Posts Tagged ‘foursquare’

Of Announcements, Shows and Rumors

March 14, 2011


Lots of news and rumors though

Have to make sure I am there next year, I actually miss being there

Anyone who knows me, knows I am very much not a fan of conferences.  It’s just not my thing.  However, South By Southwest (SXSW) is a different kind of event, and every year (like this one) that I don’t go, I regret it.


For background only, I am someone who attended SXSW more than 20 years ago when it was a college music show in Austin-this is before the tech crowd kind of took it over and in the vernacular of my industry made it about convergence.  I can remember struggling to find money to go in college (the college radio station paid a couple of hundred dollars).  When I worked in TV in Dallas it was great to be assigned to the show.  It was so out of the mainstream, it was an easy assignment to snag.

Now, it’s a tough ticket.  One friend was actively looking for hotel reservations that were about to be canceled–knowing the roots of SXSW, that’s kind of crazy.

Over the years of evolution SXSW has become a place for tech on the periphery of the music and film industry to make announcements-this for the most part means apps (especially mobile) and new ways to layer social into existing products.  The list this year has  been impressive:

  1. New FourSquare
  2. New Gowalla
  3. New TED API
  4. Indie film enablement at Dynamo
  5. @Anywhere integrating with Twitter

And those are just five off the top of my head…

Then there was the one that didn’t happen:

The rumor over the weekend was Google would introduce us to its next social attempt, Google Circles.  Following that over the weekend (while not in Austin) was a bit dizzying–but it looks like that won’t happen, for now at least.

The upshot though is a place where new bands and indie producers gathered to be found has been found…

It’s no wonder the person who best lives convergence has been such a hit

So, hopefully next year this update is from Austin, and I won’t spend three days saying, “Man I should be at SXSW.”  Either way, it should be a lot of fun (as it always is).

Location, Location, Location

November 8, 2010

One of the keys to having a good business, the old adage goes, is, “Location, location, location.”  Now, despite what  a Pew Center report says that location-based services like FourSquare and Gowalla have not caught on–the measure is not mass, at least not yet.

As mentioned in this space in August the reality is there are people out checking in, and leveraging location-based apps and services.  If the Pew Center numbers are correct, 1% of adults in the US use LBS apps and that number is 4% of US adult internet users.  Yeah, percentage wise that’s a small number–but mass wise, that’s a pretty big number.

And something to keep in mind, is something Larry Kramer (like me, he too is former CBS Digital)–those users are  a premium to advertisers today.  Kramer actually said this morning on Bloomberg TV that the future of TV advertising is actually positive if you add in the ability to target–demographically and via geography.

From experience that can be more than 3X an ad buy.

Again, smallish numbers today, but numbers that get better and as the data is better mined, and the targeting better refined–that premium goes up.

On the product side–as I opined in August, Facebook would help drive the LBS market–and is slowly is.  This week, an updated to Facebook places went live.  Add to that some innovations going on–like what another former boss of mine is doing at Shopkick taking LBS into the store–and the actual user experience is becoming richer.

As the user experience gets better–which means the likes of FourSquare, Gowalla, Bright Kite-and the ones we don’t know about yet make their apps better–the user engagement goes up.  That 1% easily becomes 3%.  The 4% becomes 10%.

And the driver for this will be the ad dollars on the table now, and in the future.  It is a business.  Yes, it’s a moment when product is ahead of consumer demand–but as that gap closes–winners will survive, losers will be cut and ultimately a viable product will be left.



Its Prime Time, are We Ready?

October 26, 2010

This blog is really just some thoughts and observations from the last few days-as I’ve had some unexpected free-time and a chance to “field test” some apps that I have messed with in controlled settings.

Within the sphere of social media there are a ton of emerging products and platforms–and a ton that should be by now well-tested (three years is my rough cut off) for the sake of argument a “mature” product.

In the category of mature products are Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, Yelp, WordPress.  On the fringe are the likes of FourSquare, Gowalla, BrightKite.

As has been discussed here (and elsewhere) there is no shortage of established brands building on the API’s that some of these “mature” products offer.  Powered by Twitter, Facebook fan pages, WordPress powered sites etc.  Want to build check in to your site? FourSquare, Gowalla, Bright Kite all offer that capability.

But what happens when those sites are down–as can happen in the world of technology from time to time.  As one of my past bosses used to say, “Things go bump in the night sometimes.”

So yes, when Twitter has a fail whale showing or Facebook is in accessible, or GMail is down–there is a raining down of people checking to see if its them, or if its a site issue.

But when this happens on a branded site–and the use case that comes to mind is a radio commercial in the NYC area for White Castle that encourages people to go to Facebook, become a fan and leave a comment.  But what happens when Facebook is down, and you can’t reach that page?

