Foursquare shakes up SXSW: a new start? Or the final rattle?

The good all days when Dennis Crowley (@dens) launched #foursquare at #sxsw. That is exactly 10 years ago, to a day. I was an early bird fanboy, collecting mayorships and extreme badges like there was no tomorrow. Foursquare was this great app that gamified city discovery, and allowed to meet/great the other “explorers”. Because that was how we felt. The sweet days when you had a reserved parking spot, just because you were the coolest Foursquare kid of the place.

And then, Dennis seemed to be busier with his eternal young-looking entrepreneur in hoodie looks than in taking Foursquare to the next level. Other location based services bypassed Foursquare like there was no tomorrow. When Crowley finally split up the app in Foursquare and Swarm, killing overnight the badges and geo-located memories of countless explores, most of the users –me included- packed up, and went.

Neither the new Foursquare nor Swarm apps succeeded in standing out in a landscape where geolocation still is undervalued, underexplored and underused.

The old dinosaur of geolocation launched a new feature today called Hypertrending. By shaking your phone while in the Foursquare app you see where the phones are all over SXSW.

Crowley stated: “This is pretty “heavy” launch for us – besides being a huge technical achievement on our part, Hypertrending also walks a fine line btw “creepy” & “cool“. (read more here

Dots on a map, reflecting the number of devices at a given place at a given time. I don’t know Dennis… I really don’t.

Dear Dennis Crowley, it’s not me… it’s you!

Dear Dennis Crowley,

I’m so sorry: it’s not me… it’s clearly you. I remember the old days like it was yesterday. You launching Foursquare in 2009 here at SxSW. It was awesome. I seduced my friends in warming to the application… I collected mayorships like there was no tomorrow…

And badges Dennis, badges. I collected them all over the planet. Swarm badges. Special badges. Badges nobody else had. Every year, the first check-in in Austin gave me my SxSW anniversary badge. I got the far-away badge. I woke up at ungodly hours to get the middle-of-the-night badge. The pub-crawl-badge. The hang-over badge.

We used our phones like guns, slinging it faster than our shadow to beat others at check-ins.

I tried to warn you. Remember that stern conversation in Cannes two years ago? But you would not listen. You had to change Foursquare your way.

No more mayorships. No more leaderboards. No more badges. No easy way to see where my friends are. You split my favorite application in two…. And none of the two halves is doing it for me. I cannot even figure out which of the two annoys me more…

Swarm and Foursquare. You even changed the logo. My badges are gone. So is my interest. The apps seem doing all fine by themselves. One looks a bit like a worse version of Yelp. The other one… what exactly is the other one Dennis?

I cannot stomach the courage to uninstall them. And apparently they know where I am. That’s good.

But you killed the fun in being a Foursquare user Dennis. There is no excitement left. No fun. No adrenaline. Foursquare outlived its usefulness to me.

I would have broken up with you face to face. In person, Two adults. But you are nowhere to be seen here at SxSW Dennis . There is Meerkat. And flying cars,  Nasa, robots. But you and your hoodie are nowhere to be seen.

What happened to ‘look and listen’ ?

I’m having a beer in the bar. Alone. To toast to our good old days.

Gowalla dies at #SxSW. 3 years old, RIP.

One would almost forget. Simultaneously to Dennis Crowley’s future visions on SoLoMo, location based social networks and Foursquare, Gowalla died a gruesome and lonely death, somewhere in the deep, cruel and moist dungeons of Facebook.

90 days after Facebook  opened its checkbook to buy Gowalla, the doors of the company have officially been sealed. A kick in the head for the Texan incubation and start-up loving community, because Texas was Gowalla’s homebase.

“There can be only one”, and it seems that Foursquare won de battle hands down. There will be muscle fletching and eyeball rolling between Foursquare and Facebook for sure. But the cutest player has quietly left the building through the backdoor.

#SxSW does not like defeated technologies and brands. It is for the glorious startups, the victorious winners, the ambitious coolcats. But I wanted to lay a wreath on the doorsteps of the convention center for an adorable little Texan baby that did not make its third birthday.

