Run Tracking Application Lockin

I posted my running update for Juneathon day 22 earlier today, and one of the things I have been doing is adding a short note about something that happened on this day in history – today in 1990 Checkpoint Charlie was dismantled in Berlin…

The <strong>Berlin Wall</strong> was a barrier that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was erected to protect its population from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany. In practice, the Wall served to prevent massive emigration and defection.

The reason for a bit more elaboration on ‘this day in history’, and in fact a separate post, is that it brings to mind a similar protectionist mentality in run tracking applications.

Many companies are closely guarding the run tracking data you submit / upload because they want to lock you in to their platform (often while they look for a way to monetise their applications). Yes they generally do provide  the ability to export your tracked activity to GPX or CSV format, but only on an activity by activity basis – unrealistic when you have hundreds of activities logged (for example I have 400+ in Runkeeper at the moment).

Of course this ‘vendor lock-in’ strategy happens everywhere – your espresso machine uses only that vendors ‘pods’, your mobile/cell phone used to utilise it’s own vendors chargers only (thankfully we seem to be standardizing on microUSB now that the market has matured).

We, the users, and the vendors of these applications need to standardize on a common format and allow bulk import and export of that data – maybe it’s a bigger scope than just exercise / runs, maybe it’s personal ‘health’ (non medical) data, maybe it includes equipment tracking – running shoes, bikes etc. – who knows, but we need a standard.

Many of the tracking vendors have an API these days, and they’ll point to that as the ability to move platforms or cite it as them providing standards – but the terms of use can be quite limiting. It’s a mind-set thing that the vendors have to get over – if you want people to stay in your ‘tribe’ and use your application then simply make it the best application out there. If you fall down on features, engagement, support or whatever then users will leave – making their ability to leave painful only serves to make their resolve to leave stronger – and, at the end of the day, it’s software, at some point someone will provide an answer.

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