Last month, I spent a week in New York City and decided to use a location-based social networking service called Gowalla to check in to the great sites we visited. Weeks later, I’m still checking in all over my home town and I honestly don’t know why.
I thought Foursquare was invasive and pointless. I used to laugh at people who were addicted to online or phone-based games. And I never totally understood geocaching, even though I have very close friends who love it. (Both Foursquare and Gowalla have been compared to games or geocaching.)
I guess it’s poetic justice that I got hooked on Gowalla. I first heard about the service at SXSW in Austin this year, where the company engaged in heavy promotion. Among tens of thousands of social media enthusiasts, I naturally wanted to a) try all the cool new services I heard about, and b) brag about all the cool places I was visiting.
I played around with Gowalla a bit in Austin but I really got into it New York. This was my first extended stay in the city and checking in to the places I’d always wanted to see made everything more fun. I could even send an automatic tweet or Facebook post, or upload a photo. This became an integral part of the whole tourist experience.
Back in San Jose, I’ve continued checking in on Gowalla–even in mundane places like Kaiser health clinics and Trader Joe’s. It makes no sense because NONE of these things has happened or is probably ever going to happen:
I’ve decided to admit that I’m just playing a game. