Monday, July 12, 2010

Foursquare - Answering My Own Usage Questions

I am conducting research on the mobile application foursquare (I still need participants). I have been conducting email interviews to better understand how and why people use Foursquare. As I have been chronicling my own usage as part of the research process, I thought I would include my own answers to some of my questions.

If you're interested in helping me out with these please let me know.

foursquare Q&A
1) Please list 4-5 words to encapsulate your impressions of your usage of foursquare?

Fun, novelty, distraction, potential.

2) Please describe your usage of foursquare.

I check in to most locations I go to. As I work from home, I only use it maybe 3-4 days a week. I check in off the grid a lot as I don't like the idea of bugging all my friends with endless pings from me.

3) What motivates you to check into a location?

I have to admit I am a bit motivated by the stupid badges and mayorships. The points and leader-board don't mean anything to me. In the long term as novelty wears thin for me (it's starting for me already) though I'm not sure what would motivate me beyond either deals from vendors or a more vibrant critical mass amongst my friends.

It was fun, however, when the earthquake happened to have so many people in the city checking into that and sharing that moment (not to mention getting the super swarm badge).

4) What, if any, information do you view/read via foursquare?
I find it interesting to see at a glance where people are and what their shouts are. It does make me feel more connected to them. But I am starting to get really bored of people checking into the same location every day.

Early on, I was really interested in what badges and mayorships they had. I have enjoyed tips when they actually exist for a location or venue - for example I now found out where a secret bathroom is at my local subway station is (invaluable knowledge!).

5) What is your experience of foursquare's "Tips" feature?

I write a few tips, but not that very many as I often don't have anything that useful to offer others. I would love it if when I went to venue my friends had been to and left a tip that this would come up prominently. This would be useful and fun! I also think it would be fun if I could leave tips or messages over the city for games like a scavenger hunt or history quest.

I hate when tips are useless ramblings, indecipherable comments to oneself or their friends, or statements of the obvious. Scrolling through too many of these devalues the entire feature. The mobile screen only has room to present about 4-5 tips without clicking through. Clicking through on my mobile is a pain as it takes so long for the next page to load, so getting on the first page is crucial for me. Eventually, there will be so much garbage or just tips not up my alley, that filter mechanisms will be necessary for me to use them at all.

Filters could help me only see tips I want, e.g. related to food, culture, history, politics, etc. That would be excellent! But not sure if users would have to designate this or if it could be done automatically.

6) Please discuss any factors, such as design or network coverage, that affect your usage.

I often cannot check into a location due to what seems like a Bell network coverage issue. It seems like they don't work about 1/5 of the times I attempt to check-in. Sometimes I will check in a little later while still in the vicinity - but this seems like cheating. Often though I'm not able to check in at all as a result of poor coverage. I also really hate it when I'm at a location and it doesn't come up on the list, particularly if I have been there before. It's annoying to have to do a search.

Overall, the interface is really quite easy to use. I do wonder if I'm using up a lot of my data plan data - hope my next bill isn't killer.

7) How do you see yourself using foursquare in the future?

I am not sure I will be using foursquare that often in a few months from now let alone much in the future. For one, I just don't have enough friends using it and also the pattern of checking into work and lunch restaurants starts to get really boring. I think it would be invaluable if exploring a new area or city though. I think there is a lot of potential for tips. For me, that is the only feature that would sustain my interest on a daily basis.

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