Google Maps Timeline: Interesting or Valuable?

I was at a dinner party last night where a friend was talking about his Google Maps Timeline year-end report. Another friend asked:

Do you find it interesting or valuable?

This is a very good question to ask about technology in general.

Personally, I find Google Maps Timeline interesting, but not valuable. It’s generally interesting as journal. I’d love to import a static copy of the data automatically into Day One or other journaling software. (Lazy Web, has anyone done this already?)

Using it to track movement is interesting and potentially valuable. In 2018, I traveled 27,711 miles total, about one time around the world. I walked a bit less than a mile a day averaging 2.25 miles / hour — not as much or as fast as I would have liked. Tracking this data more regularly might encourage me to move more, but fitness trackers provide this same data in less creepy ways.

More valuable is the transit information. In 2018, I spent over 21 days on some sort of ground transportation for a total of 9,575 miles, about 26 miles / day. This was surprising for someone who works from home at least twice a week and sobering from the perspective of someone who cares about carbon emissions. That said, I don’t know that trying to optimize these totals further is very valuable. I already take lots of public transportation, carpool when I can, and drive a Prius. I could lower my carbon footprint much more dramatically by changing my diet.

I’m not sure whether Google Maps Timeline will ever be valuable for me individually. However, I do think Google makes this data valuable for me in aggregate. For example, Google is able to tell me the average wait time at my favorite coffee shops and restaurants. I could imagine this data in aggregate could be very valuable for urban planning. I would like for it to be used this way, and would be happy to give this data to someone if I trusted they would use it in useful and also ethical ways.

And there’s the rub. We still don’t have good, trusted agreements between organizations and individuals. I don’t trust the government to handle my data competently — to anonymize it appropriately, to store it securely, etc. — or to put it to good use. I trust Google to put it to good use, but I am very skeptical that they will use it ethically. That said, I trust Google a lot more than most companies, which is also potentially misguided.

Way back in the day, I did some work on these kinds of issues in community with good folks like Phil Windley, Doc Searls, and Identity Woman. Aman Ahuja and his friends at the Data Guild have also done a lot of good thinking around ethical guidelines for using data. I’m heartened by the work they’re all doing. If you know of others doing great work in this space, please share in the comments below. Be specific — what is the problem they’re tackling, and how are they going about it?

Internet Identity Workshop 2007, Day One

Quick thoughts from day one of the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW):    (M9G)

  • This is the fourth IIW. The first one was in October 2005. Amazing. It feels like we’ve been doing these for at least five years.    (M9H)
  • Over half of the participants were there for the first time.    (M9I)
  • I opened the conference with an introduction to Identity Commons. Got some good feedback, and great support from others who have been active in the rebirth of Identity Commons. My big goal is to get the community to think of Identity Commons as “we,” not “they.” We’ll see how successful we are at the end of this workshop.    (M9J)
  • We participated in a nice exercise where folks got into small groups and surfaced questions. It got people interacting, and as Phil Windley noted afterwards, people stayed in small groups chatting away well after the day had ended.    (M9K)
  • One thing that struck me about the group exercise: I heard no new questions. A common characteristic of Wicked Problems is not knowing what the questions are. A good number of us seemed to have successfully identified most of the key questions a long time ago. This is both a sign of progress and of concern. We as a community are starting to face growing pains, and community memory is becoming more and more of an issue. Doc Searls suggested that in addition to surfacing the questions, we should have asked, “Okay, who has the answers?” I think some variation of that would have made an excellent complementary exercise.    (M9M)
  • I like Pibb, JanRain‘s Web-based real-time group chat tool that uses OpenID. (Think IRC on the Web with OpenID for identities.) But I also agree with Chris Messina; Pibb needs permalinks — granular as well as thread-level.    (M9N)
  • We had a series of lightning presentations following the group exercise. They were all well done. Remarkably, they were all about basically the same thing, only told from different angles, something that Mary Hodder also observed. I think this is a good sign. It shows the ongoing convergence of our community. There was also a lot of Spotlight On Others — folks referring to each other’s work, even borrowing slides from each other — another sign of a healthy community.    (M9O)
  • There wasn’t anything new conceptually, but there were many more implementations, yet another sign of progress. Speed Geeking basically consisted of 15 different implementations of Single Sign-On, which doesn’t make good fodder for demos, but which is great for the community.    (M9P)
  • Two Speed Geeking projects stood out: Vidoop and Sxipper. Vidoop is user authentication via image recognition and categorization, which in and of itself is interesting. But what got people buzzing was its business model: sponsoring images that would be displayed to users for authentication. I don’t know if it’s viable, but it’s definitely creative. Sxipper is a Firefox plugin that handles account registration and login. What’s really interesting is what’s happening beneath the covers: It’s essentially an OpenID Identity Broker running from your browser. It looked very slick; I’m looking forward to playing with it.    (M9Q)
  • Doc Searls gave his traditional day one closing talk. I’ve heard bits and pieces of this talk many times, but I never tire of listening to him speak. He’s just a fantastic storyteller, and he’s always on point.    (M9R)
  • I carpooled with Fen Labalme, and as we were discussing our takeaways on the way back, he said, “I’m glad I didn’t sit with you at dinner.” He wasn’t joking, and I wasn’t offended! I felt the same way! One of the really special things about this community is that there are no snobs. We all like to hang out with each other, but we all also really value quality time with folks we don’t know. You could really see this at dinner. I didn’t see any cliques, and there was plenty of mixing.    (M9S)

