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https://me.yahoo.com/a/nEcpeHpjp8795NIcl.LjwH_mr4IPSEc-#d3e6d

David -- I think you are absolutely right that this is a very dynamic issue right now and one we need to keep thinking about. New services like Blippy bring it even more into the foreground as they're already sharing our data automatically. I have an analysis piece due out next week in the London Eve. Standard on this exact subject. I'll try and remember to share it with you.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/kN5kzFkHqeDt6OC0.sUxKVrubA--#56cce

Dave,

I'm in the same boat as you. I was a Foursquare addict until I reached the top of the leaderboard among my friends, but then I lost motivation.

However, Foursquare serves a VERY important purpose for the overall growth of location. (1) Optional check-ins mean that users can maintain privacy if you choose, and (2) the game element makes the service "fun" for just long enough until you have your first serendipitous "location moment". Once Foursquare delivers your first chance encounter with an old friend a nearby cafe, users can finally calculate that value from sharing their location exceeds privacy concerns (if any).

I think Google Latitude's recent decision to keep your location history and proactively alert you if friends are nearby is FASCINATING. Zero user effort. Classic Google approach to a very large scale problem.

On privacy, I predict we will see a temporary opt-out sharing model emerge. Implementation needs some thought, but we must not ignore the needs of cheating spouses...

Cheers

David

(My location is currently 2882 Sand Hill Rd. Anybody reading this is welcome to drop in for DFJ pizza at 12pm Friday 2/5 :)

Synthmole

It's one thing for Amazon or Netflix to use historical data to suggest other items of interest. I have a business relationship with them, I pay them, they make a profit out of our transactions. In return I expect my data to be used for my benefit only and I appreciate the convenience. We have a voluntary business relationship that's understood and beneficial to both sides.

This is very different from Facebook, a free service with a business model that explicitly depends on sharing my data with advertisers, which in turn represent businesses I have no relationships with.

Your use of the term "targeting" is also ambiguous. It's not true that consumers appreciate being targeted by advertisers. I don't know what Netflix "quietly collecting data" means here. It's between me and Netflix. Only aggregate data is shared by advertisers. There is no equivalence between this collection of data and Facebook sharing the data with advertisers I did not choose to have a business relationship with.

In other words, you cannot extrapolate a willingness for sharing from the paid-service to ad-based free service and will not have a coherent position on privacy when mixing the two models.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/jEFgGJkCkJSMGSTDIuwZ_6ol1Q--#0ab4c

To the two David's above, I can definitely see where you're coming from.

I think check-in fatigue is something that some users can relate to and our job at foursquare is to keep innovating and creating reasons to for you to continue to check-in... and I think you can see this process in action as we continue to iterate on with how we award our points, badges, mayor specials (and of course, the new stuff we'll be rolling out shortly :)

That being said, I don't think the "always tracking me" (like Google Latitude) is the best way to collect location nor do I think "always opt-in" (like foursquare) is the ideal user-experience. The future is going to be about the middle ground - the iPhone that quietly observes your travels, notices when you stop moving and then asks you if you'd like to check in. The magic will be in making the opt-in checkin easier, not removing the opt-in part altogether.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. We're definitely hustling and always thinking about all this over here at foursquare HQ. Stay tuned for more good stuff soon...

@dens
co-founder, foursquare

https://me.yahoo.com/a/vXZXg0Vo1JYuxYq_rL.Dnq799A--#0c502

In the early days of MyBlogLog, we found that the "set and forget" model worked exceptionally well. Users registered, we cookied them, and then they surfed the web as usual. When we saw that someone frequently visited an MBL-enabled site, we automatically added them to the site's community, which they were free to opt out of. We occasionally got privacy complaints, but they were few and far between. (Web surfing is obviously different than LBS, but that's another discussion...)

In my experience, changing people's behavior is hard. Think about the difficulty of getting someone to change from using Service A to Service B -- in this case they're already performing an action and all you're doing is asking them to evaluate the relative differences between two service providers. I dislike Thunderbird but still can't get over the hump of using Gmail. I hate AT&T but won't switch to Verizon.

If changing behavior is hard, ADDING behavior is near impossible. The cognitive load involved with pushing a new behavior on the stack is overwhelming. The reward has to be noticeable and it has to be immediate.

I think this is why Foursquare fatigue sets in. You're forced to regularly check in (new behavior) in the hope of getting a rare AND RANDOM reward (connecting with a friend or getting a badge).

The Foursquare guys are wicked smart and I'm sure they are constantly attacking this problem from several different ways. I look forward to returning to a more active user status when I can think about the service less or get larger and more predictable rewards.

