Where’s Roo? I’m living declaratively

I recently signed up to the Plazes location tracking service, and since I’m traveling between New York, Danbury, Somers, and Southbury all week, it’s been interesting trying it out. I understand the Dodgeball service (recently acquired by Google) is even more popular here in NY, but it’s currently giving me a 502 Server Error, so I can’t try that at the moment.

Plazes would be an example of “Myware” (as termed by Seth Goldstein, via Fred Wilson). James Governor calls it declarative living, and has a lens on Squidoo entitled ‘A Guide to Declarative Living‘.

I’m getting quite into sharing my life’s metadata, and allowing myself and others to make use of the data which describes what I am getting up to. I blog of course, which itself leads to interesting links and tags which can all be mined to see what I’m thinking about. I also have a Last.fm account, a Flickr photostream, my bookmarks on del.icio.us, my career and contacts on LinkedIn, and more I’ve already forgotten about.

So yes, you can now stalk me pretty comprehensively online if you like. In return, I get to discover interesting things (including wireless hotspots and nearby friends) whenever I land in a new city. I’m never short of new listening or reading material, I never have the frustration of losing a bookmark. The upside of sharing my photos is that the only time I see glossy dead tree photos is at family events; I absorb my friends snapshots into my day at my pace, and they form the basis for online conversations.

I’ve been saying for a while that Attention is the next big thing on the web. Perhaps it will be a wider movement of declarative living, with increasingly effortless tools and services making it easy to share, and take advantage of, metadata about ourselves.

13 replies on “Where’s Roo? I’m living declaratively”

  1. Thanks Andy. I really should have linked to both of those posts since they form an important part of the background to my mini declaration. Thanks for filling in the gap.

    Dodgeball is back online. It’s metropolitan rather than (inter)national, but it’s an SMS-based stalking service, as Dima (who introduced me to it yesterday) described it. :-)

    You might like Squidoo I think. James Governor mentioned it back in early 06 in relation to professional “tag gardening” (and incidently, I think the time he first mentioned ‘Declarative Living’ was as an aside in that post).

  2. Declarative living sounds like a buzzword with no implementation so far. Just publishing data about you and your preferences doesn’t amount to anything that needs a new term.

    As I would define it, declarative living would come when the published data is used by algorithms you’ve never heard of and have no awareness of to solve your problems without you even asking them to.

    An absolute prerequisite for this is for all of the data about you to be accessible, not just to the site on which you store it, but to everyone everywhere. Your data must be linked, so algorithms can discover the ways your preferences interact, and non proprietary.

    In a world where people live declaratively, everyone announces their preferences and many agents try to solve their part of the global optimization problem of making everyone on earth maximally happy.

    As part of me preparing for declarative living, I want to publish here that I prefer to have control over the information about me, and I like to make the decisions that control my life. So, when the happyifying agents read this, they’ll know to at least give me the impression that the things they do to make me happy have been decided on and executed by me, imperatively.

  3. its a term for something that is clearly already happening. there are plenty of examples and roo even points to some above. in order to satisfy your need for access anywhere we’re moving to what i call the synchronised web. you have to be able to access your own data regardless of the services you use… we’re currently noodling with the idea of a microformat for online RFPs…. to try and put some declarative living and tag gardining into action. would be crawled and aggegated – potentially do it using existing engines like technorati.com. and so on.

  4. I actually see both your points of view. There’s not a complete implementation, but it’s something that’s already happening to some extent. Things like Attention.XML will probably become increasingly interesting over the next couple of years.

  5. I can see that it’s already happening to some extent. I like the concept and where it leads me.

    What particularly appeals to me is the subversive element, the implication that aggregation beyond the immediate system you are using is taking place without you knowing for a purpose that moves the world toward your preferences by a process you are unaware of.

    For example, a friend uses the flickr system for the benefits it gives him, reliable storage, easy sharing, but I aggregate this information into my rss reader, so whenever he takes a picture I know where he is in the world, what he’s doing and this informs the times I contact him, and the topics we discuss. All this happens without him even being aware that the information he puts into flickr is being used subversively to tell me his location and interests.

    So, I keep following the concept further, and imagine a world where subtle timing differences in traffic flow miles away, and reconfigured paths through buildings ensure that you never meet anyone you don’t find fascinating. I imagine a world where a problem you’re struggling with is solved by a stranger in the same lift as you, who gives you inspiration with a stray comment on the art work displayed in the lift. All these things carefully orchestrated by he invisible optimiser. I imagine a world where serendipity is the norm. I imagine a world where the global optimisation problem of world happiness is solved every day by millions of sleepless agents. Serengents.

    The imperative style is the style of micromanagement, it’s what you do when you don’t trust your agents. You give them exactly the data they need in the form they need it, and tell them what to do with it. In human organisations, when you trust your subordinates, you stop micromanaging – you describe yourself, the things you like, and your agent works out how to please you.

    As we trust our software more and more, we’ll be able to let it leave behind the soft food of prepared data for the adult food of disparate data, and we’ll trust it to make life better for us without us evening knowing it’s doing it.

  6. Hi Roo,
    It’s been a few months since you posted originally – can I ask whether you’re still using this service?

    In a world where it seems that there is often concern over invaision of privacy with any mention of a indenity cards in the UK causing outcry, that Declarative Living is taking off.

    One question – what does it give you as a person? How does it enrich your life or aid you? I fully appreciate the desire to try out new things – I’m much the same.

  7. Hi Matthew

    Yes, I’m still using Plazes (though less so since an ‘up’grade which removed some features which have not yet been re-implemented). Since writing this post, I’ve joined Twitter, OnXiam, Dopplr, Facebook, Pownce, and probably more. In fact, I’m living increasingly declaratively.

    What value do I get from sharing all of this info? I’ll give just one example. I got on a train from Southampton to Waterloo, and Twittered the fact that I was on the train. It turned out that Rob was also on his way in (for a different meeting) and we ended up meeting up for lunch. I would never have sent a text message to everyone in my phonebook on the off-chance that one of them would be in the same place at the same time, but Twitter made it very easy to broadcast my location to my friends and anyone who cared, and without it I would probably have missed that opportunity.

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