WikiMania 2006, Day One

Day one is over. Brain is overloaded. Very tired. Attending conference during day/evening, then working late into night — bad. Law school dorms with no air conditioning in Cambridge in August — also bad.    (KWO)

Still, much to share. And amazingly enough, I will — at least a bit. There’s something about this conference that actually gets me to blog, rather than simply promising I will. Besides, I’m going to set a new record for responsiveness to Tom Maddox, even if it is via blog.    (KWP)

It is incredibly surreal to be back at my alma mater surrounded by post-college friends and colleagues. What makes it even more surreal is that folks from all facets of my professional life seem to be here, not just Wiki folks. I mentioned having my fingers in a lot of pies, right? Well, all those pies are unexpectedly well represented this weekend. It started yesterday when I discovered that Chris Messina and Tara Hunt were on the same flight to Boston, and culminated at dinner with Greg Elin (whom I first met at the FLOSS Usability Sprint, and who invited me to join him for dinner), Daniel Perry (a lawyer who’s been an important contributor to recent Identity Commons discussions), Tom Munnecke (first introduced to me by Jack Park when I was just starting Blue Oxen Associates), and Doc Searls (who needs no introduction). Also at the dinner: Ellen Miller, Micah Sifry, David Isenberg, Britt Blaser, and Yochai Benkler. Quite a contrast from last year, when I was hanging with grassroots Wiki peeps every night. I’m not complaining, though. The conversation was fascinating, even if we didn’t talk much about Wikis.    (KWQ)

Keeping with this theme, I didn’t hear much about Wikis today, other than my interview with Ward Cunningham. I kept my questions pretty basic, as a lot of folks there had never heard him speak, but I managed to slip in a few probing questions for myself. I asked Ward about the evolution of Wiki culture, and I specifically mentioned the culture of anonymity that he strongly encouraged in the early days, but that seems mostly absent in today’s Wikis. Ward seemed resignedly ambivalent. I asked him about what makes a Wiki a Wiki, and he was decidedly agnostic in his response: anything that facilitates a permissive spirit and mode of collaboration. I’m not sure whether he was being political or whether he truly feels this way. My guess is a bit of both, but I’ll press him on this if I get a chance later this weekend.    (KWR)

I showed up late to Larry Lessig‘s keynote, but I was unconcerned, as I had heard him give his Free Culture speech before. It’s excellent, but he recycles it often. Sure enough, he was doing the same speech, and I started tuning out. Fortunately, my brain was paying partial attention, or I would have missed what may end up being the most intriguing development of the conference.    (KWS)

