Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Populus Nos Fides

You're probably asking what the hell this title means. In case you failed Latin back in high school, it means "in people we trust." The reason I chose this title is that I've read a lot of posts/articles recently talking about the risks of location-based services (a topic that is near and dear to my heart). And while I feel that there are absolutely risks with letting people know your location on a regular basis 1) the rewards outweigh the risks AND 2) that people are inherently good. As my friend, Michelle Greer, would argue, it only takes one bad apple. But still...

This past Friday, I had a chance to reaffirm what I already believed when I participated in my friend, Jim Storer's, annual Island Pond Road Rally. Jim has been doing this all day race for 19 years now and the essence of the race is for 8-10 teams (usually 3-5 people per team) to get from a starting point in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire up to Jim's family place in northern Vermont. The race takes about 12 hours and along the way, each team must collect items and pictures of places. The way Jim sets up the race, it requires A LOT of interaction with folks who you wouldn't ordinarily come into contact with. Some of these folks are store owners who are used to dealing with people/tourists on a regular basis. Many are not but rather are ordinary people.

Shannon, our faithful navigator

Scooch and his dopplerganger

Team Shuckri in a strangers pool

Liz Phillips posing at a barbershop with curlers in her hair

What's amazing about this race is how helpful and genuinely giving most of the people are that we encounter along the race. And when I tell you that there are certain items like convincing someone to shave off their beard, allowing your team swim in their swimming pool while they take a picture or hanging upside down in a tree with you, this takes a higher level of faith (or craziness) than just giving directions or posing for a picture.

Tying this all back to the world of social and location-based services... I've mostly found that my positive interactions with people in the real world are not mutually exclusive to the online connections that I've made over the last several years. What's different is that at least in the offline world, I can look someone in the eyes (or vice versa) and interpret their body language. In the online world, your taking a leap of faith. On the upside, you can find out a heck of a lot about a person via Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can also hit the "un-follow" or "un-friend" button if someone decides to abuse your newfound friendship.

I know this concept is nothing earth shattering... but it's how I feel. And while I may be alone in my beliefs, it's gotten me through nearly 42 years of my life. As a result, I've lived a good life and have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people. How 'bout you?

Photos courtesy Shannon DiGregorio (one of my friends and fellow road rallyers)


  1. Jim's Island Pond Rally sounds like so much fun! And just as importantly, I really like how you've contrasted the importance of the physical check-ins/ interactions contrasted to the virtual world most of us live in.

  2. Warren - thanks for your comment. Much appreciated! As for the, Road Rally really is a blast. Maybe if you can coordinate dropping your girls off at camp some summer, you can join us!

  3. I think it's more about being smart about what you do online and remembering that you can control who sees and what they see. I think the more inherent threat happens to those that just don't "get it" and / or those to young to undstand the importance of being smart online. But, yes, to your point, I too find people are good and I love so many of the friendships I've started online that many of them are now offline as much as on.

  4. Aaron - Great words and what a fun event! I agree with your thoughts on privacy concerns. If "bad" people know I'm on vacation are they more likely to break into my house? Sure! Well guess what....I'm gone most days from 8-5pm and I don't need to check-in to tell them that. Instead of being "scared" about the privacy concerns, I'm rather excited about targeted Ads that marketers will hopefully be sending my way with the increased adoption of these LBS offerings.

    Oh, and if people have a problem with tools like Facebook Places - they can stop sending in their subscription check. Oh wait....

  5. Kim - bingo!
    Dave - it was a fun event. Such a good reminder of the fact that people are inherently good (and helpful). And yes, you are right. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that most people are not at their house from 8-5. The good and bad of Facebook is that it does give extremely granular control over privacy settings -- but it's too confusing for many people to get down into the weeds and really figure it out. But I think people will get there. To your point about more targeted ads, I'm all for that. I hate ads in general but if I have to see them (and I know I do), then I'd prefer that they be relevant.

  6. OK, NOW I get why you were watching Cannonball Run a week or two back...

    So did you go with the Ambulance as your car Aaron? ;)

  7. Darin - yes, more a propos than people realized. ;) As for the vehicle, we went with the tank.