We’re all starting to track ourselves


We’re releasing a massive and growing amount of information about who we are, where we go, and when. There are hundreds of millions of public checkins already out there, and millions more are being created every day. People think of Foursquare as the leading source, but actually Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google Plus all produce incredible numbers of geo-located checkins, some of many, many more than Foursquare.

This is going to cause big changes in our world. We’ve already taught our computers what we buy and read, now we’re telling them where we spend our real-world lives. Just our presence at a location at a particular time becomes powerful data when it’s combined with all the other people doing the same thing. We’re instrumenting our movements at a very detailed level, and sending them out into the ether. Even more amazingly, we’re adding high-resolution photos and detailed comments to the checkins.

It’s hard to overstate how effective this data can be at solving intractable problems. Economists, sociologists, and epidemiologists would kill to have detailed pictures of the lives we lead at this kind of scale. There will be applications we haven’t even thought of too, connecting us with people we should be talking to, introducing us to new experiences, all sorts of feedback that will change how we live.

It’s a scary new world to contemplate too of course, which is why I keep blogging about what I’m up to. Recently I’ve been working with my team at Jetpac analyzing billions of photos from all sorts of social sources, to help both tourists and locals figure out where to go and what to do. I want to share an internal tool we use to explore the data, a map interface to the checkins that people have shared publicly. If you want to get a concrete feel for how our world’s changing, check it out:


It’s still an experimental tool so apologies for any bugs, but I hope you find this glimpse of the mountain of public data we’re all creating as fascinating as I do! You can find all of the individual photos and other checkins out there on the public web, but seeing them accumulated together in one place still blows my mind.

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