Jumping on the Foursqaure Bandwagon

Time to jump on the bandwagon. Foursquare, the real-life achievement oriented, barhopping, smart phone friendly web 2.0 creation is taking over a city near you. With 23 cities total (21 in the US and 2 international), and 1.35 million dollars of investor moola to throw around, this New York-based Internet startup is going to be on many a phone in the coming years.

Foursquare_icon

So what is Foursquare? It’s a location-based website where you can “Check-in” to different locations in order to build up points and earn badges. Sounds lame you say? Hear me out.

It’s Friday night in Washington DC. You take the Metro from Silver Spring to DuPont Circle and go to Buffalo Billiards to hang out. In doing so you make a trip over to the fountain to relax and then head back home. Sure you had a great time, but with Foursquare you just earned Mad Points that night.

There are rules to checking in though, which are explained in Foursquare’s help section. One of the most notable is that you won’t earn any points during normal work hours (M-F 8am-4pm) unless you discover a new place or provide them new info on a location that hasn’t been entered into the system. I like this because it encourages being adventurous and shuns the lame folks who’d rather stay in and watch Gray’s Anatomy on a Thursday night *shiver*.  So yeah, that lunch with your co-workers doesn’t count. Sorry Jon from Accounting.

Foursqaure turns a fun night into a competition that makes it even more fun to be out with your friends. It’s almost like how your mind works when you play fantasy football. More achievements = more points. You can even become the mayor of a location if you check-in enough times. I mean, you’re talking to the mayor of the Silver Spring Metro and Mayorga Coffee Factory here *ahem* *ahem*.

So what do these points and mayorships get you? Nothing right now. The point is to be able to use the service with your buddies to talk up how you scored more points than them in a single night (or week). When they check-in you can even see where they are so that you can be there too (that gets you more points as well). It’s a social networking site, so it pays to be social.

The creators of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley, Naveen Selvadurai, and Harry Heymann are playing around with ways to reward players in real life for their efforts, but to me this is problematic because if people start getting discounts for being mayors, users will start blasting the system with bogus check-ins to earn more freebies.

Another caveat is that this all works under the honor system. Foursquare has no idea whether I’m actually going to these places. I could just be sitting at home all night putting myself all around the city, earning points, badges, and mayorships without anyone being the wiser. Some people may actually do this because that’s how they have fun, but the folks at Foursquare are banking on the fact that the people who do this are going to get tired of it and won’t have as much of a drive to check-in as those who are actually going out and having fun in the “real world”.

Foursquare apps

This leads me to one last caveat. Having an Android phone or an Iphone makes checking in a lot easier because each of these phones has a Foursqaure application that will give you access to their services without much hassle (such are awesomeness of apps). Using other Internet-enabled phones is a bit trickier because you have to go to their websites, which takes a lot longer. Those who don’t have a data plan can text in their location, but I’m going to bet that most people don’t do this at all because the service isn’t as interactive, and if you come to a spot that doesn’t exist in the system it’s impossible for these users to enter the new location, thus defeating the purpose of the game (Foursquare is relatively new to the scene and I’ve had to enter new locations on the fly many times).

The good news for Blackberry users without an app to call their own is that the folks at Foursquare say that an app made especially for them is on the way. Yay!

I would also suggest that Foursquare take note from the Yelp team and hire city community managers. These CM’s can organize Foursquare nights where members can earn more points barhopping on the nights being lead by a city’s respective CM. This way, if people know that they can earn more points by not cheating, they’ll be more likely to come out, get involved, and have a good time. Businesses will love this too because this means more revenue for them. Also, can you say publicity? Think about it.

In the end, Foursquare is very smart. They’ve created a system where normal shmoes like you and me are willing to advertise for other businesses for the sheer pleasure of earning points and being crowned mayors. We don’t mind making other businesses more popular because we want to share our experiences and get our friends to come along with us in our late night revelries. If sharing virtual drinks has become the most popular application on Facebook, if Yelp is slowly wheeling Zagat into a retirement home, and if scholars are using Wikipedia to start their research (after looking at citations of course), then it’s no wonder that our Web 2.0 culture of Stumbling, Digging, and sharing has lead us to this new form of entertainment that has created a hybrid legion of techy-fratboy-nerds bent on pwning their respective cities.

Foursquare, you are t3h 4w3som3s0rz br0!

If you want to jump on the bandwagon too, connect with me on Foursqaure.

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