Tag - algorithm

Foursquare.com would be better if it wasn't the village idiot

I love the new Foursquare.com. When logged in, you get a wealth of information about your location and your friends’ activities. It would be even better if it showed an ounce of intelligence.

What I’ve done
You can’t really give a lot of points to Foursquare for knowing what you’ve done – after all, you’ve told Foursquare that yourself. However, the web interface is well designed, informative, and evocative.

With a touch of Amazonian “people who bought X”
Being able to see what your friends have done or are doing is also pretty standard. A little neater is that Foursquare shows you the activities of people who have done similar things to you. It’s the old Amazon.com “people who have bought X” scheme: likes are, shockingly, alike. So people who have done things similar what you have done might be similar people to you … and therefore you might enjoy those activities in addition to the ones you’ve done yourself.

But don’t be stupid
That’s all well and good. But Foursquare needs to apply a little bit of intelligence to the recommendations. Here’s the recommendations I got today, JUST AFER EATING LUNCH:

I just ate lunch – I most definitely do not need suggestions for other places I can eat right now. In fact, that’s the last thing I need. Maybe I need a gym. Maybe I need a place to walk it off, or meet someone for coffee, or get some work done.

Where are the limitations?
Even a year ago, Foursquare had 15 million venues. Now it must have more, probably millions more. So the limitation can’t be in the underlying data.

The limitation must be in the logic: the algorithm that says what a user who does X might do next.

You would think this would be a fairly simple problem. After all, Foursquare is already using user data to determine users who are similar. This is perhaps even easier: look at what kinds of venues users check into and determine patterns in subsequent checkins.

In other words, do we go from the office to the gym and then back to the office? Or could we be tempted to grab a quick bite on the way back? And so on …

That’s functionality that Foursquare should investigate adding in the near future.