Why I don’t use Foursquare, Gowalla or any other location-based services (anymore)

Tyler HurstBlog14 Comments

The concept behind location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla is fantastic. Check in using GPS, see who you know (or who you don’t) is around and maybe even earn a free drink or discounted meal.

It’s like playing a massive game of bingo and it’s fun. For a while. (Now that Twitter and Facebook are both rolling out similar services, it’s going to go downhill fast)

But after about a month of using Foursquare last summer while traveling between four different cities, I cut my use way down. Why? Because it’s boring. Because there’s nothing really in it for me to whip out my iPhone every time I walk into a new place. And because no matter how hard people try, most of them aren’t that interesting, so simply sharing space doesn’t make me want to meet them.

So, in every day life, these type of services don’t make a damn bit of sense to me. The badges got boring, businesses didn’t offer anything compelling enough to check in and the minute-by-minute annoyance of people publishing their foursquare checkins to Twitter (my god, you know the app has PUSH NOTIFICATIONS, right?) prompted me to unfollow almost everyone who regularly did it. That being said, there are definitely a few reasons to stay onboard.

Showing off
You’re popular, you know the right places to hang out and you want everyone to know it. So, go ahead and check in at that popular restaurant or hip club. Really. We care.

This person checked in at home, at work, at the gas station and at the coffee shop. You want everyone to know you’re busy. Buddy, we get it. You’re awesome.

No matter how many times you try, no one follows you to your regular hang out. Checking in every day from the same place is your way of asking them to.

You want to look and be cool, so checking in at the local co-work space or hipster coffee bar is your way of showing the world that you associate with cool things.

For all the people at SXSW right now, I can see how useful it would be to check in while sitting right next to someone who’s doing the same. Who knows, maybe you’ll finally be able to meet a real-life, social-media rock star. Or at least you can say you did.

You’re creepy. Let it go, man.

Tyler HurstWhy I don’t use Foursquare, Gowalla or any other location-based services (anymore)

14 Comments on “Why I don’t use Foursquare, Gowalla or any other location-based services (anymore)”

  1. Adam Willis

    I've been using Gowalla and Foursquare for a while now and I really am starting to agree with you. What the hell is the point? I kind of like checking in for Yelp because of the community that I'm involved in there, but that's still not too thrilling or worthwhile. I think most people are getting better about not posting where they are on Twitter, but yeah… there's still a lot of douche bags who want everyone to know when they are at Lux.

  2. lindavandevrede

    The boring part and the stalker part are what have kept me from using Foursquare, for sure.

  3. Jack Smith

    Well, your post almost made me feel like a loser for still using AND liking Foursquare, but in the end, I still like it. I don't use it all the time to check in to every place, but there are certain places where letting people know where I am, can be a good thing.

    Also, if there is a business I want to share with others, it is great for that too. I want to support local businesses so when I find one I like, I am sure to check-in with a comment hoping it is good exposure for the business as well. I am amazed at how often I have had friends ask me about places where they have seen me check in… “How is that place?” “How is the coffee/service?” “Oh, that is my favorite place too, let's meet there.”

    And yes, there are some instances where I am showing off like when I checked in to Tempe Center for the Arts for a charity fundraiser because it's one of my favorite places, feeling lonely if I am Cartel by myself, along with branding and conference nonsense. But I am sure I send tweets with the same sentiments at times and that won't stop me from tweeting – right or wrong.

    But, no matter where I check in, I try to add a comment that makes it more than just “I am at….blank” So hopefully, in the end, it less of an annoyance and at least for some of my audience, a little interesting and a little value.

  4. wendyconeybeer

    I don't personally use any of these and have no desire to. I do like seeing the local establishments where my friends are hanging out, such as restaurants and shops I might like to check out and wouldn't know about otherwise. I don't, however, want to see when someone is at CVS, Fry's, Circle K, home, etc.

    That said, Twitter is a big ego thing anyway. The point is to put yourself out there and say, “Look! Here's what I'm doing,” or “Look at what I think is cool!” The thing that people seem to have issues with is maintaining a nice balance of egotistical and informational… that is, they just don't stop to think, “Is this actually going to be of interest to anyone?” Of course, you're never going to be of interest to all of the people all of the time… BUT, if you can't think of more than a couple people who might find your Tweet interesting, consider a DM or just not putting it out there at all.

