Thursday, March 27, 2014



I'm experimenting with some automation, so the content of this blog may change in the next few days...stay tuned . . .

I'm keeping the old content on this site, but I'm leaning to a blog that automatically posts viral content on a regular basis.  If this is successful, I will likely move the "viral" content to a new Blogger account.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How Foursquare Could Be Better And Why I Am Done With It (For Now)

I'm a gadget guy. I love to try out new technologies, web services and geek toys. Usually I fiddle with a "new amazing thing-a-ma-jig" until I find a purpose for it in my life or I it becomes laborious so I delete/stop using it. Foursquare is an example of one such thing-a-ma-jig that I have been playing with and I've decided to delete.

The concept is simple enough with the web service Foursquare:

Wikipedia defines it as: "...a location-based social networking website based on hardware for mobile devices. The service is available to users with GPS-enabled mobile devices such as smart phones. Users 'check-in' at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by running the application and selecting from a list of venues that the application locates nearby. Each check-in awards the user points and sometimes 'badges'."

For those of you who have never heard of it and are reading about it here you are probably asking WHY in the world would anyone want to do this? What's in it for them? This is my question exactly.

A little backstory: I've been using Foursquare off and on for the last two years. I make an effort to "check-in" often and from time to time will add a picture or comment. To date I have received no return on the investment of time and energy I have put into "checking in". Yes, it DOES take time and energy to "check in". You have to pull out your smart phone, navigate to the correct application, find the appropriate location to "check in" and then comment about your activities (this last step is optional.) That's a lot of steps to get nothing in return.

Yes, I am aware that there are "Mayorship" deals and first time check-in awards for certain locations, but this really doesn't influence where I go (nor where I check-in.) I am finding I'm doing most of my checking-in out of obsessive habit. Walking through a parking lot with my eyes glued to an iPhone isn't probably the best use of time either.

Admittedly, the social aspect is nice, but not really anything that Twitter or Facebook isn't already doing (you can geotag your tweets and on Facebook you can check in using the "Places" feature.) Once in a blue moon I will have a friend mention that they noticed that I have checked into some place interesting...but that was back when I had my checkins going to Facebook and Twitter automatically (I've since turned them both off because no one cares if I become mayor of a dog park or a historic prison...which I am by the way.)

So here I am providing someone with all sorts of data about my shopping habits yet I really don't see what I am getting from it. I'm sure that a market researcher finds it interesting that I am at place "X" at "Y" time of day every "Z" day of the week. It seems to me that this "data" could be used to help market things that may be interesting to me. Simply put, I know my checkins are worth something.

This is why I'm done with Foursquare for now. Until they either monetize my checkins or start rewarding me with incentives* that are impacting to my pocketbook, I have to stop using it.

*It took me 10 days to become mayor of my neighborhood Goodwill only to find out that I get a 10% the end it didn't feel worth the effort.


Let's move away from having to actively check in. At the most users should be checked in automatically or at the very least confirm the locations where they are or have been (meaning at the end of the day you could retroactively check in to the various places you had been during the day. No, this isn't very useful from a "real-time" status point of view, but that data is still useful.)

Here's the "key"...pun intended: I personally think Foursquare should develop a Foursquare electronic key fob. This electronic device would go on your keychain and would check you in automatically to locations that support this device. The fob would have a small display (LCD) that gives the business name you where you are about to check in to. You would have the ability to scroll through nearby business and confirm your location if the default location was incorrect. One important feature of the fob would be the ability to turn it off easily (in case you do NOT want a passive check-in to occur.)

In order for this to work, the store (or location) would need to provide the short range network (wifi, RFID, infrared, etc.) Obviously we couldn't have something on our keychains that utilized a phone network nor would it make sense for a GPS sensor to be placed in a fob. This short range network would be provided by the folks at Foursquare. All a vendor would need to do is plug it in and hook it up to a phone line or network connection.

If the right partnerships were created with stores and Foursquare, I don't see why we (the users) couldn't reap the benefits of sharing our whereabouts (i.e. market data.) A fob owner could receive a monthly incentives or coupons from Foursquare based on their checkins. These coupons could include places the user may have not been yet but are similar to my venue tastes.

The question you may have is "where would the money come from?" Foursquare would provide the boxes that a store would have to provide the short range network and it would cost the business a certain amount of money per month (a sliding scale would make the most sense based on business size.) The data that these boxes collected would be compiled at Foursquare and then sold back to businesses too. Maybe if you're a small clothing venue, you would pay Foursquare a small fee to find out the demographics, habits and the number of competing small clothing venue checkins in the area. A larger business with deeper pockets would get monthly (or weekly or daily) reports with deeper analysis of the data and (for a fee) provide compelling sales pieces about their customers, etc etc etc.

Big picture, Foursquare has the ability to become a huge data repository to help businesses grow while maintaining an entertaining social media network.

Maybe Foursquare has been down this road and they are working on something similar. For now, I'm removing it from my phone and we'll see if it negatively impacts my life. I'm guessing not.

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