Posts tagged #FourSquare

Facebook Places - Miles To Go Before I Checkin

I have to tell you that I thought this technology (Facebook Places) was going to crush the "checkin" landscape. No I think it's a big pain in the ass. There's a ton of 'cover your ass' screens I felt like I was going to get porn at the end. I understand that the process will streamline itself and that Facebook at least didn't put a bullet in their eye by doing a private roll-out *COUGH-COUGH!* Google Wave *COUGH-COUGH!* So with that said let's just wait and see. But a few things to note on the screen process below:

  1. The oh-so-helpful error screen to start
  2. Followed by the fact that it can't find my office that I check into every day
  3. "Ask Them First" -- Really. LOL.
  4. "Learn More" on the fourth screen – intuitive fail
  5. And the reward is it gets posted to my Facebook – wait, didn't Foursquare already do this?

Look, I'm not player hating, just pointing out some pot-holes that I'm sure will be smooth out in time. There's a lot of thinking right now and sadly you can't make people think in the usability world.

Addendum: This also goes to great lengths to tell me how important the 'game play' aspect of FourSquare and Gowalla is. The anticipation of points and badges, beyond simply telling the world where you are is a key factor for Facebook Places to become a success. There's simply too much "checkin fatigue" here to make this a viable part of my social graph.

"Facebook Places" – It's Not Your Big Brother – IT IS BIG BROTHER

Tonight Facebook released "Facebook Places" there shoe-horn into the location (proximity) based landscape. This should come as no surprise as Foursquare, GoWalla, Yelp and others have been clawing each others eyes out to make hay while the sun shines. Well the suns officially eclipsed by the 500-million pound gorilla called "Facebook."

I don't have a defined opinion pro or con on the service but to say that Facebook clearly sees that this is a defined part of digital social communication and therefore we should all be paying attention. And while many of us have been singing the praises of location based marketing long before now this will assuredly make your physical location a major kernel in the fabric within your social graph. But without a doubt Facebook already has profiled me better than the FBI could (if they're not already collecting all our data from Facebook); having this next level of granularity is about as close as you'll come to 'being me' short of mounting a camera on my forehead. That's in next years roll-out I'm sure.

Below you will find all the elements I could aggregate tonight from various news sites and first hand accounts of the release.

Facebook Places is a checkin service that’s quite similar to Foursquare or Gowalla on the surface — it allows you to checkin to places. What differentiates it is its tagging features, which allow you to tag friends that are with you at a location. There is also a focus on Facebook Place Pages, which house the checkin history of a given place on the web.

Facebook says it is adding Places merely to enrich the social experience it already provides. The company says its users already post status messages that say things like: “at Starbucks in Harvard Square with Susan and Jeff.” Now, they can tap a new Places icon in the Facebook app on their iPhones and do this more easily, complete with a map. “We’re just building a new way for people to share that information in an engaging way,” says one Facebook official.

• Initially, the service will only be available as an iPhone app or through a special web site - which the company says works really nice on Android and other smartphones.

• You can “tag” friends that are with you at a specific location. Thus, everybody doesn’t have to check-in on their own.

• Facebook is partnering with Foursquare and Gowalla, two already-popular location-based social networks that also allow users to "check in."

• Places lets you see your friends and other Facebook members (even if they’re not your friends), who are nearby, a feature called “People Here Now.”

• You also have the choice to turn off the ability for friends to check you in at Places. Go to your Privacy Settings and turn off the setting to "Let Friends Check Me In."

• Facebook included tagging and the ability to check friends in as well, with strict privacy controls. Users can opt out if they wish, both from tagging and checking in.

• Integration is simple: every time you check-in, you can share it with your Facebook friends, Twitter, or just to your Yelp friends. It publishes a photo of the business as well as some info about it on your wall.

• Facebook appears to be asking users to opt-in as opposed to forcing them to opt out, which is what spurred controversy with the instant personalization feature.

• I-Phone only with Android and other platforms to roll out ASAP.

• Fourquare also has turned off some potential users with a big overlay of game-like features, like earning points and badges for visiting places, and even the ability to become the “mayor” of, say, a bar you frequent.

• You may want to share your check-in information with third-party applications that build interesting experiences around location, such as travel planning. Applications you use must receive your permission before getting this information.

The Future of FourSquare

I'm not going to bore you with 'FourSquare 101' as I'm beginning to understand that a number of my readers are well adept to the industry and are actually for more from me. FourSquare, being the front-runner with Gowalla and Facebook quick on its heels, currently has the industry lead. But geo-located checkins are the name of the game and everyone wants a piece of the action.

OK, fine, here's a quick Wiki 101 on FourSquare:
Foursquare is a web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for "checking in" at venues. Users can choose to have their Twitter and/or their Facebook accounts updated when they check in. In version 1.3 of their iPhone application, Foursquare enabled push-notification of friend updates, which they call "Pings." Users can also earn badges by checking in at locations with certain tags, for check-in frequency or for other patterns such as time of check-in.


The possible future for FourSquare and its developing competitors may look like this:

User-Empowerment –
There still is little that we can control about FourSquare. We have a profile, yes. We have awesome statistics on our locations, as well! But minimal customization for profiling and no direct way to embed the essence of the application within our own content (blogs, etc.) short of referencing locations back to the application. I'm seeing that in the future, people should not only be able to create rewards, badges and develop more robust incentive strategies – but allow for more visual customization of profiles and business pages. And I can't post photos to locations – why?

