their data inside the Google Earth toolkit.

If you’re interested in attending:
  1. Visit our workshop website
  2. Register for the workshop at ISEA (You can register for just our workshop or the entire conference.)
Please join us in Vancouver!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lost Forever - Remembering Location Based Services Now Gone

In preparing for my prior blog post listing location based services and mobile apps with a prominent locative functionality, I noticed that many of the apps from my prior list (in 2013) were out of business. An even greater number of apps were still "live," but had been abandoned by their creators and not updated in a year, or two, or four.

But I think it's important to remember these apps. Not only are they part of our social and technological history, but many of these apps created new directions and charted paths for future technological innovations. So this post is in honour of the trailblazers now lost forever.

List of deceased location based services:
  • Benefon - released in 1999, possibly the first friend finder feature
  • Brightkite - place check-ins and geosocial networking
  • Booyah - make of location based games MyTown and Nightclub City
  • Carrr Matey - pirate-themed parking finder
  • Centrl - geosocial networking
  • CheckIn+ - augmented reality check-in app
  • Citysense - nightlife discovery and social navigation
  • DeHood - tap into neighbourhood buzz to find local businesses
  • Ding Dong - ring your friends with your location
  • Dodgeball - SMS, pre-cursor to foursquare bought by Google and shut down (see CNET eulogy)
  • Dopplr - social travel planning (bought by Nokia and withered)
  • EveryTrail - user-generated trip recommendations
  • Fire Eagle and Friends on Fire - location sharing platform and API, by Yahoo
  • Flook - user-generated geolocated information
  • Glancee - friend finder based on proximity and social and personal commonalities (started in 2010, bought by Facebook and shut down)
  • Geoloqi - bought by Esri and shut down, their apps including DinoDeals - proximal alerts of deals, Geotracks - real-time friend tracking, and Geonotes - leave geotagged notes or subscribe to location-based info 
  • Geopedia - geotargetted Wikipedia entries - as also offered by WikiMe
  • GeoSpot - started in 2005, offered location-based information and search products
  • Google Latitude - real-time friend tracking (merged into Google+)
  • Google Local - proximal recommendations (merged into Google Maps)
  • Google Sky Map - identify the stars near you (open sourced & mothballed)
  • Glassmap - friend tracking app by Groupon (merged into Groupon Now)
  • Goby - suggested fun activities based on your location 
  • Gowalla -  place check-ins and geosocial networking
  • Groundcrew - place centered coordination and mobilization
  • GyPsii - European company that claimed to have the world's largest geosocial network
  • Hidden Park - location based game where fantasy creatures are found in the parks around you
  • HipGeo - geosocial networking and user generated place recommendations
  • Historypin - enabled users to add old photographs and text narratives to locations (website still running, but apps mothballed)
  • Hurricane Party - helps friends find, share, and create spontaneous parties
  • Junaio - augmented reality vicinity info search
  • Local Books - proximal search for book stores and literary events
  • Localmind - get answers about a specific place & real-time events by people who are there
  • Locatio - by Seiko, possibly world's first LBS, launched in 1999 it included locative mapping, wayfinding, geo-targetted weather forecasts, and proximal restaurants, hotels, and sights
  • Loopt - geosocial networking
  • Magitti - local recommendation, from PARC (see ReadWriteWeb article)
  • Mscape - location-based gaming platform by HP
  • Moby- family member tracking and coordination
  • Nearest Subway - locates nearest subway station in various cities
  • Nearest Wiki - content from Wikipedia overlaid on places via A.R.
  • Neer -  geosocial networking
  • Plazes - an early geo-social networking app, bought by Nokia (read eulogy)
  • PinDrop
  • Poynt - local search with proximity based reviews and mapping
  • Rally Up - geosocial networking
  • Red Rocket - pioneering Toronto-based transit app
  • SCVNGR - pioneer in location based commerically oriented gaming
  • Sitegeist - aggregator of locative info, including census data
  • Sonar - ambient friend finding
  • Task Ave - location-aware reminders
  • Tripbirds- travel tips from friends
  • Trippy - trip advice from your social network
  • urbantag - tag and share lists of places with friends
  • Voxora - voicemail for places
  • Where - proximity-based promotions and deals, by PayPal
  • Whrrl -  brand based groups for recommendations, tips, and deals
  • Zeitag - historical photographs overlaid of users locations
Let me know if I missed one of your dearly departed. Also, if you're interested in location based services, I'm conducting a study soon on this topic and would love to hear from you. Check out my study at my research website.

