Mashable makes an extremely valid point in the debate about the safety of location-based apps. As you’ve probably heard, there’s a new tool that aggregates public check-ins from location-based apps that users have posted to public places like Twitter and lets you search them by zip code. (I’m not going to link to it or even call it by name. I think it’s completely irresponsible to create something that exposes other people’s vulnerabilities, whether or not you’re claiming to do it for their own good.) My friend Wayne Sutton has a good rundown of the whole issue.
I used to worry a lot more about security and anonymity on the Web. I’ve relaxed a bit, although I still try to use common sense. I’ve stopped accepting Foursquare requests, for instance, from people I don’t know. (For one thing, if I don’t know who you are, why would I care where you are?)
But here’s what it comes down to for me: I was burgled twice in my old house, almost certainly by the same people (they entered the same way, were very tidy, and only took consumer electronics that could be easily sold – I assume they waited until I had replaced everything before coming back a second time). Those people robbed my house because it backed up to the woods, because I didn’t have a back porch light and because there was no one there to see them. Also, I’m sure it was clear I wasn’t home.
In other words, I’m not worried about a crackhead with an iPhone casing me on Foursquare, when the vast majority of the robberies in my town are someone kicking in a door or breaking a window, grabbing a laptop or a DVD player and running. If the typical burglar around here had a device that he could use to check Foursquare or Gowalla, he would have sold it by now.
This morning The Mrs and I took The Boy to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (as I was required to write it when I was a reporter) for the North Carolina Literary Festival. The two of them went to listen to children’s book authors and I went to a panel called “Tweeting: A New Form of Writing.” The panelists were Paul Jones, Mur Lafferty and Wayne Sutton. (Clearly they did not agree on a dress code.)
Over the last year or so I’ve been in a lot of conversations about Twitter, as well as listening to panel discussions and webcasts about it. But to date I had not been to any Twitter discussions where poets ask panelists questions about accessing their unconscious.
It was a different world, and I liked being there.
Those of us who are trying to incorporate social media into marketing communications have to keep reminding ourselves, as Wayne reminded me, that social media is about community and conversation. That can be a hard message to spread through any enterprise that’s more used to delivering “messaging” than making connections.
But forget about marketing for a minute. As Wayne pointed out, tweeting helps you unlock unconscious ways of thinking that make you a more interesting communicator.
You could take that a step further and say social media can make you a more interesting person, if you work at it. The more you care about your audience and the better you understand the medium, the more likely you are to share information in a way that will be compelling, amusing or thought provoking.
Artists talk about developing their craft. That’s equally important if you’re writing a poem, a novel, a tweet or a blog post.
On a side note, it was great to see Wayne on that panel, representing those of us who some in the audience might see as the people ruining Twitter. Wayne is a perfect ambassador for social media in general and social media in the Triangle in particular. It’s inspiring to see someone at the convergence of social media and marketing being publicly recognized for doing it the right way.