Tag Archives: foursquare

London Part 1

Heading to London from Brighton seemed like it would be easy enough, however when I arrived at the train station I soon found that service to London had been cancelled due to some sort of security issue. All was not lost however as one of the friendly train attendants was able to help me figure out a route into the city that required a variety of transfers.

Eventually I made my way to east London and specifically to Cheshire Street where my friend Blair and her husband Patrick live. Although she’s originally from South Carolina, I know Blair from Chicago where she attended the School of the Art Institute’s graduate program as a painter. At some point Blair left to study abroad for a semester and met Patrick, fast forward a few years and they are married and living together in London.

Coincidentally my visit to London coincided with the Bermondsey Street Festivalin which Blair was showing some of her artwork. Unfortunately though it also coincided with Patrick being out of town for a friend’s bachelor weekend.

After resting a bit at Blair’s flat we made our way over to the gallery for an opening cocktail reception. There I met several of her friends and other artists participating in the show. I had thrilling discussion with one gentleman, Alex, on the artistic merits of digital tools for artwork and the case for and against, as well the brilliant Japanese animation film Akira.

The next day Blair and I set out with several of her friends to the actual Street Festival but after an hour or two I decided to split off from the group to venture out and explore London. I figured I would take the time to get to know Gowalla‘s newly revised iPhone app and it’s Gowalla Guides feature. For those unfamiliar with Gowalla, it’s a location based social networking service that previously was built around “checking-in” to a venue similar to Foursquare, which I wrote about when it debuted at SXSW ’09.

Recently Gowalla decided to concede the check-in war and revamp their app in a different direction that features city guides and recommendations of things to do. I plan on discussing this in greater depth in a separate entry eventually seeing as I was a big fan of the old app I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the new one a go.

First things first I head off to find the Apple Store Regent Street. Yes, I’m a nerd, I know but in all seriousness Apple stores are a godsend to travelers. Free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms, water fountains and usually (but not always) a place to sit down. Apple is also very particular about where they build their stores and the architectural designs of them, so if you can find a city’s local Apple store you can usually assure that you’ll not only see a beautiful structure but you’ll also find a lively shopping district with good (but likely expensive) places to eat.

Once I felt I had caught up with everything I needed at the store I popped open the Gowalla guide to take a look at what was nearby. When I saw that London’s famous Picadilly Circus was a short walk away I head off in that direction, from there made my way to Green Park and eventually Buckingham Palace.

The Palace is a sight to behold that unfortunately was closed by 6pm when I arrived, but I was still able to see the guards from the gate, talk to some of the assigned police officers and get a bunch of great shots from the monument across from it.

I wandered on further through the Palace parks and noticed I was able to see the famous “London Eye” from the park and decided to walk towards it, eventually discovering Big Ben and the bridge between them. The area around Big Ben was very alive with street performers and tourists and I got a good laugh from them before I decided to take the advice of Jim Binder via Twitter and caught a cab over to The Old Red Cow for a bite and a drink. Sure enough Jim’s suggestion was spot on and The Old Red Cow was a cozy bar with a great atmosphere, a friendly bartender and a heck of a burger. Shortly after that I head back via the Underground and called it a night.

Photo set now posted here.

Grid Meets Road – World Travel in the Digital Age

On the 19th of September I will embark on an adventure that will almost certainly change my life. I am heading overseas to Europe to travel full time until February of next year.

Along my way I will use digital devices and social media tools to explore and find what to do in each respective city. I will document my experience on this blog, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, FourSquare, GowallaTumblr & and maybe even YouTube. I will attempt to find places to say either with friends from these services or using sites like CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

The idea is to “crowd source” my adventure, asking for you, the reader, to supply me with input as to where to go, what to see etc.

My end goal will be not just to explore the world but to really test the limits of our global communications network, the so-called “global community”. Can we, “the internet”, actually supply what one person needs to know on such an adventure? How connected are we really through these services and how easy (or hard) is it to maintain the relationships with your loved ones while traveling full time?

I have also submit a panel to next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival and hope to be able to share the results of my trip with you there as well as eventually publish a book on the experience.

I will share more details about the trip as we get closer to leaving but for now I could use your help.

Please do me a favor and vote for my panel to be accepted to SXSW… the voting period ends tonight Friday the 2nd at midnight. You can do that here.

And if you’re so interested you can donate to my experiment as well here.

Anyone who donates me any money (doesn’t matter how much or little) will have their name on a slide at our SXSW presentation should it be accepted. Thanks!

Into the great wide open.

Open on FlickrA week ago I had my final day at Apple Inc.

As much as I deeply love Apple it was one of those things where it was just time for me to move on. The constraints of working a retail job have been a challenge to my personal creative pursuits for some time so after six and a half year I’ve decided to move on (for now at least).

