The Ethics and Etiquette surrounding Foursquare checkins.

With every passing day I see the rise in the number of users jumping on the Foursquare bandwagon, and with that rise comes an increase in connections and an increase in the activity. I’ve been observing the growth in Foursquare activity and have noticed a lot of things that have got me thinking on what the ethics and etiquette surrounding this location based network are.Foursquare badges

Given the competitive nature of Foursquare, it is natural for users, including those in Dubai to clock as many check-ins as possible . But how far should an individual go in this endless quest for points, badges and mayorship.

The mundane everyday check in.

Most users, during weekdays, only really go from home to work and back. Does it make sense for them to check in at both those places then? There are those who bring a privacy element to this, but this isn’t about that. It’s the sheer inanity of these checkins. Although there are those who say checking into work helps ‘brand’ the place.

Couples: Checking in in pairs.

Much like offline (*gasp*) social networks, couples in which both partners are online have a huge set of connections that are common to both of them. If they spend all their time together, at the same places do they both check in? Sure, they’re both individuals with their own accounts right, I mean as long as they aren’t quarrelling for mayorship. Or is it similar to a situation where a couple gets, well, couply, on Facebook. We’ve all had those friends right?

The compulsive Geonetworker

Imagine you go into a mall for a shopping spree, do you just check in to the mall? Or do you check in to the mall and then check in to every single store you go to. Given the loyalty building objective of Foursquare for businesses, they would promote the latter. And the users gain their badges and mayorship. But this scenario does have an inexplicable sense of the ridiculous too. After all, walking less than 5 metres to the next store doesn’t really count for ‘Travel’ in ‘Travel Bonus’ right?

Exhibit B: if you scan for venues and you find the venue, only misspelt; do you check in to that anyway or do you add a new venue with the corrected spelling fully well knowing you’ll get the extra 5 points for adding a new venue (and a chance at mayorship)?

I’m not passing judgements here, nor am I saying what’s right or wrong. I myself have been  guilty of some of those actions listed above and continue to practice the others.

Given the competitive spirit underpinning the platform, where do you think the boundaries of fairplay end and those of cheating begin?


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Observations from Twitter’s @replies fiasco

Twitter Fail WhaleMost of you are probably aware of the Twitter @reply issue that happened a few days ago. For those unaware, Twitter removed the option to receive all @replies from users you weren’t following. This was disabled by default so as to not confuse or possibly intimidate the user with the immense amount of tweets that would appear in the stream. Twitter for its part, passed it on as a deliberate feature removal based on “usage patterns and feedback“. A second blog post then attributed it to the engineering issues, possibly relating to scalability. A third blog post then revealed Twitter decided to halfway backtrack on the change, only hiding messages which explicitly use the reply icon.

The users made their voice heard in a manner which was reminiscent of Digg’s HD-DVD backlash a little over two years ago. Users started tweeting in revolt of the feature change and tagging their replies with #fixreplies. Secondly, a lot of users found a way around the system. By preceding the username by “to:” or “>” users could send out a tweet addressed to a single user but distributed to all.

Key Observations

1. Twitter could have avoided a PR Disaster had they come clean with the issue to begin with. Removing a feature which was disabled by default (due to its possibly overwhelming nature) but still important to the power users and then further on miscommunicating the reason for its removal seemed like an insult to the intelligence of its user base. Leaving very little unchanged after the backtrack showed its feeble attempts at displaying a backbone of sorts.

2. When the users started ‘forcing’ replies to all their followers by their workarounds, that was, in principle, not very different to what Twitter was doing. Twitter’s removal of the option took away the choice from the users to view the replies, whereas the workaround forced by a single user took away the choice from his/her followers to not receive them.

Neither Twitter nor the users stand wrong or right. The company owns the service and has the right to change the product in any manner it pleases. The users will voice their opinions and try their best to get their way. We’ve seen this in the case of Digg, we’ve seen this in the case of Facebook too. The best thing to do is to learn the lesson from the incident, which in this case was the mishandling of communication and make sure at least that is avoided for next time.


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Facebuk: Im In Ur Famlee Monitizing Ur Releshunship!

So you already know that  from Sunday – on occasion of Mother’s Day – Facebook will let you list your parents, siblings and children as relationships on Facebook. Aww, warms my heart. Great news for everyone.

Who is going to like this especially? Why it’s the ad sales team at Facebook. Not only do they have information about you as an individual, now they know you as part of a (real life) network. What does that mean? More specifically targeted ads. Got young kids? Here’s an ad for pampers. Old parents?  Buy them a pair of Reading glasses, or a massage, whatever. Sibling in a different part of the world? Here have a cheap ticket, special offer, discount on hotel.

Do I sound like a cynic? I don’t mean to. It’s a great move on part of Facebook. Relevant ads are increasingly important for firms to maximise their ROI. It’s these very ads that improve the signal to noise ratio towards the potential consumer. Moral of the story, everybody wins. Right?

(Image via Steve Tracy)

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Facebook lets you put Yo Moma and the others on your profile page. Will you?

Your significant other isn’t the only one who you’ll be in a relationship with over Facebook now. In celebration of Mother’s Day, Facebook will let you list your parents, siblings and children (maybe more?) under the appropriately named “Family Member” section within your profile. A request will be sent to the user who will then, hopefully, accept it and the relationship will be shown on both profile. Easy Peasy.

Facebook Family There is already a website dedicated to the enthusiasm and excitement of parents joining Facebook by them kids. This is exactly the kind of thing that they (me too) have been waiting for to accept the ‘friend’ request from our parents. Before that it just seemed demeaning and insulting.

As for parents, what could give them more joy than to share the name, age and other personal information (profile) of their kids on their Facebook page. Tears of Joy flow everywhere.

Jokes aside, this is a great idea. The feature is long overdue, especially with the demographic spreading far beyond the original college and high school audience. Whether the demographic chooses to use it or not is something we’re going to have to wait to see; especially the college and high school students many of who are who are far from happy with their parents and uncles and aunts sending them ‘friend requests’.

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Friendfeed is for me…

Scoble just wrote on his blog an article titled “10 Reasons why Twitter is for you and FriendFeed is not” but it reads more like (for the most part) why Friendfeed is better than Twitter. In fact it’s borderline patronising. The primary difference between Twitter and Friendfeed is that the former is a very focused source of information while with Friendfeed there’s a multitude of ways in which information is gathered and created. Not only are we talking imports like Flickr, RSS, Youtube, Googlereader etc but also posting of messages, comments, links and likes.

I’ve used Twitter only for a week longer than I have Friendfeed but I still find a lot more material on FF than I do on Twitter. Scoble implies in his very first point that Twitter is not for you if you can’t handle an influx of a torrent of data but within the first day of use you realise you get an incredible amount of control over what information you see and what you don’t.

There’s a lot more on Friendfeed than I could possibly say here. Aimed more towards the power users  I do agree with Scoble that Friendfeed isn’t for everyone. Whether the lack of ability of mass adoption is a good or bad thing for Friendfeed is yet to be seen.

You can find me on http://friendfeed.com/bhavishya

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