In China Mobiles Thrive While Postcards Wither

In addition to Webslinger, I write the blog Deltiology Deity about postcards. I've loved collecting postcards since I was a kid. In my lifetime, I've noticed the flourishing and then the dramatic decline of the communication medium of postcards. I'm also an avid user and researcher of mobile devices and had the great opportunity to see the birth and flourishing of this medium.

As one medium rises, others will fall. A recent op-ed article by Stephen R. Kelly explains why sending print postcards is dying out in the country of China (although it no doubt applies to all other countries too). I posted this on Deltiology Deity, but this is rare case of both blogs' topics intersecting.

Read the entire article, Why It’s Almost Impossible to Find a Postcard in China. Here are my favourite excerpts:
KUNSHAN, China — For the last seven weeks I have been trying to send a postcard from this “smallish” city of nearly two million.... But finding a postcard, finding a stamp, getting that stamp to stick, finding a place to mail the postcard — even just getting anyone on this state-of-the-art campus to accept the idea of putting a letter in the mail — have proved a challenge, and not just because of my wobbly Chinese. In my travels to the tourist traps around Kunshan, I have seen exactly one Chinese person writing a postcard....
For many Americans, sending a postcard from an exotic locale is still a mainstay of modern travel, if only to prove you actually went somewhere. It’s short and sweet, no heavy messaging required, the Twitter of a block-print age. And who doesn’t enjoy finding a handwritten missive among the supermarket fliers and other invasive species that swarm our mailboxes?...
Even more than in the United States, [Chinese] people appear addicted to their smartphones. Waiting for the train home in the yawning ultramodern Hangzhou station, hundreds of faces basked in the cool blue light of an iPhone or Samsung. Not a pen was in sight....
The relative rarity of the handwritten postcard here is symptomatic of a pell-mell rush toward a digital and depersonalized future. It seems sad to see the broad strokes of Chinese culture and communication shrunk to a 3-by-5-inch screen, and delicate brush lettering now reduced to pecking with two thumbs...
Americans like to imagine that we are the most tech-savvy, if not tech-addled country on the planet. But we have nothing on China. Which means if you visit the Middle Kingdom, plan on sending a selfie from in front of Mao’s tomb to prove you were here. But forget about mailing Mom a postcard.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Hardest Thing About Social Media

One might say that the hardest thing about social media is figuring out the privacy settings to make sure anything embarrsing isn't made public. But I don't buy that argument anymore - as social media sites have made it quite easy and given multiple ways to configure privacy settings. There have been enough high-profile cases of grandiose online humilations with resultingly horrible repercussions from posting inappropriate things for people to know the importance of not making one's online life entirely public.

But to be fair not all social media gaffes arise from people making their account public, some inappropriate material is posted or leaked by people within one's closed social network. As in "friends" posting pix of their friends in compromising situations without permission. So one could say the hardest thing about social media is knowing who to trust.

I do think this is a legitimate concern, but social media sites have made it easier to have offending material untagged with one's name or removed. Norms are starting to change (at least among older users - likely not amongst teens) that posting dubious material about a friend is not funny. Admittedly, there is a long way for both companies and users to improve in this regard.

I think the hardest thing about social media is not posting something you direly want to, but that may return to haunt you.

Case in point, over the years I have been treated unprofessionally by some companies and people and there is no viable way to get justice through official channels. Social media and user-generated content sites can be an excellent source of retribution (and maybe even dishing out deserved revenge). A hotel I once stayed at added lot of charges to my credit card and would not reverse them. It was only because I posted a scathing review about this on TripAdvisor that I got a refund. Similarly, I had the worst customer service experience if my life with Bell Canada trying to get their Fine service installed - official complaints got me nowhere, but it pleases me to no end that my blog post on their lousy service gets thousands of views regularly.

