Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A winner with Vodafone Live Guy

Today i spent more than a few hours hunting for @vodafoneliveguy - you can see my twitter feed on the day at http://twitter.com/weblivz. This is a treasure hunt style contest where you need to find the vodafone live guy who is constantly moving throughout the city. It is a really nice idea, something i read about a while back in SmartMobs. You need to follow his updates via GPS, blog, twitter and more and try and guess where he is.

It was more than just winning the laptop i was interested in. I wanted to participate in something like this - as well as livestream it as much as possible, armed with a PDA, a laptop with some web access and my feet (i wasn't in a car, nor considered paying for taxi's to travel around).

The Morning
At 9.10 AM after dropping my son off at school, i got the train into Glasgow and the game started. I was pretty determined to find him - but i wanted to see how i would use technology to do so.

I went to Queens Street and immediately headed to Bothwell Street tracing the path from the old Herald offices opposite Livingstone Tower at Strathclyde Univeristy. I went to Bothwell Street and after looking around, figured he had went into the centre of town. So then i checked into Borders to fire up the laptop and check his map.... it said he was in Bothwell Street, but much further up. So back i headed and outside central approached a rather worried looking chap dressed in red and put my hand out to shake it. Perhaps he was a tourist thinking were were always thing friendly, but nevertheless he just kind of looked at me as I realized this was not my man. I felt pretty stupid, but onwards i went.

I was then at Bothwell Street and despite me being roughly where he was for about 15 minutes before anyone else turned up (i could tell the instant a challenger arrived, just outside Weatherspoons on Bothwell Street) and despite the picture of the car park, i just couldn't locate him.

I tried to think of where he could head... the Clyde was my thought - a fairly major part of Glasgow. So i walked down that way, only to discover he had been found. Fek... and i think it was the guy who ran past me who found him (i'd love to hear that story too!).

I was beaten but not out and the day was young. I recorded a video on my mobile where i talk about the fact he started at Colville Building of Strathclyde University (which is where the Headquarters are in detective series Taggart) and how he was at the Livingstone Tower, named after David Livingstone.

The Afternoon
As i sat in St Enoch (suggested by my wife), i read that he was at the Sas Raddison and spent 15 mins there before realizing i was never going to find him. I then read he had to moved into MY backyard - the West End! On the underground to Hillhead - guessing he would go to Glasgow University and the Hunterian Museum, only to find he was going to Kelvingrove.

So i walked pretty quickly to the museum and figured i'd go in the back way and surprise him. But as i went round the corner, what do i see? A big red jacket and a bunch of people around him. I approached to congratulate the winner(s) only to find none of them knew the phrase. I immediately said "You're the LiveGuy and I'm a Vodafone Winner" and sure enough, the prize was mine.

It turns out Jon Sykes, a lecturer at Glasgow Caladonian University had taxied two lots of students to Kelvingrove, but none of them knew the crucial phrase. So i was either lucky, or had studied harder! Put it this way, it wasn't exactly Maradona handball in the box - more like that second goal ;)

I had a nice chat with liveguy and friend for a while telling them of my day and the close misses and they went their way and i went mine. I recorded a video just after i had spoken with them.

I then went into the BeanScene cafe opposite the Galleries and relaxed for an hour or so, checked from mail, read some papers.

There's More
I do some work for Conscia and sometimes use their desks. Now, yesterday i had told them of the game and figured they had just ignored me - especially as i had heard nothing from any of them all day. Well, turns out they had been keeping tabs on the live guy.

I walked into the office and said "Yes, I won" only to be told, "Yes, so did Chris". Now, i assumed this to be a wind up, but it turns out that @vodafoneliveguy had left his GPS on and he made his way into town and stopped around the corner from the offices. About 10 of them apparently ran out in various directions and the first guy (Mark) didn't know the phrase either - "Can I have the laptop please" is apparently what he said. In fact the one that did (Chris) had made a call back to someone else (Dominic) in the office who told him what it was.

