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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 flickr.com (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.

Updated Des Moines Foursquare visualization

Geoff Wood

It's been over two months so I figured it's time to publish a new visualization of my Foursquare check ins in Des Moines.

Not a lot of change but one particular highlight in this one include my ten weeks in the Farrell's Extreme Body Shaping challenge. Farrell's is a subject for a post by itself but I will say that I never missed a day (5:15 AM six days a week for ten weeks!) see the dark red spot at 86th St & Hickman in the Urbandale area.

Visualization comes to Foursquare

Geoff Wood

Heatmap of my Foursquare check ins in Des Moines

I've been a big fan of Fourquare, the smart-phone location based social network and game, since before I was even able to use it.

This week it got even more interesting as two third-party visualization tools based on the Foursquare API hit my radar. The first is WeePlaces, which is a visualization over time of Foursqaure check ins. They animate movement around town (or the globe, depending on where you've been) with a line from check in to check in. They also show frequency, with multiple checks in resulting in bigger circles. Click here to check it out live with my data. Thanks to @CatchfireMedia who pointed this out.

The second visualization is by Where Do You Go? and it was pointed out by Andrew Mager today (see image at top of post). It shows a heat map of the places in Des Moines where I've checked in. It's pretty neat; the hottest spots being downtown (Court Avenue District and Western Gateway, mainly), Windsor Heights, and the Drake Univ area. Runners up include Merle Hay (which is all Old Chicago check ins), Beaverdale and the Westown Parkway/University area in West Des Moines.

In other Foursquare news, they announced the online store to buy t-shirts and other swag on Monday. Bonus, that it was built by Sigler, a company right up the road in Ames, who did the technology and will continue to process orders and do fulfillment. Awesome work guys!

Foursquare pays off

Geoff Wood

My wife and I randomly decided to stop in to Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery on Saturday night for some food and drinks. We’d enjoyed lunch there earlier in the week and so it was top of mind in the typical “where do we want to go” debate.

As an avid Foursquare player, I checked in earlier in the week and when I went to check in this time I noticed a “Special Offer” tag that I didn’t remember from checking in before. It turns out that the good folks at Rock Bottom had decided to offer happy hour pricing all day long to whoever holds the title of Mayor at their location within the Foursquare platform. Upon checking in, this image popped up on my phone:

Sweet! Not my first Mayorship but my first one that actually provided a tangible reward. We stayed for a few drinks and an appetizer and walked out with a bill of less than $15!

I know that a lot of non-user folks don’t see the point of Foursquare but I’ve always found it fun. Now that it’s paying off, I’m all in.

Also, I was quoted in the Des Moines Register about Des Moines businesses using Foursquare. Check it out here.