11 posts categorized "Foursquare"

Unsolicited Suggestion for Foursquare from a Superuser

I read in the Bits blog that Foursquare is taking its "explore" feature from the app to the web. Foursquare is seizing the opportunity to become a recommendation engine, leveraging the millions of check-ins users have registered from their phones.

6690334587_81a948acba_zI first used the Foursquare explore feature when in Chicago last spring with my brothers. It took us a few places we would not otherwise have gone.

I know Foursquare's commercialization includes advertising, but so far the ads seem low impact to me. Nothing - so far - as fundamentally untenable as Twitter putting advertising directly in the tweet stream. (Note on the script Dan Carleton wrote to suppress the in-stream ads: he's working on updating it for the new new Twitter.)

Here's a suggestion to Foursquare from a "superuser," someone who rarely fails to check-in (when the venue is cool) and who guards his mayoralties* jealousy:

Share the revenue generated from the explore engine with your user base.

Pay the crowd, the users sourcing the data. Give 'em a cut!

What's that? It'll attract insincere users just looking to make a nickel, like so many vagrants returning bottles and cans for the deposit or the recycling bounty? Nah, you know better than that. You have enough experience vetting genuine users (another proficiency with other possible applications).

Social media needs to turn the tables on the exploitation of user generated content. Foursquare could start the run.

*"Mayoralty" is an old school, offline word for mayorship.

Art People Don't Use Foursquare. Do They?

I've noticed when I check into arts events or venues that I am often the only person registering on Foursquare's radar.

This happened again Sunday night at On the Boards in Seattle, where hundreds of people were enjoying the SuttonBeresCuller event and dozens were even using smartphones to snap pictures or do other things. The other things didn't include checking into Foursquare, because I checked when I was checking in. Just me there, virtually speaking.

Sports people use Foursquare.

Tech people use Foursquare.

NORMAL people use Foursquare.

Artsy people don't use Foursquare. Present company excepted.

Now that said, when I went to the desktop version of Foursquare, thinking I would plug in the names of some art venues and see what kind of activity they pulled, I bumped right into a suggested, ready made list of "Must-visit Arts & Entertainment in Seattle."

It's pretty slick. The site has simply taken my checkins and pulled them together into the beginnings of a Seattle art venue list:

Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 9.45.54 PM

FourSquare Cap

Here's an update to FourSquare's cap table, reconstructed from its most recent charter filing and taking at face value TechCrunch's report of a $550 million pre-money valuation for its most recent financing.

Screen shot 2011-06-28 at 8.25.24 PM

I don't know how many of the estimated common shares are in the option pool, but even if it's a healthy number, the founders appear to have control, subject to the right of the Preferred (all three series voting together as a single class) to approve a sale.

Social Commerce

The Web 2.x stuff is getting better.

Ultimately, app or browser won't matter; it'll be about interoperability. Device may not matter, either. But all services will be designed to be operated while mobile.

FourSquare map screenshotAs discrete services become more robust - a process that's accelerating through the leveraging of other services - a question for each will arise: how far can the proprietors of the given service continue to allow the meanings and functions of that service to be crowdsourced? Risks include more than running out of investor runway. The biggest risk may be the subsumption of value by other stations in the network.

And yet the individual user at every turn wants interconnection and control. To give her ever new ways to leverage her investment in other services and activities is to elicit perpetual delight. When we look back, we'll be amazed, but we're running too fast now to glean useful perspective from a backward look over the shoulder.

The ubiquitous Facebook is the Borg. As many developers as it has (the analysts writing Facebook up for the secondary trading markets say independent developers number over 1 million), that company appears to be about engineering behavior, as opposed to engineering in light of behavior. But Facebook touches almost everything social right now. Dependence on it could ultimately foreclose the dawning of an expressive, commercially agnostic version of social media.

It's not just a commercial / non-commercial dialectic, however.

My friend Chuck DelGrande of McGladrey Capital Markets uses the term, "social commerce," to describe the kind of activity taking place on the new FourSquare. That service looks to be approaching the question posed above and feeling its way to retail, even while it enables activities (exploring by category, location plotting, posting, connections to other users, trend reporting) that might yet be used to subvert advertising.

Are Social Networks the New Platform for Social Activism?

The answer to this question will depend, ultimately, on the interests that those in charge of social networks choose to serve.

If choices in design and development are made to maintain the commercial interests advertisers have in targeting messages to consumers, then, no, social networks will be no better for social activism than any other means of communication. Said another way: if put into the service of advertising, then social networks will become a tool that can be used effectively, or not, by people who are otherwise motivated to be socially active. If social networks are a trick, a bait and switch, a way to expose users to advertisers and direct marketers, then social networks will end up being indifferent, able to serve good causes and repressive governments alike.