  5. wendyconeybeer

    Yeah, I kinda went off on a tangent there…

    You did forget one kind of potential user though: Codependent – People who are in relationships where someone feels the need to know every single move they make due to insecurity. I say this half tongue-in-cheek, but you know there's gotta be some out there!

    …which brings to mind one other thought on the subject: People spend so much time rallying against “Big Brother watching”, yet so many are using these services voluntarily. It just really surprises me how many people are willing to put their every move out there like that.

  6. WeaponII

    I'm really starting to see the “boring” and “stalker” factor kick in.

    To be honest I feel I live in an area that way behind in the social sphere anyways. Also, people are too scared of what goes on around here anyways.

    In short I live in an area filled with enough crime that services like these will hurt more than help.

  7. Warren "WO" Owen

    Interesting. A kind of timely, too. You test something and find it doesn't work for you, and post months later. But now, as businesses really start to see the benefit of these services, and as tools are opening up for them to be able to use them to benefit the users, you post as their uselessness. I'm sure you caught this story http://blogs.zdnet.com/gadgetreviews/?p=13199

    I like the “gaming” part of foursquare & gowalla. I also love the free/discounted stuff I have gotten because of using them. Do I do it just from the freebies, not, but it does help. I've gotten several free car washes, drinks, appetizers, and even a full tank of gas, for being “mayor”, or even just checking in. And believe it or not, I have met a couple of cool, local people through THOSE services, then following on twitter.

    I also found it interesting that you slammed people, and then unfollowed them, when they post their check-ins to twitter. As you know (I could be one of your examples), I check in a lot. Very rarely do I post to twitter, unless I really want someone to know where I am (for a meet-up or suggestions, etc.) But most people who follow me & I follow, do not have iPhones, or android, thus don't have those apps. So, in this tech age, how do I let them know where I am? Twitter.

    As for push notifications, yes, I do know they have push notifications. So, if you have push notifications on your phone, and SMS for my tweets, your phone probably caught on fire. But since you don't follow me on twitter (nor I you), I know you aren't getting SMS of my tweets. However, the push notifications is your own fault. #1 You have the program (foursquare/gowalla) installed (which you said you don't even really use). #2 You have push notifications turned ON. If you don't want to know when/where people are checking in, then turn it off. #3 Ok, maybe you do want to see some people's check-ins via push, but just others when you launch the app. Uhh then turn off THEIR “pings” when you log in to the foursquare website. You did know that you could select only those that you want to see pings from, right?

    Now, I must admit, I had no idea about the “Push” feature, because my iPhone is jailbroken and on T-Mobile, so until 2 weeks ago, I did not have push available. Once I set it up, I thought my phone was going to explode. Luckily, it didn't, the battery just died in half a day. At that point, I found out about selecting “pings” in foursquare.

    Finally, I do like foursquare & gowalla, and we'll see what happens with google, facebook & twitter and their location based services. I'm glad to see more people using them. I'm really glad to see businesses getting involved, and rewarding regular patrons.

  8. tdhurst

    I can't tell if you're trying to insult me or argue with me. I'll
    assume both.

    I only recently started unfollowing ppl who constantly post foursquare/
    gowalla checkins to Twitter, because it wasn't all that popular
    before. The service didn't annoy me until everyone started using it.

    I LIKE the push notifications and know exactly how to set them up. If
    everyone used the services that way, we wouldn't be having this

    What I can't do I'd control the now staggering amount of checkins that
    are cross posted to Twitter and that provides absolutely value to me,
    especially when users check in nearly everywhere they go.

    Glad that you like using such services. Nowhere did I tell you not to.

    And it's one thing if someone POSTS where they're at, while adding a
    note of some sort, and entirely different when an automatic tweet is
    sent out with a foursquare link.

  9. Warren "WO" Owen

    I do agree, sort of.

    First why would you assume that I am trying to insult & argue. All I was doing was showing another side of the story, albeit with “some” attitude, to an “unclear” post.

    As far as push is concerned, it only works if everyone you want to know where you're at, what you are doing, has the proper phone, app, and push service. So, if I am hanging out somewhere, or what to share a location, I will cross post to twitter, and almost always with some kind of note. However, if I am not cross posting, and just checking in, I never include a note.

    Cross posting is important. The same reason people will make their content available in multiple formats, on multiple platforms, and on different services. It is to touch/inform/share with more people what I feel I want to share. And since all of this is voluntary, including the following, it is your right to unfollow/follow anyone who is not providing something for you, just as most people do. At least I hope.

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