Checking in at the North Pole

15 Apr 2010|Lee Shupp

We’ve been playing foursquare at Cheskin Added Value, so that we can better understand the future of social computing. Yes, it’s rough playing games for a living… but I’m giving up foursquare now, even though I’ve really enjoyed it. Because I am not worthy. Because I just read about a 15 year old doing the first foursquare check in at the North Pole. Yes, the North Pole!

Evidently foursquare hatched a brilliant PR idea: have a contest to see who would be the first person to check in at the North Pole. Several students went for it, and one made it on his spring break. I salute Parker Liautaud, and commend him for using the event to call attention to the need for a sustainable future.

What’s more interesting is how foursquare combines geo-location and social networks for fun. You simply set up a foursquare account, then “check in” to places as you’re out and about. You get points for checking in, and see other foursquare users who are either in the same place or have just been there. The person who checks in most often gets to be the Mayor of a place. Competition has been heating over who gets to be the Mayor of our Epicenter here at Cheskin Added Value. I’ve been intrigued to discover who the Mayors of my favorite hangouts are.

Foursquare and its cousin Gowalla were the darlings of South by Southwest Interactive year. The conference and media attention boosted their numbers significantly, and both are growing fast. Could one of these geo-location social apps be the next Twitter? Time will tell.

Another interesting aspect to this is how adding a game overlay to real-world activities provides both the fun of gaming and real-world knowledge. Could the design principles of gaming be applied to more social computing apps (or conventional apps for that matter) to make them more entertaining, and hence more sticky? I think so (as do a few others); we could all use a little more play in our lives.

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