If, on the other hand, choices in design and development are relentlessly made to privilege a user's access to relevant, uncensored, unsponsored information, even at the expense of advertisers who would prefer to control what is known and said on all media, then, yes, social networks become a platform for social activism of a qualitatively higher order than any other means of communication. Social networks then become a way to amplify the human power to share, sift and analyze knowledge.

Today's leading social networks show a lack of ambition and an unimaginative willingness to resuscitate 20th Century business models that might well otherwise be exhausted by now. So it will be up to others to displace today's leaders in social networking, or to end run them, if social networking is going to actually improve the human condition.

Quora is a promising candidate (in part, no doubt, because it is so new and not yet committed to a revenue model). If it stays open and permits itself and others to iterate relentlessly on ways to gather and syndicate real time information, it could be part of the more ambitious of the two paradigms, the one that has social networks destroying advertising altogether.

Speaking now to those who found social networks: IMHO the place to start is to honor authentic speech and to put the technology to the service of natural persons. If you can afford to never make design or business choices that compromise on those principles, you could do something relevant for the world.

The title of this post is a question from Quora. This post is my answer from last night.

Crowdsourcing Facebook Check-In Venues

An observation about the new Facebook places feature, by way of follow-up to Saturday's post, and in particular the point that Foursquare seems to be acknowledging some responsibility to police listings of homes and residences as check-in venues:


Here's a screen I've gotten a couple times when adding a venue not included among Facebook's pre-populated check-in options.

The first sentence is declarative. The second is in the imperative case, but it's qualified, and somehow affects the tone of a public service announcement. You aren't confronted with the word "permission," nor are you making any rep or warranty by clicking the "Add" button.

Places has let me add venues and has instantly populated its list with my additions. So it would appear to represent an honor system.

Foursquare's Recent Tweaks to Privacy Policy: Subtle, Significant

Foursquare tweaked its privacy policy this week.

The changes are subtle, but significant. I've posted a redline to JD Supra that marks the changes against the last version Foursquare posted some three months ago.

Here are three telling excerpts:

Excerpt 1:

Information you submit to the Service will be available to users of the Service that you allow to access such information (friends etc.) in accordance with the selected privacy settings. Your name and profile picture thumbnail will be available in search results across the Service network and those limited pieces of information may be made available to third party search engines. This is primarily so your friends can find you and send a friend request. People who see your name in searches, however, will not be able to access all of your information (e.g., check-in history, phone number or e-mail address) unless they have a relationship to you (friends etc.) that allows such access based on your privacy settings.

Couple things to note about the above. The first change serves to elide the prior implication that users have complete control over who can access information which that user's activity on the service will generate. I think the revised language sets a realistic baseline: information is disseminated in accordance with settings you have to grapple with. For sure, a general implication remains that these settings will be efficacious in the area of privacy; but there is also, I think, the implication that your control will be no better than what the control tools permit.

Excerpt 2:

You can control your information through your privacy settings accessible through the ‘settings’ tab on our website once you’re logged into the Service.

A user is now fairly on notice that the full range of privacy controls, such as they are, may require a trip through a browser, and may not be accessible through a mobile app.

Excerpt 3:

While the Service does allow you to note your location at restaurants, bars, stores (and so on) throughout your community, at no time does Foursquare ask you to provide your home address for use as a venue in the Service database. You should be aware that if you or your friends add your home as a new venue in the Service database and that information is published on the Service (for example, via a user checking in to that home venue), that information may be published by third parties without our control. To request removal of a venue from the Foursquare database, please email us at privacy@foursquare.com.

This change reflects Foursquare's acknowledgment that it cannot simply disclaim all responsibility for residences listed as check-in venues. But rather than commit to actively police the site to ensure that residence listings are only approved by the resident(s) (a likely impossible task, in any event), Foursquare seems to be offering the DMCA copyright infringement objection regime as a model: the onus is on you, as a user, to monitor whether your home shows up as a venue, and to notify Foursquare if you object.

I like these changes. I read them as a sign that we are all being more realistic about what privacy assurances a social network with location based functions can give. We're now past the time when a privacy policy starts by promising the moon in terms of security and control (e.g., the pablum that got Twitter into trouble), only to set up controversy and recrimination when security is breached or new features are introduced that are at odds with the privacy rhetoric.

(But we're not out of the woods! Vestiges survive of the old instinct to be reassuring in accordance with old mores. You see this yet in the first two paragraphs of Foursquare's own, new Privacy 101 page.) 

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