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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 (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.

Charity: Water founder Scott Harrison's presentation from Big Omaha

Geoff Wood

The video above is the talk that Scott Harrison gave at Big Omaha in May that inspired me to give up my birthday to help provide clean water to the Central African Republic. It's about ~45 minutes long but well worth the time. Hopefully, it inspires you to donate and you can start with my campaign:

Perhaps it will even inspire you to give up your own birthday or do something else to help meet the needs of those 1 billion people.

Here's what I wrote on this blog about Scott's presentation at the time:

Scott Harrison took the stage just before lunch and I'm not sure that anyone in the room will ever again be the same. I've never felt that way about a presentation that I've seen anywhere at anytime before and I'm so appreciative that I had the opportunity. Scott is the force behind the organization "charity: water" which works to bring clean drinking water to people in places like Africa, India, and South America, who have never before had access to it. I'd heard of charity: water years ago but hadn't paid much attention to it - never again. I'm struggling to explain it here but I encourage you to check our their website, read Scott's story, watch the videos, and see the images. After that, you should probably donate.

For more info, see the original post about Scott's presentation at Silicon Prairie News.

I gave up my 32nd birthday for Charity: Water

Geoff Wood

The video above was put together a year ago Scott Harrison, and his team at Charity: Water. Scott used it as part of a featured presentation at Big Omaha in May that was moving, inspiring and brought tears to the eyes of the 500 entrepreneurs and tech scenesters in attendance.

I shared it with my wife when I came home and mentioned that I'd like to do my part as a September baby and give up my 32nd birthday for the cause that Scott champions so well. To be honest, I hadn't thought much about it since then until I saw this from Scott on Twitter yesterday:

On the hunt for #September babies. Are you born in September? We want your big day this year - Aug 16 15:46:16 via TweetDeck

That's the call to action that I needed. I immediately setup my Charity:Water campaign (check it out here) and sent out a few tweets of my own.

Now, I'm asking you to help me reach my goal of $1000. We're more than 10% 20%* of the way there on Day 1! Scott's campaign is based around the idea of you donating towards my campaign rather than give me birthday presents. Since I get very few birthday presents (my mother-in-law Dixie being a wonderful exception!) that alone is not going to get us there. I need my family, friends, fraternity brothers, colleagues, new neighbors in Iowa, old neighbors in Indiana, blog readers, Twitter followers, podcast listeners and pretty much anyone else who happens across this campaign to help me out. 

Give as much as you can, even if it's very little. One simple way to think about it is to give $32 in honor of my 32nd birthday (also known as the Year of Our Wood: 32) but the amount and the choice is up to you.

Our $1000 will go to build wells in the Central African Republic, the recipient of this year's Charity: Water September campaign. Check out the video below (then donate here):

*Another donation came in between when I drafted this post and published it. Awesome!

Nametag Highlights - Year One

Geoff Wood

Almost 11 months ago, my wife and I both quit our jobs in Indianapolis and moved to Des Moines. She was set to start classes at Drake Law but I wasn't quite sure how I would spend my time. Looking back, it's been a great year.

By nature of my interests, and my personality, I attend a lot of events. They range from meetings and meetups to conferences and unconferences. Typically, these events come with a nametag and much of the time I keep the nametag as some sort of keepsake or "proof of participation". I've been doing that since college and I know I'm not alone.

Now, in addition to keeping the physical nametag, I plan to do an annual post here on the blog showcasing the best events in one image (see above).

In Year One of my new career these three topped the list:


  1. Highlight Midwest - Des Moines, Iowa - October 2009. The event had a few hiccups but was a great early intro to the tech startups, creative class, and social media community around the Silicon Prairie.
  2. South by Southwest (SxSW) Interactive - Austin, Texas - March 2010. I was very fortunate to get to attend SxSW last minute. I'd wanted to go for the last few years and the event did not disappoint. Great exposure to the world-wide version of the groups listed above and a great time to get to know the SPN team better.
  3. Big Omaha - Omaha, Nebraska - May 2010. SPN's own event, Big Omaha was actually the best of the three. Even though I'm on the team, I was more participant than organizer at this one and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to experience it.


Note: the nametag/image idea is totally borrowed from the creativity of Erin Sparling on his site I'm not exactly sure who linked me to Erin's site but I loved the image so much that I wanted to recreate it for myself. Also, it's obvious his is better than mine but I'll work on it for next year.