But in these cases the opportunity for the companies to strike out against me was minimal (or at least I hope so). So although  a desire to post something can be profound and the motivation just, there are cases where doing so may cause you more harm than good.

People might think they are protected by sites that allow anonymous posting. But here's another hard thing - the Internet is never anonymous.

First, it is possible to discern an identity by the nature, style, and date of what someone wrote. Secondly, via IP tracking and other means it is possible to uncover people.
So even when you are seething with righteous injustice and no official channels are open to you, consider carefully - and give yourself at least a week's worth of reflection time - whether it is ultimately best for you to post something. Assume that what you are considering posting was read by the person (e.g. a boss a friend) or the worst person you can think of to read it (future boss, CEO) and that it was known to be by you. Because this can and does happen.

Revenge may be a tasty dish, but it may cause indigestion that repeats on you in unpleasant ways. So the hardest thing about social media is not posting something that really needs to be posted.

It's better to seeth privately with injustice of my treatment, than to let a few minutes of venting (however blissful they may be) result in long term damage to you. Instead repress your rage by watching cat videos or filling out online personality quizes until the seething passes.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

List of Location Based Services

I'll soon be starting a study on location-based services. I'll be studying the field rather broadly - any mobile application or mobile website that deliver geotargetted content.

Over the years, I've maintained a list of location based services on this blog.  I had to stop updating the list as it was changing too quickly to keep up. More and more apps were offering a locative functionality as part of their features.  On the other side, other apps were going out of business with equal rapidity.

For my study, I'm open to talking to people who use any sort of locative functionality on their mobiles. This can take the form of:
  • using Foursquare or Yelp for restaurant recommendations in your area
  • reading nearby news or gossip with Yik Yak or Twitter
  • playing location based games such as Ingress or geocaching
  • finding someone to hooking up with via Grindr or Skout
  • learning more about a place with Findery or Flickr
Below is a list of some of the popular mobile apps with locative elements categorized by their primary offering.

