A tale of transatlantic tracking

Ia��m sitting in a Sichuan bar in Philadelphia.

This is what I text my friend Hannah, who is in Leeds. Ia��ve just had lunch, shea��s burrowed into work for the evening but is procrastinating, had texted for help in focusing. We chat via text message. And she asks me what I can see, in fact to send her a picture.

So I send this.


We carry on chatting. But a short while later, she drops into the conversation:

By the way, the restaurant you’re in is very aptly named.

Which makes me start. The restaurant is called Han Dynasty, but however apt, how can Hannah know this? I know shea��s good at this kind of thing, one of the very best in fact, but I cana��t see the tell. Ia��m looking at the view from the seat where I took the photo. Are there any menus in view? Is the name of the restaurant in the menu? Or is she just blagging? I quiz her but she wona��t reveal her methods.

So I test her by dropping in the wrong name.

I can’t see anything in the photo that gives away it’s called Hannu.

No response, that was a bit clumsy anyway. And then she asks me what I ordered. I tell her what I ate – mapo tofu, scallion pancake, spicy crispy cucumber – missing out one meaty ingredient as a further test (shea��s vegetarian).

Mapo tofu with minced pork? she asks

You’ve bloody got a menu open…

She denies it, but a little dig back at her about the meaty 4th item in the cold appetisers – rabbit with a chilli peanut sauce – and I know she can see it, which means she knows which restaurant. But how the hell has she worked out Ia��m here? Ia��m wondering about metadata. I ask her where I should walk from here.

Definitely the Independence Seaport Museum. Since it’s only 8mins walk away.A�

She knows my location. There are a number of branches of Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, but she knows Ia��m in the Chestnut Street branch, a short walk from the river. Which means that somehow she knows my location. Ita��s not just the words Han Dynasty somewhere in the photo that I missed.

It must be metadata, I decide. I google a�?geolocation data iPhone photoa�? and I find a page that makes my head spin and want to check my phone settings. But Ia��m pretty sure thata��s how shea��s done it.

Ia��ve walked down Chestnut to a bridge over a highway, and then down towards the river. The museum is on Penn’s Landing.

Shea��s been quiet. I send a picture of my progress.


And she replies.

Sorry battery died. Anyway, therea��s a lovely exhibition about candy at the Seaport Museum. Go get me a souvenir 🙂

I dona��t go into the museum itself, time pressing, but to the shop. No candy to match the contents of the exhibition, but I buy and bag a few small things and start walking back towards town. Shea��s curious as to what I’ve bought her.

I say: Ia��m just relieved you didna��t hack the CCTV.

She replies: Therea��s a boat shop webcam. Sadly cana��t see you. In the boat shop, where they build the boats.

I google for myself and sure enough.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 13.03.39

It’s just a snap a minute or something
If you stayed in front of one of the cams for 2 mins I would see you haha

But Ia��m not sure this is public access. There might be a way though.

I walk back to the museum and approach the man on the gate. He turns out to be the manager, C. I tell him Ia��ve a pretty peculiar request, and I understand if ita��s out of the question, but a friend of mine back in the UK has been texting me, has found the online webcam for the boat shop, and asked me if I can wave to her from it.

He screws up his face to take it all in. Then grins and beckons me to follow. As we go, C explains that he is an Anglophile and a Beatles fan, and has been to England on a pilgrimage to Liverpool.

The boat shop is in the back of the museum. There are several boats in process of construction. C asks the staff where the webcam is and they point to a beam up above. I think Ia��m in shot.

I can see legs!

I check the webcam myself and there are what look like my legs. So I make my way into the middle and carry on chatting to C and the other staff for a few minutes. These are skiffs, made from cedar wood, being built as part of a schools project – how amazing is thata��

And a buzz.

Got ya! Haha best thing ever! How much lady era


Is that for me in that bag?!;)

I check the webcam again. Not my best shot, but it will do. Shea��s tweeted it already.



Five days later Ia��m in Leeds. Ia��d flown back from Philly, gone straight to Bradford for a workshop, and stopped off to see Hannah and hand over her presents, but on condition she reveals her method for pinning me in the Han Dynasty on Chestnut Street. Ia��m ready to bet on the geolocation metadata but Ia��m wrong; what she eventually confesses is to me even more astounding –

– and if you want to take a guess as to how, write me at han@allplayall.net. Right or no, I’ll tell you.

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