Category Archives: foursquare

Foursquare at Impact: discovery is the name of the game

IBM events tend to be huge. Amongst the thousands of people, a large solution hall and events all over the place, it’s tough keeping up with everything.

That is where Foursquare comes in. At this year’s Impact you can use the geo-location service to keep track of what’s going on where and see where like-minded souls have been.
The Impact organizers have done the great job of adding a number of locations including the Solutions Hall and the Unconference.

Once you create a Foursquare account, search for ‘#IBMImpact’ in the Las Vegas area. You should see a list which looks something like this:

foursquare

You can go ahead and add To-do’s for areas that look interesting to you.

You can also go ahead and find friends that may also be on Foursquare by synching with Facebook/Twitter. I’ll admit I didn’t see the full value in this – especially as many in my networks won’t be at Impact. What makes more sense is to look for people who check-in to my places of interest who potentially have something in common. You can also add locations of your own and see who checks in (use ‘#IBMImpact’ in the name to ease discovery).

Overall much more effective than hoping the guy in front of me in the lunch queue happens to be an HTML5 advocate too (although, I’m not suggesting you be anti-social when waiting for meals!)

If you have any particular experiences on Foursquare to share, be sure to comment below.

Foursquare to use predictive analytics to beat Facebook?

There’s a growing battle in the location-based services business between Foursquare and Facebook. Foursquare, with its past emphasis on gaming and status building (who wants to be the mayor of the local laundromat?) is now focusing on a more functional aspect: helping people decide where they should go next. According to a report in Brandweek (backed up by this article on a recent job ad), Foursquare sees offering recommendations as its chance to avoid being squeezed out of existence by Facebook, who, with over 500 million users, is the ostensible gorilla in the room.

How does it plan to do this? Brandweek suggests it will adopt predictive services which are common on sites like Amazon and Netflix:

"Those services crunch behavior data—what movies you watch and books you read—to suggest new products. Foursquare wants to do the same, only with recommendations of real-world activities."

For instance, let’s say you are a sushi freak living in Chicago who’s been active on Foursquare for the last year. You’ve been using Foursquare to capture badges for most of the top local Japanese eateries. Foursquare can see your penchant for fine sushi in the windy city and look across its network for others in your area who share the same passion. It realizes that there is a new joint downtown and can suggest you check this out.

How does this crunching work? The data is mined along a process which runs something like this for each individual visitor:

  • What are the past actions you have recorded
  • What patterns can be determined from your actions
  • Who else in the network is like you
  • Where are the gaps between your actions and their actions?
  • Offer as predictions these actions that people like you have performed

Note, this obviates the need for a user to fill in a vast registration form listing all their likes and interests. The system can figure this out by looking at past behavior.

In terms of making predictions, systems need to be smart enough to factor in elements that can cause shifts in our patterns of behavior:

  • Seasonality (no taste for raw fish when snowing)
  • Change in tastes (eg. pregnancy pushes sushi off the menu)
  • Removing system bias (eg. not only favoring well-established popular places, but allowing new entrants a chance to prove themselves)

Whether Foursquare makes a concerted move in this direction remains to be seen, but as web and mobile applications creep further into every aspect of our existence (with their inherent ability to track behavior), expect to see an increasing use of business intelligence and predictive analytics to create smarter systems offering us more relevant information.