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Des Moines, Iowa


My 2011 resolution: Add legitimate tips to foursquare

Geoff Wood

Dennis talks about how the idea for tips came about at Big Omaha

I'm a passionate user of the mobile application foursquare. I haven't done any research on it but I'm likely one of the top users in Des Moines (based on frequency of use and dedication to the intended use of the app, nothing more).

However, I've largely ignored the "tips" feature. It's been there since the beginning and I get notified of tips that my in-app friends have left all over town. Things like "You're at Chipotle, why don't you try a burrito?" or "The baristas at this coffee shop are the best". To be honest, most of the tips I've seen locally are so mundane or obvious they provide little value to the experience of using the app and I've always thought I would only be adding to the clutter.

A few weeks ago I was driving somewhere listening to a podcast of foursquare founder Dennis Crowley's panel discussion at Le Web in Paris in early December. It wasn't the first time I've heard Dennis speak; I've talked with him in person a couple times (whoa! name drop...well, kinda) and I was at his killer presentation at Big Omaha (see it here: Big Omaha Video Series: Dennis Crowley of foursquare) where he talked about the pretty much everything foursquare, including the tips feature.

For some reason, it wasn't until that Le Web talk that I finally understood what tips are supposed to be (to his credit - he said the same thing at Big Omaha, I just didn't get it). Prior to founding foursquare, Dennis was preparing to travel to Sweden. He made his itinerary public, showing a map of his planned trip to his friends via (see image above), and asking them for tips on what he should do. They responded with what he called an "amazing" list of things to do and experiences that he should have while he's there.

That's the genesis, and that's what tips are supposed to be! Rather than checking a Frommer's guide for the obvious, tips in foursquare should be an organic, crowd sourced (from the people you know) list of the cool things to do in your city that most folks wouldn't know about. That's great for new people to a city or folks just traveling it through but the tips technology also makes sense as a way to reveal those hidden things at our everyday locales and establishments that are just under our nose.

So, on to my resolution: I'm not only going to start using the tips functionality, but I'm going to add legitimate tips to it this year.(1)

"Legitimate" is obviously subjective in this case but I'm going to work on inputting whatever tribal knowledge (as Christian Renaud would say) that I have locally into the app, at least where/when it seems interesting or potentially useful. 

I started with what I thought were small, useful tips at my local coffee shop, Chinese takeaway place, and local bar:

After I get a few more of these under my belt, I'll move on to something more prolific and interesting to visitors. Probably.

What do you think, have you used tips on foursquare? What's the best tip you've found so far?

(1)My wife won't count this as a resolution since it's not a realistic and measurable goal. She's the Queen of actually holding to and benefiting from New Year's Resolutions.