free html hit counter A Funny Coincidence, or a Glimpse of the Future? - John Battelle's Search Blog

A Funny Coincidence, or a Glimpse of the Future?

By - April 15, 2011

I took a ride today, and it was gorgeous as usual. That’s not my story, but it’s certainly a part of it.

As I rode I used the AllSports GPS app on my iphone to track my progress (guys, if you’re reading, your upload is busted).

I knew I’d be able to see the whole ride on Google Maps later, which is cool. It also tracks stuff like distance, vertical, speed, etc. Tons of fun.

So that’s one signal tracking me all along the way, kicking off tons of data as I went. Some of it I was capturing. Some of it, I’d warrant, was being captured by the app. And, if that app has a deal with Google or others for advertising, some of that data, I’d wager, is going to Google as well. I know this. Not sure most folks do, but they will. More on that in another post.

As I rode, I checked into a couple of trails I was on: Indian Fire, and Eldridge. In fact, I put Eldridge on the map of Foursquare, odd, but I knew it wasn’t on there as I tried to check in before but didn’t follow through on Foursquare’s request that I add the spot.

This time I did. Another app has some of my data now. I’m happy to give it to them, in fact.

After about 45 minutes of good up, I found myself at this vista and sent it to Tumblr:

battelle 2:3 up Eldridge NorthEast Over Bon Tempe et al.jpg

A happy place to be sure. I think I captioned it Beeeeeuuuuttiieee or something. This is the view looking Northeast, two-thirds up the Eldridge trail on Mt. Tamalpais. Oh, and a third app now has my data.

Of course, the iPhone also has all that data, and more. And AT&T has its fair share to boot.

We peaked (checked in natch), ripped on down, took more pics, including a video, and I got home to my new video/music/think out loud room. And I put the map and the pictures and the video up on the big screen, and played a bit of Muppets doing Dance Yourself Clean because, well, it was Friday after all.

My buddy left, and I went in to get something. I came back to check mail, and brought up my browser. Now, my home page is this site, and what do I see at the top of the site, in the ads which at this point had reverted to Google AdSense?

Well, I saw this image:

GoogleMap Ad looks like Tam.png

Well I’ll be, I say to myself. That looks a lot like where I just was! And this was a Google Maps ad. Holy CRAP! Did Google get some of that data and, in near real time, show me an ad with MY PICTURE IN IT?

Funny thing was, I wasn’t creeped out. In fact, I was thrilled….I love that place, and there it was at the top of my site!

Now there’s much to say about this, but OF COURSE I CLICKED ON THAT BAD BOY.

Here’s what I got:

Screen shot 2011-04-15 at 6.37.40 PM.png

The thrill was palpable – was I looking at a Northeast view from two-thirds up Eldridge? Wow! Now that’s conversational media!

Well, no. I was looking at a beautiful vista in Ireland, in fact. Clearly the ad folks at Google thought it was a good shot to use. Packaged goods media.

It was all a coincidence.

But it sure as hell got me thinking.

Why *isn’t* there a way to take all that data, and more, and make experiences that work for all of us? I wrote about this in the “Rise of Metaservices.” I want me some, now. And not just so Google can serve me the perfect ad. The world is so much bigger than that (but if that pays for that world, I’m cool with it, as long as I have a dashboard which gives me control).

More to come.

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11 thoughts on “A Funny Coincidence, or a Glimpse of the Future?

  1. Harry says:


    As you recall, the article that I worked on with you at Wired about the future of advertising nearly had this scenario; in that article there was imagine of a person’s home with fighting dragons rendered around the home.. Clearly not so far in the future based on your Google Map Experience today..

    Other ideas from the 1993 NYU Thesis included advertisers paying for your media consumption which Lincoln is doing now at the NY Times.

    Covered in the article (and my thesis) was the idea that users could select ads that they see on TV; that of course is already happening on Hulu as well.

    Interesting times indeed…


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  3. jack880 says:

    Fantastic i havent tried this application till now but heard about it before and its features about tracking all our all sports activities like biking,cycling etc. And your experience really made a huge impact onmy mind to look further about using it.

  4. Aaron says:

    John, I know this comment doesn’t relate to the bottom line of your post, but…….sometimes you’ve gotta put that darn phone down and enjoy the ride! It’s therapeutic. Good mentally and physically.

    That’s a beautiful photo — much more lush & green than my trails here in the Colorado Rockies.

    (apologies for my tangent)

  5. unusual says:

    Covered in the article (and my thesis) was the idea that users could select ads that they see on TV; that of course is already happening on Hulu as well

  6. Seo says:

    I don’t know about you, but don’t you just love big brother watching!

  7. aslis says:

    i havent tried this application till now but heard about it before and its features about tracking all our all sports activities like biking,cycling etc.

  8. Kevin Dugan says:

    John: In some of my presentations I note that in the book 1984 we were worried that one entity would know about our every movement and thoughts. Today we willingly give this info out to multiple sites/companies — myself included.

    If your home page pic HAD been the one you uploaded moments earlier, it could have gone one of two ways:

    1) You were glad Google, and the balance of the sites you signed up for and handed info to, had read your privacy settings as you selected them to increase the relevancy of your ads served vs. the sometimes comical and ham-fisted Google adword attempts at relevancy.

    2) You were outraged because you didn’t know your settings were set to default to this setting. All of the socially inclined sites are in a seemingly constant state of iteration. So it’s understandable to a small degree when these sites do a bad job of informing the average user about how changes like the one we are discussing are unveiled and how they work.

    If these companies/sites communicated some of these options more clearly, they’d avoid looking all 1984 in nature. Facebook seems to be the most frequent antagonist in our story. But some of this issue can be attributed to the feelings of self-entitlement users get towards free sites like Facebook. But that is another comment/another post altogether.


  9. Harry says:

    unusual.. you quoted part of my comment but didn’t add anything.. was wondering what you wanted to say?

  10. Throw away the lead funnel or general relevance based on demographic and start thinking about immediate experience relevancy and buyer life-cycle.

    I Think we may start seeing the tie-in of physical, online, and social activities (and buying patterns) to create a laser focused relevance of what you want – now, right now… Interesting that Walmart pays a reported $300M for Kosmix to help drive the expansion of @WalmartLabs. I’m thinking the real value in this acquisition is Kosmix’s Categorization Platform and their large taxonomy and filtering abilities… Think that may be a new pickup line – “My, What a large taxonomy you have…”

    I can foresee, and not too far off, where you use your favorite store’s club card to purchase Gatoraid, post a photo of your mountain bike, check-in at the park, and/or blog, tweet or post a note on how great the ride and view is – Then for the next few hours you receive offers and ads relevant to that experience in a timeframe that would drive you to action.

    I’d opt in for that.

  11. Brad Jobs says:

    I don’t know but I am sensing something fishy about this. But your photo and the other photo is really similar but it is not that actual photo you have taken. well, I think.