Rest in peace, Gowalla.

SoLoMo- Beyond the check-in: peer-review

It started as a nice gimmick: checking in where you went, and sharing that precious information with your friends. But as Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebook places found out real quick, it takes more than just offering the opportunity to make people to use the service.

Dennis Crowley pointed out in his keynote at #SxSW that he intends to bring Foursquare beyond the mere check-in. “Screaming and begging for a check-in is contra productive”, he said: “offering people more opportunity to connect, and to share information about their environment and experiences is what makes a location based application thrive”.

Crowley has a point. People do not embrace applications for the sake of it. After a rather short honeymoon with a new application, they want to see a clear benefit to keep on using it. The experience Crowley was talking about was way bigger than just Foursquare and radar. It is about how to morph an application in an experience that is worth sharing. The location based app, that steps up to be your social savvy city tour guide, pointing out the best places, the grooviest vibes, and the restaurants that matter.

That is the heart of the whole SoLoMo thinking. Location based, social powered, and accessible on mobile. SoLoMo should not put the application in the focus, but the social experience. Gathering social pointers, contextual information, and honest crowd feedback are the keys to success. What works for the scientific community is now coming to your social experience: peer review.

Powered with honest reviews of people about their experiences, SoLoMo becomes an important experiential influencer. People follow opinions and experiences from their peers with more than interest: all studies show that peer review and peer influence are critical factors in the buying cycle.

Foursquare (and other) want to capture your experiences and your contextual feedback, for the next user. Based on your profile and location, they will soon be able to sniff your intentions, and give you contextual information about that. Forward looking pointers, information on what you are most likely to do… SoLoMo passed yet again an important crossroad…

#SxSW: Thanks Dennis Crowley for the Badges!

Last year, in Cannes @princess_misia and I had a long conversation with Dennis Crowley (@dens) in Cannes. We both were disappointed with the fact that a couple of mayor events in Europe happened without a sign of the trusted Foursquare badge. No badge at Cannes, no badge at LeWeb. Rumor even had it that Foursquare would be throttling down heavily on badges.

Now I get it. Foursquare is much more than a badge. It’s a location based social platform, a service that mixes social, locative and gaming elements to encourage people to explore the cities in which they live, and the places that they visit. Foursquare is sharing, pointing good places out, leaving tips, mapping the social underground soft spots of society. But, badges were fun. Thousands of people have been collecting badges over the years, like scouts boys there precious shoulder patches. Collecting badges was one of the mayor drivers in keeping check-ins fun and rewarding.

But here at #SxSW, the badges are back. In style. Close to 20 to collect over a period of 1 week. Let the games begin. Thanks Dennis, we own you a Belgian Beer….

Dear Dennis: No Badges, No love…

I admit it, I’m a Foursquare junkie. I like to put places on the map, I upload pictures and tips like crazy… you can follow my every move on Foursquare’s map, and I collect mayorships and… badges.  Dear Dennis, I’ve never been this high on badges since my young boy scout days.

And, now that we finally met in person at the #canneslions , there is no Cannes lions 2011 badge. Nowhere. No. Badge. To. Be. Had. I collected a few mayorships (noblesse m’oblige)… but that was it.

In an interview you said you were a bit surprised about check-ins in Cannes being below par. But seriously, why would people continue to check in, if you do not provide the badge. You whispered something about “Foursquare throttling down on event badges”. Why. O Why?

The excellent Brandbuilder Olivier Blanchard gave you some great tips a while ago, but diminishing badges was not on that list! While Foursquare is an excellent location based reference tool,  there needs to be some kind of reward or recommendation for the user, Dennis.  Businesses get better with good peer reviews. You and your loved ones will get (way) better with the new VC funding , and… one day your IPO or M&A. But for us, dear Dennis, we need badges.

I got some nice stuff from Gowalla. But let’s agree dear Dennis, that is not the same! It’s good for once. We’ll be at the next event. Checking in. For your badges, don’t let us down.


