Foursquare is a fun little application that seems to be getting the brunt of some pop culture venom these days. Many of my colleagues say that it’s everything from over-reaching to lame. It seems especially to be catching flak from the college-aged population. However, if you’re willing to stick with it and ignore the mild social stigma, there’s some interesting features to mined from the app.
Using it isn’t all that difficult, although you’re going to need a solid internet connection. Less than four bars of Wi-Fi is probably a no-go, and the 3G can be iffy sometimes. Once you have the connection, though, it’s a piece of cake. The Check In button gives you a list of places, You can choose from the list, use the search bar to look for a nearby location, or create a new location by hitting the “+” button at the top of the screen. Once you’ve chosen or created a new location, just write what you’re doing (think facebook or Twitter status) and hit check in.
Now comes the addicting part of Foursquare. You get points for how many stops and new locations you go to each day. From there, medals and awards can be gained depending on how many new locations you visit, how many stops you make, or how often you revisit certain locations. If you’re really lucky, you may even become mayor of a location (meaning you’ve checked in there the most times in the last two months). Becoming mayor can be difficult if you’re just joining the service and don’t frequent a lot of places often, as someone else has probably been checking in quite regularly. However, if you can find a spot that hasn’t been checked in at before, then only a few visits makes you a mayor. Alternatively, creating a new place, like for instance your home, and checking in can be a quick route to becoming mayor.
To make matters more interesting, some businesses are beginning to jump on the Foursquare bandwagon. Certain locations will offer deals if you check in at their location (or if you’re mayor). Businesses are also offering unique medals to users who go to certain areas and check-in as a way of showing off your ability to get around. However, users should be careful. Only recently, I followed the scent of a “special” to a store, only to discover that it was some kind of practical joke and not at all a real business offer.
In all, the application is fun, but it’s not terribly interactive. You get on when you arrive somewhere, check-in, then shut it off. You can see who else is at your location, but you can’t see their status unless they are your friends, and not enough people that I’m friends with use the program that I can comb through their statuses for more than a few minutes, meaning it’s a check in, log out sort of process for me. But for some people out there, it’s going to be a fun new way to play around with their friends, gain some points, and hopefully some bragging rights by becoming a mayor.