Foursquare as a travel journal

Some of you know my back and forth with Foursquare as a tool. Foursquare isn't going away, so I may as well embrace it – and my guess is that long-ish service outage we saw Sunday morning means they're getting their ducks in a row for some major funding, either in terms of a purchase or a round of venture capital.

I was in Saratoga Springs over the weekend, and I used Foursquare throughout the weekend to mark where I'd been, so that I could go back and recall names, and be able to find addresses and Web pages. It was a handy note-taking tool. I probably abused the "Tell Twitter" function a little, but I tried to take it easy on the anti-Foursquare amongst my followers (I've been telling Twitter less and less lately).

I found Foursquare to be a highly effective tool for the purpose. Even when Foursquare was down, I could tweet my location (I don't get people who tell Twitter where they are, but who claim to hate Foursquare – it's the same thing, just without the 4sq link). Sure, it means if you were stalking me, you could find me. You already knew I wasn't home because I told you on Twitter that I was heading out of town. That doesn't mean you could get by the dogs, the electrified lawn barrier, and the two other things I'm not telling you about.

The two things I like best about using this method:

1. It's digitized. When my brother and I drove from Massachusetts to California in 2003, neither of us had a smart phone, we weren't on Facebook, (what with it being still in development and us out of college) and we didn't have location-based services in general. We kept a road diary, and while I've referred to it for purposes of stories, I've never digitized it. My Foursquare travel journal is already digitized, and I can just copy and paste into a document if I want.

2. Contact information. Most of the venues in Foursquare have some modicum of correct information, including an accurate venue name. That makes a venue easy to find should I want to refer to it in a blog entry or get in touch so that I can go again.

Connecting on multiple platforms, or why I’m no longer reading your updates

If you move your eyes to the right, you'll see a box labeled "Connect." It's under the search box, next to my mug over there. While you may not have a Delicious account, there's a reasonable chance you have a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account. Even all three. And possibly Foursquare, too.

I use those three social networking platforms very differently. Facebook is primarily social for me, although I do operate a Facebook page or 2 for businesses. I play Scrabble with my sister and other word games with my mom and some friends. I check in on birthdays. On rare occasions I'll check the status updates, but really, that is pretty rare. LinkedIn is purely business; even the stuff that feels social is business – I'm sharing professional information, and since I'm a sole proprietor, that business life sometimes spills over into the personal (and vice versa). Twitter is a mix of everything. I definitely don't over-share on Foursquare, and I only check in at clients, potential clients, and places I have a comment about. And I only share that on Twitter if I have something to say about it beyond, "I'm here."

Sometimes I find something worth sharing on multiple platforms, though I find that increasingly rare. More often than not, it's a photo shared on a Twitter platform that I send to Facebook as well so that I don't have to upload it twice.

If you're just on social networking sites to be there, that's cool. I have goals. Which is why if you're flooding my LinkedIn stream with the same stuff I just read on Twitter, totally overwhelming other connections who update what they're working on once or twice a week, I've pulled you out of my LinkedIn timeline. And really, a lot of us are on LinkedIn for the professional networking – we don't care if you're sharing ice cream with your kid. Save it for Facebook or Twitter.

I've been doing the same on Facebook lately, too.

This has a further consequence, as well: once I've pulled you out of my stream, you're out. It's not like I go back weekly to see if your practices have changed. If you point out to me that your practices have changed, I may go check, but if I've pulled you out of my stream and tomorrow you have an epiphany and decide to share good stuff on LinkedIn, sorry, I'm not going to know, and I'm not going to share it with my network.

How are you using these platforms, and how do you deal with people who use them differently from you?

Foursquare in a small town

We spent the weekend in the Coxsackie, NY, area. It's about 20 miles south of Albany, but you'd never know it from looking around. And I have to use that "area" there, because the wedding was in West Coxsackie, the reception was in Coxsackie, and I'm still not sure whether the hotel was in West Coxsackie or New Baltimore.

The hotel gave us a sheet with some dinner recommendations, and we did some research. Red's has a fairly professional website, and the menu looks good but a little pricier than we had hoped for; driving by, it looked a little like a run-down clam shack. The Quarry Steakhouse has a nice menu, but the website is on the unprofessional side and it was a bit in a different direction than we were comfortable driving.

So I opened my phone's Foursquare app. What I don't like is that it appears to list locations in the order in which they were added, not either in alphabetical order (which would make a little sense), or in distance from my current location (which would make the most sense). What I do like is that there are places listed.

We wound up at Paul's Pizza and Pasta, which was exactly like any middle-America post-high school football game pizza house you've ever seen in the movies: exposed brick, lots of white people, and waitresses who call people "hon."

There were no tips for anywhere local, and, let's face it, there were about 2 people listed as mayor of anywhere in town, but we enjoyed Paul's. JB had a bowl of clam chowder (that's clams in a cream broth with onions and potatoes, not tomato soup with clams in it) and spaghetti with meat sauce. I had a bowl of sausage chowder (corn, potatoes and onions with the sausage) and a white veggie pizza, which was mozzarella and ricotta cheeses with spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, onions and green pepper, all fresh.

I said a while back that I wound up not really being a fan of Foursquare. My attitude might be changing now that I understand how to use it. Which makes sense. I tell people they need to have a goal with Twitter if they expect to enjoy it; I guess I've needed that with Foursquare, too. More to come as I grow with the tool.

My brief chilly romance with Foursquare

You may have heard about Foursquare by now. Heck, you may be using it. Or you may be surprised (or annoyed) in your Twitter stream or your Facebook news feed that people are telling you where they are all the freaking time.

I was asked about it at work, and as the social media guy, I decided to sign up and give it a shot.

I'll give you the quick overview here. Foursquare is what they call a location-based service. You "check in" at a location (many locations are already on it, or you can add new ones). Foursquare knows what's near you because your phone has GPS on it.

There's also a game aspect to it – you rack up points and earn "badges" along the way, and if you're the person who checks in most often at one place or another, you become "mayor" of that location.

The first thing that I noticed was an immediate backlash from some of my Twitter friends (not just followers – these were people I have come to know, communicate with, trust and respect very much on Twitter and in real life), including one who assumed I must have been lobotomized (not really, but the comment was really funny).

After a day or two, I decided I'd give it a couple of weeks, but that I'd stop sending updates to Twitter. I've stopped using it now entirely.

Here's one thing I would get out of Foursquare if I had continued to use it would be if I checked in at, say, the Blue Tusk, Foursquare would alert me if one of my other Foursquare friends was also there. Chances are I would have found that out via Twitter or someone would have mentioned they were there on Twitter and I'd have found them anyway.

Foursquare might be better in a bigger city with more locations in general and more people using it. One thing that immediately comes to mind is businesses could offer, say, half off happy hour specials to the first 15 people to check in after 5 p.m. Another use might be if I were in a place I'd never been, I could open Foursquare and see what was around – although if I were looking for food (which is probably why I'd use it), I could use Yelp and get the reviews along with it.

I'll be at 140conf NYC next week, maybe I'll pop open Foursquare a couple of times to see what I get, but I'm not expecting to be blown away.