Last night I rode my wife's bike through North East Portland, Oregon and my new favorite iPhone app purred in my pocket with push notifications each time I passed through a new little neighborhood. "King is a neighborhood bounded by MLK and the river..." it whispered (in text). "Vernon is a traditionally working class neighborhood now subject to gentrification," (like nerds biking through it and freaking out about iPhone push notifications, presumably) it told me.
Wherever I go, whatever I do, if you or I have the mobile app from Geoloqi running and the new Wikipedia layer turned on, we'll receive push notifications whenever we are in the physical proximity of a place or a thing that has been written about in Wikipedia, the world's largest and richest encyclopedia. Now we will know about the neighborhoods we're in, the buildings we're in front of, the landmarks we visit: beyond old fashioned information placards, but with the infinite knowledge of the Internet. If that's not a Super Power, I don't know what is.
Editor's note: This story is part of a series we call Redux, where we're re-publishing some of our best posts of 2011. As we look back at the year - and ahead to what next year holds - we think these are the stories that deserve a second glance. It's not just a best-of list, it's also a collection of posts that examine the fundamental issues that continue to shape the Web. We hope you enjoy reading them again and we look forward to bringing you more Web products and trends analysis in 2012. Happy holidays from Team ReadWriteWeb!
I should confess: apparently it was my idea. Hah! Portland, Oregon geolocation startup Geoloqi announced today that it has turned on a layer of location data for Wikipedia, enabling users to opt-in to geofenced push notifications for geo-coded encyclopedia entries. The geo-enriched data was acquired from data startup Infochimps and co-founder Amber Case mentioned in the blog post announcing the new feature that it came from conversations the company and I had in its early days. Awesome! I'm sure they would have thought of it otherwise, of course, it's a pretty obvious idea I think.
Below: I will walk a finite but unknown number of steps on the earth before I die. I appreciate an app that offers to help me understand the places I take those steps, as I take them and with the help of knowledge accumulated from other mortal beings unknown to me and all around the world. Except in this case I was biking, Instagramming, Twitter DMing and being Geoloqied all at the same time.
All I have really ever wanted from the Internet is something like this. It is a robot that gently taps my shoulder whenever I am in the presence of a place or a thing for which there is an invisible story written in the sky, collaboratively nurtured by editors all over the world for years, that I can pull down into the illuminated device in my hand.
I can't wait for even more layers to be added to Geoloqi. Hopefully the company will make it easy for anyone to publish datasets to the platform and there will be enough interest that I'll be able to switch on layers of locations of ceramists' studios open to the public and places significant to the history of artisan cheese. Or whatever. You name it.
Rose colored glasses? Give me glasses (no don't, actually, and no brain implant) or give me a mobile app that lets me unobtrusively see slices of reality otherwise invisible but already associated by place with wherever I am. If there are infinite ways of describing a place, then each of those descriptions could be turned into data, associated with other related descriptions and opened up as a new dimension in which to experience standing on earth and freaking out. If flipping between those dimensions is as easy as sliding a mobile app's button from on to off, well then I think we've found a fitting tribute to the ancient salmon that died in the hydroelectric dams used to power all this stuff. (Not really, but I dare you to come up with a better one available yet.)
Speaking of power, Geoloqi says that the next step will be to fix its still troubled relationship with your phone's juice. Persistent location tracking is hard work on that little battery but the company thinks it's come up with a good technology solution for optimization. Case said today in her blog post that the solution would be implemented soon and made available to developers of other apps struggling with the problem.
Now go forth into the world and see it annotated with the shared knowledge of everyone who has contributed to Wikipedia. I am so excited about it!