Tag - location

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.

Highlight: Must must MUST enable Twitter

We are never going to run out of apps to find and connect with new people. They’re a dollar a dozen right now.

But one that’s getting quite a bit of attention is Highlight. Scoble has highlighted it (haha) as the connect with people around you app to beat at SXSW.

The app is cool, well-conceived, and narrowly focused. And it’s got great buzz. But, but, but.

Only Facebook
You can only connect to Highlight via Facebook. Highlight uses your Facebook info and friends to try to understand you, see who your friends are, and make educated guesses about people who are nearby that you might like to know or meet. IMHO, only using Facebook is a serious limitation.

A lot of people (and I’m one of them) use Facebook for actual – in other words, IRL – friends and family. It is, after all, your friend graph.

What about Twitter?
Twitter is a little different. For many of us (maybe most of us) Twitter is mostly for people that we have NOT met in real life … but find interesting nevertheless. Twitter is the interest graph.

Combining the two
Adding Twitter would create a much more powerful serendipity component to Highlight. Now not only would it find friends, and friends of friends, but also people that maybe you don’t know, but would find interesting and rewarding to meet, if you happen to be physically proximate to them.

This could be creepy for some – location-based social apps tend to have that tinge – but which social networks you link up would be totally optional … and who you meet is also totally optional.

Coming soon?
I’m sure it’s coming at some point, maybe even soon. I just wish it was there from the start.

. . .
. . .

BTW, Highlight’s logo breaks my brain:

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.

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.