Tag Archives: Foursquare

Facebook’s New Social Search

Last week Facebook unveiled it’s newest product, or what Mark Zuckerberg called Facebook’s newest pillar: Graph Search.

Using natural language, users will be able to search within Facebook for things like: “friends who live in Seattle,” or “friends who listen to Kanye.” It’s very similar to how we use Google. The upshot, of course, is that Facebook is filled with all kinds of personal data that is not accessible to Google’s indexing and the wider internet.

Using our “social graph,” Facebook’s nerd language for the online networks we’ve woven together, Zuckerberg and company will offer a personalized search. Rather than use complex algorithms informed by people’s online behavior (like Google), Facebook will run it’s custom query using our friends and jobs, the things we’ve “liked” and the places we’ve been.

As I’ve written before, this is exactly what the new Foursquare is doing.

While many tech observers see “social,” “local,” or “personalized,” as the future of search engines, there are reasons to avoid the quick embrace. For starters, Google works pretty damn well. Secondly, if I’m looking to a trustworthy friend to recommend a restaurant or a mechanic, wouldn’t I just text that person?

Another issue mentioned by many reporters is that most people don’t use Facebook or Foursquare the way power users do. So while, in theory, a personalized social search may be more valuable to me it’s also a lot more limited in scope. How many of your friends actually rate their music and movies and then post online? (Usually it’s just that crazy handful of people who blow up your news feed.)

Facebook’s promo vid makes this kind of information culling look like an enriching experience. While I’m very skeptical, I’ll wait for the roll out before I become a full on naysayer.

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Foursquare Offers Personalized Coupons

Hamish Mckenzie writes on PandoDaily

The company is doing a trial with about 25 paying customers, including Best Buy and Old Navy, to see if users respond to sponsored results. “The point now is not for us to be generating a ton of revenue,” he said. “It’s to learn how these tools are supposed to work and to learn how the users are responding to the experiment of these promotions.”

Ultimately, he said, Foursquare’s proposed monetization scheme looks a lot like Google AdWords, but “targeted just at local, and exclusively on mobile.” The goal is to be able to let merchants target a specific 20-percent discount promotion to a specific user set, such as only the most loyal customers.

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Beyond The Check In: Foursquare And Social Cartography

On your foursquare social map your preferences are the topography, your friends’ tastes, the contours.

Drew Olanoff writes on TechCrunch

Partnering with the reservation service, OpenTable, foursquare’s “explore” feature allows users to quickly find a restaurant nearby, check what their friends have said about it, and then snag a reservation without leaving the app.

As I’ve said before, I’m using foursquare way more than I use a service like Yelp to find new places as I explore new cities. Explore is even handy in San Francisco, where there are hundreds of restaurants that I haven’t even discovered yet. Bringing all of this functionality into one place is a brilliant move by foursquare, and makes other services obsolete. Throw in tips, photos and past check-in information from your friends and this whole thing is really shaping up to be huge.

As I’ve written, these new features represent a trend away from the Facebooky check-in, and towards something like a personalized search engine.  Foursquare wants to be the interactive guide to your your social scene.

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Check Ins Are For High Schoolers, Pussy Whipped Boyfriends, And For The Old Foursquare… What’s The Future Foursquare?

Think for a moment on the concept of “checking-in.”  “Call me when you land!” mom says.  “Let me know when you’re on the road,” your girlfriend commands.  “Text me when you get there,” you’re annoying, psuedo-friend from college begs, because he knows that you’ll inevitably flake, but it doesn’t really matter because you’ll just say “sorry, I was totally smashed” the next time you run into him.

Most view these kinds of check ins as cumbersome chores, annoying reminders that your tab is being kept, that your leash, however long and unseen, is still snugly fastened.

I used to think foursquare was a horribly shitty, pointless app.  I used to think that their kinds of check ins involved vexing friction like calling dad after his 3rd “Are U OK? I miss you” guilt-text.  But it seems that the company wants to head in a different direction: One in which your phone, and its GPS technology, becomes a passive, ambient, knowing-guide to your social life.

While foursquare’s 25 million users continue to check in, the discovery company’s co-founder and CEO, Dennis Crowley, sees a trend in the way new users interact with the service. In an interview with Om Malik of GigaOm, Crowley talks about a future for foursquare.  Where the companies initial user base actively checked into restaurants, bars and coffee shops, many new users sign up with no intention of checking into establishments.  Instead, these people utilize foursquare as a guide to their local social scene. Where’s a good sandwich place around here? What bar is gonna be crazy tonight? Which bookstore did my roommate recommend?

With over 2.5 billion check ins already logged, Crowley believes that many people simply want to “consume” the reviews of their friends rather than checking in and creating their own.

Moving from active usage, explicitly stating to the digital public where you are and what you thought of a particular steakhouse, Crowley believes future foursquare will be a passive, ambient service, like your phone unobtrusively suggesting a sushi place that your girls love.  Or, you’d receive notice of a hilarious happy hour special because your foursquare knows, from previous experience, that you are a self-sabotaging, Jager-bombing binge drinker.

