Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make maps relevant: Redraw the world niche by niche

I like FourSquare. As a predominantly iPhone-using mobilist I find it user friendly and quite compelling.

The fact that colleague Laurence Borel is (was, heh heh) Mayor of 90:10 at 17 Percy St provides a great location-based nudge, for example (the more you check in at a location, the more points you accrue - you may even get to be Mayor... ah hem, I guess you have to be there).

I like the way tips can be delivered with both positive and negative power:
'ask for Joe he makes a mean cocktail'
'avoid the soup - it tastes like dishwater'
And I think there's a further two potentials likely to emerge. The first is for a wikifixing of venues and locations: A kind of brand for shops, bars, restaurants, offices, airports etc. (image via

The second is an extraordinary potential to redraw the WHOLE map niche by niche (by each niche and for each niche) wresting control from the centre to the edge. It's our world, we should map it.

By following the emerging folksonomies FourSquare and those that will follow it (right up to and including ubiquitous augmented reality - Minority Report all around us) have the potential to disrupt the mass production version of the world - the one with a shared taxonomy on a centrally quality-assured (agreed) map.

These are two quite distinct plays: The brandtags version allows people to name a venue based on how they feel about it. The number of people who check into that location under its new title will indicate how much others agree.
In brandtags, consumers share keyterms for how they would describe a brand. On Foursquare if I label London's Kings Cross Railway Station, with, 'The Slough of Despond' it's likely a number long suffering commuters will check into The Slough.
A restaurant which serves bad food could get renamed by disgruntled diners and if others agree, the check-ins at Chez Crap will rise.

That's the crowd wikifixing individual locations then.

Then there's the greater opportunity of the long tail of mapping OUR multiple niche realities.

The maps we are used to are a view from the centre. They are an iconic example of a world view literally (super)imposed on us.

Buildings get given their official names - not the ones we use. I wonder if you can find Big Ben or The Pineapple on an OS map of London?

And those are just folksonomy terms everyone uses. How would the people in your office direct you to a nearby Thai restaurant? In the way a sat-nav would? Or like a human - 'just past the sandwich shop, opposite the pub and left past the bank'
Couldn't this kind of folksonomy be built in to deliver a world view (map) of shared usefulness to your particular niche? We would create maps of relevance with our own naming conventions and iconography.

Relevance always beats quality. You can have the most 'correct' map in the world, but if its icons and taxonomies mean little to me then I can't use it. We create meaning through our use in communities of purpose and in the context of our communities of purpose.

Great location based services and geolocation will enhance our experience of the physical world. Making our understanding of it more relevant for each community of purpose.

It's an important and symbolic example of the network disrupting anything that functions from the centre, out.

Now you can not only have your own world view, you can draw it and put a name to it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?