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26 Feb, 2010 – 2 comments

temporality over location

Foursquare is a tool that locates us in time and space – where we’re at and when we’re there.

But the where seems to be more important to us right now than the when.

But what if we prioritized when ahead of where?

(almost all of these are ideas that can actually be built on top of Foursquare’s API, feel free to steal)

Let’s play a game where we see who can continually stay out the latest … or get up the earliest … or be the first in to the office (imagine if your company used your Foursquare check-ins to reward the early birds).

I love going to a certain restaurant, but I’ve never been on a Saturday night before, let me look at an aggregate of check-ins to get an idea of when it gets the busiest during the night or compared to my usual Tuesday night.

I only want to see tips about the breakfast menu at this restaurant when they’re serving breakfast – stop tempting me with pancakes.

Mayors may visit more frequently – but who’s hanging out the longest? In other words, who else is spending four hours on Saturday bent over their laptop at my favorite coffee shop?

Let’s have an overnight scavenger/puzzle hunt across the city at 20 different locations and power a real-time leader board with updates of our progress.

I really want to spend more time visiting museums, libraries, or galleries this year – let me log my duration, from when I arrived to when I left, to measure how much time each week I’m spending towards accomplishing my goal. This also works for the gym.

Where is my social group spending their time this month vs last month, or this year vs last year?

What else can you think of?

12 Feb, 2010 – 3 comments

why foursquare must sell out

News broke this week that location-based start-up Foursquare has inked several new deals with major media brands – with this announcement, and past sponsorships, Foursquare seems to be grabbing cash from any brand it can… and it makes complete sense.

Before you grunt, “duh. money good,” let’s consider Twitter in contrast, for a moment. Twitter was created in 2006 and still hasn’t charged brands a dime for using its service. Sure, they’ve hinted at a fee model, but to-date, brands may enter the space and interact with users at no charge. As Jason Calcanis put it, Twitter is shooting to be the dial tone of the 21st century. And in the 21st century, being the dial tone requires you to create a massively adopted, high network effect, platform. The easiest way to gain that kind of adoption is to keep the service absolutely free and the barrier to sign-up, for all parties, extremely low – even if it means you lose some revenue in the early stages of development to third parties (the TweetDecks and the Izeas). Twitter is now able to generate revenue from their large user base and the content those people and brands are creating – revenue which was estimated at $4 million for 2009. Twitter’s revenue future is certainly not guaranteed, but their early decision to not monetize the platform through user registration or display advertising seems to be a well reasoned decision for the model they were pursuing. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that by not instituting monetization, Twitter has allowed itself some room to grow and change as a service before it became beholden to revenue streams and brands.

Now back to Foursquare, a start-up which isn’t even a year old …

A quick list of the brands/organizations Foursquare has worked with or will work with: Pepsi, Harvard UniversityTasti D-Lite, Metro News, Bravo TV, HBO, Warner Brothers, Zagat, The New York Times, the History Channel, Blackbook Magazine, and Lucky Magazine.

Did I miss anyone?

So why, besides the cash flow, is this the right strategy for Foursquare?

  • Timing is critical for the start-up. Location is the hot game in town and the start-up is facing imminent and fierce competition from Google Buzz or Google Latitude, Twitter, and Facebook – not to mention the other start-ups in the space, such as Gowalla or Loopt. Suddenly the barrier to entry is much lower, the territory seems much more valuable, and the competition has far more users in their systems. Foursquare finds itself ahead of the pack for a brief moment – a moment that might be their only opportunity to net any revenue.
  • Brands provide the competitive advantage. To be blunt, Foursquare isn’t sitting on any kind of technological leap forward. Others in the space could implement a similar system and will very soon. Yes, Foursquare was indeed clever by blending in elements of gameplay to the user process, the gameplay certainly set it apart from Loopt or Gowalla and gave it the head start, but will users choose novel gameplay over a network their friends are already using? Most likely not. Unless, of course, there’s an added value in using the system – a value that a familiar brand could offer. Brands can use the platform to serve discounts or coupons, reward loyalty, unlock content, allow physical access to a location (foursquare as a vip badge), and more – opportunities that truly will set Foursquare apart from its competitors. Twitter may allow you to complain directly to a brand, but there’s no ability for a brand to give you a coupon while you’re in the actual store. Not yet, anyway.

What Foursquare has managed to accomplish certainly shouldn’t be undervalued – in less than a single year they’ve amassed over 300k users, $1.35 million in VC investment, and built an incredibly attractive platform for advertisers. The five man team now finds themselves at a true crossroads – the brands that are willing to put some faith in their nascent community, while also earning some PR by partnering with such a buzzing platform, will inevitably make or break the future of the business itself. If Foursquare can convince enough brands to use the platform to deliver value to users (value beyond advertising), users will have a compelling reason to join, stick around, and recommend the service to friends.

A few things you should know before you mail an envelope stuffed with cash to Foursquare:

  • Brands will have to do the heavy lifting. Many of the examples above involve third party software to integrate a brand’s location or user data with the Foursquare system. Integration will, in almost all cases, not be facilitated by the small Foursquare team – and will require your digital agency to poke and prod around the newly public API.
  • Campaigns are all opt-in. Users have to friend the brand or connect their Foursquare account with third party apps to earn any kind of rewards, including badges.
  • Specials Nearby are free to populate for brands. You simply need to push the specials through Foursquare’s API, which is also free, but you’ll most likely need developer help with that task.
  • The metrics are fuzzy. With Foursquare, brands get less of the metrics they’re accustomed to – there’s no CPMs, and no true impressions to count. Overall engagement will be measured through check-ins tied to pre-validated user accounts, tip-unlocks, and badge unlocks. Brands will be wise to set measurable objectives and reasonable expectations before committing large budgets.

