The annotated world

Tweet: A view of our annotated world: Hyperlocal is what’s around me and how I search that

There are eight million stories in the naked city and soon every one of them will be available on your phone through visual, aural, and geographic search and augmented reality in our newly annotated world.

Every address, every building, every business has a story to tell. Visualize your world that way: Look at a restaurant and think about all the data that already swirls around it — its menu, its reviews and ratings and tags (descriptive words), its recipes, its ingredients, its suppliers (and how far away they are, if you care about that sort of thing), its reservation openings, who has been there (according to social applications), who do we know who has been there, its health-department reports, its credit-card data (in aggregate, of course), pictures of its interior, pictures of its food, its wine list, the history of the location, its decibel rating, its news…

And then think how we can annotate that with our own reviews, ratings, photos, videos, social-app check-ins and relationships, news, discussion, calendar entries, orders…. The same can be said of objects, brands — and people.

Thinking about Google’s synchronicity made me turn search on its head in my head. Rather than having to query a data base — how aughties that is – we will be able to point our phone — or whatever we call it — at anyone, anything, or anyone and get its story or ask about it or tell our own story about it. The challenge — which Google, among others, is attacking — is to organize all that annotation around the place, thing, or person.

Local news organizations — if they were truly local — should want to do the same thing: organizing a community’s information so the community can organize itself. I call that, too, journalism. They are losing that opportunity to Google and Yelp (which this weekend was to be part of Google and then was not) and Foursquare — or at least they are losing the opportunity to work with and exploit what those companies are building, the next view of local. That’s the real definition of hyperlocal: what’s happening around me right now.

Witness these videos (via the Digital Strategy Blog [in German]):

About places:

And where you are:

And people:

And (from me): things and the communities that exist around them:

This is the new way I want to look at search: not to search a data base but to search my world, to see what is around me in new ways because I can.

  • A good synthesis of what’s unfolding before us. I appreciate your insight!

  • Ferdy Wilson

    You applaud the ability to surreptitiously point a device at a complete stranger and quietly download information about that individual that’s none of your fucking business?

    Honestly, Jar-Jar, I think part of the reason you embrace the technology so much is you figure you’re so old you won’t live long enough to see how shitty the future you encourage is going to be. Why not just leave all your money to Skynet?

    • You can use a name and find that information online. You can find a picture online and get that information. You can take a picture today and get facial recognition. There’s very little difference here, except your emotion and attitude.

      • Ferdy Wilson

        Whatever, dude. It’s your fucked world. You can have it.

        • What an incisive, intelligent remark that adds so much to the conversation. I am enriched forever and so grateful for it, Ferdy.

        • Ferdy Wilson

          You’re welcome, Jeff. Merry Christmas to you and all the other willing dupes doing the Google frug in your Candy Land of hand-in-hand transparency.

  • Ferdy Wilson

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I must engage my flesh-and-bone counterparts in hearty verbal interaction while you spend the rest of your evening observing your family as algorithms.

    • I pity your flesh-and-bone counterparts because you must be a real joy to be with.

      All that urine and wormwood, uh, piss and vinegar to you, flavoring your comments.

      Algorithms implies coding. This is not about that at all. Its about mediating reality by placing a transparent layer of publicly available information in range of your consciousness. You can use however much of it you want. Its YOUR decision.

      You can face any situation with a little confidence because you are presented with a minimum of information instead of having to having to face any situation with trepidation brought on by sheer ignorance.

      I must surmise you to be an unemployed customer representative who followed a flow chart to guide his interactions with the public. (I can imagine I hear you say lots of crap, most of it making you seem stupider than you might be, because you have no recourse an no representation apart from the moniker Ferdy.)

      Good luck with life Ferdinand. See how far luck alone gets you.

      As Pasteur said: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” (I found the attribution by Googling it. [I don’t kid myself that I thought of it in a vacuum.])

