Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Fondness and Frustration with foursquare

I've been using the mobile location and geosocial app foursquare soon after it was available in Canada. Having used it for a couple years now, I'm intimately familiar with it.

I love it - but it also pisses me off regularly!

They are just some inexcusable problems and limitations that should have been fixed by now. To be fair, foursquare does continue to offer product updates and their user base is growing despite challenges (see my prior post on this Have Check-ins Checked Out? ). Also, I use foursquare on an old device, so some of the problems could be the result of the limits of my device. I'll be upgrading to an Android device in September when my 3-year contract ends (no more contracts for me).

Still, I believe some of the problems I have are consistent across platforms and regardless they are so damn annoying they should be fixed!

I've been a loyal foursquare user, but if something that comes along to address the problems and/or satisfy my needs better, I'll be eager to leave and have less frustration in my life. Still, my beefs below can be taken as key areas for foursquare developers to improve to make me (and millions of others) even likelier to be a loyal user.

Before complaining, I'll offer what I think they do currently do right, so they can extend the positive.

  • Friends' recent check-ins at a glance on homepage
  • Venue tips from friends and others (particularly when they are specific)
  • Genuine rewards from businesses
  • Self check-in (versus automated, uncontrolled by user check-ins as some apps offer)
  • Ability to find cool new business
  • Personalized recommendations of sites and businesses
  • Badges (dorky, but surprisingly fun)
  • Personal history list (it's like a handy travelogue)
  • Curated, individual lists of recommended places to share
  • Finding out a friend is at the same place as you at the same time (or at any time for unusual places)
  • Only locative app that achieved a viable critical mass
  • Too many clicks to check-in, they could easily eliminate one step to make the process faster
  • Once check-in can't go back and edit - e.g. to add comment or post to Facebook
  • Doesn't remember very well the places I frequent (to make repeat check-ins easy)
  • Their "deals" feature while promising in theory has been completely useless for two years - first what they consider to be a "nearby deal" is often vast distances from where the user has check-in (really 10+ kilometers often - this in a major metropolitan area) and then the deals are often bogus, either a deal that everyone gets (e.g. a normal sale or something that is otherwise free or just incredibly crappy - they need quality control for this to have any value)
  • Often doesn't pull up places actually closest to user (it seems that a simple sort of results by proximity should be easy, but it often doesn't work)
  • Result often don't pull up popular venues, but even worse...
  • When searching for a venue by typing it in, it will frequently says there is no place, but then once  I go to add it, the app then finds it in their database. So if it is there,why doesn't it come up at the first request or at least when searched?
  • When adding a venue, the app stalls or often fails completely when trying to designate the venue's category (a required field)
  • Search for venues must be incredible precise to work (does not allow short forms, synonyms, common misspellings, etc. - basis search features)
  • Often says there are no places nearby and have to refresh 3-4 times for it to work (if this is a network access issue then the error message should be worded as such)
  • Shows friends check-ins on homepage even if they haven't used the app in over a year - set a cut-off of a few weeks
  • Brands (for example TV channels, celebrities, etc.) can be added as "friends", but they all appear to be doing a really boring and pointless job at using it
  • "Mayorships" (i.e. title given to the person with the most check-ins at a place) are a neat idea but with so many users now they are essentially unattainable to the vast, vast majority of users and are thus pointless and frustrating - they need some other titles (Council member?) or method to determine mayors
  • Should have a ratings button for venues rather than just comments as ratings features are more apt to be used and thus more reliable and useful

Problems that aren't foursquare's fault, but are still damn annoying:
  • No indoor positioning
  • No cell coverage in basements or urban canyons
  • Most of my friends (and me) mostly check into really boring places (e.g. work) and don't add interesting commentary often enough
  • Insanely-high roaming fees (on my trip last month to Hawaii, I paid over $40 recently to read a few emails and for several foursquare check-ins)
I think overall foursquare has been a compelling, fun, and useful product, so I'd like to see it improve and expand.  

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