Over the last couple of weeks a couple of new site/service/apps have started getting popular on Twitter - and it’s causing me a bit of frustration. Since 140 characters is too short to explain myself, a blog post was in order.
The two sites I’m targeting with this post are FourSquare and Gowalla. I have not signed up for either of these sites - but looking at them quickly they seem to be similar. Users sign up and using a mobile app on a smart phone that can also provide location information (geocoding) they make a visit to a particular location (businesses usually) and then “check-in” with the site. There is a game element - allowing users to earn points, badges, and claim titles like “Mayor”.
Businesses with a physical location can add themselves to the sites which allows users to check in at the business. Businesses then get promotion on the site plus being promoted on the users hooked-up social networks like Twitter or Facebook. I’m hearing that some businesses are offering freebies if you show them that you’ve checked in with them while there - a restaurant might give you a free appetizer etc.
I’m a bit torn with these sites - because if I look out to our upcoming travel adventure we might be able to use services like Foursquare and Gowalla to find great places to visit and good restaurants to eat at.
But right now, today, the net effect of the popularity of these sites is that I’m starting to unfollow people using them actively. Why? Because if I follow you on Twitter it’s because you provide value to me. You post witty, challenging or insightful comments. Or—you’re interested in EE so we share that commonality. Or I’ve worked with you either as a client, customer, or peer and want to maintain that relationship.
When a high number of tweets are nothing more than “I’m at Joes Taco Stand” or “I’m at Toms Health Club” or “I just became the Mayor of Jim’s Basement Refinishing on Foursquare” I have to start asking…“So what?”. What does this information do to improve my day? Is there really nothing more valuable you have to say or to add than simply where you are? That information is really only important to me if I’m trying to find you to meet with you. I’m not sure the information would ever be valuable on a 1:1: basis - only when aggregated (500 check-ins at the Taco stand over a day or two would tell me it’s a good place to eat).
It seems to me the net effect of these sites is to allow Twitter or Facebook users to earn freebies, giveaways, and status by whoring out their audience’s attention. As a recipient I’m done with it already - I simply don’t care where you are. As a user I value my audience far too much to spam them with inline Twitter ads for local businesses just for a free beer.
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