      Mediated reality is a way of preparing your mind,

  • Chris S

    The only thing that worries me about the open nature of the web is the soapbox some people acquire. I am frankly nervous of people like Ferdy. Columbine springs to mind. The new information age is bringing a polarisation never seen before I my view. Ferdy has a Luddite view that he is entitled to, but the venom is needless.

  • MTBMaven

    Ferdy Wilson = Toll

    Merry Christmas!

  • Jeff,

    Matt Jones (BERG) has some great insight on this topic. You should check out his slides:

    There is also a video of this talk:

    There are a lot of links for follow ups in his slides (I’ve created a Wave with all the relevant links), but that one is the most interesting one:

    Those guys are approaching this topic from a more theoretical approach, but there are some great ideas in there and their designer insights are very important and helpful.

    • Igor,
      Incredible links. THanks so much. j

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  • That kind of mediated reality means that our interaction with our environment can be so much more “mindful”.

    You won’t be regretting going past some store that sell something you need, if only you could remember to go there. It’ll be your decision.

    You won’t be regretting not talking to someone or other because you can’t remember their name. It’ll be your decision.

    You won’t be regretting getting lost, or not going somewhere because you haven’t been there before and are worried about getting lost. It’ll be your decision.

    You won’t be regretting paying too much because you couldn’t comparison shop. It’ll be your decision.


    And Ferdy, imagine, you could walk past people and be able to hurt them by knowing something personal, something related to their fears or insecurities instead of spewing ignorant twaddle that people can easily ignore and makes you seem stupid.

    You can “chose to lose” by being a Luddite, but that the ONLY decision you can ever make. All of life blind-sides you for the rest.

    You will go to your grave being a bitter, dissatisfied human being. (I’m surprised you’re even using one of these new fanged cam-pewters. [Must be because you’re avoiding work.])

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  • Everyone’s jumping on Ferdy because he’s coming across like a dick, but buried under his belligerent attitude I think there are some valid concerns.

    I’m not sure they’re exactly privacy concerns, because yes we’re just talking about publicly available information that you can get on your desktop computer before you leave the house. But it does change the game if you can get it in real time as you are face to face with another person — or, perhaps, three paces behind her.

    There could be serious unforeseen consequences of the very exciting stuff Jeff is talking about here. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about this stuff, or that we should try to keep the genie in the bottle. But I don’t think we should dismiss anyone who has concerns about the consequences as a Luddite either.

  • Rick V.

    >You won’t be regretting not talking to someone or other because you can’t remember their name. It’ll be your decision.

    Yes, because holding a cell phone up to someone’s face, waiting for the facial recognition app to do its work, and then saying “Hey, Bob, so great to see you!” will take all the sting out of that awkward social situation.

    I think all the “annotated world” efforts are fascinating and a logical next step. But you don’t have to be Philip K. Dick to imagine that “people annotation” is an area that is fraught with potential for misuse and someplace we want to tread carefully, if at all.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Yes, because holding a cell phone up to someone’s face, waiting for the facial recognition app to do its work, and then saying “Hey, Bob, so great to see you!” will take all the sting out of that awkward social situation.

      That’s Version 2.0. Version 1.0 was an assistant whispering Bob’s name and some relevant information into your ear as he walked up.

      What? You didn’t have Version 1.0? The rich and powerful did, for thousands of years.

      Version 3.0 will use a camera that you wear.

      • Rick V.

        Definitely the greatest thing since the “Hello, My Name Is” sticker.

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  • Jeff:

    Was just listening to your TWIG conversation from 12 December. Your mention of Yuri Milner’s comment about anticipating needs reminded me of the cruise ship piece by DF Wallace.

    .pdf here:

    When I consider Leo’s desire to have an earpiece/GoogleGoggles setup which whispers information into his ear, I imagine a future where people go through life filtering everything through the Internet.

    Even today I see young people walking across campus with their eyes glued to cellphones, so a future where most experience is first filtered through the Internet doesn’t seem far-fetched.