Increased rating ability –
"Shout outs" are great but sharing tips and extending rating to a user’s base, I think, will become more important, as well. Regardless of circumstance, FourSquare needs to extend greater ability for users to give both positive and negative (constructive, ideally) criticism to locations.

Sort ‘till my heart’s content –
I'd like to see greater sorting ability within categories, allowing users to cluster locations and send them to friends, perhaps, thus “incentivizing” them to checkin to those locations for "Justice's BFF Badge" or the likes.

Increase conversation –
Much like comment fields, forums and Google Buzz, we need to see great threaded conversation about checkins. Beyond simply rating things, we need conversations to take place about checkins in a more fulfilling manner. Wait and see – this might open a wonderful door for surveys and polling assisting businesses know what their customers really want.

Mobile application co-ops –
When developing location based applications for GPS-enabled devices in the future, FourSquare’s current API needs to be easier to use and more robust than ever. We're seeing a wave of applications coming to a screaming close because they were simply too short-sited to let others work cooperatively with them, and while FourSquare has done this admirably, it needs to continue and embrace doing so.

Nesting services, brands and communities –
Frankly, FourSquare's hot right now in the marketplace. And too expensive to work for given that you have a small brand that could successfully utilize their services. FourSquare (and all proximity-based applications) needs to be careful not to outsell themselves. Once the cache of this technology becomes normality, business models better be in place to service all takers before the Facebooks of the world make it as easy as creating a "Like" page.

Mapping exploration -
Loopt does a mediocre job of giving you an idea ‘where yo dawgs is @’ but it needs significant improvement. I'd love to see more mapping functionality, combined with photos and real-time connectivity with my followers. While, indeed, it does seem a little creepy, I think while we preach privacy we still want connectivity within the groups we trust. It would also be great to see sorting within these groups as well. If I'm downtown, click, there's my nightlife in a single action.

More game play –
Gowalla seems to have an edge with game play on graphics and allowing for "Founders" of locations, but it still seems thin to me. Watch the future of these applications look to Internet-based gaming and watch things like "clans" and levels come out it. Before you know it you'll be buying a Slurpee trying to get 'Titanium Mayor.'

Badges!!! –
I LOVE badges! And while I don't think they should be as easy to construct as Facebook "flair," I do think theye should be more badges for greater minutiae. I understand that it's part of FourSquare’s business model to construct and sell badges within a branded construct, but those badges should be held with greater exclusivity than user-created or 'minor' badges. Perhaps there's more of a user-based submission on evolutionary contests for badge creation?

Better rewards –
We need better rewards. While badges and points ARE cool, they're going to eventually be the Achilles heel to the product. With great loyalty should come great “incentivizing.” and others are seeing that there's real traction in garnering users by giving it away. FourSquare needs to start thinking about a better treatment of the people that do rack up the points. With 100+ to 1000+ users out there, you're seeing a real-time commitment with no current payoff.

Addendum to last point: When I was writing this post this came to light a day later -  Foursquare Now Experimenting with Badge Rewards

Previous FourSquare related articles:

Information for businesses wanting to get involved with location-based marketing, go here:

Nerd Merit Badges, I <3 U!

The Physical/Digital Ethics Of FourSquare & Gowalla

Much like calling "punch-buggy" or "shotgun" ('calling the front passengers seat of the car) there are unwritten rules or ethics about a great many things. Like, you can't call shotgun in a building, everyone must be outside; or with punch-buggy there's grey mysticism around whether you must call out the color first or not before bringing the pain.

Well as my wife, a very highly competitive person and consiquently a lover of digital games (i.e. Mafia Wars, Vampire Wars, Farmville and most traditional gaming platforms) and I are now on FourSquare (and I'm on Gowalla too) together. We're starting to see way one could cheat, or manipulate the system to get ahead of the game – so to speak. Therefore on an "Overshare Badge" weekend we started to discuss the physical and digital ethics of FourSquare and like-minded applications. I thought it so compelling I figured that I would open it up and see what 'rules' you have applied to your own FourSquaring, Gowalla–ing and related check-in applications.

Here are just a few to get started thinking (or debating):

  • If there's a Starbuck's inside a Target do they count as two stops?
  • Can you rack up stops in a mall by shop-hopping?
  • If you're in a restaurant and you know you're going to go to some place afterwards do you check-in then, or only once you've stepped foot in the place?
  • Can you check into a gas station if you're the passenger and didn't go inside?
  • If you live somewhere that has a check-in how close do you have to be in order to get that location gratis? (i.e. Live in a golf-course community can you check into the club house if you live nearby?)
  • Should you make your home a check-in?
  • Cross streets, should you be able to check-in or not?
  • How long do you have to be at a location before you can make it a check in?
  • Picking someone up from the airport, does that count as a check-in?
  • Can you check into a place twice, in the same visit, if you've been there for a long time? If so how long?
  • Can you create a fictitious place and check-in that location?
  • Can you assign a city as a location and check into that location?
  • If you leave work and return the same day should you check-in again?

While there's no right on wrong answer here; I can see a whole new world of people pissed because someone took shotgun and didn't do it by the book!