Way back when, in the early days of foursquare, one could “shout” something without having to check-in. As of right now, when you check in to a venue on foursquare, you have the option of adding a shout (comment) to your check-in to explain what you’re doing.
For instance, when you check in to your house, you could say “Watching TV” or “Studying” so that your friends know that you’re at home and if you’re watching TV, maybe you’re up for something, or, if you’re studying, to leave you alone so you can concentrate. You could maybe shout “Happy Birthday, Dave!” when you check in to a bar for Dave’s birthday celebration. This lets you give context to your check-in when the venue doesn’t have events like sports complexes, music venues, and movie theatres have.
But in the old days, you could shout on foursquare and say things like “Watching TV” or “What’s everyone up to tonight?” without attaching that shout to a venue. Foursquare referred to these as “venue-less check-ins”. But for some reason, around v2.0 of the official apps, the option to send a shout without a venue disappeared. I left it in in the webOS app, and it still works. The official apps just don’t have the option for it.
I was never a big fan of the feature, and few people used it. And I get why foursquare would move away from that model — foursquare is about location. Not adding a venue to a shout loses context and takes away from the main point of foursquare.
But now, I believe, since the shout feature no longer exists, there is a flood of shouts-as-venues occurring. You’ve seen them when you check in somewhere close to a residential area. In the mix of schools and coffee shops and grocery stores, you see venues like “Watching TV!”, “Happy birthday kayla!!!!!”, “bored”, etc. They usually have some unrelated category attached to them like Strip Club or Speakeasy. They clutter up the venue listings and slow down the check-in process, as well as make the foursquare database dirty and look unreliable.
You can see how bad this problem is by doing a search for certain keywords on the foursquare website. I did this here (around New Orleans) and here are my results:
- “playing” - 80 Results
Ex: “playing basketball”, “Playing Basketball!!!!!!”, “Playing Xbox”, “Playing The wii!!!!!!!!!”
- “watching” - 64 Results
Ex: “Watching A Movie”, “Watching TV!!!!”, “Watching ESPN”
- “happy” - 81 Results
Ex: “happy(;”, “HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!”, “not happy”, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEXANDRA!!!!!”, “hApPy eAsTeR!”
- “presence” - 92 Results
Ex: “Carleys presence”, “Betty’s Presence”, “In The Presence of Oreo”, “In Virginia Hammets Presence!!!”, “The Presence of Christian and Alexis(:”
- “bored” - 67 Results
Ex: “Bored”, “Bored!!!”, “bored:/”, “BORED!!!!”, “Whos Bored !!!”, “Bored At Home”, “BORED AS HELL!”, “SOOOOO BORED”, “Being Bored”, “Im So Bored”
- “going to” - 86 Results
Ex: “Going to Camp”, “going to skewwell”, “Going to Orthodontist :(“, “Going to A Wedding”
- “on my way” - 29 Results
Ex: ”On My Way”, “In A Cab On My Way Downtown”, “On My Way To Mississippi!!!”
And that’s just around New Orleans. I know everyone uses foursquare differently, and that’s fine. Homes, Offices, and Streets are legit venues, but not everyone will check in to a street or their house. The issue is that these aren’t places. They aren’t venues. They have no address or business license, and therefore shouldn’t be venues. Not only that, they block real venues from showing up higher in the list of nearby places. Or, if you’re searching for a venue with one of these words in it, you may not find it easily. For instance, there’s a Chinese food place here called “Happy Wok.” If you’re on your phone, you’d probably just search for “happy”, which would yield a bunch of people saying they are or aren’t happy or telling people happy birthday, and not the Chinese place you wanted.
It feels like, since the shout feature isn’t available, people are taking to making venues as status updates, which isn’t the right way to do it.
So, how can foursquare fix this?
Well, when adding a new venue, the app and server search for possible existing venues nearby to make sure you aren’t duplicating an existing venue. Something similar could be done for these key phrases. For instance, if you attempt to add a new venue with the word “watching” in it, foursquare could pop up an alert and say something like “It looks like you want to shout something instead of check in! You should try checking in to an existing venue and shouting this with your check-in instead.” and then give the user the option to add the venue anyway, in the off chance it’s legit.
They could also require an address for locations with those keywords, or suggest that the category be a Home instead of any of the other options. At least if the venues were Homes, they would only be displayed to the creator of the venue and their friends, keeping the venue list clean for other users.
I know this isn’t a huge deal, but it is annoying and degrades the foursquare experience. I hope foursquare is looking into making this better.blog comments powered by Disqus