Today marks the beginning of something else entirely. Today I am leaving on what I hope to be the first of many road trips across the United States, during which my goal will be to write and publish a photo set daily from the road.

On this trip I will be accompanied by the always awesome and always funky fresh James Vest. The two of us will be exploring our way down to New Orleans and back over the course of 8 days.

We’ll be reaching out on Twitter to crowd-source the things we do in each city and others are welcome to meet up with us if they so choose.

I have to cut this short as I still have a few things to take care of before hitting the road. Expect another blog later today but in the meantime here is how you can follow us:

John
Twitter | Flickr | FourSquare | Gowalla

James
Twitter

FourSquare: Social Networking for the Social Drinker

A few weeks ago I was in Austin, TX for the South By Southwest Interactive conference. While there, through word of mouth I heard about FourSquare.

FourSquare is a new service for smartphone users from the creators of Dodgeball, a startup purchased and then shelved by Google. FourSquare utilizes your phone’s GPS to “Check in” to different places you go, see where your friends are and allows you to “Shout” status updates to your friends. On the surface it seems similar to other “location status” services such as Brightkite or Loopt. However FourSquare goes a different route than it’s competitors, it emphasizes the social potential of location status by turning it into a game.

I was, at one point a big promoter of Brightkite. While there are functions of the service I did like, I’ve started to question more and more why I used it. I started to qeustion: “Who cares that I’ve checked in to my apartment?” “Do I really want people knowing where my apartment is?” If I am going to restrict visibility of my location – why am I even using this service to begin with?” The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a really useful way for someone to stalk me and not much more.

FourSquare takes a different approach, it focuses on bars, clubs and restaurants rather than just arbitrary check ins to every location. It’s intention is to connect you and your friends in a nightlife setting.

Although I’ve been using it since SXSW it wasn’t until this weekend, on a trip visiting NYC, that I really saw the potential of FourSquare. The service awards your “check ins” a variety of ways. For each check in you earn points, and you get bonus points for doing things like hitting multiple locations in one night. You can also unlock badges, (yes, like in Boy / Girl Scouts) for accomplishing an objective, similar to many video games. Lastly, by checking into a location on multiple occasions you can become it’s “Mayor” if you’re there more often then someone else. Each city has it’s own set of badges and Mayors (There are currently 12 supported US cities.)

My FourSquare activity tells an amusing story about my trip to NY. According to Foursquare: I got “Crunked” on Thursday night bar hopping through Brooklyn, earned extra points meeting up with my friend Tom (who saw where I was via FourSquare and proposed we meet up) and went on a 4 day “Bender” which culminated in me becoming the “Mayor” of the Coyote Ugly Saloon Saturday night. Hopefully you can see why I’m enjoying this.

Something I’m really enjoying is the ability to build to-do lists of things / places you want to hit and view local to-dos that other users have posted. This allows for someone to craft their own adventures and come up with creative experiences. There is also a weekly leader board that lets you see who in your area is really partying it up and where you rank.

The end result is a service that feels like a giant mobile web scavenger hunt that encourages users to challenge each-other and compete.

The service is not without flaws though: Many bars and restaurants don’t show up in the listings, the there are many quirks to the website and application itself. IT’s creators have acknowledged that he service is still very much in development and honestly, it sometimes feels like a very public beta. They’ve reportedly set themselves a June 1st deadline to iron out the kinks and get it working the way they want. Even taking all that into consideration, the service is very functional and ver impressive.

Some things I’d like to see in future revisions:

  • More visibility to user profiles and todo lists: I’d really like to discover new people to connect to, right now there are few days to do this. I wish profiles listed a clearer stream of what I did, when I did it and what rewards my actions earned me.  In 6 months I’d like to know which 4 bars I went to to unlock the “Crunked” badge.
  • Less walls between cities. It’s strange that on the website I need to switch a drop down to see different sets of information for different cities. I’d like the ability to see everything at once and also see my local updates. The walls are weird. They discourage people from being friends cross-city. My friend Frank has an account but I’ll likely never see what he’s up to unless I switch my location to where he is. Sure local users should be prioritized, but just because I can’t get to Washington to meet up with Frank tonight doesn’t mean I don’t care.
  • Badges also suffer due to these walls. I like the idea of having different goals in different cities but it seems silly that I’ve now earned the “Newbie” badge a few times and that I have to go our 4 nights in a row again to earn the “Bender” badge in Chicago because the one I earned was in NY. Perhaps there should be global badges and specialized local badges?

These are just my .02 cents. I’m excited to continue using FourSquare and to see where the service goes in the future, it’s genuinely a lot of fun. I recommend checking it out via their website: playfoursquare.com. There is an iPhone application available via the App Store and a mobile browser optimized version of the site available for Android and Blackberry users for now.