I've commented before about my love/hate relationship with Twitter. Actually love/hate isn't really correct, because those are both powerful emotions. My feelings about Twitter have been much closer to apathy. I simply do not have the need to know what a bunch of other people are doing/thinking at the moment. Nor do I feel an overwhelming need to give people constant small sound bites about my life. It can be interesting in small doses, but I very quickly lose interest. I have a blog for putting the occasional thoughts out there I want to share. Those that are interested can come check it out once in awhile. However there is a new social networking tool out there now, and its called BrightKite.
Brightkite is similar to Twitter in some ways. It is a simple little web/sms app that lets you post short notes either via a web interface, email, or sms from your phone. The big difference is that Brightkite has geographical and place based elements. You can add placemarks in Brightkite, locations you visit. You can check in and out of these places, and you can post comments and pictures to these places. The cool part of this is the ability to then check and see who else may be in the area, others that have visited the place you are at, and comments other visitors have made.
To me this is really fascinating technology. Scary in its way since I have a healthy amount of paranoia about our loss of privacy and the impact of technology on it. So why would I willing broadcast what I worry about the government or someone else obtaining against my will? For one, the government probably already has it. I carry a cell phone and sometimes a GPS, I'm sure I leave electronic trace of my passing if someone wanted to go to the trouble of finding them. Brightkite is of course voluntary. I have to actively transmit the info, so if I don't want people knowing where I am, it is as simple as not checking in.
I'm just really impressed by the way people are finding to use the technology to communicate and interact. If I was seventeen this would be the most awesome thing ever, a way to meet people and immerse myself in the local tech savvy community. As it is, I still think it is pretty cool, though I'm more just in love with the concept than I am enamored with using it.
Even so I discovered a couple of people where I work are using this, and I can also see that there are people in nearby buildings. There is a feature that lets you see people within a preset distance (up to 4000 meters - 2.5 miles). So wherever you happen to check in, you can find out if there are other Brightkite users close by. You can also control who can view your info, so if you don't like the idea of total strangers stalking you, you can limit how accurate of information is available to you. This does limit its use as the ultimate stalker tool, but only a bit.
Like wise, when you are in an area you can find restaurants, bars, and other destinations close by that other Brightkite users have marked and commented on. All just by using sms on your phone (or a combination of sms/email if you are a Verizon Customer since they won't play nice with Brightkite at the moment).
I'm still exploring this app and its uses. So far I see it has lots of potential. Especially if you live in an urban area with a lot of friends jacked in most of the time. It has lots of uses for the less social and trend setting as well though.
Currently Brightkite is still in Beta. You can request an account at the website, but who knows how long it will take to receive it. I still have a few invites, if you want one just leave a comment with a valid email address (which isn't publicly displayed) and I can send you one.