Yeah Facebook has a problem–but the brand exposure is huge.

So these sites that sometimes we play on, sometimes we connect on and sometimes we bemoan now have an impact–but are they ready for prime time?

Social, Gaming-There is More, Right?

October 10, 2010

In what are probably equal parts of influence between work, my kids, curiosity and boredom I have been spending time in the social game space lately primarily on the iPad, and I have to admit I am hugely underwhelmed.

For a bunch of reasons, Farmville never clicked with me on Facebook, I tried it–I was even one of the early players but I just never was able to “get into” the game.  There are friends in my feed who are on the game more than 12 hours a day.  In fact, it got so bad, I have actually hidden Farmville and its related links from my feed.

<Note to Facebook-it would be nice to be able to similarly hide that content and manage it from apps and mobile web.>

However, I completely understand the importance of “game mechanics” as a driver for engagement.  Hell, for really no apparent reason I manage check-ins on Foursquare and Gowalla regularly and BrightKite and Loopt with less frequency and I really can not give you a good reason for it.  There are aspects that are engaging.

1. The Work reasons:  Taking those aspects and building them into the broader experience–the so-called real-time web is a driver.  So, since this is my business I need to be in the space.

2.  The Kids excuse:  My kids are becoming voracious in social gaming–and since I need to be a good parent in 2010–and know what they are doing and provide guidance to safety and best practices, I am out there with them.

3. The Curiosity factor:  I still wish I could figure out the compelling parts of Farmville or even the ones I do play like We Rule (I am esd714)

and City Story I am esd714).

4. Boredom is a driver:  I have an hour-20 each way each day on the Long Island Rail Road.  Tack on up to 10 minutes to at least half of those trips each week for random “only on the LIRR” issues, and I have time to kill.

Even with that, and the connections to Facebook and Twitter there just is not anything overly compelling that draws me into these games.  The element of success in the game just does not carry enough excitement.

Of course, there are Second Life like experiences, and not really integrated into my daily web or consumption pattern–which probably helps make them less desirable to me.  If there were a way to hook this into my daily reading on hockey, or baseball or politics it may work better.

But still, there has to be more, right?  There is a bustling business model of selling for not a little money game components for these virtual world–north of $5B in 2010 so there should be a way to make this ring a little more indispensible, isn’t there?

Location Goes Prime Time

August 24, 2010

So an interesting thing happened in the world of location-based apps–they moved from quirky curiosity of the early adopter to main stream almost over night.  With the launch of Places, Facebook took a major step into the location awareness space and may have changed the playing field for the spunky upstarts in the game.

In this space, I have written about the upsides and downsides of some of the early apps in the location market like Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and Brightkite.  So the subject matter is not new to anyone who is even a semi-regular reader.

But what is new is a product that while now is only baseline (just check in–no gaming features) has scalable user base.  No matter how you cut across the stats, while the upstarts are seeing hot growth the user base is still less than 5 million. Twitter founder  Biz Stone announced recently on Twitter that his service has more than 105 million registered users.  Facebook?  How about 500 million users, half of whom log in each day.

150 million of those daily users access Facebook via mobile applications–and according to Facebook those users are twice as active as online only users.

Say only half that base uses Places, that’s still 75 million users a day–a number that Gowalla and FourSquare have proven will grow.  It’s where the audience is.

Yes, Places is missing the concept of the mayor (FourSquare) or the items (Gowalla).  But it has the reach of your full network.  Again, based on Facebook numbers each user has an average of 130 friends.

While not a truly scientific case study, here are some interesting things I’ve noted using FourSquare, Gowalla and Places over the last few days:

  • Friday night I took my kids to a local chain restaurant.  I checked in on all three services within 10 minutes.  FourSquare had one other person listed in the place–neither of us was the mayor.  Gowalla had my last check in (two months ago) as the most previous-and no new items.  Places  had 25 people checked in to the place when we got there.
  • Saturday we went to the mall to get some back to school stuff.  FourSquare had seven people checked into the mall and 5-9 people checked into various stores we were in and out of.  Gowalla had up to six concurrent users in any of the places-including the mall at any given time.  Places had more than 50 in the mall, and one of the stores had 125 people checked into it.
  • Yesterday on a rainy Monday I took the girls to go see a movie at noon.  I was the only check in to the theater on FourSquare and Gowalla.  Places had 10 people checked in when we got there, and by the time we left another 15 people had checked in.

That’s scale.

As I have pointed out this does cause a problem–since I only follow and friend on location services people I know, while my Facebook (and Twitter for that matter) are littered with business contacts, people I just don’t know and people I really don’t want to share my location with–this will require some effort on my part to make Facebook Places work for me.