Larry started talking about the interoperability of licenses, and how it was silly that the FDL and Creative Commons BY-SA licenses could not be relicensed interchangeably, even though the two licenses were equivalent in spirit and intent. He then proposed an interoperability clause as well as a neutral organization whose purpose would be to classify equivalent licenses. His talk was followed by a really good panel discussion between him and Eben Moglen. This stuff is really complicated and important, but it looks like Larry and Eben are serious about working together towards a common solution. Apparently, Jimbo Wales deserves a lot of credit for getting these two to cooperate. Did I mention that I love this community?    (KWT)

Quick hits:    (KWU)

  • I shared a flight and T ride here with Chris Messina aned Tara Hunt. (Chris was presenting on Bar Camp.) Chris extolled the virtues of Voodoo Pad, which apparently has autolinking features a la my Markup Free Auto Linking Wiki idea.    (KWV)
  • Was excited to see two of my roommates from last year: Kurt Jansson, a German doctoral student and president of the German chapter of Wikimedia Foundation, and Juan David Ruiz, a Chilean lawyer.    (KWW)
  • Saw Erik Zachte in the morning, who does awesome Wikipedia work. Erik immediately told me about two cool projects I had never heard of: FON and Wikimapia.    (KWX)
  • Caught up with Rory O’Connor after my session with Ward. Rory’s a filmmaker who came to last year’s Wikimania to make a documentary on Wikipedia. What I didn’t know was that he was so inspired by the proceedings, he decided to release all 13 hours of his footage under a Creative Commons license to encourage folks to mix their own documentaries from the event. Check it out, and mix away! There’s some interview footage of me somewhere in there, and I make a cameo in Rory’s 11-minute rough cut, in the background of Jimbo’s interviews yukking it up with John Breslin.    (KWY)
  • Somehow, I got recruited by multiple Wikipedians to help with the lightning talks due to my process expertise. My expert advice: “Move those chairs into a circle, and be firm with the time limit.” Yes folks, this is why I get paid the big bucks.    (KWZ)
  • Briefly got a chance to chat with Tim Starling about the OpenID integration in Mediawiki. Tim explained that they’re going to unify the user databases across all the different Wikimedia properties. This was further validation that Yoke‘s identity proxy approach is useful. Of course, one of these days, I’m going to have to actually write down what that approach is, so that I can convince people of its utility.    (KX0)

Free Identity!

A suggestion for Jimmy Wales‘s list of things that need to be free: Free identity!    (JNG)

“Free” in this case has a different meaning than it does than it does with the other items on Jimbo’s list. We need to free our digital identities from the organizational silos that currently collect and control information about ourselves. I am not suggesting that all digital identities fall under an open content license; I’m saying that the individual should have the ability to decide who has access to his or her digital identity and what they’re allowed to do with it.    (JNH)

Why is this important? Privacy is the obvious and most important reason. A secondary reason is that free, or at least mobile identities are a prerequisite for Jimbo’s tenth item: Free communities! It’s not enough to be able to migrate content from one community to another if you can’t also migrate people’s identities as well.    (JNI)

How can we free identities? Technically, it’s not that’s hard, and there are already several proposed specs and implementations, all of which support some notion of Single Sign-On and profile sharing with individual control. Personally, I’m partial to the Identity Commons approach with i-names, where identifiers are globally resolvable, information is distributed, and the notion of contracts built into the data structure. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we agree on an interoperable technical specification for identity. Fortunately, many of the folks in this space are already working on collaborating, thanks to the efforts of Owen Davis, Kim Cameron, Paul Trevithick, Doc Searls, and many others. These people have taken to calling themselves the “Identity Gang.”    (JNJ)

The social questions are the hard ones. What does it really mean to control our identities? What should the social and legal agreements between individuals and organizations look like? If I give my business card to someone, what’s the implicit contract associated with this action, and what would it mean to make that contract explicit?    (JNK)

These questions are hard, but they’re solvable. Unfortunately, we’re not devoting much energy towards these issues right now. Perhaps a more public exhortation for freeing identities will lead to an effort to address these social questions that equals the current effort to solve the technical ones.    (JNL)