Stalking doesn’t have to be all bad. If you stalk yourself by recording everything you do, you can notice trends, improve your habits, see how you compare to your friends and the general public, and potentially get recommendations for things that people like you have done or liked. And web services combined with mobile phones offer pretty comprehensive opportunities for self-stalking these days.
A service called Strings, which launched today, is trying to find and collect all the different ways you can track yourself online — your purchases on Amazon, Zappos and other e-commerce sites; your watching on YouTube, Hulu and Netflix; your listening on iTunes; your check-ins on Foursquare. The service is not about socializing and sharing that information, like the Twitter-for-credit-cards Blippy, but about privately harnessing it. It aggregates all that different preference data to build a better picture of things and places you like. The problem with stalking yourself on the Internet is it’s potentially an invitation to other people to do the same — but Strings of course is promising to keep your data safe.
An analogy for Strings is perhaps people who engage in The Quantified Self practice, where they log their lives for health purposes. But Strings has the added — and perhaps paradoxical — twist that it will identify people like you within its system, as anonymously as possible or when you add them as contacts, in order to recommend new content and products to you. That’s its business model: taking an affiliate cut from new things you buy because you found them on Strings. Unlike many web startups, Strings is not advertising-driven, and it’s not asking users to pay, either; it’s trying to live off of e-commerce.
Strings CEO Edward Balassanian described his service during a recent interview as “the flip of FriendFeed: I decide who sees my stuff” (whereas FriendFeed provides a service for other users to aggregate their friends’ public online presences). There’s also a Strings desktop app, a browser extension and an iPhone app (doesn’t look like it’s available yet) to better share your behavior as it happens. Two-year-old Strings is self-funded and has 15 employees. A video explainer is embedded below.
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