Thursday, August 4, 2011

Random Path Crossing with Instapaper

There are few things quite as disappointing as exiting the airport terminal, only to be met with a cab line half a mile long.  It's like when you would go to Disney World and wait forever to get on Pirates of the Caribbean...only in this line your reward is beat up Crown Victoria cab and no catchy songs (though sometimes there may be a pirate)

And when that happens, I usually head straight for the CTA.

Tonight was one of those nights, and as I boarded the train, I navigated myself through the tourists and their luggage to the back of the train car. (And a note to said tourists, do we really need the giant bags in the aisle?  When your bag gets to be the size of a person, just pay for the freaking cab)

But I get to the back of the train and there's a couple sitting in the second to last row.  Behind them is a single seat, which the guy had put his bag on.  I didn't even know the seat was there, as I think it's usually occupied by a crazy and/or homeless person when I'm on the train.

But the guy assumed I wanted the seat, and went and took his bag off so I could sit down.  That was nice of him.

And as I sat down I saw him start playing with his iPhone.  Like just about everyone between the ages of 15 and 35 does on public transportation these days.

I saw him pull up Twitter, and as I watched him scroll through his updates I wondered, who is this random guy who moves bags off chairs for a stranger?

So I looked at his handle, pulled out my own iPhone and booted up my own Twitter account.  Then I looked him up.

It was the founder of Instapaper.

Wait, what???  Instapaper like the app that lets you download articles for later? An app that I downloaded? And he's also a developer behind Tumblr? (Now I actually ended up deleting Instapaper, and I use Blogger instead of Tumblr, but still)

Frankly, it seemed pretty amazing that I was randomly sitting behind this dude who had such an impact in mobile media (with 23k Twitter followers, just a shade ahead of me)

It also got me thinking about what it would be like in a few years, when geo-location on mobile devices becomes much more popular.

foursquare is really only the beginning, and while it's designed to help you let your friends know where you are and what you're doing, it's only a matter of time before we have the ability to know who everyone is wherever we are.

Through a combination of more precise locators (which are probably good enough already), facial recognition technology (which already exists), and the continued erosion of the desire for privacy (dwindling), you could imagine a world where you get on the train.  But instead of everyone just fiddling on their smart phones by themselves, you can pull up a view of everyone on the train with you who has opted into the web.  It might seem crazy, but at some point, people won't think anything of putting that information out there.  It'll just be the way it is.

That makes me feel old, prematurely.

And I should also stop looking at other people's phones, that's not polite.


Consultant Ninja said...

After this brush with some Interesting Person, did you actually strike up a conversation with him?

JC said...

I felt that 'Excuse me, I happened to Twitter-stalk you and notice you were someone interesting' would've been a tough ice breaker

Although if it had been the developer of Pulse or HBO Go, there'd be enough of a fanboy factor that I couldn't keep quiet