I was partially responsible for choosing Gowalla as the Texas Social Media Award winner for 2010. While I am happy to support Gowalla and use it myself, I feel compelled to drop a little vitamin C in the geolocation Kool-Aid to make sure people are okay.
I’ve had some not so pleasant experiences with someone who felt compelled to tell me that I couldn’t block him from certain circles of my life, even though they were circles he didn’t know. When I’d tweet that people should go to an event, he’d friend everyone involved. He was basically trying to be everywhere I was both online and off and it was very scary. I’ve mentioned this to other people who are avid social media users and some of them have actually been targeted as well. It is not fun and it makes you think you are going totally crazy.
Here’s the scoop: it doesn’t matter if you think you aren’t going to be stalked. By accepting friend requests from people who you don’t know in any way shape or form, you are jeopardizing yourself along with all of your friends. Why? Imagine I hang out with Person A a lot. Person A befriends Person Q who just so happens to be someone who makes me feel generally unsafe or uncomfortable. Person Q can generally assume that they can hang around along the peripheral of Person A and eventually, I’m going to show up. Thanks a lot, Person A. You’ve just put me in harm’s way because you like the idea of having a million friends on FourSquare. That sucks.
Or, say I check in to all my local spots on Gowalla. I have fairly consistent patterns. If I tweet where I am at, it goes into a public timeline which Person Q can easily see. Person Q can figure out my routines and intercept me this way. That is why I do not care how friendly you are. If I can’t track you in person, I will not friend you. Even if I’m met you once or whatever. I don’t care if I lose out on a few serendipitous meetings.
I’m not saying Scoble is like this by any stretch, but I just felt that someone should bring these points up. Someone shouldn’t have to die for us to figure out that posting your location to total strangers is not a good idea. Geolocation is cool, but don’t use it without putting some thought behind it.