Dear World (and especially Robert Scoble)

by James Whatley on 4th June 2010

Today I read a fantastically thought-provoking piece from Robert Scoble. Yes, that guy. Love him or hate him, he is talented and he definitely knows a thing or two about tech. We’ve had our fallings out over mobile from time to time, but overall – he’s a good guy.

The post in question, entitled Location 2012: Death Of The Information Silos, talks about what the geo-location-based/cache world of tomorrow could look like by the time we hit the Olympics. The key word here is could.

Human beings. All of them.

It really is a great piece, seriously – go read it. First Robert talks through his dream day, how his friends are alerted to meetings and how his kids get the right amount of McDonalds they need right at that moment and it’s all about CONTEXT.

With location, context is king.

A couple of years ago I kicked around the idea of a facebook phone and what that might ultimately one day look like, we’re kind of nearly there with the heavy facebook application integration we’re seeing these days (and it will of course, only get better), but something I touched upon then which is still just as relevant today is ‘passive contextual awareness‘.

Your phone KNOWS you. It knows what’s going on your apps, in your diary, in your contacts, in your maps… it knows you. I’m in the gym. My phone knows I’m in the gym, it changes my voicemail, location, presence information, profile…. all to reflect that info. This is where my head was at two years ago. AdAge wrote about it recently… and today Scoble has followed suit. We’re getting there. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

And that’s the key point, the word we’re using here is SLOWLY.

Robert’s piece on TechCrunch today/yesterday (depending on your timezone) highlights the high-end user requirement for awesome geo-tech. It also highlights the barriers preventing this from happening. Silos of information, apps not sharing data, the future is not now etc…

All great and relevant points. In fact, this one of the sharpest things Robert’s written in a long time.


The human race just doesn’t work that way. Humans are inherently scared of change. ‘Embracing the unknown’ is oft described as a personality trait, not one of an entire species. When William Gibson famously said “The future is here already, it’s just not evenly distributed”, he was right and very much still is.

The big guns, the huge massive players in the whole world – thing big here guys – they KNOW this. They know that to introduce massive change and upheaval in the way we behave you have to condition your users for it. Your users in this case are human beings.

Human. Beings.

Historically and empirically we know that sweeping behavioural change, in the main, happens by accident. To effect change on this kind of scale you have to plan for it. Plan, plan and plan again.

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about how the metadata Google carries around on the web is enough to completely change the way we use it... and he’s right, they do. My argument back to him was about fear. The Daily Mail scaremongering posts articles (can you believe I nearly wrote ‘posts’ – says a lot huh?), won’t go away quickly. Five years ago the United Kingdom was still worried about XYZ, and that’s just this country. Nokia are pushing out ‘dumbphones’ by the billion and the future is still very far away. People rant and rave about THE FUTURE IS NOT HERE YET but they don’t talk about the why…

People take their own time.

Google got into trouble recently for collecting IP addresses via their streetview cars. “Naughty Google!” they cried! “Evil Google!” said others. Why? It’s public information. Take it, use it. Give me a Layar for free wifi, that’d make me happy… they could do it tomorrow. But they won’t. They won’t because they’re smart and they know that humans take time. Slowly slowy catchy monkey.

In 2012 Robert Scoble will be very, very close to his vision and that’s great. But the rest of the world? Not so. I love LOVE being on the bleeding edge of technology. I loved it then and I love it now.

The question is: How can we share this with the rest of civilisation?

Openly, freely and globally.

And in time.

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