I suspect about the time Facebook introduces the gaming features and other elements that will make the service scale, I will be ready to tackle how to close of who knows where I am.  In the meantime, while it’s not quite game over, it’s a dramatically new playing field for location services–there’s a new leader on the board.

Social Media Obligations-Real and Imagined

May 23, 2010

A few months ago I set up a FormSpring account-as a trial of the technology and also to get a feel for what can be done with it, and what the possibilities are for use in a commercial setting.

The reality of it is, FormSpring is kind of a nice thing, but I am not completely sure where it fits in the broader eco-system of social networks.  But I have left the links up on this blog and in a few other places, after-all if you are a reader of this blog you know its my belief this is really about conversation,a nd FormSpring drives conversation if nothing else.

Last night, I got an interesting question (in full disclosure from an old friend of mine) about etiquette on social networks.  The link to my FromSpring is above, so if you are interested in the question and the answer you can dig in…

As I thought about the answer, I realized there is a significant pattern, at least for me with the way I manage my social networks and yes, perhaps there is an etiquette, at least self-imposed.

On Facebook I tend to accept all friend requests.  This is a bit of a throwback for me to the days when I was evaluating games and widgets on Facebook and I needed people to spam.  I figured, why not, they are spamming me anyway.  I also use lists on Facebook, so I have  a folder of people I do not now (I call them “not sure”) and also set up a limited profile view–so you can’t see pictures or background info about me.  This way, I can share pictures of my girls with real friends via Facebook and not have to worry about weird internet things.

On Twitter, I am far more open.  I will follow back just about anyone who follows me.  The rule for me there is it has to be a real person, I will not follow back Twitter-bots, and also if your account ends up spamming my Twitter with feed/RSS driven posts, I just unfollow you.  Not a big deal.  I manage the flow using lists in Tweetdeck, so I can filter out most of the garbage, and get a good look at the information most useful to me.

When it comes to the location-based networks, you know FourSquare, Gowalla etc, I am far more rigid.  The only people I follow or will allow to follow me are the people I know personally–and I would want to “run into” at some point.  This is something I have tried to flush out at lot, and it is an evolving policy.  This is truly the one where I actively go in and unfollow and block people–and to me its a safety issue.

So, that’s my etiquette for all of this.  As I told my friend on FormSpring, there really are no rules.  Its your network and you need to be comfortable with what you are sharing and with whom you are sharing it.

As a wise man who has spent years in traditional media has said more than once–if you don’t want to see it on the cover on the NY Times, don’t put it into writing anywhere–that anywhere includes your social networks.

Tone Down the Chatter

April 23, 2010

There’s a guy on Twitter (at least I think he’s a guy) who goes by Cheap Suits who is pretty insightful, shares good information and is always open to real conversation.  One day, and we went back and forth some on it, Cheap Suits likened FourSquare location tweets to white noise–and I don’t disagree with Cheap Suits about that.

We disagree on the utility of sites like FourSquare and Gowalla, we don’t disagree on the utility of sharing my location with all on Twitter.  I’ve blogged on this subject as well.

But to me, the bigger problem with Twitter is all of the “tricky” ways companies are trying to use Twitter, and somehow they think its like its not even noticeable.

Now, I have a friend who I introduced to Twitter more than two years ago who now has a thriving consulting business based on telling people who to fill in 140 characters and hit Tweet–and that’s fine.

This morning, I was in a deli near the LIRR train station where I get the train in the morning picking up a cup of coffee and two people were having a pretty heated discussion over the companies that manufacture tow trucks.  I have to admit, I have never even given this a second thought, but here these two people were deep into it–hemi vs. tranny, payload vs. horsepower.

I was taken with the passion of the conversation (and honestly had a few minutes to kill) so I pulled out my BlackBerry and Tweeted this.

Now I am being followed by the likes of TruckYellow, OpenRoadTruckers, Route66 and UglyMudGuards.

Clearly based on that one Tweet I am the right target for these companies and organizations, right?

No, instead, in a very sly way these guys use search terms and I supposed my tweeting the word truck, or Chevy got me noticed.

Well guys, I have a ton of respect for truckers-I really do.  But I am not following back–because honestly, I don’t need the extra chatter in my Twit stream.

Maybe I am a throwback, but as Twitter founder Biz Stone told CBS News’ Katie Couric this week, Twitter is still about conversation.  And since I am shameless about self promotion, if you like Katie Couric, and have an iPhone please get the @KatieCouric iPhone app.  But please stop listening to Twitter (ie searching) without context.  It’s just plain annoying.

Putting Decorum to the Chatter

January 15, 2010

As more people “discover” the ins-and outs of social networks either for professional reasons or personal I can’t help but think it is time to put a little decorum to the chatter.  After all, how many times can I be invited to join the fan page of someone I don’t know?