My “check-in” beats your “like” anytime

For brands, creating engagement in any way is key… that’s why they are in social media in the first place. In recent months, a telltale signal to determine that engagement at a glance is the number of “likes” a brand collects all through the brands online ecosphere. Fueled by mostly Facebook, the hunt for likes is powering an important part of the Social Media roll out, and, between us: that is a bad thing.

A number of “likes” does not show you in any way the quality or quantity of engagement with your target audience in any way… for that more intelligent sets of data should be explored that give more relevant information on quality, sentiment, loyalty and behavior.

And a “like” is just a wrong metric. Clicking on it is often a gratuit gesture… for most consumers it means nothing more than a thoughtless “click”.  There is no bar, no effort, no real thinking, and thus way too often no real intention or engagement.

Personally, I have more respect for the location based check in. A check in, is like a “like”, but only better. Checking in means that people are linking their real life location and behavior (shopping, eating, going to a concert,…) with their offline social media ecosphere. They went through an experience that reverberates in the social spider web. Location based social check-ins are more and more combined with the ability to rate the experience, adding a tremendous potential added value for the brand. Having people checking in from stores, airports, planes, restaurants and events and giving a positive social rating turns every active “checker” into an active brand advocate.

People will trust the review of someone who actively ate at a restaurant way more than one from someone who just punched the “like” button on a website.

Check-ins new style will beat up likes big time 😉

Ronald Reagan fathered Foursquare

There, did that get your attention? I thought it might… 🙂  Tim O’Reilly caused quite a stir @ #SxSW when he proclaimed that Ronald Reagan was the mental father of Foursquare.

But he has a point. Let’s go back into history: while the Beatles were working on their White Album, the U.S. Navy and Air Force slotted together a system that would enable navigation on a plethora of applications. A set of incompatible systems was developed, until the US Department of Defense decided in 1973 to unify the existing systems. With atomic clocks carried on geostationary satellites (predicted by Arthur C. Clark) , the Navstar Global Positioning System became a huge success. In the beginning, military use had priority, and accurate positioning was not possible for civilian systems.

The disaster with Korean Flight 007 in 1983, a mortal tragedy that could have been prevented with more accurate location awareness, made President Ronald Reagan decide that accurate GPS signals would be available worldwide and at no charge. Reagan’s directive angered quite a lot of military decision makers, but stood at the cradle of the location driven social media that is so popular today.

The military not only got us the backboned, dynamic rerouting internet (and an internet of things by that), but also stood at the very beginning of Google places, Gowalla and Foursqaure. Not to mention Augmented Reality, that made it directly from the cockpit of the Apache fighting helicopter into the smartphones. Presidents and generals at the roots of social media, a slightly disturbing thought….;-)

Location starts getting real value

#SxSW in Austin still needs to officially kick off, but one thing is for sure: it is still about location, location, location. In the night and early hours before the event, you see location based tags and check-ins popping up like warm popcorn all over the city.

Foursquare, Gowalla and Google Places are arm wrestling for love and attention, and mayorships, points and badges are being distributed to the convention goers like ice cubes on a warm day.

But I spot a mayor difference. It goes way beyond the boyish gimmicks now. Location starts to add value. The big three added a ton of Social Functionality to their offering: the fact that people now can rate places, add tips, and hint at things to do, hyper jumped location based sharing into a realm that makes social marketing interesting. We found a great Austin Barbeque Place to eat, based solely on tips of Foursquare and Gowalla. We were tricked to the coolest bars in town with the same applications.

Startup “Heat Tracker” (find it for free in the app store) shows where the most action takes place in a reasonable circle around you. “Heating up” proves to be a great indicator for finding cool places to hang out with likeminded people.

Social location linked with the endless possibilities of “rating” places opens a great added value: peer screening. Nothing better to guide your culinary escapades in an unknown town than tips of people who tried it before.

Checking in is not just for geeks anymore, it helps determining the places to be, the hot spots and the trendy locations. The time a selected group of journalists and critics, and specialized publications as Michelin Guides and tutti quanti could determine where in town you wanted to be seen is over.

The reputation is made by the countless people around you. And THAT is a good thing ;-).

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