Walking up to this year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival, media reports predicted a virtual explosion in the number of platforms with geo-location features. Many compared the rise of location-enabled devices and services to Twitter, which broke at SxSWi a few years ago.
It’s probably too early to tell if “location” is the next Twitter, but it certainly was true that location awareness was an overarching theme of more than just the conference.
Almost every time I sat down for a drink, a bite to eat or a conversation, one or more of the people I was with went to a hand-held device, most often the iPhone, and checked in to one or more of the services. A dinner I attended one evening began with the host asking everyone to “go without” the usual mix of Tweets and location updates. Most of the guests went along, something that led to great conversations.
I do use Twitter, and I don’t use any location services. When I think of technology, I typically have at least two lenses: how it benefits the user; and its implications for design and management of content workflows. Yeah, you can tell I’m fun at dinner parties.
Those aren’t bad filters, though. Sustainable models are built around a value proposition and the ability to deliver on it.
I can see a wide range of content-driven applications that would benefit from greater attention to tagging for context (here, geo-location). However, content for many of those potential uses is locked up in print or file formats developed before anyone thought that an attributes like longitude and latitude would matter.
It will ever be this way, I think: technology opens up the opportunities that depend on an ability to cost-effectively repurpose content, and publishers who have developed an agile approach will be best positioned to capitalize on the moment.
If they don’t, they may give rise to a new generation of publishers who look very different from the ones we know now. Maybe that’s okay.