Yesterday, Google Maps launched a geolocation feature. When you click on the small blue dot on the upper-left controls, it will try to figure out where you are using Wi-Fi. It’s a pretty darn cool feature. Well, Skyhook‘s been doing that much longer than Google has and definitely has a better product at this point (your Google Map on your iPhone uses Skyhook! Things that make you go hm…). Hold this thought. I’ll return to my point about this in a bit.
This blog is not about Google getting their tentacles into many different markets. (We had that experience and Galen Moore of Mass High Tech quoted me quite well in his article.) That’s definitely a multi-part blog for some other time.
I want to talk more about crowd sourcing vs. tribe sourcing in this blog. I think people have a decent idea of what crowd sourcing is. So, what is tribe sourcing? Tribe sourcing is when you have not everyone involved; much less but focused set of folks doing the sourcing. Crowds can create lots and lots of data, but have many different intensions — their “intension vectors,” if you will, are not aligned, hence creating lots of noise as well. So, in order to gather what you want from this vast amounts of information, you have to filter accordingly. Meaning, make some assumptions, process, and potentially make some guesses as to what that means.
Now, let’s take the example of what I initially mentioned about Google geolocation vs. Skyhook geolocation. Sources say that Google’s geolocation feature is not as good. It turns out that’s because they are crowd sourcing their info. From Wade Roush’s article:
“[Google] quietly gathers local readings every time someone uses a Google app on an iPhone or a Blackberry, or some other mobile device.”
As opposed to Skyhook’s tribe-sourced data:
“Skyhook’s own approach is to send Wi-Fi-sensing vehicles down every highway, street, and alley, methodically establishing the position and strength of every access point they pass.”
Skyhook may have much less quantity of people contributing to their data, but they have a very focused tribe gathering the right data. Their intension vectors are very well aligned in collecting the data in a structured and optimal way for this particular application.
So, which one’s better? It’stoo early to tell but my bias is Skyhook (and has nothing to do with the fact that I know Ted Morgan and folks at Skyhook fairly well). Is tribe sourcing better than crowd sourcing? Vice versa? More specifically, when will Google’s data/product be better than Skyhook’s? I don’t know, but time will tell.
Yet another question: Why combine and do both? Google’s everywhere (including Android) and seemingly has unlimited resources, so they can. I think Skyhook can too. Perhaps the answer lies in somewhere in the balance between the crowd and the tribe.