Posts Tagged ‘brightkite’

Thoughts on Foursquare

Monday, April 12th, 2010

In the past few years, location-based social networking has really taken off, namely SXSW-fueled Foursquare. I first began using location services back in the days of Brightkite, through which I’d post a shortened URL to Twitter. It worked great for a while, but I became bummed out with the limited interactivity of Brightkite and began to slack off on my checkins.

And then came Foursquare.

I’d heard about Foursquare well before I signed up for an account. I held off, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with the unnecessary hassle of integrating yet another site into my online presence. However, the buzz eventually became too large to ignore, so I broke down and set up an account.

The Good

As a user, you’re constantly engaged with badges, mayorships, and points. ¬†At some places, the checkin race for mayor can be quite competitive, leading to Foursquare’s true value for businesses: customer loyalty. I’ll occasionally drop by a Starbucks when I might otherwise not, simply for the sake of protecting my mayorship. Recognizing this value, Starbucks has teamed up with the Austin startup to provide a badge for checking in at 5 different locations. Hopefully this will lead to a special offer (discounts provided by venues rewarding frequent checkins and/or mayorships).

It’s also helpful to be able to see when others are checked in at the same place – a refreshing way to meet new people. The ability to view a record and trends of everywhere you’ve been is also interesting; there’s a site called CheckoutCheckins that authenticates with Foursquare, allowing you to view a heat map of your history.

The Not-So-Good

Unfortunately, once most of the basic badges are unlocked (Newbie to Super User), it can be difficult to gain some of the more obscure ones, so most of the gaming element shifts to mayorships. Also, opponents claim privacy as a major issue, especially with the recent launch of PleaseRobMe. However, that’s dependent on people knowing where you live – users just need to be responsible in their friending and accepting, as well as in the pushing of checkins to other sites. You control the data that’s put out there. I won’t accept a request from anyone that:

  1. I haven’t met in person.
  2. I don’t have any idea of who they are.
  3. Isn’t local.

It’s nothing personal, I just don’t see the value in having hundreds of friends that I either haven’t met or don’t have a chance of meeting. You can’t treat Foursquare like other social networks; you need to be mindful of everyone that will be seeing checkin data, which, within the site, only friends can view. And don’t add your house.

Overall

There’s definitely ups and downs, but Foursquare is still an exciting platform to be on. It’s tough to put my finger on the single element that keeps me hooked: a combination between the competitive nature and connectivity between friends. The platform’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re the New Dork type, I recommend giving it a try.

Are you an active Foursquare user? Does the good outweigh the bad?