IDEA BLOG: Webcams in Gyms, Stores, and Local Businesses to Check for Crowds

Quick admin note:
“IDEA BLOG” is my new post type for random thoughts, ideas, and musings. If anyone has any suggestions for a better name for these posts, please give me a shout.


I am super picky about going to the gym when it is too crowded. I hate it. I like to keep my workouts quick and efficient…no waiting. barely any resting. heart-rate up. in and out. done.

But, of course, it’s January and everyone and their mother seems to have joined my local gym in some annual New Year’s resolution ritual. So, the gym has been pretty packed as of late. The other day, I got back from a particularly annoying crowded workout and I turned to Linds and said, “I wish the gym had a webcam up in the workout areas and put a feed on their website so I could check the crowd situation.” That’d be pretty rad, right?

Given some of the sour faces I see when people are waiting for machines, I know I can’t be the only one annoyed by the crowds at the gym. And why stop with the gym…what about grocery stores? Anyone who has spent time at Trader Joe’s in New York could probably relate. So why can’t I just log on to a website to see how crowded it is?

It seems like it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to get this up and running for most gyms and local businesses. Most of them have some kind of website, and most have some kind of cameras already up for security purposes. I think the key questions are 1) how to scale it 2) privacy issues of patrons and 3) whether or not the business actually WANTS potential customers to see how crowded it is. That last one is key, but I could see this being a crowd-pleaser (no pun intended) and, therefore, a business pleaser too.

I think I may be onto something here. Thoughts?

Twitterizing Facebook: Some Suggestions for Better Interactivity

I have been digging into Twitter a bit as of late (micro-blogging is all the rage!). Although it’s been around for a while now, it seems like it has really caught on in the last few months.  Unlike other social media applications/services (MySpace, Facebook), Twitter allows for some cool interactivity and utilizes some interesting coding to connect users and topics (here’s a Twitter primer for the uninitiated)

I recently connected my Facebook page with my Twitter account so that all my tweets automatically get posted as status updates on Facebook.  But one thing I have noticed is that within the Facebook context, lots of my Twitter updates don’t make a lot of sense. This is mainly because I often use some of the extra coding and markings that work only with the Twitter application. For example, users can highlight certain topics by adding  hashtags (the # symbol) to words (like #finalfour). This allows for all posts with those hashtags to be grouped together and searched (i.e. if you’re tweeting about the super bowl, it’d be #superbowl). Another really useful tag is the @ symbol, which allows you to tag and respond to another user by writing @username (for me @whitperson).  These are key interactive features that have made Twitter such a popular social media tool.

After watching the way that integrating my Facebook book account with my Twitter feed has worked, I have been thinking that Facebook really needs to add some similar features to further extend Facebook’s interactive quality and, in a sense, to compete with the popularity of Twitter. Both features above (the hash tags for topics and the @name of friends), could really be useful within the Facebook context. For example, the @name feature could be useful if you want to call out a friend by name and have that update show up on their profile. I actually tried to do this in a recent status update, as I wanted to give a shout-out to some friends who have turned me on to music and musicians that I now love. I posted an update as a  “musical discovery shout out” to my friend Dave, but he had no idea that I tagged him becuase it didn’t automatically show up in his profile. On Twitter I would have tagged him as @DaveSmith and he would have seen that on his feed and have been able to respond immediately. That kind of interaction seems to be exactly the kind of thing Facebook would want to encourage.

The #hashtag topics feature could also be very useful in discussing topics amongst your network of friends. For example, if you have a bunch of friends that are really into a certain TV show, they could easily post updates with a hash tag for the TV show, allowing for an ongoing and  open discussion of the show with all your Facebook friends.

Given some recent updates to the Facebook profile pages, it’s clear that Zuckerberg and crew are taking a serious look at Twitter’s popularity and understanding that Facebook needs to continue to innovate and adapt. They recently made some changes to give Facebook a more real-time, immediate type of interactivity, but I’d think if they were going to take some cues from Twitter, they’d find ways to emulate some of Twitter’s best interactive features. These seem to be two obvious candidates, and with the ever-expanding largesse of Facebook, adding features like these could have some resounding affects throughout the worldwide FB network.