Tag - foursquare

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.

FourSquare: local's great, but it needs to be meaningful

Foursquare, the location-based social app based on “checking in” to locations for fun and deals, has massively updated their site. Yes, the old-fashioned, actual, website thingie for embarrassingly large screens on heavy machines that don’t fit in a pocket.

It’s all about discovering what’s around you, and guess what, a bigger screen makes the experience better:

The first thing you’ll notice when you load up foursquare.com is a big map on the top (you can click on the arrow to make it even bigger). It shows everything interesting nearby – your friends, places that are trending (in yellow), places on your lists (green), places with Specials (orange), and places that are popular (blue). You can even drag the map around or zoom in and out and all the interesting places update automatically. Try dragging it around to see how it works.

It’s a great idea, and the execution is beautiful. I’m just not sure how useful it is yet.

Here’s an example of what I see:

Let’s break this down:

  1. Foursquare knows I’ve just checked into Subway. Ergo, I’ve just eaten.
  2. Foursquare knows, or should know, that after going to Subway in the middle of the day, I usually go back to the office. I’m certainly not hungry for more food.
  3. I hate sushi. I have never checked into a sushi place

So, why is Foursquare showing me more restaurants? I’m not hungry, I just ate, and I don’t like sushi. But, everything local, apparently, is an eatery of some sort.

This is not meaningful. And it is not useful.

Sometimes, the best answer is no answer at all. And sometimes, the best suggestions are those that are not made. Location-based services have to learn this so that when there is a good suggestion to be made, it is more credible.

1000 Foursquare check-ins

Yeah, whatta nerd:

I just wish I had been using Foursquare while I was doing all my travelling for EasyBits Software a few years ago. A bunch of checkins from Cairo, Tokyo, Shanghai, Bucharest, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and so one would have been really cool.

BTW, I haven’t used that discount code, so if you want some cheap Foursquare schwag … be my guest!

Spam everywhere: now in FourSquare tips

Spam in your email, spam in your Twitter stream, spam in your Facebook friend requests … spam everywhere.

I guess it’s only a matter of time until we have spam in our bathroom reading material. Oh wait, that’s been done too.

As I checked in to YVR airport in Vancouver this morning, this tip came up:

Hmmm …. it’s 4:45 AM on a Wednesday morning, and I’m flying out of Vancouver, heading to Toronto. How likely is it that I’m interested in a Monday night meeting that sounds kind of get-rich-quickish?

You got it – not very.

Which means that this is spam to me. And very likely has been added by someone just to ensure that thousands of people who pass through YVR get spammed with their message.

More than slightly uncool …

Check-in fatigue

OK, so I’m a bad boy. I got the dreaded “OVERSHARE” button on foursquare.

Typically reserved for douchebags who think the world lives and dies on the minutiae of their innane existence, the overshare button gets awarded when you share more than 10 locations in one day.

At least, I think so. I’ve never gotten the button before, and it was only at SXSW in Austin that I compulsively shared everything I was doing. With the notable exceptions of fingernail clipping, random episodes of flatulence, and occasional uncontrollable eye-twitching … for which the world, no doubt, is thankful.

However, I’m now back home, back at work, back in the saddle … and I will limit my check-ins to a more normal number. No more than five a day (unless I’m at Subway, in which case an uncontrollable urge to proclaim to the world what I’m eating may overtake my better judgement in a flood of narcissistic bad judgement).

I’ll be better. I promise.


Connecting buyers and sellers: beyond Google, Facebook, Groupon, etc. (part 1)

Note: this post is part of a series … Part one | Part two | Part three

There are three ways to make money:

  1. make stuff
  2. provide services
  3. connect buyers and sellers

Apple is a maker. Microsoft is a maker (in spite of some attempts to move to subscription services). Samsung is a maker. But just about everyone else that is a big name on the web today is a connector. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Groupon, and any other ad-supported website, blog, application … they’re all connectors.

A precious few provide services, like 37signals, the WSJ, and so on, but in technology, most are makers or connectors.

The connectors connect in different ways. Google connects through search as well as discovery based on context in cloud-based apps … the intentional graph. Facebook connects based on context also, but growingly via increasingly detailed and predictive information about you and your friends … the social graph. Twitter is the interest graph. Yelp is a town hall or community centre, Groupon is the buying club.

