Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Foursquare: Come for the Games, Stay for the Memories

Today is Foursquare Day, which seemed to be a good time to take a look at how Foursquare has changed recently, and how that's affected my use of it.

Recently, Foursquare has explained that the "game" aspect of the service had been too prominent, and what they really wanted to emphasize was "search" -- helping users discover interesting places to go.

Given that I originally got interested in Foursquare as a game, this is not a good development. Particularly since it has never been a great game. The points system has never been that interesting. The mayorships, while interesting, are too open to cheating. The badges have probably been my favorite part of the game. Now that the mayorships and badges no longer post to Twitter and Foursquare, even that is less exciting -- bragging about "accomplishments" has always been part of the appeal. The only people who will see that I got the "Zoetrope" badge are those who happen to look on Foursquare.

And there are fewer of those friends. I have 12 friends on Foursquare. Two have never checked in. Three last checked in during 2010. Of the remaining seven, only three have checked in this year.

I use the "Explore" feature some -- mainly because I hope they have slightly better data on what places people actually go to than something like Google Maps does. I don't know that it's compelling enough for me to continue checking in, particularly since I can "Explore" without doing so. (I don't think the data about where I have checked in will be all that useful for making recommendations.)

So why do I still check in every day? Well, as I previously described, I am very much interesting in collecting data that I can use to jog my memory and answer the question of what I was doing on a particular date. I still use Timehop to discover what I was doing a year ago today (and I still wish it told me what I was doing two and three years ago.)

This came together in an amazing way just over a week ago. I was reminded of a year-ago series of checkins including a toy store and a JC Penney. That brought back memories of foam swords we had bought the boys, pushing the stroller around JC Penney in a desperate attempt to calm them down, and discovering that one of the two swords had gone missing. (The toy store had sold out of them by the time we went back and said they weren't getting any back in stock.) Since we can't have just one of any toy if we expect to keep the peace (and since I found it too depressing just to throw it away), the sword lived in my car for a year.

I reflected on that to start the day, then Christina and I had our first real date of the year -- the kind of day that I'll really enjoy looking back upon in 2014. Since the babysitter was engaged for a fixed period of time, we had half an hour to kill at the end of the date. Of all places, we ended up in Walgreen's. We walked in, and there was a display with the exact type of sword that had gone missing a year ago. Weird.

Anyway, my quest for "gamification" of daily life has moved beyond Foursquare -- mostly to Untappd, a beer check-in service. But I'm still enjoying Foursquare, almost entirely as a way of capturing the aspect of my history, "Where was I on such-and-such a date?"

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