Eric Marcoullier
CEO, Gnip

blog.paulhowe.com

Agree that in 2-3 years manually "checking in" to a LBS will seem antiquated.

The interesting user experience question is what permissioning behavior will arise around "passive sharing" at sites like Blippy and Four Square. What controls do people want when the decision is what NOT to share?

I agree with @dens up to a point; the magic will be making the opt-in checking easier AND sometimes/often doing it automatically.

More thoughts here: http://bit.ly/ctYV2V

@phdc

sarah.sjb.co.uk

I'm an analyst specialising in an emerging mobile technology called near field communication (NFC) - and a regular reader of VentureBlog - and I'm wondering if NFC might have the/an answer to this issue.

With phones equipped with NFC technology, you would be able to simply 'touch' your phone to a check-in point to register your location (as you enter a restaurant, say). Because it would be very quick and easy to do, it could solve the problem of fatigue. And, because you need to consciously decide to bring your phone close enough to the check-in point for it to register, it also gets around the privacy issue.

There's a really interesting trial of the technology taking place in Los Angeles that gives an idea of how things could work. When customers check in with their NFC phones at the restaurants taking part, their Facebook status is automatically updated with a message along the lines of 'xyx is enjoying dinner at Joe's Diner' and, as a thank you, a special offer coupon is also automatically sent to their mobile phone.

NFC is mostly seen as a payments solution but it's now being recognised that it also has potential in mobile marketing. I would be really interested in hearing what David/fellow readers think of the idea that it could play a role in checking in to locations too...

Sarah Clark
Founder, SJB Research

davidhornik

@dens, my post was by no means intended to be a condemnation of FourSquare. I really appreciate what you guys have built and that you continue to rapidly iterate on the product. And I enjoy being the Mayor of Kaygetsu and Joanie's Cafe :) You may well be right that a middle ground between active and passive check-ins will do the trick. I was simply trying to point out that consumers are increasingly willing to trade some privacy for greater utility. I think that's good news for FourSquare no matter how passive you choose to go (and good news for users of FourSquare as well).

davidhornik

@synthmole, I am sorry that you feel that I am being ambiguous. But it seems to me that your primary problem with the post is that you disagree with it. You are very much entitled to your opinion. There is no question that many people will feel differently about privacy than I do. But I am fairly confident in the trend. The next generation of Internet users will gladly choose new functionality over zealously protecting their privacy.

bethebutterfly.wordpress.com

David,

Thank you for your interesting thoughts on Foursquare.
I just wrote a pretty comprehensive post last week. Foursquare: The Good, The Bad, & How to BeSquared http://bit.ly/b4xpXa
I'd love to continue the Foursquare discussion with you.

I would write a longer comment - but my post felt like writing a novel - so I'll just keep it simple and refer you there!

Thanks!
Perri
@bethebutterfly

buppythepuppy.com

I am an early adopter, and I live a pretty transparent life. First I got on Brightkite, then I switched to Foursquare, and now I'm trying to keep up with Foursquare and Gowalla because I have different friends on each. Frankly, it's a pain in the tail although it's moderately interesting to see where your friends check in.

But that's a little like voyeurism. When I first heard about Blippy, I thought it was even crazier, but now I think the information I get from knowing when a friend of mine buys an iPhone app on iTunes is way more interesting and useful to me than knowing he checked into the neighborhood gas station.

Part of my discomfort and dissatisfaction comes from the fact that because I travel a lot, I have to be very careful to friend only people I truly know well on a LBS, or they could simply break into my house when they find out I've checked into the airport in one city and then checked in at the airport in another. I can't believe it's totally generational not to want to be robbed:-)

Or stalked. Many of my young women friends are not comfortable with LBS because of stalkers: it has already happened to some of them, and others are just wary. After all, think of what happened to Kathy Sierra just from blogging.

But mostly I just don't see the value in holding up a meeting while you check in somewhere, especially multiple times, or sitting in the car checking in before you drive away. I know many people who do both, including myself.

I'm hoping they merge and converge so I will only have to do it once.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/xQpXiYEUmPPQ1dXQZtoLR1t.ixZDWw--#6af46

I was at an event at the Brookings Institution with Brad Smith of Microsoft, among others, about issues such as privacy in cloud computing. Some discussants raised the point that privacy is no longer defined as keeping others from viewing your personal info, but having the ability to reveal your information to selected other parties. The flip side of that, it seems to me, is the concept of discretion--can I trust my business partners, including service providers, to be able to exercise discretion in what they share about me on my behalf? The service that can earn that kind of trust from its users gains a significant advantage in the consumer marketplace.

