I join a few sites here and there and check them out just to taste the diverse flavors the web has to offer. One of my new favorites is @foursquare. Combine all the ‘dwindling’ geotagging sites that are dull and uneventful and add a reward system and you have Foursquare. Include a few goal-driven perks and make it super easy to access via my Nexus One and I am all in!
Foursquare isn’t a ‘new’ social playground, matter of fact it’s been around since March 2009. It’s a ‘rapidly growing*‘ free service that allows location-based tracking of your destinations through-out the day. You may ask why. You possibly think that this is just another big brother site. It’s very close, but it also has the many privacy options you would require to fly anonymous and still enjoy the “game”. Yes, I used the term “game”. Don’t be surprised because that is exactly what this is. There is a score and other amenities that you can flaunt as you progressively move around your city and show off your achievements.
Let me explain further…
I am not a big fan of geotagging my twitter updates with locations and neither do I care to float around on Latitude or Google Buzz like a balloon head with no body. I set them up, looked around then disabled them. I also had an interest in Loopt. Loopt is a popular geotagging software based around SMS and friend proximity. It also grew a bit tiresome. No matter what service you choose to show people you are at the mall, you are just at the mall. Your presence fades as the tweets and status updates flood over your modest comment and no one ever remembers you were there. Here is where Foursquare comes in.
Imagine for a second you can leave you mark at your location. In the past, you would have carved “LLS <3 WKS 2010” into the table with your dinner knife. Future visitors gawk at how you spent so much time there when they see this archaic display of territory. You are a part of that place. You are linked to it’s history. OK, now imagine Foursquare as the table and your mobile device as the dinner knife.
Foursquare allows you to leave your mark via the web and even leave a comment or suggest a “To-Do” at this location. The most interesting feature is the mayorship you can acquire. A mayorship is the equivalent of being a local at one location. To gain this status at any one location you need to have checked in more than anyone else. When other’s visit this location they can see that you are mayor and even connect with you. It is quite possible the mayor has left a little nugget of knowledge that you can find out about a new place. The mayor has no responsibilities as a real mayor. Its purely social and says I have been here more than you and that makes me just a little bit cooler! Well, maybe not….
Whether you are mayor or not, you still have other rewards to seek. The other aspect of this location tagging adventure is the badges. Even as I type, I know the excitement that takes over after receiving one of these coveted markers and it makes me smile. I want them all. There are some that seem impossible and take time like checking in at 50 different venues. It’s tough but fun.
With all that said the only thing that is required of you is to ‘check-in’. You will find areas where your local hamburger spot hasn’t been added as a venue. It’s OK, just take a moment and add it. Every mobile app I have seen allows for you to add venues on the fly. In some cases, it will automatically find the address and you just give the name. Besides, after you add a ‘new’ venue and check-in, you only need one more check-in at that location before you can claim mayor! Yes! If you obtain mayor of 10 locations at once, you get the Super Mayor badge.
What about safety? The safety concerns of alerting your public status to others that you are not home is not a good idea whether it be from Foursquare or any other site. Upon creating an account, please visit the privacy section and define the level of notification you want the world to see via Twitter or Facebook and even Foursquare. It is ready to link to all your social sites and unleash gobs of info about your whereabouts. Be careful! Be SMART!
With all the geotagging ideas out there, there seems to be something appealing about this to me. Loopt, Gowalla, Google Buzz and Google Latitude are informative but I don’t get much incentive to continually interact. Every morning, I wake up, grab my phone and check-in for breakfast. Check-in when I get to work. Check-in at lunch. Check-in when I come back to work from lunch. Then, I finally check-in at home. It seems a bit much and I agree it seems exhausting but it is quite the opposite. One click….and I am checked in. The apps, which are available for any ‘new’ phone, auto-find venues close to you so you don’t have to search. I can start to see where other sites just missed the boat on reward driven experiences.
So, next time your out-and-about, think of all the places you are passing that presently exist on Foursquare. Your city is already filling with a collection of ‘local’ mayors all supporting the city in a mini-marketing campaign. Users ‘swarming‘ concerts at arenas or speaking conventions. Knowledgeable people leaving advice, or ‘virtual carvings’, to share with newcomers at a favorite restaurant. I believe this hierarchy of active users can push other new users to ‘want’ these virtual status symbols. This user competition may be the advantage that could bring Foursquare closer to center stage. And yes, I will be there; as mayor of your favorite place!