Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tech Column: Where in the World Is That Picture From?

by Bill Adler

I was going to write about something useful this week -- you know, like how to prevent your computer from crashing or how to sell your laptop for more than you paid. But then by chance I found out about a geography-related Internet activity, which reminded me that technology is at its best when it is used for fun.

Enter Rando, http://rando.ustwo.se/. Available on Android and iOS, Rando is simple and addictive. You take a photo and that photo is sent to somebody at random somewhere in the world. After you send a photo, you receive a random photo. The photos are marked with the location of where it was taken, but there's no other identifying information included in your photo. Rando is safely anonymous.

When your photo's been received, you get a message telling you that somebody in Seoul, Korea or Cartagena, Columbia received your photo (two destinations that have viewed my recent photos) or that your photo has been delivered to some destination unknown.

You do get weird, unexpected pictures, varying wildly in both quality and content. I was sent a picture of somebody's cat from Dublin, Ireland, a picture of what looks like people chilling in an apartment in Tel Aviv, and a photo of what's on television in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I've also received pictures of people's feet and kitchen appliances.

Rando is the opposite of social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr because you have no idea who sent you the picture. You'll never know from whom that picture came, and the people who get your photos will never know who you are. You won't be judged and you won't be able to "like" or comment on a photo. Photos are gifts to strangers that come with no strings attached.

There's mystery behind every photo you receive, send, and anticipate sending. What kind of person sent that photo of a train station? What kind of restaurant was that dinner photo taken at? What will the person who receives the photo I just took of a traffic jam in Washington, DC think? You never know and you never will.

But once you start receiving photos it's hard to stop sending them. You want to see what arrives next. Okay, gotta go. I just received a photo from the Czech Republic that I want to look at.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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