XKCD on the Future Self

latitude xkcd

This morning’s XKCD, Latitude, spells out one of the reasons people will be weary of setting up continuous location trackers: the future self. The future self forgets that they are sharing their location and then act as if no one knows where they are going. In this case Megan’s friend tracks her stops at a sex shop, toy store, hardware store and finally the burn ward, telling a pretty clear story of a mistranslated kama sutra (ahem).

The name Latitude comes from the recent Google service that will share your location with your network (or publicly). However, it could have just as easily been called Loopt, Brightkite, Fire Eagle or any number of other location-updating services. I am personally looking forward to these services becoming ubiquitous so that I can track my location and aspects of my life, but as they currently stand these services are not poised for mainstream adoption. They need to do more to prevent people from embarrassing or endangering themselves.

One location-sharing service that takes a more constrained role is Glympse. It allows you to share your location on an ad hoc basis with specific people for a specific amount of time. Check-in services like FourSquare (or Dodgeball) let you specify when you self-locate as you wish. These are half-measures and don’t meet everyone’s needs, but they provide important steps in the right direction.

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  • Anonymous


  • That’s hilarious Brady!

    I think the location announce services are defintiely the way to satisify the casual user update your friends.

    When I’m on my boat, it would be useful fun geeky to be able to share my route taken. I have different SW for this where I can publish it later. I’ve also recently stumbled upon but not used this: http://www.mapmytracks.com/ (no iPhone yet)

    I coudl also see a need for fleet / tenager tracking where something like putting a gPhone in the vehicle would be useful.

  • rick

    Isn’t there another option Brady? That location services remain a niche and never are widely adopted? I can see how useful they are for some folks, but many people go to work, come home… myabe move around at work, go out to lunch, offsite meetings with a client. They go out to dinner. ON the weekends the hike, sail, whatever. Aside from the subset of people who travel a lot I’m not sure I see a usecase for ubiquitous location services. Between things like Dopplr that let people see if you’ll be in their city and the ability to Tweet/IM your location manually, I think most people will look at things like Latitude and think to themselves “Why would I want that??”

  • As far as “weary/wary”: I don’t know, given the number of different services for this with (as far as I know) no easy way to interoperate between them, “weary” may be appropriate after setting up accounts at all of them…

  • bowerbird

    you forgot the tool-tip. very not with it.


  • ix

    i see the tooltip trip at 3:30 pm

  • bowerbird

    that’s not randall’s tool-tip.

    (although, to be fair, his was
    one of his most unfunny ever.
    but still, it’s the principle of it.)


  • Not a Geek Girl

    Fewer sex jokes, please — or more Ruby content. I’m confused if this is supposed to be “professional”.

  • N7TCF

    A Mesa, Arizona business owner was burgalarized when he Twittered his vacation plans. Arizona Republic ran the story this week.

  • Bbird, I know I seen that – it was hilarious!

  • @Bbird – Thanks. I had forgotten the tooltip. Updated.

    @peaboy – To me this cartoon sums up people’s fears about using this new technology — they’ll forget that it’s on. When people ask why they would ever want it on, I think that your boating example is a great reason to point to. Thanks!

    @N7TCF – I haven’t heard that story, but it certainly seems like it could happen. Alerting people you don’t know to your movements/future location can be dangerous (or embarassing as illustrated by XKCD).

  • @Not A Geek Girl – I don’t find this to be a sexist cartoon or sentiment. What is described could happen to anyone of either sex. Instead I think that this cartoon captures people’s fears about this type of technology.