I write a lot of these, “I hate” posts about social sites, and I don’t usually post them. That’s because a lot of my bitching about some site – while well founded and exceedingly intelligent – are my opinions. I don’t want to keep other people from using what they think is interesting or fun, no matter how wrong about that site they are. (My unpublished scree against Facebook would have certainly gotten me burned as a witch.)
Foursquare is definitely one of these sites that are popular, but flawed, and ultimately not very fun. I’m not trying to sway others away from using it, but I’m definitely out. And here’s why:
1. Foursquare is tough to navigate
My girlfriend puts up with a lot from me and my need to document things via social media. When I tried to explain to her that I had spent 5 minutes just finding the address of the place we were at, so I could enter it as a new locale, check in, and do nothing else, she was floored. I would have done this faster, but it isn’t possible to do this faster. Foursquare doesn’t look at your location and say, “know what? Looks like you’re at Fresh & Easy! Want to check in now?” Instead it makes you jump through hoops just to add a location, or find the one you’re at.
2. Finding ways around the shoddy mobile access resembles “Gaming” the system
Okay, this one is just me getting pissy.
I found that checking into a location was much easier to do once I got home and had time to myself. I didn’t have to ignore my coffee or stand in a busy Target aisle in order to find the mysterious button I needed to press in order to simply say, “I am here.” If I need to add a new place, (which I often do since none of the places I frequent seem to be visited by my fellow geeks,) it takes forever to find the address on Google Maps, type it into the “Add a Location” section of the Android app, all while hoping have a solid connection so it doesn’t time out.
I can do all that, or I can go home and type in the address from my computer. But if I do that I’m not really out in the world, which is what Geosocial pinions on. Also, other users then assume you are playing a trick on the system to get more Foursquare badges.
3. There’s no such thing as a Foursquare badge
Not really, anyway.
Sure, you get these baubles when you check into 10 places, or the same place some number of times, or tag things, (I think – the score card isn’t too clear,) but they only exist on Foursquare, for other Foursquare members to see. And once you are the “Mayor of Xtreme Bean,” which means you’ve checked into Xtreme Bean more than anyone, what have you got? Bragging rights that you go to a coffee shop?
No offense, Foursquare users, but I get trophies for beating levels of Super Smash Brothers too – I just won’t be adding that to my resume.
4. There isn’t much to do after you’ve checked in
You know all of those asshole reviews of Twitter that bemoan people posting about their meals? Foursquare is the ultimate extension of that, only it doesn’t ask people to post as much as, “I’m eating brisket” – not because that’s uninteresting, but presumably because that’s too much work.
No, Foursquare cuts out the need to type anything, and simply asks you to check in. Just like Brightkite – the site that also lets you send and recieve messages and photos. With Brightkite, you might also find people in your area to meet. (Which, admittedly, is REALLY uncomfortable if you’ve ever pulled off that hat trick.)
Or there’s Yelp, where you can leave meaningful reviews and find new places. But with Foursquare, the best you can do is leave tips – quick samples of information about a place, but nothing too long or too meaningful.
After that… nothing. No chatting with others, no pictures, no video… At best it works as an add-on for your Twitter account, where you might end up talking to another human.
5. Foursquare is NOT social
Social networking and it’s sister philosophy Social media are grounded in – you guessed it – socialization. Talking, sharing, communicating… you know, that kind of thing.
With this site, the most interaction you have is seeing who’s been at the place you’ve been before, and bumping people out of their “mayorships,” which isn’t the nicest kind of interaction. It feels more like an invitation to a flame war.
“Hey! I’m the master of all things IKEA!”
“Not anymore, jerk!”
“Oh yeah!?! Well I’m going to go there for lunch each day this week and THEN I’ll show YOU!”
“Oh yeah!?! Well I’m going to get a JOB there! For I am the God of IKEA!”
Of course, that would only happen if there was a way to communicate. I’m just extrapolating. My bad. This exchange could only happen on an actual social network. Oh, you can also leave “things to do” at locations, presumably so you can remind yourself and everyone you know that you need to stop at the place you’re leaving that note.
So it is an inovation on, “I’m eating brisket,” as you can now post, “I will soon be eating brisket.” Good job, Foursquare!
“But that’s just me, I could be wrong.”
As I said, if you dig Foursquare, good for you, and have fun. If you are Foursquare, I applaud you for putting out your site. That’s a lot more than I’ve done, as I’ve never put out any social sites. I just use them. Still, having used quite a few, this one has problems.
Which is hardly a unique position for a social site to be in. The list of social networks with big problems is long and distinguished: Facebook, Digg, MySpace, 12seconds, PhotoPhlow, Orkut, Delicious, Utterli, and too many Twitter clones to count.
As such, I think I’m done with Foursquare. When the site becomes more than a check-in game to get electronic badges, let me know.