May 21, 2011

Foursquare - one year later

Last year, I blogged about Big Brother. The idea that Foursquare wanted to track your every move.

You know, I stand by the principles of what I wrote. Privacy in this day and age is fast becoming scarce, and anything you share is probably irreversible. You can't delete it.

With anything though, times change and yes - I use Foursquare. As soon as I got a new smartphone (an Android), I saw the app and thought - oh well.

A lot of what I do does require me to be across such technologies, so using it enables me to have a better, informed opinion, and not to mention how I feel about opening a part of my private whereabouts to the world.

I'm surprised to say that I'm not that bothered. Foursquare, to me - is an experiment. I cannot treat it any other way at this time (update - this has changed. see footnote).

With anything new, we tread with caution and remain careful about how much information I share at any given time. That is one of the best features of Foursquare. I can 'check in' to a location and from there, I decide whether to also share this information with followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook, both, or none.

The reason for sharing to these places, is to maximize the possibility that one of my friends/followers will be nearby. Foursquare has the same wish as Facebook - find and connect with your friends (oh, and local business). Now, I don't neeeeed to share my whereabouts on Facebook or Twitter - but the pool of people is larger than my connected buddies on Foursquare, and my goal is to try and socialize with at least someone on a regular basis, sharing to Facebook or Twitter afford a bigger chance of me walking around a corner and shouting "SNAP" to a friend, who I know is there.

Their business strategy I spoke about this time last year, really hasn't changed much for Foursquare.
Turning habits into opportunities, by tracking their movements as they leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind, when someone "checks in" on Foursquare or Gowalla (or the others), their habits are graphed and sent to marketers - and the user is rewarded with a discount or some offer, on occasion. Sounds good? Free stuff just by doing what you usually do. Everyone wins.
Nor has the 'darker' side of the coin. 

The one thing I have been mindful of, and actually do to combat the risks of sharing your location so publicly, is 'checking in' after you've been there. It doesn't change my history as such, but it's a start.

One thing that my opinion has changed on, is the relevance of my location - or locations.

As a person, YOU might not care where I am (especially if you do not use Foursquare), and many people do 'block' or unfollow any posts of mine that come from Foursquare - and that's cool, just know that I choose to post my location there.

Why? Well, perhaps you'll be nearby, or you may have been to the same place before and have a recommendation... or a simple conversation starter perhaps? I don't post all the time, either, cos I don't "check in" to every petrol station, set of traffic lights or every-time I get to work. I'd block myself if thats what I did. If I think where I am will interest you, you'll see it.

The relevance of my location, is to be relevant. Now, I use the service, so it's got to be relevant to me, right?

At times, I engage with local business to earn a free coffee, or I'll check in just to become mayor - playing the Foursquare game of claiming first 'check in' (which, by the way is stupidly satisfying. It's totally stupid but a but of fun), or I might wish to illustrate somewhere interesting that I think you might like to know about. If it's really special, I'll probably drop a comment, take a photo or even shoot a short video should I not be able to put it into words.

Foursquare is certainly about discovering my city - they like to call it "unlocking your city" - but I'm increasingly finding it's actually becoming about stepping up, and doing something on your own behalf, for your friends (or followers). And I don't mind that.

As of 19 July, 2011 - I joined a boycott and ceased using Foursquare. I even deleted my account (an option I found quite easily). Main reason: 100% investment by me after 1 year of stepping up, but have had no return by Foursquare whatsoever.

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