It was about a year ago that I decided to try out Foursquare. I loaded the app up on my Palm Pre and checked in at Safeway, which I visited regularly. When Twitter released, it had (and still has) that niggling aspect that people will use the tech to overshare. People don’t care if you’re brushing your teeth or eating dinner or whatever. In Foursquare, people don’t need to know where you’re at at all times. To a further extreme (say, the recently defunct Blippy) people don’t need to know what you’re spending your money on, with the info pulling straight from your bank account. But like all good things, moderation is the best policy.
When I started on Twitter, I shot out over fifty tweets a day. Anything on my mind, I posted it. It was a great experiment in my friends’ tolerance. I didn’t really get Foursquare, though. I didn’t visit that many places, but the Foursquare metagame is fun, something that keeps you coming back. When you check in somewhere, you get points. You get more if it’s the first time you’ve been there. You get even more points if it’s a consecutive stop. You build a list of friends and compete with them. You get badges for going to special locations or being at a location with a bunch of other people who’ve also checked in. Businesses can take control of their location on and set up deals for people who check into their store.
Sure, you can ‘check in’ on Facebook or other, lesser location-based apps, but there’s no reward. You’re just telling people. That’s boring. Facebook Places has been one of their biggest non-events. With Foursquare, you have some sense of pride about the places you go to, there’s an element that you’re actually building toward something. Their implementation is hardly perfect: there’s too many duplicate locations, not enough moderation, and there’s a bit of the honor system in place at times (until it gets real), but this is hardly something that benefits you to cheat.
So no, you don’t need to post every single place you go to, but you’ll find that when you visit new places, you’re far more likely to share this with everyone. If I can take a place I go to and turn it into a medal? That’s awesome. That’s why Foursquare is awesome.