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Foursquare Check-in Etiquette

Anyone remember the early complaints about Twitter? That people were posting updates about what they’re eating for lunch? Robert Scoble noted this phenomenon in a blog post from last September about Twitter’s rise:

It tells me that Twitter isn’t lame anymore. Remember those days when Twitter was for telling all your friends you were having a tuna sandwich at Subway in Half Moon Bay?

I do.

Yes, Twitter has grown up and become much more than the report of what you’re eating for lunch. Which brings us to Foursquare and Gowalla.

These services are in their early stages, with Foursquare outnumbering Gowalla four-to-one in members. Some of us are experimenting with these location-based services. For me personally, it feels like those early days of Twitter (“What should I tweet?”).

The biggest difference since my early Twitter days is that I’ve got more experience with this sharing behavior, and I’m comfortable trying different approaches.

With that in mind, I wanted to describe some early thoughts on Foursquare and Gowalla etiquette.

The Check-in Sharing Hierarchy

Louis Gray wrote a post recently asking whether people are censoring their check-ins to maintain hipster cred. It’s a good, if somewhat painful, examination of the fact that we do have some serious hum-drum in our lives. People’s comments on the post are illuminating, as some admit this behavior, but also note that they don’t want to bore everyone.

There are three levels of sharing check-ins that Foursquare provides (Gowalla only has the latter two):

The three levels each have their own unique use cases, and their own check-in etiquette.

Share It with No One

I’ve done this before. I check in, but I don’t share it with anyone. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Just maintaining a record of my days’ activities
  2. Like to stay on top of the mayorships, badges and points

See, a valuable use case of checking in with Foursquare and Gowalla is the maintenance of a personal activity history. The combination of GPS location, pre-existing locations and one-click check-in makes it quite easy to create your personal record. Now, some of those check-ins are less-than-interesting. Like…

Checking in at a gas station

Now it may be boring, but I’ll bet there’s a badge out there for multiple gas station check-ins. Maybe someone will earn a Gas Guzzler badge (as opposed to the Douchebag badge). It’s all part of the fun. A festooned Foursquare profile.

But there is a role for curating your check-ins. I really don’t need to know about your gas station check-ins. That applies to my interests, and it applies to what I assume to be the interests of my connections on the location-based services. Sure, share your whereabouts, but please have some mercy on those who follow you. We successfully graduated past the “What are you eating for lunch?” stage of Twitter.

And good luck with that Gas Guzzler badge.

Share Only with Foursquare, Gowalla Connections

People that follow you on Foursquare and Gowalla are participating in another aspect of location-based social networks. The “keeping tabs” aspect. You see what others are doing in the course of their day. For instance, I was able to see that Techcrunch’s MG Siegler was in Japan a few weeks back, via his various Gowalla updates.

One commenter on Louis Gray’s blog post noted this use case:

I’ve also found a use case in ethically “stalking” various tech pundits (I hate that word) and found a couple of high value events I would otherwise have missed.

Personally, I look at things like work check-ins as de rigeur for this level of sharing. Whereas gas station check-ins may bore your connections, the work stuff is of greater interest. I’ll often see CEO Eugene Lee’s check-ins at Socialtext headquarters. As head of a major software company, I’m sure he has to travel a fair amount. So the check-ins to HQ tell me he’s working away in the office.

I check in to Spigit every day. Proud to say I’m the Foursquare “mayor” of Spigit, oh yes. But I’m competing with several colleagues for that title. I share these check-ins with my Foursquare and Gowalla connections.

But not with my Twitter/Facebook connections. Those folks didn’t decide to follow me based on my daily work check-ins.

Share with Twitter, Facebook Friends

However, I do share check-ins, even mundane ones, on Twitter at times. I’ll explain in a second.

First, interesting ones are a no-brainer. Should you find yourself with Anne Hathaway at a post-Oscars party, by all means, share that check-in! Or maybe you’re in a working session at the White House. Definitely passes the interestingness test.

There’s also a good use case for alerting your wider social networks as to your location for meet-ups. It’s a commonly cited use case for Foursquare/Gowalla.

However, I’ll admit as a father with a full-time job and a mortgage, my “interesting” check-ins are few and far between, and I rarely am trying to connect with others at Trader Joe’s. And I’m not alone. The majority of people will have mundane check-ins as they go about daily life.

It’s making the mundane interesting where the Foursquare/Gowalla art is.

Create “tweetable” check-ins. What’s going on around you that would be worth sharing? What will some people on Twitter and Facebook find interesting?

It’s something I do, and I admit it’s a bit of a game for me. “What can I tweet with this check-in?” I find it forces me to observe what’s around me, or step back from where I am consider the larger moment.

A couple examples below:

I’ll never do a straight  tweet of my check-in at a BART station. At least, I won’t unless I fat finger my iPhone, that is. But if I can report out the unusually cold weather we’re experiencing, yeah, tweet that!

As I said above, we’re early in this location-based check-in thing. Consider the observations above a start.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

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Think Companies Can Do More with Ideas? Me Too – I’m Joining Spigit

spigitlogo

I start a new job today, and I’m quite excited about it. I’ve joined Spigit as  the Director of Marketing and Online Communications.

Now it’s possible you might be saying…”Spigit? Never heard of them.” Well, let me help you there.

Spigit provides idea management software for the enterprise in three modules:

Anyone is free to add any idea that occurs to them, and others can view, rate, and suggest changes to an idea. Ideas are categorized. The platform includes blogs and discussion forums to refine and clarify ideas.

