The curious case of Foursquare

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The latest news on Foursquare’s partnership/investment from Microsoft got me thinking. Apologies for the tone/grammatical mistakes below - I’m writing quickly before the urge to put my thoughts down whimpers away with the deluge of today’s tasks.

I love Foursquare. I love it’s potential to change the world. I think about location a lot. I think geography is the third pillar in our future world, and Foursquare had a great opportunity to not only shake things up but also be the killer experience.

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Thoughts on Foursquare

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The press release for Foursquare’s 7.0 from TechCrunch today is interesting, if not terribly informative. This article is a great example of tech reporting in 2013 - a quick stab at analysis but mainly a conduit for the company’s evolving pitch.

I love love the new design - but at it’s core, the value proposition not set.

Disclosure: My wife used to work for Foursquare, but we rarely discuss our product management work in detail. I’m writing as a fan of the service and as a fascinated observer of the current state of press reporting on tech product development. I love the idea of location-ness in our lives.

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emergentfutures
‘Mobile search is just broken. Everyone in this goes to yelp and searches and each of us get the same result. That’s clearly a broken model because every one of us is going to do different things or have different favorites’ he said, highlighting that Foursquare’s focus is on personalized search, with result tailored to the user based on their previous information.

Dennis Crowley | Foursquare Shifts To Search - Forbes (via courtenaybird)

I’m liking the idea of ambient search, recommendations and experiences more and more. Stuff on the brain.

christenduong

courtneyetc:

The #allnew4sq design process has been wildly rewarding. Our designers examined everything from our typography to our iconography, seeking to maintain foursquare’s playfulness while evolving our style and our brand.

The old and the new

Although our designers spend most of our time in Photoshop or…

Props for the product process at 4Sq, and altho I have a few nitpicks with the new app, a good re-think to making the offline/online connection really enjoyable to play with.

Beyond the official feature list, there are more subtle signs that the company is working to make itself more relevant to users and to advertisers. It has spent more time mining its growing trove of data, producing detailed charts of ice cream sales in New York over the course of a year, comparative breakdowns of mass transit use in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, and the different buying habits of men versus women. And that’s just what the company is willing to discuss publicly; given the quantity of check-ins and comments it processes, it could run far more detailed analyses.

This is the magic sauce for Foursquare.  I find myself checking in / updating statuses / taking photos more on Path now, but if Foursquare 5.0 can provide useful things for me to do IRL without a lot of effort (i.e. search), that’s the killer part of the app.  And super interested in how all that data gets parsed and packaged into recommendations.

Disclosure: my wife works at Foursquare on this stuff, but I have no idea what their plans are since we try to not talk about work much as we usually get deep into the product details and go batshit crazy.

parislemon

parislemon:

This is interesting because maps are obviously a vital part of location-based services. And while a few have picked Bing Maps over Google Maps, I can’t recall any service as big as Foursquare, which was using Google for so long, ditching them in favor of the open alternative (as they note, several smaller startups have, often due to cost — which was also why Foursquare started looking for other alternatives).

Worth noting that this only impacts the Foursquare website right now — the iPhone and Android apps will continue to use Google Maps since both of those OSes offer Google Maps in their SDKs.

But that brings up something else: how long is Apple going to stick with Google Maps? At the time of the iPhone launch, it was really the only good solution (and they had a great relationship with Google). Now there are several options.

I think it’s possible that the only reason Apple hasn’t switched to another alternative at this point (given the Google rivalry) is because they continue to work on their own solution.

I’m sure this was a hard decision - but it’s always good to not be over-reliant on an external party for something that is crucial to your business. We’ve used OSM sparingly at Flickr when we can and there are huge opportunities here. Looking forward to how this plays out for Foursquare.

Privatesquare

Foursquare geeks may enjoy this one:

Aaron has tinkered again to come up with something dubbed Privatesquare . At first glance it’s piggybacking on Foursquare’s API to add public/private things related to check-ins:

Check-ins can be sent on to foursquare (and again re-broadcast to Twitter, etc. or to your followers or just “off the grid”) but the important part is: They don’t have to be. As much as this screenshot of my activity on foursquare cracks me up it’s not actually representative of my life and suggests a particular kind of self-censorship.

