Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a word that many of us have heard but not everybody understands. Google defines it as [to] "obtain (information or input into a particular task or project) by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet." This happens all over the place but one of the most successful examples of crowdsourcing that I have seen is Foursquare.

Up until somewhat recently we all knew Foursquare as that app everybody used to checkin places and let their friends know where they were at. Beyond that it allowed users to provide comments/ratings about the places they checked in. As adoption of the service grew so did their database of locations and even more important, information about those locations.

Recently Foursquare (as we knew it) has spun off into two apps, Foursquare and Swarm. The original checkin app, Foursquare launched in March of 2009 while the new checkin app, Swarm launched in May of 2014. You may be wondering, why the name change, or even more appropriately, what does this have to do with crowdsourcing? The way I see it, Foursquare conducted one of the most successful crowdsourcing experiments by posing as just an app to "check in" and share your location with friends while behind the scenes building an enormous database of detailed information about locations all over the world. I truly believe if they had gone about this in almost any other way it would have failed. The fact that they made it dead simple to create/share locations and provide comments about them was huge, and equally important, they gamified the heck out of it. From their point system to badges to mayorships, they played all their cards right. Anybody notice how nearly all of those things are gone now that they aren't relying on us to seed their database any more?

So now we have two apps, Swarm which is purely for "checking in" (sharing location) and organizing groups for public outings as well as Foursquare which is now one of the most populated and informative directories of public venues. The vast majority of people I followed on Foursquare stopped checking in once the split happened and now all reviews/discovery must be done through the Foursquare app. I can imagine there are numerous business decisions for going this route and I definitely applaud the company for proving that crowdsourcing definitely works and when done correctly it can be immensely effective.

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Timehop

A lot of people ask me why I use certain social media services, namely Four Square and Instagram. While there are several reasons why I use them a really big one that I think most people are unaware of is Timehop. Timehop is a service which connects your various social media accounts and each day it allows you look back and see what you did (essentially what you shared on those platforms) one year, two years, three years and even as far back as five years ago. I look forward to launching the Timehop app each day, seeing what I was talking about in years past and reminiscing about what my wife and I were doing on that day years ago. Timehop has the ability to pull in data from Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr, Instagram and Twitter so you get location data, photos and obviously tweets. Data is presented in an attractive UI and is arranged in chronological order.

Timehop - 1 Year   Timehop - 2 Years   Timehop - 3 Years

Like I mentioned before I use these services for a number of reasons but I can say that the number one reason I use Foursquare is because of the Timehop integration. It's really entertaining to see where I was in years past and what I was up to.

If you use any number of the services that Timehop supports I highly recommend signing up for the (free) service.

Your Password

Your Password
With all of the recent security breaches and the fact that many very large organizations are still using encryption routines that were popular over a decade ago we should all take a step back and look at how we manage our online security. Most people that I talk to have a couple passwords that they just recycle for all of their online accounts. Generally one password for sites they don't care much about and then a slightly stronger one for sites that are more important. While this makes recalling your password incredibly simple it also means that if someone were to crack either one of those passwords they would have access to multiple sites and that is definitely a very bad thing.

How do we solve this problem? You could spend hours trying to memorize dozens of unique passwords or you could let technology do all the work. 1Password is an outstanding utility that not only solves the issue of having to remember unique passwords for different sites but it also takes things a step further and enables you to store other types of (encrypted) information.

How does it work? You setup a master password w/ 1Password which "unlocks" the application and grants you access to the credentials/data that have stored in the application. The application can then sync your (encrypted) database via Dropbox to all of your desktop machines, mobile devices, etc. 1Password also integrates with your browser so when you visit a site that it has credentials stored for you can login to the site with just a couple of clicks.

How does this make things more secure? As I said you only need to remember one single password now so you can have 1Password generate a 20-40 character password for each site/service that you login to. This means all of your sites have unique passwords so that if one gets compromised it can't be used on another and the passwords are so long/complex that they are far less likely to be hacked in a brute force attempt. I spoke with a data security specialist whom I think highly of recently and he said that as far as passwords are concerned, length is far more important than complexity. The beautiful thing about 1Password is that you can have your cake and eat it to because their generated passwords are fairly complex (you can even tweak with how complex you want them) and you get to select the length, everything is in your control.

How do I get things setup? The one and only potential downside to 1Password is the cost of entry. The desktop application is $49.99 (single user license) and the universal iOS app (required for using 1Password on Apple mobile devices) is $14.99. You can try the desktop app (and browser plugins) free for 30 days to make sure that the system works for you but after only 5 days into my trial I realized I couldn't live without it and purchased the desktop and mobile versions of the app.

More than anything after reading this article I hope that people stop for a minute and think about how they are securing their online identity and how they might make improvements to that process. I happen to think that 1Password is the ideal solution for managing this type of secure data but there are many other alternatives out there including the open source KeePass, LastPass, RoboForm, and many others.