To end it, one of the guys (Jim) had went to the bank which is nearby where this all happened and came out only to see much of this going on. He had been there the whole time and despite HIM being the one i initially told AND HIM being the one that reminded everyone else this morning after i had told them yesterday, he had temporarily let his guard down. Otherwise he would be a happy owner of a new laptop.

Update: Apparently Mark had an iPhone with GPS tracking on it and could literally watch them drive into town, stop and emerge from the offices they had been in - with lots of people following him as they knew this! The only problem was he didn't know the winning phrase and Chris jumped in (ouch!).

What a mad day. Feet are sore, but happy that i won a laptop and even happier that i was part of all this, especially as by the time it hits London he's need to wear a disguise.

So i guess the moral to all of this is that social networking works - but only when you know a bit about the detail. Deeplinking is cool even in a social sense so long as you read what's at the end of that link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OpenID "Friend" based Attributes

Something i have been thinking about in line with some recent discussion on the OpenID mailing lists has been techniques to verify someone's identity and the attributes that are associated with it.

My initial thoughts comes up with the following:

In this case, the longer you use your OpenID, the more people will come to know it is associated with you. I’d be interested in how we could explicitly extend this concept to support a distributed reputation system where you can attach OpenID Reputation points which are assigned from other sites. These could even be broken down into types of reputation. The longer and more you use it the more reputation points. Even sending an email that isn’t spam etc via Gmail or Windows Live could “increment” your reputation score (like pagerank, but for OpenID).

Friend Verification
Slightly more explicit and extension of the above whereby friends can verify things you write down about yourself so that others can trust them more. John says he works at Google Inc and Brian has verified this etc.

Central Validation
Shibboleth model and probably needed for institutions who perhaps verify things such as “Yes, this is definitely Dr. Livingstone” etc.

More thinking
However, i can't think of a reason why OpenID AX couldn't support attributes from third parties that are signed and stored with the OpenID. This way an institution could be given a users OpenID, make statements about them and return the signed statements/attributes which can then be stored anywhere with that users OpenID profile.

Someone who wants to get those attributes can easily check via the insituions publically available key that thse attributes have not been altered in any way.

Extending this you could have a plethora of OpenID attribute information that is both unverified and strongly verified.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

OpenSearch and JSON

In the limited spare time that i seem to have these days, one of the things i've been looking at is OpenSearch, "... a collection of simple formats for the sharing of search results".

OpenSearch is slowing gaining lots of traction and each of the major browsers now allow you to add an OpenSearch to your toolbar automatically (although the User Experience certainly needs work!).

In my current consultancy work for the NHS I was asked to extend the search API I wrote some months back which works against FAST, and enable any third party site to ended some script in their site and make Ajax style queries. Last week I wrote this functionality (which returns custom Xml and Json) and sure enough it works great.

However, I like open stuff because it makes it easy for others to pick up and run and so after I added OpenSearch support via the usual description file and tested this with Internet Explorer et al and it worked, i decided to look at whether i could use OpenSearch as the actual syndication format.

Now, if this all ran on the same domain there would be no problem in pulling back Atom or RSS and formatting it for display. But in a cross domain architecture you can't do this due to Same Origin Policy. So, using JSON-P we can enable OpenSearch queries over the wire.

To do that however, we need to have an OpenSearch format for JSON - in my case i simply took the Atom format as a starting point and mapped much of that and added in the OpenSearch elements and attributes.

So now you can take a few lines of code, add it to any page in the world and make an OpenSearch query using the template Uri and get an OpenSearch response which can be parsed and dislayed.

Early days but if it's useful to no-one else on the planet, it is useful to me :)

If interested, please try it out here. It queries over 100 million records so you will get results no matter what you type in, but the formats and data mappings are still being worked out.

PS. Would be *very* nice if we could query the OpenSearch discovery endpoint and ask for JSON to be returned. That way we could dynamically build all of the front end stuff that i can't do with the existing reponse (it returns an OpenSearch specific content type which is not trusted by browsers).