So, this thought really started with Facebook–and someone who insists they know me from my high school years, although we went to different high schools.  At any rate, this person is some kind of a social media consultant now.  Great.  (I won’t let my personal take on someone who professes to tell people how to use Twitter taint my opinion).

This person also has a Facebook fan page.  Not sure I see the need, but again great.  And I was invited to join.  And I made full use of the ignore option.  I really did not think much more of it.

Until I got an invitation every other day for three weeks.  Now granted, I still have the full option to leverage the ignore button.  But enough.

Plus it got me thinking-there is something overly vain and just off with that.  Randomly I join fan pages–usually of people who I have worked with over the years or someone I am actually a fan of.

So now I have two specific suggestions as it pertains to Facebook fan pages, and I think at least in my little social network world, I will follow these.

1. Only one invite to join a fan page.  If I opt not to its my decision.  I think if I get multiple requests, then its clear this person is just culling their friends list, and I will solve the issue by de-friending.

2. I am more apt to join and participate a fan page if I am actually a fan.

Which now brings us to Twitter, FourSquare and Gowalla.

As I mentioned in my “Can You See Me Now” post a week ago these IRT sites, where I am sharing my actual location with people are becoming popular.  I’ve decided to limit myself on these sites to people I actually know.

It’s not that I don’t want to meet you, its more that internet safety 101 type thing going on.  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to broadly share where I am with thousands of people who I actually don’t know.

So, feel free to friend me up on Facebook (I never say no) or follow me on Twitter (I even follow back).

And please follow the simple rules above so we can actually get to know one another.

Can you see me now?

January 8, 2010

While Twitter and Facebook were grabbing all kinds of headlines for much of 2009 a bit of a phenomenon was developing as an off-shoot of both: location based social networking.  Now, I have written about this a little in assorted contexts–I am talking about products like Foursquare, Gowalla and others like Loopt and CauseWorld.  Each is slightly different-CauseWorld being the most distinct- but all have some basic core functionality.

Each of those listed (and a bunch of others I have not listed) leverage social networks and location–and give users a chance to do real time meetings.  This location based social networking has become an early buzz for 2010–but the technology is nothing new and its kind of a natural extension of all those Twitter or Facebook updates.

Foursquare (NYC based) is kind of game where users check in and become mayors etc.  It has a business opportunity to allow game players to get discounts etc at local stores and more.  Over at Gowalla you don’t become the mayor of any place, but you accumulate and trade assorted items like avocados, coffee makers and slices of pizza (all virtually) that you can leave and trade at each location.

The others are somewhere in between–with the over-riding concept being that its more than sharing status; it’s about sharing location.

I was a little amazed a couple of weeks ago when I updated my FourSquare that I was at a Starbucks not far from my office.  Low and behold, a friend was in the area and stopped in for an impromptu cup of coffee.  It’s where my status (and at the time I was the mayor of the Starbucks, although I don’t think the barrister knew it based on the service provided) meets the real world.

So here’s to seeing many of you in 2010 now that I not only know what you are up to, but where.

Can you see me now?

Twittering the Hall of Shame

December 26, 2009

So here it on Christmas Night, and I am trying to catch up on some reading and came across this interesting tidbit.  The DA in Montgomery County TX is going to share the names of people arrested in his jurisdiction on Twitter.   This is not convictions mind you–its arrests.

For me, its kind of a flashback to one of my first jobs at a tiny radio station in Rockland County, NY.  The news director who hired me had a quantity over quality policy.  So each shift, each editor and anchor had a quota of stories they had to write.  It wasn’t about the content, it wasn’t about the journalism–it was about the count.  So, we pulled out press releases from the local DA about DWI indictments.  Stories went something like this:

“The decision to allegedly drive drunk was a bad one for <insert name>.”  We would round out with some basic facts (location of the arrest, score on breathalyzer etc) and we were one story closer to the quota.

But did it serve any kind of true journalistic or community purpose?  When Kathleen Rice was elected DA in Nassau County, NY she ran on a platform of being tough on DWI.  She took to the local papers with the names of those convicted of DWI.

But this is a new twist, and one that has legal bloggers asking questions.  And I have to admit, as a member of the fifth estate I am too.  Y

Yeah, its public information the arrests.  And there are times it can be salacious–but really, is this what we are down too?

What’s next for Twitter or Foursquare or Gowalla?  Red marking the location of sex offenders?

I am never one to promote prior restraint–it’s almost antithetical to being a good journalist.  But in this case, there is no conviction, there is no real asset to the community–I suppose there can be some good PR for the DA–but then he can always name these people a “person of interest” because it’s the same thing.

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