08 Jan, 2010 – leave a comment

friday digest no. 4

The Friday Digest is the cream of the crop from my shared posts – in other words, don’t bother reading anything during the week because I’ve done all that nerd work for you.

You may have also noticed a few posts featuring li’l ol’ me this week,

Fave found image:

Fave deep tweet:

05 Jan, 2010 – 3 comments

autobiographical storytelling via foursquare

While I was home, I experimented with a new use for Foursquare – I used Foursquare to stitch together the story of my childhood.

I listed my home as ‘the childhood home of @bud_caddell’, a house nearby became ‘first crush, age 8′, another home was ‘lost best-friend, age 13′ … and so on. I tried to document both the pivotal and trivial, where I fell off my bike, and where I fell in love.

Foursquare adoption is still trickling in back in Conroe, but I wonder now how people will react to these little clusters of storytelling hidden among the data when or if the service picks up pace there.

14 Dec, 2009 – 4 comments

blippy and the over-simplification of sharing

New to the scene (beta), start-up Blippy hopes to allow you to share/discuss your credit card transactions with your friends. What’s more, they want to partner with sites like Amazon or iTunes to display more information about those purchases.

In my opinion, it’s a solution looking for a problem… I want all of my friends to see my credit card statements, but I’m tired of scanning and faxing them to everyone individually.

There’s a growing sentiment that someday everything we do will be 100% transparent and available to our social graph and that only older generations see an issue with that. I fundamentally don’t believe that to be true.

I do believe that technology is making sharing easier and less conscious. But what we share is still governed by certain motivations. We share what will activate desired responses from our peers and our communities. It’s a mistake to over-simplify our motivations for sharing and it’s an over-simplification to think that if there’s a sharing switch, we’ll automatically flip it.

A good deal of the transactions that Blippy showcases users sharing are affinities and plans for the future; both of which many services already fulfill while maintaining privacy and actually offering a greater ability to connect. For example, instead of sharing my iTunes purchase of a new album, it simply gets scrobbled by when I play it (and the scrobbler also knows how often I play it, and if I ‘love’ it); and through I not only communicate to my community there (and everywhere else that data travels, like Facebook for instance), but I can also use that affinity to find new connections with people that share my interest.

Blippy is trying to leap-frog over these services (especially services like Foursquare and Loopt) by being directly tied to the point of purchase; but I highly doubt we’ll see this behavior (broadcasting your credit card purchases) catch-on. Slightly more plausible, but still questionable, we may see services like Mint which collect your transactions send that data to third-parties like to be broadcast from there.

09 Dec, 2009 – 5 comments

choosing my afternoon coffee

As a follow up to choosing my morning coffee, I figured this was due.

Quick explanation of the less-obvious characteristics:

  • Length of Walk – this time the longer is usually the better, my afternoon coffee is a chance to stretch my legs and leave the office
  • Quality of Walk – this has to do with the quality of people watching and the lack of throngs of tourists
  • Social Setting – who are the other customers and do they seem interesting?
  • Foursquare Potential Worth – how easy is it to perhaps grab the mayorship and how much do I want it? (La Colombe beats out Gimme! here simply because Blake Robinson is obsessed with retaining Gimme!’s mayorship, he should really see someone about that)

Go indie coffee shops, go.

16 Aug, 2009 – 2 comments

what kind of friends are we?

Did you know that through the Foursquare iPhone app you can call or text any of your Foursquare friends directly? Yep. All of your Foursquare buddies now have your phone number.

From the glut of friend requests I’ve been receiving I’d have to imagine that many people are just using the ‘friend everyone I know from Twitter/Facebook/email’ feature during sign-up. I have to wonder if I had DM’d those twitter followers asking for their phone number if they would have so willingly obliged.

I would bet that most Foursquare users don’t know you can click on a friend and make a call and that this is unconscious sharing of that information. However, when I was overhearing some colleagues complaining about this feature of the app, “wait, they all have my number now?!?,” I was a bit in shock that we’re all glad to share our present location, but not our phone numbers. But that isn’t right. We’re only sharing our location when we want other people to know it; and we can control just how that message is distributed – to only Foursquare, to Foursquare + Twitter, or the trifecta, Foursquare + Twitter + Facebook. (can you see that I’m at Clover’s Coffee Shop right now, because I’m doing this as hard as I possibly can)

But this all certainly raises questions about how we define our level of intimacy among our peers with the use of digital tools to manage those relationships. It seems that we’ve woven an intricate web of influencing factors: the social norms within these digital networks (it seems rude not to follow back someone – but then do I turn off mobile notifications of direct messages?), the reach of a network’s message across devices, the likelihood of interacting with that person offline, their place among our larger peer group (are they an awesome strategist my friends all follow?), their physical location and proximity to us (can I stalk them and find the best coffee shops?), how physically attractive they are (by their avatar or FB party pics), their relationship status, and a million of other more personal needs/desires that person might fulfill.

I’m not prepared to say whether our digital environments have made this process more or less conscious, but they’ve certainly given us more degrees of intimacy to play with.

All of this also pushed me down the road of considering the degree of intimacy of our digital relationships and its effect on populations big and small.

What follow is a first sketch of that relationship. I’m interested in your feedback on fleshing this diagram out and the interactions that occur between the two extremes.