Alluding to Harry’s Potter’s, Marauder’s Map, the GPS geek complains about the sad state of map apps.  They are blank, Crowley says.  You are a pathetic, lonesome dot.  Why not populate a map with many other dots representing your friends?  You could see where the bros are draining Sunday pitchers, what club all the high heels are click-clacking towards.

Foursquare wants to become a hyper specific search and discovery tool, an app that uses your  friends’ taste (your trust) to become “contextually aware” of your preferences.  The company could be your silent cartographer, your local search engine who knows, without you saying, just where you want go.


I’m upping my Internet game.  If you enjoyed my style come feast on my tweets.  @PlanetHozz

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From Spaceships and Sagan to Mobile Apps and Zuckerberg: The Limits Of Venture Capital

Josh Lerner writes in MIT’s Technology Review:

But claims that venture capital is a driver of true innovation, or even of positive financial returns to investors, face some hard questions. With the industry facing a hangover from its recent flurry of social-media investing and the disappointing stock-market performance of firms such as Groupon, Zynga, and Facebook, the skeptics have been rarely been as loud as they are today.

Quoting the power investor, Peter Thiel, Mr. Lerner reflects on the state of innovation and investment: “We wanted flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters.” Citing the concentration of investment in narrow market-categories, the frenzy to invest in fad industries (social media), and the short-sightedness and volatility of public markets, Mr. Lerner argues that venture capital is not the spark of innovation that we think it is.

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Airtime’s Folly: The Awkward Technology Of People Discovery

In Hollywood lexicon a meet cute is the serendipitous crash between strangers. Usually a man and a woman, the chance encounter ignites the plot and the ensuing laughter and romance. Jack stumbled upon a wilting Rose moments before she leapt off the (then intact) Titanic. Harry initially met Sally in need of a ride to New York City. And Sean Parker spawned his longtime business partnership with Shawn Fanning discussing computer security in a chat room.

The universe has an affinity for coincidence. So why not cull this cosmic co-mingling through technology? By matching strangers based on similarities and interests, companies like Mr. Parker’s Airtime hope to harness serendipity.

Equal parts Skype and Zuckerberg, with a hint of eHarmony, Airtime hopes to expand and explode the social graph. Where social networks remain remarkably confined to coworkers, classmates and college buddies, people discovery offers a way of interrupting routine by using the gravity of shared interest rather than geographic contingency.

Airtime introduces us to “Talk to Someone.” This novel feature pairs up fresh faces using criteria like interests, location, and acquaintances. To protect against the wrong kind of people (think Chatroulette) and to ensure a healthy amount of privacy (you probably shouldn’t be using this), users remain anonymous to each other until an “+Add” request is sent and an acceptance made.

But isn’t “expanding the social graph” just a clumsy way of saying meeting new people? Aren’t people discovery apps, the ones that tell you if like-minded users are nearby, just a creepy kind of ice-breaker? (Text message: “Hey! My ambient GPS mobile technology is telling me that you are also at this conference, let’s bust open our social graphs together…what’s your name?”)

To paraphrase the Easter egg at the beginning of Fight Club: couldn’t all this be replaced by walking up to a person and starting a conversation?

For the timid and the less extroverted, perhaps this kind of unplugged boldness is frighteningly difficult. But to sell an Apple-esque chatting service as a ticket to whimsical friendship seems misguided. The random delight of misadventure, the kind of accidental spark that we crave in monotonous modernity is precisely the kind of thing people discovery is not. In the process of gaining the digital grip, we simultaneously lose our human touch.

Still, Airtime, Highlight, Foursquare, and the Facebook-acquired Glancee, shouldn’t be seen as digital shields against rejection. That would be too harsh. The concept of social discovery—the exposure to things that fascinate—works quite well. When the discovery aspect turns on cultural and commercial products, as in Pandora, Netflix, StumbleUpon, and Twitter, users are willing to take risks, step outside ready-made preferences and cultivate an authentic taste.

But when the thing that is discovered is not a thing at all, but a human relationship, something like happenstance isn’t fostered. Rather, it is a contrived politeness like the paralyzing inauthenticity of a bad first date.

Marketed as if a bubbly Alexia Tsostis or a BFF Justin Timberlake is just waiting for you to sign on, reality reminds us to expect a sea of woozy, disembodied, unflattering faces. As the editors of the literary magazine, N+1 point out, it is impossible to maintain eye contact using video chat.

In the provocative and much talked about documentary, Catfish, the nether realm of the internet persona is explored. The Facebook meet cute swiftly spirals downward, resembling a strange, perverse nightmare. More than one character realizes that to look at a person’s pixelated flesh is far from gazing into their eyes.

While people discovery may satisfy some urge to connect, the kind of serendipity they promise will rarely be found behind a screen.

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