Category: Social

Valid Foursquare Venues

Foursquare logoI’m a huge fan of Foursquare. I use it everyday. For a while now, I’ve also been a “super user,” meaning I can make edits and suggestions to the Foursquare database. With the help of 4sweep, I’ve been busy tracking down invalid and/or inappropriate venues. There are so many “bad” venues out there, I thought I’d share some thoughts on what makes a valid Foursquare venue.

Foursquare defines a “good” venue as, “Real places. Places people can meet up. Places that already have a Foursquare category. Places where people like to check in.” That’s a pretty good description, and if people lived by those rules, we’d be fine. The problem is new venues are popping up every day that don’t fit that mold.

The biggest offender I see is venues that are actually actions. “Watching The Big Bang Theory” or “Running a mile” are not valid venues. You can’t meet up at “running a mile.” Those are shouts and you can add them as you check-in to a valid venue. For example, check-in to a park and shout “out for a mile run” or check into your buddy’s house and shout “watching Big Bang Theory with Todd.”

The next one is mis-categorized homes. I know you like to think “Sally’s Pink Palace” is a castle, but we all know it’s just your apartment. The same goes for your home brewery operation. If it’s your home, just make it a home. It’s more beneficial to you too, because it will be more private and you won’t end up with a random person showing up at your door, demanding a can of PBR from your dive bar.

I can’t tell you how many car venues I’ve cleaned up. Cars are not venues. They just aren’t, so please stop creating them.

Getting too specific is also a large problem. You can check into “Dunkin’ Donuts,” but you shouldn’t be checking into “booth #4” or any bathroom, anywhere, ever. Let’s keep it simple and uncluttered. Your Xbox is not an arcade. Your big screen TV is not a theatre. No seats, no toilets and no desks. Please and thank you.

Vague check-ins like “Work,” “Planet Earth” or “The Store” don’t work either. Foursquare venues are there for more than just your personal fun. Foursquare has created a huge database that can actually help people explore their surroundings. It becomes less helpful when you create a burger joint called “Work all day long.” These are the kinds of things you can shout in your check-in to a real venue like “McDonalds” or “BigCorp Headquarters.”

Those are just a small sampling of some of the bad venues I’ve been coming across. I hope it was helpful to learn a few dos and don’ts for Foursquare venue creation. What’s the craziest venue you’ve come across in Foursquare?

Happy Foursquare Day!

Foursquare Day Badge 2013

If you haven’t already checked-in today, what are you waiting for? It’s Foursquare Day and time to unlock a badge. Foursquare Day is a great time to spread the love by adding a few quality tips, creating a list or even getting a friend to try it out. A while back I wrote a getting started guide to Foursquare, that for the most part should still be relevant to newbies.

There are Foursquare events and meetups all over the world today. If you can, try to check one out. I’ll be swinging by for a Bell’s Brewery tour later tonight if you’re in the Kalamazoo area. Be sure to check out all the other great Social Media Week events happening around town too.

Kalamazoo Social Media Week

Next week will be the annual Kalamazoo Social Media Week with a variety of events designed to promote social media and local businesses. It also happens to be Foursquare Day (4/16) on Tuesday. Be sure to check out the all of the events and details at www.kzoosmweek.com, and stop on by if you can. I hope to see you there!

Review: Gogobot

Gogobot

Gogobot bills itself as a social travel site. It is part reviews, part recommendations and part passport of your travels. I’ve been using it for almost a couple years now, and I love it. It is full of terrific information that seems much realer than Yelp or similar services.

I was originally drawn to Gogobot just before I left for Switzerland. I read about this new startup that was hooking up social and travel in compelling ways and thought it might be useful. One of the cool social features is its integration with Foursquare. I hooked up my account and now it auto imports places I’ve been right into Gogobot. On occasion, I go back through and look at my recent imports. This gives me a good place to start when I want to post reviews of recent places I’ve been.

You do not have to be a Foursquare user to take advantage of Gogobot. You can add other places via their website or mobile app. I went through and added a lot of trips I took before ever having Foursquare. After you have added a few places you have been, you start building your digital passport. It gives you a nice breakdown of the countries, cities and individual places you’ve been. Sometimes I find myself just browsing it to relive old memories.

Screenshot of a Gogobot passport page.

Like many other travel sites, reviews are part of Gogobot. You can add a star rating, a short text review and/or photos to any place on Gogobot. It is pretty standard stuff, but when combined with the other site features, it becomes quite handy.

One of the coolest features, and one that sets it apart from the pack, is letting users ask questions to the community. Let’s say I’m headed to Toronto for a weekend and want to know the best places to eat or how to spend my Saturday afternoon. I can head over to Gogobot and post a question. Anyone who has been to Toronto (or my friends) would automatically see my question show up in their feed. If my friends so choose, they can add places I should check out.

Something that makes Gogobot fun to use is its gamification. There are a number of badges you can earn for various things like adding photos or reviews and having other people like your reviews. Each time you do an action (even visiting the site once a day) you earn points. There is a site-wide leaderboard that you can compete to be on top of (I used to be in the top 100, but as the site grew and I explored the world less, I’m in the 300s now. Each year Gogobot chooses members with outstanding contributions and badges them as pros. I was a 2012 pro, and it was pretty cool to have that little badge on my avatar throughout the site. There are even pro meetups in major cities (SF, NYC, Chicago), but I could never attend one. Maybe next year.

