Foursquare and evolving electronic social meetings

By | 9 January 2010

We’ve all got smartphones. Some of us are using Nokia,  others are using blackberries and yet more are using Android and Iphones. As a result when we interact with people we are not interacting with them from a desk somewhere in a building. We’re interacting with them from the middle of the street or on public transport.

As the shift from computers to mobile devices gains momentum we will be meeting more and more people this way. For the past decade it was reserved to geeks through many different sites. At first it was all about protecting your identity and being anonymous. That changed. From Geocities, through myspace and to facebook we have grown more accustomed to sharing more personal information about who we are and where we hang out. As a result of this increasing familiarity, and as more people grow to understand the advantages and pitfalls of online interaction so a new type of activity is taking form.

From twitter where avatars were used to facebook where profile pictures are used our digital identity has evolved, become more open, and more open. On twitter we used to use avatars but more and more people use pictures of themselves. As a result of this the level of trust has improved.

That’s where brightkyte and other websites are starting to become the norm. Recently I have been using Foursquare. I can follow as more and more people locally, in Geneva check in to different places. If I’m at Geneva airport for example I check in and I can see who else has checked in at this location. It’s an international location so there is a good chance of not meeting people there. In other locations though, as more people from our physical group of friends, and by this I mean non geeks, use these services so they gain relevance for “normal people”.

Mix this in with the Iphone and the ease of use of the mobile apps we have some interesting new tools and services by which to meet new people. If I go to Les Brasseurs in Lausanne, Geneva or Nyon so I see who else has been there and could decide to meet them and see whether we enjoy their company when meeting face to face.

Foursquare has a feature that I find interesting, we can share our phone number with those whom we trust to be friends and so we can exchange a few messages before meeting them in person, building trust and assessing the character of the person before meeting. Over a period of a few weeks as trust builds up so we can discuss whether to meet in person.

For those of you reading this on my blog the idea is old. You’ve already been to 20 tuttles, tweetups, seesmeetups and other events and you’re a veteran of this type of meetup. For others, who are more used to glocals and facebook though the idea is relatively new. You might feel uncomfortable about this way of doing things. To you I say one thing. As more of your friends use these services, and as your network of trusted friends grows on these services grow so your motivation will grow to meet others.

Take the frontline club in London as a case example. If I went there once and checked in only that time, never to come back then you would know not be so inclined to see about meeting me. If you see someone else checks in often to this place then your motivation to meet them may increase. As a result of several people checking in to that same location a number of times so the cluster of people may increase and become more important.

As an example think of the independent cinemas that may be close to where you live, the City in Pully in Lausanne. As four or five people check in more often and through the common interest finally you may decide to meet.

The key advantage of services like foursquare is that these sites are local. That is to say that you are kept aware of what those around you are doing. You are not inundated by the irrelevance of what the international community are doing but rather the local. The benefit of such services is they are providing you with local more relevant people to meet, without the effect of isolation that other types of services may make you feel.

The drawback of services like twitter is that you are given a lot of irrelevant information. You don’t need to know who chats with who, what they are doing. Instead you simply see where they’ve been and how often. That’s where the relevance of the badges and mayorships come in. For different type of activities so you get a unique type of badge. If you check into a gym for example, you acquire the gym rat badge. It is unlocked for going to a venue with the tag gym. If you go ten times in a month, so people will know that you enjoy going to the gym. As other badges are created, for going to the cinema or the pub so you can see which people are most active in those forms of activities, hence learning of the relevance of their interest in similar activities.

This is not a dating site, and it’s not a place for geeks. Unlike yelp and trustedplaces you do not need to give your opinion of the venue, it’s a three second “this is where I am and this is how many times I’ve been there” type statement. As the number of users increases so the opportunities to meet people with similar habits increases.

Of course you can add tips and what to do at these locations, which others can see. As different types of personalities go to different places so the recommendations will increase. As you see what people recommend you do, at different times of the year so the wealth of ideas will increase.

The foursquare app on the mobile phone allows you to arrive in a place you have not visited, click on what’s near me, see what venues are already in the database, see what people recommend you do and for you to go to those places and add yourself to those places and acknowledging that you have done what others have suggested. It’s an interesting idea that will come of age within the next few months as more and more users pick up these new habits on sharing local information and experiences. This is in effect part of the social medial lifestyle that some of us have been discussing for a number of years by now.

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