    I want Google to “succeed,” and that means that they can’t put themselves into a position where, as hot sauce became “Tobasco,” the Internet becomes “Google.”

    They shouldn’t become the sole mediator of experience, and they shouldn’t want that, either.

    Which means, I think, that they need to think about how they would structure a break-up into different independent entities, and then they should follow through on that blueprint.

    We can only assume that, absent their doing that, the government will do it for them.

    I do think that the current Google culture is very much one where “do no evil” is the guiding principle. But that might change. Which is all the more reason to their antitrust planning now.

    Google may well be in a unique position to create a structure whereby there is competition to mediate our experience through the Internet. I think that they have an obligation to create that structure.

    Experts from many fields should be be allowed to contribute to the planning debate over how we might get to that goal. This is very much about what’s best for everybody, and so many views should be represented.

    You should have a voice in that discussion.

    Thank you very much, Jeff, for devoting so much time and effort to thinking intelligently about Google.


  • Great post, isn’t it wonderful that the internet that once was thought of as something that would suspend real social contact – is actually driving it through encouraging us to reach out to local resources.

  • cm

    Mobile augmented reality is nothing new. Amongst others, the HITLab, a few miles from here has been doing mobile augmented reality for at least ten years.

  • Matt

    Change is really hard for many people and fear is the only way they know how to respond.

    It’s only a matter of time before this augmented reality becomes fully integrated with the user. The phone is a really inefficient intermediary and I expect the first public implants to begin within the decade.

    • Rick V.

      You’re saying that fear is not a reasonable response to a sentence that contains the phrase “public implants”?

  • Ferdy’s rudeness not withstanding, there are privacy concerns with this “brave new annotated world.” In my dreams there would be a day when regulation or at least ethical practice would allow individuals some control over the availability of their personal information, especially when that information is associated with time and place. We call it stalking when ex-spouses collect that kind of presumed private information. No reason we should give corporations to exploit that information without informed consent.

    More likely than a regulatory solution, I bet there will be a market for preserving privacy. Whether its agents that report the information the net has on you, browser plug ins like CustomizeGoogle, or something more exotic, there will be more of these kind of tools created in response to hyper local annotation.

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  • Hi Jeff,
    I have read your book. Thanks for ideas!

  • With Google predicting that they’ll develop an experimental open-platform search engine this year …

    — see item #8 at

    … local news sites/portals might be able to collaborate with Google or utilize their search findings to create an annotated, tagged, user-voted database of local news that’s far richer than what global Google can do.

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  • Being a blog writer myself, I really appreciate the time you took in wriitng this article. I am currently reading it on my Blackberry and will scan it once I get home.

  • I like your style, the fact that your site is a little bit different makes it so interesting, I get fed up of seeing same-old-same-old all of the time. I’ve just stumbled this page for you :-D

  • Hey man. Sending this from a Mobile. thanks! very helpful post!! like the template btw ;)

  • Peter

    Reading this I couldn’t help but recall your opposition to annotation of another kind – web annotation (see: SideWiki)

    You seem happy for users to be able to take control and create conversations and annotations and to actually augment their view of physical places in the real world on their own terms and entirely in-context, yet you shirk from giving them same power to users online – the power to augment/enhance their view and their peers view of webpages in-line, in-context.

    Why is that? What’s the difference? The technology you celebrate here is in concept exactly the same as that which you deride in the online space. If one day I can take a camera, throw it up against a store for example, and see a view of it as filtered through my peers, with messages adorning the walls as left by my peers, this is conceptually no different to throwing a browser against a webpage and having my view of it filtered and augmented by my friends. Afterall, as much as my camera’s rendering of a physical space is individual to me, my browser’s rendering of a page is also individual to me. The benefits to the user in terms of empowerment and ease of engagement are the same, the risks to the ‘place holders’ are the same, the in-context-ness is the same.


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