I’ve watched Gogobot really grow in the last couple of years. When I first started using it, there was not a lot of content outside of some major cities, and there were not a lot of users. It has since really blossomed, and now contains a wealth of information. The site itself has added many new features like making reservations for hotels and restaurants right on the site. Overall I’m extremely pleased with it. I find it quite useful for planning trips, or even discovering cool places I want to visit someday.

Foursquare Tips: Lists

When foursquare announced lists a while back I got really excited. It seemed like such a cool way to build up a collection of hot spots. A few days later I all but forgot you could make them. The problem was, I just didn’t have a need. Around my town there’s about a dozen lists for “Best Mexican Restaurants” that all have the same 5 or so places. Why do I need to make yet another list of the same old spots.

Then foursquare launched the #VisitUS challenge. It was a really cool contest that would award a few cities badges based on user-sourced “best of” lists. About Foursquare has a good write-up on it. That’s when I created my first useful list. I collaborated with a friend and we gave Kalamazoo a city guide, foursquare style. Kalamazoo didn’t end up winning a badge but it was a great exercise in creating lists.

Fast forward a few months and I actually pulled up that list again and shared with a couple of friends who were in town for my wedding. They had never been to the area and wanted to know where to go for food and fun. The list was perfect, it was already created, offered and easy way to share the info and gave them directions to and info about each place on it.

This re-ignited my passion for foursquare lists and I set out to make another. This time I planned to make a list of disc golf courses in Michigan (yes, disc golf is an obsession). It was mainly for my benefit. I liked the idea of exploring the state and playing disc golf along the way. I used review websites to compile nearby courses I was interested in playing and then found them on foursquare so I could add them to my list. It’s quickly grown from a small list of nearby courses to a giant list of courses all over Michigan.

the "save" button menu on foursquare.com

Making lists are easy. Adding new places to your list are even easier. Here’s a quick how-to so you can start creating your own lists. When you come across a venue you’d like to add to your list, just click the “Save” button. A menu will pop up listing your current lists (and a “Create a new list…” option if you don’t have any). Just select the list you want it saved to and you’re all set. You can do this on the website (see screenshot) or in the mobile app. It’s the same basic procedure either way.

If you’re creating a brand new list, a dialog pops up for you to add a name to your list. Don’t worry, you can always change it later.dialog for creating a new list on foursquare.com

Editing your lists is easy too. Just navigate to your list on the website (pull down menu under your name > lists) and then hit the big orange “Edit” button. You can then put the venues in a certain order, add tips or photos and remove venues. Near the top of the list you can edit the name and description of your list and use the search box to add more venues. When you’re all set just click “Finished Editing.” Be sure to share your list when you are done.

a list in edit mode on foursqare.com

Do you make a lot of foursquare lists? Maybe you just like to follow them. What lists are your favorite?

 

Instagram Goodies: Physical Photos

Last time I posted about Instagram I shared some web viewers to explore the Instagram world on your computer. Now I’d like to share a few sites that let you take your photos out of the cloud and into the world. Many of these will give you physical prints of your photos but each one has its own unique spin.

Instaprint: This is a really cool idea. They’ve created a system for printing Instagrams at events. You set it up with a hashtag and location, then all photos matching either of those will be printed out of a small little box. It’s super simple but infinitely cool. Your photos are also saved to an online gallery so you can view all the event’s photos in one place. They rent out their boxes for events but I hope they will be selling them soon. I’d love to own one.

Printstagram: As you probably guessed by the name, Printstagram prints your Instagrams. They have a variety of products from t-shirts to a mini prints, posters to stickers and my personal favorite, tiny books. There are lots of options to bring your favorite Instagrams to the physical world.

StickyGram: This site lets you pick 9 of your favorite photos and turns them into a 3×3 grid of magnets. It’s a great way to spice up your fridge with photos you’ve taken. My fiancé made one with pictures from her and her mom’s trip to Paris. They’re really great keepsakes.

Postagram: This one is actually a smart phone app available on both Android and iOS. I’ve used it and it’s a neat, easy way to send a postcard to someone with one of your Instagram photos. You can put a custom message on it and they take care of the dirty work of printing and mailing it off. All you do is a few taps on the phone and a buck or two later, it’s done. I think they’re even giving you 5 free cards right now, so go check it out!

CanvasPop: This service will enlarge and print your photos onto canvas. They literally turn your Instagrams into pieces of art, how cool is that? I plan on trying this one out soon myself.

Instagram Goodies: Web Viewers

Today is the one year anniversary of my first Instagram photo. I thought I would share some fun Instagram goodies with you in honor of that. Instagram is a hugely popular, fun and quirky photo sharing app that you’ve probably heard of by now. Its “hipster” filters and easy sharing to just about any service imaginable, make it a go-to when you want the world to see what you’re up to. Here’s my first Instagram, taken in the little hotel Abby and I lived in while interning in Switzerland.

