Last November, our nation voted. Foursquare developed a very cool interactive graphic (thanks to the constantly fabulous work of JESS3) that offered a real-time look at Foursquare check-ins at polling stations across the country throughout the day.
I know this was months ago, but I can't stop thinking about its implications for reading.
I screengrabbed the site throughout the day, sure that by November 3rd I'd have a brilliant solution for how something like the Foursquare social voting site could lead naturally into a real-time view of what people are reading all over the country. You'll notice it's February 2nd and I'm no closer to a big fancy answer.
I know we have lots of book sales data. There are devices that can share this data as well as what-we're-reading-in-the-moment data (and do), there are online reading communities like Goodreads that help us connect with others reading the same books we're reading. Heck, I bet Goodreads could make some gorgeously trussed up JESS3 maps with all the data they have about who is reading what at any given moment. I know all of this. I use all of this (sporadically, I'll confess) and I'm still thinking about the Foursquare election day map.
Yes, I'm a geolocation geek so there's a heavy bias on geocoded data being part of my personal social reading equation. Yet I think as bookstores close all over the world, our chances to talk about books in person are dwindling. While technology has enabled us to share more in droves, we aren't necessarily sharing more with our local reading communities and our local literary communities are vital to protect. I'm convinced (crazily or not) that this Foursquare map holds a partial key to local reading.
Today you can check-in to your local coffee shop and see the faces of everyone who has already checked-in. You can click on their avatars, you can see more information including Facebook and Twitter streams and much more if individuals have decided to share that information. Guess what I'd like to know? What they're reading.
I know, I know. There are privacy factors galore to consider. I've been through hours of readers' rights keynotes and many conferences on privacy as it relates to this kind of data. As sticky as these issues are (rightly so), they are mere molehills to scale compared to the massive challenge of getting all this data from thousands of devices and services in a standardized format that's useable. I get it - huge hurdles, very little perceivable upside. The revenue generation on anything like this is not obvious unless it's ad based and I hate ad based revenue models for a gazillion reasons. I also have no roadmap for the implications on hyper-local reading communities vs. global views of the same data and how each might be valuable for different audiences -- local coffee shop reading vs. student school reading with "pen pals" on the other side of the world. All of these are business decisions and I'm still in the dreaming phase.
So, like I said. No big fancy answers yet. But there's something here that inspires me and damned if I'm not going to figure it out.