  • Flickr - upload and view georeferenced photos
  • Instagram - upload and view georeferencing photos
Coordination, Communication, and Safety
  • Glympse - share location with contacts and specify visit duration
  • Guardly - personal emergency system, alerts authorities and close contacts with user’s location in an emergency
  • Swim Guide - find nearby beaches, their safety status, and historical info
  • Ushahidi -  crowdsourced mapping and place-based storytelling
  • Yik Yak - anonymous, nearby gab and gossip
  • YWCA Safety Siren - sends location to emergency contacts; maps of women's health clinics & resources
Commerce and Marketing
  • Groupon - proximity based and general shopping deals
  • Geotrigger - service provider for brands to create geolocative mobile apps by Esri
  • Lovely - proximal apartment rental information (U.S. only)
  • Placecast - service provider for location-based business intelligence and geotargetted ads
  • - search and receive info on properties for sale in your vicinity
  • Shopkick - proximal promotions and customer loyalty programs
  • YellowPages - uses location to identify and search for nearby businesses
Geosocial Networking
  • Facebook - location sharing and encourages place commentary
  • Swarm - check-ins and friend tracking by Foursquare
  • Find My Friends - friend tracking by Apple
  • Google+ - share your location with customized groups
  • Grindr, Blendr, and Tinder - date finder apps
  • Skout - reputedly the world's largest network for friend and date finding
Health and Fitness
  • MapMyWalk - map and share your walking/cycling routes along with other fitness features - similar apps are Endomondo and Moves
  • PulsePoint - apps to locate volunteers trained in CPR for emergencies and another for defibrillators
  • WebMD Allergy App - geotargetted allergy forecasts, tips,and customizable alerts
Local Discovery and Hyperlocal Information
  • Around Me - find business near your location by biz type
  • Banjo - delivers trending news and events near you
  • Field Trip - runs in background, when users get to interesting places (e.g. business, sight) a pop-up appears with details (I'm not sure how "interesting" is defined however)
  • Findery - place annotations and photos to encourage exploration
  • Google Maps -  comprehensive maps plus proximal business search and recommendations
  • Star Chart - identifies user position to view astronomical information via augmented reality view
  • Tagwhat - hyperlocal info about nearby places
  • Twitter - tweet or search for tweets within a specified area or by hashtag
  • Weather Channel - geotargetted weather forecasts
Location-based Games
  • Friendly Fire - military themed game using own's hometown as battle headquarters
  • Geocaching - use your mobile device to uncover hidden caches - c:geo is a free, open-source equivalent
  • Ingress - physical world as site of collaborative science fiction competition
  • Parallel Kingdom - massive multiplayer online game that uses real world as setting for fantasy game
  • Tiny Tycoons - claim real places to compete for game riches/li>
Navigation and Transportation
  • Gata Hub - taxi-hailing app; uses positioning to identify pick up location and near cabs - similar to Hailo
  • SitOrSquat - find nearby bathrooms with user reviews of their cleanliness by Charmin (genius marketing effort and I must say the most useful apps!)
  • Uber - find a private driver, arrange pick-up spot, and track the car's location
  • Waze - community-based traffic and navigation app
Personal Efficiency and Organization
  • Checkmark 2 - proximal task reminder service (Apple only)
  • Matchbook - facilitates bookmarking and viewing businesses one wants to visit (Apple only)
Social Recommendation and Navigation
  • Foursquare - proximal business recommendations & reviews from friends and others users (check-in feature now moved to Swarm)
  • Yelp - user-generated local reviews combined with local search engine
  • Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) - location based restaurant recommendations
Travel and Place Guides
  • Gogobot - travel tips from friends & other users
  • TouristEye - travel planning, destination tips, and nearby search from Lonely Planet
  • LiveTrekker - aggregate, share and map your digital media
  • RoadTripper - a travel guide for off-the-beaten path explorers
  • TimeOut - travel guide apps for major cities and tourist hot-spots with proximal recommendations
  • Trover - geotagged travel photos and stories
  • TripAdvisor - get the leading travel website's user generated content on your mobile with proximity search
Let me know if I missed one of your favourites. And consider helping me out with my study. Read more participating in the study on my research site.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Which Way is Up? How Locative Media May Enhance Sense of Place

Last September, I participated in a workshop at the Mobile HCI conference (read my blogpost). My short paper was selected as one of the best from the conference, so I was invited to submit a full length article for the Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction.

That article, Which Way is Up? How Locative Media May Enhance Sense of Place, is now online.

Here's the article summary:

Despite the growing prominence of locative media, its potential influence on our relationships to our places has not been well understood. Based on previous studies, this paper argues that locative media can affect our spatial relationships in various ways and thereby improve our sense of place.

To understand how this can be accomplished it is important to examine the features and affordances of the medium along with user practices and outcomes in relation to place. A brief history of locative media is offered to demonstrate a progression from an early focus on wayfinding to current applications that offer a variety of place-related experiences. Subsequent sections outline four qualities about locative media that combine to differentiate it from other media in regards to place, which are its interactivity, reach, mobility, and vocality.

The possible user outcomes of social navigation, autobiographical insideness, defamiliarization and refamiliarlization, and spatial interaction are examined as ways in which locative media can enhance sense of place.

Let me know if you'd like a sneak peek at the article.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Keeping it Real - RE/MAX's Mobile Marketing Strategy Has Curbside Appeal

I recently blogged about RE/MAX's recent mobile media when I saw one of their ads emphasizing that "No App Required". I was so impressed with how forward thinking this approach is that I contacted RE/MAX to find out more about their campaign and their motivations.

The Marketing Team at RE/MAX INTEGRA were very helpful in answering my questions about their mobile media marketing strategy. Below are my questions and their answers. Their responses indicate a company that clearly knows their customer's needs.

Glen: Can you tell me a bit about RE/MAX's mobile media strategy? Are decisions made nationally, regionally, or internationally? 

RE/MAX: RE/MAX in Canada is split into three regions; Western Canada, Ontario-Atlantic and Quebec. The current advertising initiatives that are in market for Ontario & Atlantic Canada are planned and deployed regionally by RE/MAX INTEGRA Ontario-Atlantic Canada Inc. That being said, there are initiatives like our website,, in which we work with the other Canadian head offices to develop a national strategy.