The Spigit platform incorporates game theory into the process of identifying promising ideas and individuals who are good at seeing them. People can “invest” in ideas they believe in. If the company picks up the idea, everyone who invested in the idea earns incentive rewards.

As one finds with enterprise requirements, it includes role-based stages through which an idea must be approved. This process of graduation allows the top ideas by category to emerge.

A recent write-up on TechCrunchIT noted that  Spigit has lined up a number of significant customers, including IBM, Sun Microsystems, Intel, WebEx, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Southwest Airlines.

Market’s View

Gartner: This past December, Gartner’s Anthony Bradley wrote up his thoughts about Spigit. He noted five key points:

  1. Spigit is a great example of the evolution of the social software market from best of breed tools to social software suites to technologies addressing horizontal business needs (idea management and prediction markets in Spigit’s case).
  2. Spigit exemplifies the need for some technology structure to enable community emergence. Spigit is rich with functionality (e.g. structure)  specifically targeted at mining the community for innovative ideas and then empowering that community to advance those ideas.
  3. It is clear when examining Spigit that significant effort has gone into designing an experience tailored to idea management. It is quite detailed in the intricacies of facilitating an idea marketplace. This is not something the usual enterprise could or would want to build into a general purpose suite.
  4. Spigit heavily employs gaming theory to make the experience fun. I see more and more gaming theory applied to enterprise 2.0 implementations to enhance community participation. All enterprises implementing E2.0 should strive to make a participants experience as fun as possible.
  5. A focus on analytics is also a critical capability. Growing, nurturing, and guiding the productivity of a community is no trivial exercise and it is important to have the tools to know how the community is functioning and where it needs help.

BearingPoint: Nate Nash of consulting firm BearingPoint has written about Spigit. Nash noted that his “consulting tires have really been rotated by one of the sponsors, Spigit.” Here’s the one-sentence version of his view of Spigit

Simply put, Spigit allows you to tune the impending barrage of systematized social interactions toward the vetting and implementation of innovative ideas.

TechWeb: On its Internet Evolution site, TechWeb recently wrote a great article Can Enterprise Social Networking Pay Off? The post included this customer’s quote about Spigit:

Another [Spigit] event for store managers focused on cutting costs and improving customer service. One idea from that event will save the company $8 million. “IT and senior VPs ask how we measure ROI for Spigit,” the director says. With numbers like that, the answer is easy.

A Few Personal Thoughts

Everyone has ideas. Everyone. The hardest part for employees is finding an engaged venue to air those ideas, get feedback and see them catch on if they have merit. Think about your own work. How easy is it to float ideas and get discussions going on them? Providing a defined location where ideas are expected to be added, found and advanced strikes me as a great use of social software. Spigit starts with a clearly defined use case and value proposition.

Another thing I like about Spigit is that anyone can participate in this social software initiative. My previous work at BEA Systems and Connectbeam focused on the knowledge worker, which is a consistent theme in the industry. Note how Dion Hinchcliffe describes Enterprise 2.0 in a recent article:

The Enterprise 2.0 story is primarily aimed at knowledge workers engaged in complex, collaborative projects which have had few effective software tools until recently, in other words strategic business activities.

But with idea management, anybody can have flashes of insight or creative solutions to everyday problems. The R&D group. Field consultants. The facilities manager. An hourly employee working the floor.

I really like that the addressable market for Spigit includes not just knowledge workers, but employees from throughout the company.

I’m also finding that Spigit is relatively unknown in the Enterprise 2.0 world at large. Indeed, Spigit doesn’t really go up against IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Jive Software, SocialText and other more well-known collaboration vendors. Instead, you’ll find it mentioned alongside Salesforce Ideas, Imaginatik and Brightidea. This informs some of my work ahead.

Commute

If you’re not familiar with the Bay Area, Pleasanton is a bit of a haul from my home in San Francisco. Here’s a map that shows the commute:

bart-map

The nice thing is that  I’ll be able to take BART to work. And I will use that hour-long commute to get things done. Now if only BART would hurry up with installing wifi throughout the system. In the meantime, I’ll look at an EVDO card or the iPhone 3G tether.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in hearing more about Spigit.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 032709

From the home office in Fargo, North Dakota…

#1: My alma mater, UVa, to drop its computer labs since everyone has laptops. http://bit.ly/6YnAe I remember the labs well.

#2: MSNBC picks up the cisco fatty story: http://bit.ly/IJH5

#3: ABC News online picks up the cisco fatty story http://bit.ly/HodQ1

#4: The twitterer behind the cisco fatty incident, @theconnor , blogs her response: “Dear Internet Superheroes” http://bit.ly/tDx4k

#5: Connor Riley (@theconnor of cisco fatty fame) sits down with MSNBC online for an interview http://bit.ly/KDcPe

#6: “Business is a good game – lots of competition and a minimum of rules. You keep score with money.” Nolan Bushnell (Atari founder)

#7: A classic Business Week article from 2000 asks “But how will Google ever make money?” http://bit.ly/ovA6x #twitterbusinessmodel

#8: Catching up on this amazing e2.0 post by @dhinchcliffe “Sharepoint and Enterprise 2.0: The good, the bad, and the ugly” http://bit.ly/IAiDW

#9: Still wonder why we don’t have BART ringing around the SF Bay. Instead, we get BART + Caltrain. Why? Tracks is tracks.

#10: Utterly fascinated with the SF K Files blog where parents (i.e. moms) are posting info about the kindergarten arms race: http://bit.ly/sl5fU