09 June 2010 ~ 8 Comments

Confessions of a Foursquare addict

foursquare addictionHi. My name is Blaise and I’m addicted to Foursquare.

I wonder how many people would openly admit to having developed an addiction to geo-location network Foursquare or its competitors like Gowalla, Rally or BlockChalk. Would they admit to feeling panicky when they don’t have enough of a connection to check-in? To suggest to their friends that the new bar that’s just opened is the perfect place to go out, because it means a few bonus points and a possible mayorships?

Well, in the interest of cranking out a vaguely entertaining blog post, I’m admitting to my addiction and have compiled a short list of disturbing behaviours I have started exhibiting since downloading the Foursquare app on my iPhone.

  • As above; I have carefully planned routes on nights out and suggested moving on to the next bar or pub to my friends, just so I can pick up a few more points and bag a couple of mayorships along the way. Result: My friends now think I am flaky and can’t sit still. They also ask me whether I’ve checked in yet, in that condescending way people ask you whether you would like to go out for a cigarette when you get a bit fidgety.
  • That dreaded top 100 users of the week… I’ve raged internally at certain people who I now accuse to all who’ll listen, with no proof whatsoever, of cheating. I will analyse their points per check-in ratio and any anomaly leads to more accusations of foul play. Since Foursquare launched in London, I have managed to stay in the top 10, but since brand new users are rewarded for new check-ins, older users are at a disadvantage. This makes me very proud of my achievement, and also feel incredibly stupid for bothering. Result: I am becoming a mathematical genius. I am also losing my sanity.
  • Foursquare claims that the mayorships and points system is just “a bit of fun” – NO, NO IT ISN’T. You can’t build a complex reward system that results in financial benefits (in the form of discounts) and then have it gamed via the mobile site and disrupted by the vagaries of GPS technology, and decline responsibility because you intended it as “just a bit of fun”. Result: I feel cheated when I’m not mayor. I feel cheated when I’m mayor and the venue doesn’t provide a discount. I feel cheated that people can checkin from their bedroom twice a day to get a discount at The Breakfast Club once in a while when I eat there twice a week but won’t cheat. I just feel cheated and used by a broken reward ladder.
  • Having risked alienating most of my friends with my incessant checking in, I now do it from the toilets in each venue I go to if I am out with people who “don’t get it”. Result: My friends now think I have either a serious bladder problem, a drug problem, or am developing an obsession they really don’t want to dwelve into.
  • I have taken to enjoying collecting virtual badges. Let’s say that again; I now pride myself (and have showed off) in my collection of little groups of coloured pixels on a screen. Result: Even my basketball card collecting friends laugh at me now.
  • I have developed a conflicted view over going on holiday. On one hand I can pick up easy mayorships and points abroad in areas of the world Foursquare isn’t commonly used in yet, but in the process I spend all my time panicking over the stream of emails I receive telling me some cheekychops in London has taken over yet another one of my prized venues. Result: I can’t decide whether to go on holiday anymore, and wait for others to make the decision for me so I can blame them when I become mayorless. They then look at me as if I was mad, which in way I am. (OK, not in a way. Just plain mad.)

Net result of all of the above? I’m at risk of losing friendships as they slowly back away from my check-in frenzy. Which isn’t quite what you’d expect from a service that bills itself as a social network allowing you to find your friends. Unless they mean “your NEW friends who are all as hopelessly addicted as you are.” The bottom line is that I’m not sure fostering bitterness is what Foursquare had in mind. In any event, they’ve succeeded in creating something which is unhealthy addictive.

Anyway, hope you liked the list; must dash, I have a check… toilet break to make. Do you use Foursquare? Do you have any other humourous but pertinent thoughts to add from your experience of the service?

[photo by dpstyles™]

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  • http://www.twitter.com/mdelasteyrie Marion

    Very funny ;)
    Tip for vacation : can you get a second phone on the same number and have a “friend” check in for you, something like a “checkin sitter” ?!

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    That would be cheating, surely! :)

  • http://scottdrummond.org Scott Drummond

    This post is hilarious Blaise! I was laghing out loud as I read it. My wife has just discovered Foursquare and is exhibiting some of these behaviours (Geotag fever? Foursquaritis?)

    Your point about gaming interests me. I've been on Foursquare for a while now but only have one mayorship and I can't even remember what that is. For me, Foursquare is all about providing useful tips, reviews and ratings of places I have been. I like to think there is value in that for others.

    The implications of incentivising the volume of check-ins are that you end up with the situations you described in your post – behaviour all geared towards gaming the system. For brands looking for their most 'loyal' customers through Foursquare I'd recommend they take the volume of check-ins as a metric of loyalty with a pinch of salt, or at least corroborate that evidence with other markers of repeated custom.

    I wish that Foursquare incentivised useful tips and allowed users to rate tips. That way the tips rated the most useful could be voted up and displayed more often than tips that had been rated down. The benefit for brands would be that they would have a really good idea of the value that people derived from their locations, not just that they were there a lot.

    I confess to having given tips while on the toilet though – can I claim convenience ;)

  • http://twitter.com/eModeration Tia Fisher

    Love this Blaise. And I seriously suggest you go get yourself into rehab!

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    Thanks Scott – I think I'm running under and over 50 mayorships depending on weeks. I burnt out a few weeks ago, didn't bother much with it for a few days then got back into it, and it now feels like one of those habits that used to be enjoyable, but you keep doing even thought you don't really know why.

    I agree with you that Foursquare need to revisit the basics of their reward system; I like the look of a service I saw on Mashable or TechCrunch this morning (the name escapes me right now) which incentivises the checkins themselves like a loyalty point system, so the competition is with yourself rather than other people. Still open to gaming, but at least there's a tangible reward at the end of it that only depends on what you do.

    I love the tips system on Foursquare – quick to load, and I've discovered a lot of cool new places through them. I'd rather not imagine where people were when they created then! ;)

  • http://blaisegv.com/ Blaise Grimes-Viort

    Yes Tia, you're quite right but will I listen? :P

  • http://twitter.com/amfunderburk1 Ashley Funderburk

    Thank you for sharing your Foursquare addiction problems!

  • http://www.refindyourway.com urod

    Very funny post! Great story.