A major component for several years has been our investment into both in the mobile sphere and on the desktop version. In all RE/MAX advertising we direct traffic to and our messaging focuses on RE/MAX agents having the experience and results that other competitors don’t.

Glen: What are RE/MAX's goals and main features for mobile media?

RE/MAX: Now that over 90% of consumers begin their home buying process on the web, consumers are clicking on to find an agent, view listings, and read market and renovation reports.

Knowing that in today’s environment buyers actively research properties on the internet and they drive the neighbourhoods of interest to view properties, so several years ago we launched a program we coined RE/MAX Curbside Marketing. This program allows buyers to view properties instantly on their mobile device. Price, description and video all play seamlessly on today's current smartphones.

As part of the Curbside Marketing program, home buyers & sellers can:

  • Text To View Listings:
    99% of consumers phones are able to text. RE/MAX Curbside Marketing allows interested buyers to text the unique number on a RE/MAX yard sign to 28888 to receive instant property information including price, description, and the agent’s phone number. If they have a smartphone they also get a link to photos and videos on the listing agent’s mobile website.
  • Quick Response Codes to RE/MAX Mobile Website:
    QR codes provide a fast and easy way for buyers to access price and photos of a listing without having to type or search. The QR code can be scanned by launching a free scanning app on the buyer’s mobile device to load the feature sheet on the agent’s mobile website provided by RE/MAX.
  • Browse Mobile Website:
    Any of today’s smartphones can go directly to the mobile website (applicable in Ontario-Atlantic region). The website formats to the type of phone the buyer uses. Listings near the location of the buyer appear instantly. The buyer can customize their search and call a RE/MAX agent. Now they can also take advantage of the new feature that allows them to view YouTube videos that you upload to

Glen: When did RE/MAX Canada launch a mobile website? How long have you offerred geotargetted listings via one's mobile device?

RE/MAX: We continue to invest significantly in and with the growth in mobile and applications, several years ago we launched proximity-based search and launched the RE/MAX Curbside marketing program.

Although our website has for the most part, been mobile friendly, as new technology becomes available, we continue to improve the functions on our site. That being said we advertised the Curbside Program and not necessarily the proximity-based search until this year. We are also launching other advanced modifications to the site this summer/early fall. As the campaign drives users to, it will ensure users are familiar with the site, and return to see these changes and updates.

Glen: RE/MAX's recent ad campaign emphasizes your mobile website with "No app required" to access it with its geotargetted listings. What motivated this approach?

RE/MAX: In a world that is coming out of app-overload and the famous “there’s an app for that”, we decided that a real estate website should just be simple, accessible and mobile friendly. All the same details that an app would give its users, should come from a website. It is rare to find a user that only has one device, they should also be able to jump from mobile, to tablet, to desktop easily, receiving all the same information each time.

Glen: What has been the feedback on this campaign?

RE/MAX: It has been received very well, and traffic to the website has absolutely increased. Actually in February we hit over 100,000 unique users for one month! That’s incredible and shows the success of our ad campaign and our investment in

Glen: How has the process of increasingly using mobile media progressed at RE/MAX?

RE/MAX: With a dedicated team of technology and marketing specialists, we can hope to continue to serve our users to the best of our abilities. We are consistently progressing and growing with new media and ideas, while listening to user feedback.

Glen: What feature of the mobile website is most used or appreciated by your clients?

RE/MAX: The property search and finding an agent feature are easy to use. We also have the "Favourite an Agent" function that’s a hit. Once a potential home buyer or seller does a transaction with an agent, they are encouraged to favourite that agent and create a profile on The next time that person searches and is logged in, when they request more information on any property, the agent they favourited will be notified and that agent will contact that person with the information they requested.

I was excited to hear about a prominent, Canadian company that understands that mobile apps are not necessarily (or even often) the best approach for all companies and that is making the most out of mobile media. Now if they could do something about Toronto's real estate prices, I'd be able to actively use their mobile services!