[2009-04-02: This is a very old post, but I like to keep it around as a benchmark about what trends were perceivable in 2003 and realized today]
I’ve been thinking of wireless portals for a while and I have an idea. I could try to implement the solution myself, but rather than keep quiet until I have it done (or not done), I’d rather share the idea now in case others can do it more easily.
IN A NUTSHELL
We should work wireless authentication services into standard open-source portals (PostNuke, myPHPNuke, etc.). We should make it easy for Bloggers and Content Managers to host wireless portals themselves. Here are some features:
- It’d be an integrated site with at least two faces: local (to the wireless user) and global (to the Internet surfer).
- It would provide the local user the ability to send back the user’s location to the web (like to the person’s blog or through an IM client).
- It’d host specialized local content (an Intranet).
- It’d have all the cool gadgets and gizmos portals now do (karma points, discussion boards, etc).
- It’d motivate people to come to the local network and reward them for doing so.
- It’d serve as an Internet LAMP-post (more on that below)
It seems that a wireless portal can provide a nexus point between “Local” and “Global”. First, like all web sites, it’s a point in cyberspace and a point in physical space. Unlike other websites, we have a local network behind us, and we want to get people onto that network. Once they’re on our network, the system can provide them with local services.
A place that operates on both locally (Intranet) and globally (Internet) and lets the users from both spheres interact. For the most part the user sees the site as unified. The difference is the user’s relation to the site.
For either user type, the site provides a portal of area information: places to go, phone numbers, maps and directions.
When the user is local, the site recognizes them as a wireless user (through their IP address) and associates the MAC address to the account (if acceptable). From there, we can provide both specialized services.
Localization Services: “I’m online–HERE.”
If a person logs in at the access point, you could send that information out to the web, for example back to a blogger’s home page. “I am online at Bryant Park.” Of course, this service is something the user opts into. But I think City bloggers would love it.
We can attract users to the hotspot with local content. For example, if the user is local, you could stream to them a walking tour of the park. For the global user, you could disable the stream but advertise that if she comes to the park, they’ll be able to hear it and take the tour for free.
If you ever needed to get information from someone at a particular place at a particular time, this can get you in touch with your man on the street. This is good for public events.
Other standard portal stuff
By this I mean:
- Karma Points
- Discussion Boards
- Anything else those people come up with on their own
This is a lot of work, not from the Wireless or the technical side. It’s a big deal for someone to moderate and maintain such a website.
Unfortunately, what network admin wants to moderate one highly social website, let alone a dozen?
The people who excel at maintaining web communities are not necessarily the same folks who set up the networks.
We should integrate wi-fi and multi-network handling into portal software so we extend what Content Managers do and let them spread wifi themselves.
From the standard NYCwireless point-of-view, the answer seems to me: get up a LAMP-post.
What’s a LAMP-post? Well, the platform is Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP (LAMP), and it’s a portal that will take posts. More importantly, a LAMP-post is a physical fixture in the community. It’s there. People gather can meet at the LAMP-post. If it’s got connectivity (a phone), someone not at the lamp-post can talk to someone who is.
This is the recipe I see from the technical side:
- Set up a Debian box with three NICS and the usual three-port router configuration (wireless network, private network, and Internet connection)
- Set up the LAMP-post on the same box or behind it. That’s A Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP configuration with a broadly used, actively developed open-source portal on top (PostNuke, PHPnuke, MyPHPNuke, etc.)
- Install NoCatAuth (to do authentication) to drop users on your portal homepage
- Work to enhance the portal software to recognize and categorize users by their IP address (local, global) rather than just registered and non-registered like they do now.
P.S. The LAMP-post thing is a bald attempt at coinage. You can call the thing a hotspot if you want. I just think the lamppost metaphor works better.