I performed my first mayoral duties today at the King John’s Tavern in Hartlepool. I took my youngest for lunch. It’s always best nurturing the father-son relationship in the surroundings of a pub, and as I’ve recently become the foursquare Mayor of the town’s Wetherspoon I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show my boy what a great man his father is, and of course take advantage of the 20% discount offered to VIPs such as me. He’s only 3 but I could tell he was swelling with pride, no matter how often he declared he had done “wee wee”.
When I arrived I was excited to see a welcome sign to the Mayor on the front door. The red carpet inside added to my excitement and I envisaged hand-shaking dignitaries and school children waving flags. I was here to take possession of my territory!
With that I made my order and then with a flourish revealed my identity to the young woman behind the bar. There was a stunned silence as she took in the information, pushed it around her head and tried to digest the enormity of what had been revealed to her ears.
“You what?” she said. It obviously had been too much.
“I’m your foursquare mayor” I smiled, pronouncing each of the words in staccato.
Anybody would have thought I’d called her a “four-eyed mare” as her eyes widened and she rather vacantly muttered “I’m going to get the manager”.
To my utter relief she returned with a rather friendly chap who welcomed me saying “So you’re our mayor? Give the gentleman 20% off”
I looked at my son smiling, he looked at me swelling, I looked at the proud manager, he looked at the vacant barmaid. She looked through the complicated discount section of her touchscreen till. “You what?” she whispered.
Facebook has just launched Places, in competition to the location based social network Foursquare. Having heralded the all too soon demise of Foursquare in a tweet not too long ago a thought came into my head as I scrubbed teaspoon number 6 whilst staring vacantly through the kitchen window this morning.
As a teen in Scotland in the late 80s a popular term of offence was “spoon”. The phrase “what a spoon” or “you spoon” or simply “spoon” often followed an act of stupidity or nerdiness (if such a word exists – iPhone spell checker not happy). It got me thinking about stupid nerds and Mark Zuckerberg popped into my head. “No! Don’t attack the co-founder of Facebook!” I hear you cry. But never lead by the crowd here it goes…
Before I do though just a bit more about Foursquare. Dennis Crowley, the fresh faced college grad with perfect teeth, and co-founder of Foursquare, hit upon a great idea of connecting social networks more effectively with the opportunities offered by the smartphone revolution and the innate human desire to play games and compete. Facebook’s Places is an obvious response to this, but I have to agree with Crowley’s seemingly “I’m under threat” accusation that “Places is boring”.
Central to Foursquare is the concept of competition – collecting kudos badges and becoming mayor of a location. This is already being used by net savvy companies to offer promotions to loyal mayors. My local Domino’s is doing exactly that. I’m one day away from usurping the existing mayor in a stealth-like coup d’état to get a free pizza (now who’s the spoon?) So what is central to Foursquare is not central to Facebook. What was central to Facebook was privacy. I say “was” because 26 year old Mark (childhood fan of Risk the board game) has now decided he knows what humanity really wants. Supposedly we don’t much care for privacy. This approach, along with it’s 500 million users, fits surprisingly well with a web domination strategy. Seems like Risk came in handy on a number of levels.
So, as well as agreeing with Dennis, I have a complaint of my own. With Places you have no choice of sharing options as you do on Foursquare… If you check-in everybody knows where you are. At least with Foursquare I can check-in to my local Domino’s for the promotion, and choose whether or not I wish fellow members of my diet club to know it’s my fourth day in a row! Even if there was an incentive to check-in with Places (I promise you now fatigue will set in) there are no privacy options.
So I wonder if Facebook’s self seeking ways will see Foursquare continue in popularity. Yes Facebook has the numbers over Foursquare, 500 million versus a much smaller 3 million, but Twitter only offered the service of Facebook’s update status and 190 million users later it has done rather well thank you very much. “Mark, you spoon!”