I haven't seen the utility of FourSquare in my own life, especially in this part of the country. Still, I see why proactive check-ins are required, because I don't think anyone will trust FourSquare to be able to exercise appropriate discretion without the user's permission at each location.

Rick Bucich

David,

This post just got a whole lot more relevant with the launch of Google Buzz and integrated Latitude. Wanted to bubble it up since it looks like the game is changing somewhat.

https://me.yahoo.com/richardault#0f480

These three statements come to mind reading this post.

Actions speak louder than words.
Consequences dictate course of action.
Don't make me think/work.

Actions are of a higher resolution than words, which ascribes more value to where/when people checkin with LBS. re: Privacy, the current Internet generation may not have much to lose today. Will their tolerance wane as the stakes get higher? And it's one of the oldest sayings in design/product discipline, don't make me work. The sensors built into most smartphones should and will continue to be leveraged, striking at this concern that you are asking your users to take a step to check-in, etc.

Thanks for posting David, interesting indeed (channeling Omar Little from the Wire)

Joe McCarthy

As someone who has worked on a series of place-based social networking systems, I think Foursquare has hit a sweet spot.

Many of the systems we've developed have been "proactive" in the sense that they have operated via a "sense and respond" paradigm in which the system automatically detects people - who have explicitly opted in - and responds in [what we hope are] contextually appropriate ways, typically by showing photos or other media on a large display in the vicinity of the detected users. Across the different projects, we've used sensing technologies such as NFC-enabled employee badges, infrared employee badges, [far-field] RFID tags inserted in conference name badge sleeves and Bluetooth phones.

[I'd included links to individual projects above using embedded HTML, but apparently, clickable URLs of any kind are not allowed in comments here, so I'll adapt to this conversational constraint by including a single link here to a page that references to these projects: http://interrelativity.com/joe/research.html]

Each of these systems was deployed in a constrained context - a fitness center, two workplaces and a conference - with a pre-existing strong sense of community. Foursquare is used in a variety of contexts in which there is a much weaker sense of community, and so I suspect proactivity on the part of the user - rather than the system - will always be an essential part of the protocol.

I'm curious about the experiment that Sarah alludes to with NFC-enabled phones in Los Angeles; there have been many successful deployments of such systems in other countries, but the only U.S. trial I'm aware of was a collaboration between Visa and Nokia in New York City, and I didn't think that was successful. However, that trial was designed around financial transactions, I think being able to use NFC phones to check-in would be pretty cool. On a related note, it will be interesting to see how many merchants print out and post Google's 2D barcodes ... and how many customers snap photos of them to "check-in".

Finally, Eric says he wants to "think about the service less or get larger and more predictable rewards". Less effort generally confers lower value (thinking here of danah boyd's post on valuing inefficiency and unreliability). Numerous studies have demonstrated that intermittent and unpredictable rewards are correlated with higher levels of dopamine release. As extreme examples, contrast a parking meter with a slot machine. Finally, with respect to the size of the rewards, Daniel Ariely recently wrote an article for Wired reporting on a study showing that larger bonuses are positively correlated with increased activity, but negatively correlated with increased performance ... though the study does not report on correlations with dopamine levels, so people receiving larger rewards may well feel better than those receiving smaller rewards ... even if they don't deserve them :).

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Sarah Says

I like the privacy options for Four Square users, allowing them to opt in or out as the situation may call for. The concerns about being burglarized or stalked are certainly concerns that aren't purely generational, as buppy the puppy brought up above.

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@dens, my post was by no means intended to be a condemnation of FourSquare. I really appreciate what you guys have built and that you continue to rapidly iterate on the product. And I enjoy being the Mayor of Kaygetsu and Joanie's Cafe :) You may well be right that a middle ground between active and passive check-ins will do the trick. I was simply trying to point out that consumers are increasingly willing to trade some privacy for greater utility. I think that's good news for FourSquare no matter how passive you choose to go (and good news for users of FourSquare as well).

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Yes. my post was by no means intended to be a condemnation of FourSquare. I really appreciate what you guys have built and that you continue to rapidly iterate on the product. And I enjoy being the Mayor of Kaygetsu and Joanie's Cafe :) You may well be right that a middle ground between active and passive check-ins will do the trick. I was simply trying to point out that consumers are increasingly willing to trade some privacy for greater utility. I think that's good news for FourSquare no matter how passive you choose to go (and good news for users of FourSquare as well).

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