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By (March 22, 2009) ()

The MIP du jour is Foursquare, by Dennis Crowley (ITP ’05) and Naveen Selvadurai. Foursquare is an iphone and web app with three mantras:

  • #1. Find Your Friends!
  • #2. Points and Badges!
  • #3. Explore the City!

Utilizing the locative technology in the iphone, Foursquare provides a list of public venues from which to submit as your location. In addition to updating your location within its own system, Foursquare cleverly provides the option to send your location with a personal message to your Twitter account if you’ve provided one. Right off the bat, Foursquare uses two of the most important MIP characteristics to their full potential: an automated structure and a huge Social graph. The act of updating your location consists of opening the application, waiting (a few seconds) for the GPS fix to come in, choosing the public venue, and hitting the check-in (the additional step of adding a “shout out” is not required). The entire operation, in addition to being succinct, draws on the Yelp API in order to activate the key element of the structure, the listing of venues by proximity. As for the huge Social Graph, the clever piggybacking onto Twitter effectively gives Foursquare access to existing social networks, acting as well as an outlet for the messages outside the existing Foursquare community.
The ability to send public messages through your Twitter account also provides users with the ability to create the rapid cycle of persuasive experience sharing. Non Foursquare Twitter users following your Twitter feed will also see your update, and by virtue of the Social distribution built into Foursquare will eventually wonder why so many of their friends are sending their location to Twitter in the exact same format (compelling them to either join in the fun, or lament the intrusion of yet another Twitter based application into their feed – not all Twitter users are iphone users).
Finally, there are a few more very important aspects to Foursquare that give it potential longevity and a lasting user base – the badges and to-do lists. The badges are simply recognition of patterns in your check-in behavior in the form of graphical rewards on the application – as well as points in an overall game played by all Foursquare users. The badges indicate but don’t reveal their intended pattern, such as the ‘douchebag’ badge. In my case, since I started using it over spring break when I was devoted to my thesis work, I pretty much only got to check in from ITP, which meant that I got the ‘local badge’ for checking in from the same location multiple times in a row. As far as the douchebag badge goes, my sources tell me it’s a bar near NYU, and even though I don’t want to be a douchebag, I’m tickled by the idea of being amongst the first to unlock it.
Which brings us to the final point, metrics. Being able to see how everyone else is doing through the leaderboard, as well as being able to see who has checked in the most at a specific venue (called mayors) means that I feel compelled to check both of those regularly. I’m quite certain that there are more metrics planned for the users as the userbase increases and more interesting usage patterns emerge. All in all Foursquare is solidly a MIP application that hits every single one of BJ Fogg’s points and does an exemplary job of executing seamlessly.


March 22, 2009


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