But he then goes beyond that to introduce some new taxonomies that should be interesting cases for Explore:

Second, privatesquare has its own internal taxonomy of event-iness. It is:

  • I am here
  • I was there
  • I want to go there
  • again
  • again again
  • again maybe
  • again never

Much more nerdiness into the project if you’re so inclined over at Near Future Lab.

christenduong
christenduong:

Thank goodness for snow days. We launched Explore on Web 9 days ago, and I’m just getting around to blogging about it.
This product helps our users find a place for dinner, worthy sights for their next trip, or just what’s interesting around their neighborhood - whatever they want to do, wherever they want to go. Rather than basing our recommendations on star ratings, we base it on real-world check-in data. This means we get to show you places you haven’t gotten around to trying yet, the places your friends have gone, your go-to spots, and places where you can snag a deal. I love this because I think this is how people talk about places in real life. (btw, my favorite query to combat FOMO = places I haven’t been to yet + places my friends have been to)
This is why I joined foursquare - to help people discover new experiences, big and small, in their everyday lives. So proud that this product is a step in that direction.
On a personal note, I’m really psyched because it’s the first capital letter feature I’ve launched at foursquare. We’ve got an amazing team (not so humble related article here) and there’s just an incredible energy in the air around launch time. It’s like we’re magnetized to GSDing.
Speaking of, cooking up a new batch of stuff now!
Explore web coverage:
NY Times - Foursquare wants to Plan Your Next Meal - and Vacation 
Venture Beat - Foursquare’s mobile recommendation engine, Explore, hits the web

christenduong:

Thank goodness for snow days. We launched Explore on Web 9 days ago, and I’m just getting around to blogging about it.

This product helps our users find a place for dinner, worthy sights for their next trip, or just what’s interesting around their neighborhood - whatever they want to do, wherever they want to go. Rather than basing our recommendations on star ratings, we base it on real-world check-in data. This means we get to show you places you haven’t gotten around to trying yet, the places your friends have gone, your go-to spots, and places where you can snag a deal. I love this because I think this is how people talk about places in real life. (btw, my favorite query to combat FOMO = places I haven’t been to yet + places my friends have been to)

This is why I joined foursquare - to help people discover new experiences, big and small, in their everyday lives. So proud that this product is a step in that direction.

On a personal note, I’m really psyched because it’s the first capital letter feature I’ve launched at foursquare. We’ve got an amazing team (not so humble related article here) and there’s just an incredible energy in the air around launch time. It’s like we’re magnetized to GSDing.

Speaking of, cooking up a new batch of stuff now!

Explore web coverage:

NY Times - Foursquare wants to Plan Your Next Meal - and Vacation 

Venture Beat - Foursquare’s mobile recommendation engine, Explore, hits the web

parislemon
parislemon:

marsbot:

Icon-olution
As mentioned in a previous post about the evolution of our iphone app, one of the great things about working at a start up is the ability to iterate and the speed at which you can do this. As we strive to improve our product, we wanted to make sure we had an icon that reflected the current state of our brand. 
To achieve this, we made a few subtle changes to the icon as opposed to a big change. This didn’t feel like the appropriate time to do a complete revolution; an evolution felt more apt. 
You’ll notice we’ve rounded and softened the edges to better align with other illustrative elements you find in our app such as badges and icons. We’ve replaced the purple ball with a green ball, as purple no longer lives in our color palette elsewhere in the app or site. Green is one of our primary colors and we wanted that represented here. We’ve also gone back to a less perfectly parallel trail of the ball (which also makes our iconic check mark) to inject a more playful feel into the icon while still maintaining our clean edges and lines. 

Attention to detail. Very nice.

I’m always in awe of the microscopic detail that good designers have towards their work. And on the surface, being pixel perfect is so contradictory to the ‘moving fast’ mantra of many startups! It takes talented people to have both traits.

parislemon:

marsbot:

Icon-olution

As mentioned in a previous post about the evolution of our iphone app, one of the great things about working at a start up is the ability to iterate and the speed at which you can do this. As we strive to improve our product, we wanted to make sure we had an icon that reflected the current state of our brand. 

To achieve this, we made a few subtle changes to the icon as opposed to a big change. This didn’t feel like the appropriate time to do a complete revolution; an evolution felt more apt. 

You’ll notice we’ve rounded and softened the edges to better align with other illustrative elements you find in our app such as badges and icons. We’ve replaced the purple ball with a green ball, as purple no longer lives in our color palette elsewhere in the app or site. Green is one of our primary colors and we wanted that represented here. We’ve also gone back to a less perfectly parallel trail of the ball (which also makes our iconic check mark) to inject a more playful feel into the icon while still maintaining our clean edges and lines. 

Attention to detail. Very nice.

I’m always in awe of the microscopic detail that good designers have towards their work. And on the surface, being pixel perfect is so contradictory to the ‘moving fast’ mantra of many startups! It takes talented people to have both traits.