Tag Archives: twitter

My Dream: Merging LBS, Intent, and Real-Time info with my Calendar

Last night, I was driving home from my sister’s place in the east bay, and after checking Google Maps and seeing all green roads (i.e. no traffic), I decided to take 880/Bay Bridge to get back to SF.  Little did I know it was green because there was no traffic on the bridge (due to the closure).  Had I known beforehand, I would have saved a full hour.  In a moment of tragic comedy (okay, it was not that bad, but good thing I had company), Caltrans decided to alert me after I passed the traffic-filled toll plaza on the San Mateo Bridge that the “Bay Bridge is closed, seek alt route.”  Thanks.

I’m not alone when I say I’m often running late to lunches and social gatherings.  Or oftentimes I get delayed when I need to travel out of the office for a meeting.  The one thing that’s constant in all these situations – my phone.  My mobile device always knows where I am.  My calendar always knows where I should be.  Why can’t these two merge?

Now, I know this is difficult on the iPhone since there are no background apps, making it difficult to keep updating location (though some folks have found workarounds) .  But on Android, this should be relatively easy.  With the proliferation of LBS, my phone knows where I am at all times.  It could tell, for example, that if it’s 8:45 AM and I am more than 15 miles away (or there’s traffic) from my 9 AM calendar appointment location, that I will be late.  It could then send a text/email to the other attendees (or at least the organizer).  Little late to dinner?  Perhaps an integration to OpenTable.  Flight late, meaning I can work later?  An integration to TripIt would be help.  Yes, many folks have admins to help with this, but it really should be automated.  Last night, my phone clearly could have known I was heading home to SF via the Bay Bridge, and alerted me of the closure (the news was all over Twitter, which I unfortunately did not check before leaving).

None of this is ground-breaking, or extremely tough to do.  Google is probably best positioned to do this, but perhaps there’s a startup already hard at work (I hope so).  I’m looking forward to the day when all these services are combined and I can comfortably know I’m being alerted.  In the meantime, good luck to Caltrans on the repairs, and all commuters who usually take the Bay Bridge daily.

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Definition of Pandemic

At this point we have all heard about the swine flu that’s starting to emerge around the world.  However, one label that has been thrown around without much thought is “pandemic”.   It’s an interesting development in our Twitter world where the signal to noise ratio has increased by orders of magnitude, and we tend to sensationalize and exaggerate (it’s like the old telephone game, except multiplied).  Information spreads, and it’s hard to know what’s accurate, but people continue to spread it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, but if one were to go search twitter for any variation of swine flu, they would be terribly misguided and most likely freaked out.  Anyways, here’s the WHO definition for an influenza pandemic:

An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness. With the increase in global transport, as well as urbanization and overcrowded conditions, epidemics due the new influenza virus are likely to quickly take hold around the world.

Fortunately, we have not reached this stage yet (last count 20 official deaths according to the CDC, 149 according to Mexican officials, though it’s unclear why there’s such a large discrepancy).  It’s important that we keep some perspective.  Here’s a helpful illustration by WHO that gives some clarity as to where this rates:

My question is this – if we did not have tools like Twitter and Facebook, would the flu news spread like it did?  And if not, would that necessarily be a bad thing?  Or is it a good thing that we all know?  On one side, folks are probably doing things like washing their hands that they should always be doing.  The counter-argument is that misguided information often leads to normal folks to become hypochondriacs and burdening our health care system with unnecessary visits.

I love the way twitter has spread the flow of information, but in my opinion, there’s a a big problem with how we  separate the wheat from the chaff, and I think that if a startup can attack accordingly, there’s a huge opportunity.

UPDATE:  Just saw an extremely relevant XKCD cartoon, which would be funnier if not so true.