Saturday, June 12, 2010

Earning My Newbie Badge on Foursquare

For my research project on Foursquare, I decided to keep a user diary. I was determined to do the project on Foursquare for a few weeks, but resisted starting until I could coincide my own usage with the start of the overall research project.

I am not a digital native, so some of this is rather embarrassing to report.

How I checked in to Foursquare
I learned about Foursquare early in May 2010 after posting a request on my Facebook network for any mobile applications or sites that facilitated people participating and adding their own content. I also asked that it be an indigenous app and not one transferred largely from a website (so that ruled out FB and Twitter). My reasoning for the latter is that I wanted to be able to examine activity that was happening via mobile devices and the hybrid apps make distinguishing the source of user postings difficult or impossible.

Upon learning of Foursquare, I reviewed their website and googled it. I didn't want to learn too much about it in case it biased me, but I did see enough that it seemed like a suitable candidate for this project. I also liked how it supported both iPhones and Blackberry's as I didn't want this project to be about the device rather the behaviour. Also, it needed to support BlackBerry as that's all I have access to.

In the weeks following this, I did not make an effort to learn more about Foursquare but it kept appearing in tech news and it was discussed a few times at Mesh conference. I also started noticing friends' Facebook updates would indicate that they had "checked in" at a location via Foursquare.

Download application downers
I was sitting at my computer previously surfing the Internet, so perhaps that is why I went to Foursquare's website to begin the app download. There is a prominent link for BlackBerry, but turns out that I can't download from here straight to my device. To be honest, I can't remember how I downloaded any mobile apps although I have, such as WeatherEye, CBCs News Alert, Viigo, etc. Went to BlackBerry App World instead. Scanned their reviews and like the descriptions of it: "Think of Foursquare as an 'urban mix tape'" and "Think beyond your standard review - we're looking less for 'The food here is top notch' and more for 'Go to Dumont Burger and try the most amazing Mac and Cheese ever'."

Cool - I love this stuff, having already been an avid participant of similar websites such as OurFaves and Yahoo City Guides. Excited but also anxious as I probably don't know enough people to make it work. I only know of one person using this in Toronto. Just got sense that this app can make you seem like a loser, but that could also be the said of any social network service. Still, with social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter I made an effort to recruit friends as I knew they had the access to join if they wanted to. I don't know any other friends with smartphones. More feeling like a lonely loser.

Decided to click on the reviews: seems vague, non-English or unhelpful so click back. No more putting this off - will download this.

BlackBerry App World makes downloading the app easy as it will email the download link to my device. Already, I hear the moan of the vibrations of my BlackBerry.

Clicked on link. Download took about 3 minutes. Once it downloaded though nothing happened (ie. app didn't auto load as it might on PC). Tried to open the app but I couldn't recognize its icon as so subtle.

First roadblock
"The application Foursquare requested access to your GPS location information. Do you wish to grant access." Okay, little creeped out at privacy implications of this and very concerned that I didn't pay for GPS services in my smartphone plan. Don't want to rack up huge charges. No way to get answer to this, so must call Bell. Bell affirms the application can't start racking up charges without my permission.

Creeped out feeling heightened by a message that now appears: "The application Foursquare is attempting to access radio information that may identify your location".

Second roadblock
I click allow and nothing happens - repeat 4 times. There is a link for "Vendor modules" whatever that means. Decide to click on it but nothing happens. Attempt to leave application through device buttons but while it closes the app the pop-op still appears and won't close now. What a crappy experience this is so far - no help but lots of questions.

Click "Deny" now for fist time and get error pop-up "Uncaught exception: app Foursquare (1822) is not responding: process terminated". Click ok; it closes.

Finally checking in
Now click on Foursquare icon again on my device homepage and it opens fine.

Get welcome message. Must register to create account. Nothing special here. Gives me the option of either checking in or finding friends. Will quick check in, so click the button for "check in nearby". Okay it somehow knows where I am (even though I thought that didn't work) as it displays locations very close to me, including where my daughter plays (Wondering if I'm I sure I want to do this when out with my kid = extra creepy?).

I click to check into Shoppers as I am there almost every day and was just there a couple hours ago to return rancid bagels and buy stuff. It let's me check in - so it obviously relies on honour system. I decide to leave a message (I feel bad it's negative but I'm really sick of their bad bagels): "Watch out for the Bagel World poppyseed bagels here as 4 times in last few weeks the seeds on the bagels were rancid". Tried to unclick the option to "tell my friends" and wasn't able to. Seems to be updating.

A pop-up appears congratulating me. I get a badge (a picture of a trophy cup) for being a "newbie". I find out that Ryan W. is the mayor of this location.

Click close. I see a map with Shoppers' location, which seems pointless at this point after having already checked-in. I also see a button for "Specials nearby" and excitedly click that. It's a deal for Starbucks' mayors - cool, but I don't go there often enough to ever qualify.

Locating friends
Go back to add friends. Try finding friends by address book = zero. Trying now by my Twitter account. It finds some people I know including some I had no idea were using Foursquare. It also finds Ashton Kutcher. Only gives me first name and last initial and can't figure out many of these. So I'm going to Twitter to figure out who these people are. Twitter doesn't help much as gives account names not real names. So back to Foursquare where I click on "info"; it gives their Foursquare profile not their real name.

Wondering now if the people I add will be alerted that I've added them, as this happens with most social network services. Decide to add people I know even slightly, as having friends here seems essential. Better to do it now when I don't know if they're notified. As if I were to find out they were notified, I'd be too mortified to do it. Decide to add Ashton Kutcher too.

Decide to change my notifications settings so that I am notified any time any of my friends check in (which so far is only Ashton as he went directly to my "Following" list). This seems like it would be annoying if one had lots of friends (hypothetically), but it says that one can turn it off based on person or day.

Decide to log in to their website as it's seems like it'll be easier to set up my profile there. I upload my standard photo (the self-portrait where I look mysteriously pondering or pondering mysteries). It won't accept it though as the image is over 200k; it must be under. So I resize it and upload again.

Definitely want to set up my privacy options. I agree to:
  • Let friends see my phone number and email address" (but I'm not providing my phone #)
  • Let people see the links to my Facebook / Twitter profiles
  • Show my name in the 'Who's here' list when
  • Let local businesses see that I've checked-in at their venue (maybe it'll lead to deals)
It just occurred to me that for Foursquare to have value:
  1. you really have to be out physically going places (ie. have a life)
  2. network effects - to be any fun you really have to have a bunch of friends using it
  3. these friends have to be near you as the service seems hyperlocal focused
Looking forward to this app, but already I'm having social network site fatigue. Wish that I didn't have to rebuild my networks over and over again with each new site or application. Also, I have done some reviews I really like for OurFaves - wish they could be imported here.

Switched over to Facebook to post a request for Foursquare friends. Within moments I got a message from a friend in Alberta that he just signed up today. Back to Foursquare mobile app. to see if I can find him. Before I can find him, I get a notice that I have a friend request from him. How did he figure that out so quickly?

I accepted and now I officially have a friend on Foursquare!

... If you're interested in helping out with my Foursquare study, please let me know below.

1 comment:

hanum said...

I like many kind badges of foursquare, nice, beautiful :)