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Geolocation is the new tech buzz word of the year - so far
April 5, 2010
by Mark Ollig

In the tech world, new jargon and buzzwords explode onto the scene with regularity.

Lately, Twitter has been asking me if I want to “add my location” whenever I send out messages, or ‘tweets’ to all 183 of my faithful followers.

Twitter has a new Application Programming Interface (API) called a “geotag” available.

Usually ignoring this request, this morning I finally gave up my Orwellian fear and clicked “yes.”

Twitter then continued to test my patience by asking me, “Before Twitter can get your location . . . check 1 to remember this site . . . click 2 to share this location.”

Now, I am thinking to myself if I really want everyone to know where I am. I mean, they already know where my general location is because I have it listed in my public Twitter profile.

I want to find out more about this location thing. Does enabling this show other Twitter folks the exact location of my desk in my office on the exact street where I live to the citizens of Twitterville?

Going further, if I take this into Twilight Zone mode, will Twitter acquire access to some earth orbiting satellite and then triangulate my location and focus one of those NASA space cameras onto my position, through my apartment’s front window, and finally, live-stream (broadcast) my actions in real-time as I type (with proficiency) on my keyboard, drinking my usual dark roast coffee with cream?

You think I am paranoid?

Hey, this could happen because I saw the technology being used in the 1998 movie “Enemy of The State,” which starred one of my favorite actors, Gene Hackman, and the person who ended up being monitored and thus considered an enemy of the state, actor Will Smith.

If you have seen this movie, then you will understand my apprehension over having Twitter (or any other online service) know where my exact location is when I send out messages.

Or, you might be right and I am just paranoid.

Wanting to investigate this further, I clicked on the Twitter “help” link and then typed in the search term, “getting your location.”

“How many other paranoid Twitter users have done this,” I muse, as Twitter shows me the nine search results.

The first search result has the topic of “How to tweet with Your Location,” which tells me “Once you’ve opted-in, you will be able to add your location information to individual Tweets as you compose them on Twitter.com.”

Twitter told me, “This feature is off by default and you will need to opt-in to use it.”

I need to opt-in.

Now, do I really want to opt-in?

What happens then?

Will I be able to opt-out?

Why do I make myself go through these agonizing decisions?

Another Twitter user had added the topic “About the Tweet with Your Location Feature,” which was helpful in explaining and showing Google snapshots of Twitter folks using this location feature.

Under this topic, Twitter explains, “All geolocation information begins as an exact location (latitude and longitude), which is sent from your browser or device. Twitter won’t show any location information unless you’ve opted-in to the feature.”

There it was. Did you catch the new buzzword of the year?

Geolocation.

In the online social-networking circles, “where are you” is becoming one of the most popular trending questions.

When using Twitter, I only know where the originating tweeter (messenger) is located by what they typed into their profile – unless they have opted-in to geolocation.

I see from the Twitter location examples, they are using Google Maps to show the users; or “tweet-sender’s” geolocation.

My fears were somewhat relieved when I learned I controlled if I wanted to send my location with each tweet-message. So if I was tweeting a message at the Minneapolis airport, I could opt-in and allow my location to be seen by my followers.

“Even once you turn ‘Tweet with Your Location’ on, you have additional control over which Tweets (and what type of location information) is shared,” the topic said.

My real-time location on Google Maps is referenced with a red-headed pin marker next to my latest tweet message.

Global Position System (GPS) technology is used in many geolocation applications.

GPS chips are built-into mobile devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Google’s Nexus One. The new Apple iPad also has true GPS – if you buy their 3G model.

Thus, your friends can know where you are.

These mobile devices with the GPS chip built-in, use satellite data to determine your exact position, which online services such as Google Maps can plot.

The GPS works best when one is outside; however, there’s other ways to determine your geolocation.

My iPodtouch ‘maps application’ will show my current location using a Wi-Fi connection.

I am able to find driving routes from my ‘current location’ (which I see right away) when using the maps app.

Your humble columnist has learned another new jargon word for the day.

So, what’s your geolocation, and do you want everyone else knowing it?

You, too, can follow my rants on Twitter. My username there is “bitsandbytes.”