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March 2, 2009

Webstock 09 – Tom Coates of Yahoo

Live blogging Instrumenting Your Life presentation at Webstock 09 by Tom Coates of the Yahoo Developer Network and

Yahoo has developed FireEagle. It gives people control over their location data to use across various social networks. It’s location-based data to help people discover cool stuff near their locations.

Data is driving the creation of new products, not technology. We’ve never had this situation in previous history where so much data is being scraped, gathered, developed, twisted, reworked, collated, produced and republished for people to use. There is no greater potential source of data than people. But how do we give people access to this data? How do we help people understand the data? Unique challenges are involved. All is predicated on a new contract with users.

People instrument their lives in certain categories of data:

1) Direct reporting

E.g. Flickr,, Dopplr, LastFM

This is real life instrumentation.

2) Attention Data

E.g. Amazon, your search history, iTunes

3) Bureaucratic Sources

E.g. – money management tool to help you budget. Also Skydeck manages your phone bills and suggests better phone plans etc. A bureaupersonal example is Google Health.

4) Personal sensors

E.g. 23andMe – you take a swab of your saliva and send it to them and they will give you clinical reports of your potential health risks etc. Nike + iPod is a real time jogging tracking app. Also – gives you an idea of how healthy you are based on your activitie and personal stats. The Intelligent Toilet measures your urinary health!! The Satellite shoe. It has a GPS in it and can help the uber-rich who have to worry about being kidnapped.

5) Sensors in your environment

The Wattson measures the environment in your house – temperature, light, etc. Could work with Google Power Meter.

6) Possessions that report to the network

It’s all about invisible wires between things e.g. gadgets that talk to each other. Like Botanicalls plants that let you know they need watering (on Twitter @botanicalls). Motion detectors, alarm systems, remote controls for e.g. the Andy House (on Twitter @andy_house which is a house that twitters it’s owner).

Data is meant to be shared.  Data is often captured, but rarely shared. Should be captured, reviewed and recombined. That’s what FireEagle is attempting to do in terms of geodata. is trying to do this – attempting to capture all kinds of data streams from around the world and mapping it for collective use.

Too much data? Use a social lens to make sense of it. E.g. TweetDeck to tone down the noise on Twitter.  All apps that are really big right now are datasets that are hybridized with the rest of world e.g. Flickr, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter etc. Use location lenses to turn data into cool, exciting apps.

The possibilities of real time are exciting. FireEagle has an XMPP API to explore this. Twitter used to do this . There are all kinds of things to think about. What kind of products could be done or made with this data?

Think of privacy as a competitive advantage with such apps. There’s a big difference between Anxiety vs. Reality.  It’s your job to fix both. E.g. some people feel anxious sharing their location data on FireEagle. But this doesn’t make sense as it’s all available via phone books anyway.

Big difference between Personal vs. Private.  This decision belongs to users, it’s not up to you. Using simple, clear language with your users is more important than anything. In general terms, everything is predicated on a new contract with users.

This is the beginning of a golden age of privacy. Privacy shouldn’t be scary to tackle. It should be thought of as an inspiration for new exciting apps. It’s your responsibility to tackle the challenge.