The value of a connector is dependent primarily on two things:

  1. how … connected … the connector is to both buyer and seller
  2. how close in time and space the connector is to the actual point of purchase

That’s why Google, with intent to purchase a key basis of a segment of search activity, and Facebook, with its intimate knowledge of buyers, are incredibly valuable companies. That’s also why deal companies like Groupon have come from nowhere to potentially $3 billion valuations in nothing flat. And it’s a major factor in why the local/social/mobile solution space is white-hot right now.

So that’s today … and, partly, tomorrow. But as Gretzky said … you gotta go where the puck is headed, not where it’s been. So where’s the puck going the day after?

I think we can take as a given that …

  • Location awareness is only going to grow
  • Social connectivity is not going to decrease
  • Mobile devices are going to get smarter/better/faster

What does that mean for the connectors of the future? There’s a bunch of things to think about …

Google: how many enemies can you afford?

I was wondering this morning: how many enemies can Google afford?

There’s of course Apple, which Google poked with a stick when they brought out Android, their OS for mobile communication devices (or: smartphones). Apple is less concerned about Chromium and Google Apps (see below) … but any other operating systems and productivity apps are inherent competitors.

Microsoft is an enemy not only due to Android but also due to Chromium, another Google OS for not-quite-so-mobile devices (or: tablets). And, of course, Microsoft just loves Google for Google Apps, which threaten to someday replace Office.

Not least of all, Microsoft, which has been trying for a decade to win on the web, is fighting Google for mind and marketshare in search with Bing.

Facebook is emerging as a major competitor for Google for two reasons: sheer scale in terms of audience and pageviews, which diverts users’ time and attention away from Google … and the fact that Facebook controls what Google sees of all that fascinating and mine-able and rich user action and interaction.

Facebook, of course, is really happy that Google’s Orkut is big in Brazil and India …

Twitter, FourSquare, etc.
The whole social world that is exploding in Facebook and on Twitter/FourSquare and many other similar sites watches in dismay as Google experiments with Buzz. It’s abundantly apparent that Orkut notwithstanding Google isn’t really getting social right now, but the giant with deep pockets cannot be ignored. Even its accidental footsteps kill many trees.

Hmmm … Google really knows how to pick ’em. As much as we may admire Google for its principled stance on freedom and censorship, fighting with the more-or-less totalitarian government of the most populous nation with the fastest-growing economy on earth is a bit sobering.

Old media, Magazines, Newspapers, Publishing, Rupert Murdoch, New York
As much as we may laugh at Rupert Murdoch’s understandings of links, traffic, and value … there’s no doubt that aggregation and search have sucked huge amounts of value out of traditional media. And they don’t like one little bit of it … and are searching furiously for ways to re-monetize their content. (Maybe the iPad will save them? Don’t hold your breath.)

. . .
. . .

Who else? From a certain perspective, almost EVERY company on the internet competes with Google, at least somewhat.

So the question becomes … at what point does Google’s insistence on poking their nose into everyone else’s business model – which they can only afford to do because of a de facto monopoly on search revenue – start to damage Google?

One would have to imagine sometime soon. You can only fight so many Lilliputians (and behemoths) at once.

To everyone who is nuts about FourSquare

FourSquare is an up-and-coming social web app that provides context to place and people, allowing you to:

  1. Find your friends
  2. Get points and badges
  3. Discover cool things to do

To all those who are endlessly plugging it – many people in the web2.0, social media sphere – I have a few questions:

  1. Do you have a regular 9-5ish job?
  2. Do you have a spouse?
  3. Do you have children?

If the answer is no to all three questions, I understand your passion for FourSquare. Your life probably revolves around your circle of friends, what you’re doing tonight, where you’re going to eat, and who is going to be with you. You’re probably also in your 20s or early 30s. You are a grown-up teenager.

But for many more people, the answer to those three questions is yes. And for those, I think FourSquare is just not that interesting. The first (and probably most important) use of FourSquare – finding where your friends are – is just not as relevant. For these people, they’re busy, they’re eating at home with spouses and kids, they’re taking kids to lessons and practices, etc.

As for the second use – points and badges – umm … are we in grade school again? Get real, buy yourself a used Tamagotchi.

The most realistic use I can see is the discovery feature: what people have done that is cool and interesting and unique … and you want to do it on the weekend.

Am I wrong? Go ahead, flame me.