Many people would say the biggest fault of Instagram is its lack of a web interface. You can click-through to see the photo but there’s no website to browse your history or popular photos. All of this is done in the app. That has meant there are many Instagram viewers popping up around the web. Here are a few of my favorites:

Pinstagram: Claiming to be “the best way to view Instagram on the web,” Pinstagram combines the jQuery Masonry layout (made popular by Pinterest) with your feed from Instagram. It’s a very clean, fast and easy to use interface. You can view your feed, popular photos, nearby photos, search for a tag and even see your likes. I think it’s one of the best web viewers out there. I’m especially impressed with the speed, some of the other viewers can feel very laggy at times.

Statigram: While Statigram does have a viewer and you can search by tags, I think it’s most useful for the stats. They serve up various analytics about your Instagram account and compile it into easy to read and fun-looking infographics. You can even set up reports to be run at certain intervals and emailed to you.

Followgram: This is a very simple viewer that gives you a unique URL to share with others. You can see my Followgram vanity page to get an idea. That’s the biggest difference with this one. Otherwise it has many of the same functions as the others.

Instagrid: Instagrid is along the same lines as Followgram, giving you a unique URL to share (here’s mine) but the user interface is a little cleaner and more responsive. It doesn’t have any extras like tag searching or popular photos. This is just a feed of your personal photos.

Webstagram: If you’re looking for something a little more complete, Webstagram might be for you. This one has your feed, search and popular feed but adds an extra layer on top. You can click-through photos to get a page that lets you post comments and share to various services. It’s a good concept but I think it’s poorly implemented and the user interface leaves a lot to be desired.

There are other web viewers out there but these are a decent sample. After a while they all start to look the same with similar feature sets. Try out a few and see which one is right for you. They’re all free and easy to sign up for with you Instagram account so don’t be afraid to try them all. Did I miss your favorite? Be sure to tell me about it in the comments.

The Internet’s Obsession with (fake) Nostalgia

I’ve noticed an interesting trend lately. It seems there are “retro” versions of our favorite websites and services popping up all over the place these days. From what Twitter would like in the 80s to what Facebook would look like in the 90s and even Google done through a BBS Terminal. They’ve even gone so far as to spoof everyone’s favorite smart phone apps, Angry Birds and Draw Something as old PC games. I always get a kick out of these and applaud everyone who has taken the time to make them.

Screenshot of Google BBS Terminal

My first computer experience was in the 80s when my parents (both teachers) were able to bring home an Apple IIe over summer vacation. There was something magical about that big, beige machine loading up a game of Oregon Trail or my favorite as a kid, Fischer Price Bowling. Everything on-screen was so blocky and the gameplay so simple by today’s standards but it was still hours and hours of fun. I think we’re at a point in technology where everything has moved so fast and is improving everyday that people want to reminisce about those old days. They want to slow down and enjoy the BASICs (see what I did there?) again. I’m more than grateful for today’s modern technology but I do thoroughly enjoy this recent trend of imagining today’s services as if it was yesteryear. Have you found any other versions of these? Please share them in the comments, I’d love to check them out.

Happy foursquare day!

4sq Day 2012 logo

Today (4/16) is foursquare day. Get it? What started as a clever play on numbers by a blogger in Tampa has turned into an international celebration. Foursquare has even jumped on board and offers a special 4sq day logo, badge and t-shirt. There are meetups and events all over the world today that will bring people together. Other platforms that use the foursquare venue database like Untappd are getting in on the fun. All of this over a little app that people use to check-in and explore the world around them. It’s really pretty amazing if you think about it.

Here in Kalamazoo the fine folks behind Foursquare Kalamazoo have organized an entire week of social media events. There’s some really cool events happening and I’m going to try to attend as many as I can. I will definitely check out tonight’s 4s Day event at Celebration! Cinema. It sounds great. If you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out too. Aren’t on foursquare yet? Here’s a post to get you started.

CityMaps Shows You What’s Nearby with Logos

A while ago About Foursquare reported on a really cool new map service called CityMaps. They’re billing it as “the social map” because it’s connected to a number of social media services like Twitter and foursquare. What I find most interesting was the inclusion of logos on the maps instead of just names. As a designer I’ve got a soft spot for logos so an entire map full of them makes me smile. I think it’s a really unique way to convey the information. In a lot of ways, it’s a lot more useful too. If I’m looking for the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s, their logos are going to pop out at me much quicker than just their names. In this day and age logos are so recognizable that this approach seems to make perfect sense. I’m actually a little surprised this hasn’t happened sooner.

an example CityMap of San Francisco

Beyond just the unique logo integration, they pull in foursquare tips and recent tweets. It’s a really great mashup of social information on top of a nice looking map. Right now they just have maps for New York, San Francisco and Austin but there are more on the way. There is even an iPhone app so you can enjoy CityMaps on the go. With all of that info combined together it really shows just how powerful APIs can be. I think they’re trying to make it a useful “explore your city” services but so far I don’t think it has much on foursquare. I’ll be keeping an eye on CityMaps because it’s already cool and has so much potential to become even better.