Will Checkins Be The New Inbound Links?

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After having had some fun half-mocking health care uses of location-based media such Foursquare, BrightKite and Gowalla, I do think these services represent a small part of larger set of trends. Although these services have thus far emerged as stand-alone media, their essential functions can be thought of as modules which eventually will be mashed up and integrated and subsumed into bigger bits. And now I wonder if geolocation-based media may usher forth a new kind of attention-currency.

Just as links to a website play an important role in how we find businesses in Google, I can see how checkins could be part of an emerging trend to bring hyperlinks to “real” places. Services like Foursquare provide information about business in several ways, two of which are by number of checkins and the tips/reviews patrons tap into their mobile devices. Additionally, other meta-data (such as the number of tweets or blog posts referring to a particular venue on Foursquare) conceivably add attention-weight to businesses.

What’s interesting about these technologies, is how (and that) people use them. We now know – for good or ill – that there are people who willingly share personal information which only years ago they would have concealed within an intimate context. The revealing nature of technology becomes clearer as novel technologies beget novel re-purposing, which in turn reveal things about ourselves.

And so, anytime we consider these media, we have to not only consider their effect on human beings but also on their effect on the evolution of technology itself. The Web is giving rise to metadata-based media. Which is to say if the medium is the message, then the message of the future Web is metadata. Just something to consider as social-streams become a staple of human interaction.

Anyway, I can envision the emergence of other services which wish to capitalize on this new kind of IRL hyperlinking. What do you think? Will we see the emergence of a new kind of attention economy, where metadata like geolocation and tagging become valuable commodities?

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Foursquare Is Powerful Enough to Cure Insomnia and Depression

So¬† I’ve been toying around with Silicon Valley’s latest toy Foursquare. I realize geolocation services are going to become very big this year as mobile and social become more common. But sometimes I wonder how carried away evangelists can get sometimes.

Anyhoo, I haven’t seriously used Foursquare but have been intruiged by its usage – it seems a lof of people on Twitter love to use the service and tell everybody that they became Mayor of Casterbridge or some such place. Harmless fun I suppose.

So I decided to see how useful this service could be. Does it have a place in health care? How can Foursquare be re-purposed for more utilitarian goals beyond telling friends what watering hole you’re Mayor of? (See note below this post.)

What if you could “check into” emotional places or disease states? (Yes, I like taking it to the absurd.) Foursquare doesn’t let you do that – not for very long at least. I can see how spam could become an issue for Foursquare (I’m probably not the only joker doing these sort of things). So here’s what I did: I added the items Insomnia and Clinical Depression and linked to them on Twitter. A few hours later, Foursquare removed (or “closed”) these places. Here are screenshots:

So wow! Foursquare could end Insomnia and Clinical Depression! Score one for Social Media!!!

I’m all for using social media for all sorts of things. And I’m sure Foursquare has its uses. But I also sense that social media mania may be getting out of hand. I wonder if the majority of the adopters of these servcies have a clear purpose in mind before they adopt them. Or are they just adopting them because they exist, with some getting lucky in finding purpose after?

What do you think? Do you use Foursquare? How do you use it?

On a more serious note, I’d like to add that perhaps we could take some inspiration from this sarcastic use of Foursquare – along the lines of a service which enables people with similar issues (diseases, practical problems, political affiliations, industries, etc.). A sort of mashup of Twitter and Foursquare and Yelp and Get Satisfaction.

Foursquare is based on one simple piece of meta-data – geolocation. It’s the primary social object around which all other social objects and behaviors and meta-data orbit.

But there are all kinds of meta-data. Think about that, developers.

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