As people share ever-increasing amounts of information online, are we heading to a future of data overload? Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of popular location-sharing app Foursquare, said there’s no stopping the data flood — but that doesn’t mean users have to drown in it.
Selvadurai was speaking at a panel today at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin. VentureBeat’s Owen Thomas, who was moderating, complained that he’s constantly bombarded by notifications from all his different mobile social apps, as friends check in to locations, share photos, and so on. Owen wondered: Is this only going to get worse?
“Technology makes it very easy to capture this data, so we build apps to capture this data,” Selvadurai said. That’s not going to change anytime soon, he added — technology is only going to make more of this data available over time. “The next step is to build better interfaces and better algorithms to filter that data.”
In other words, we may continue to see a flood of mobile apps, but they’re going to have to work harder to help users find social information that’s actually relevant to them, rather than feeding them every update from every friend.
Later, Owen asked about a particular kind of information: Constant, “passive” data about a user’s location. Will we get to a point where users just turn on Foursquare or some other app and it will tell their friends where they are all the time, no check-in required? Selvadurai sounded skeptical. He noted that there are different layers of data available about someone’s location and that the data only becomes useful when you move up several of those layers. In a constant sharing system, users would probably broadcast their GPS coordinates, which aren’t that interesting to most of their friends. Even a bare-bones address isn’t that interesting.
The really valuable information comes when you tie your location to a concrete place — say Salon F at the Austin Hilton, where the panel was held. Selvadurai acknowledged that sharing passive location data might be useful alongside check ins, but it’s not a replacement.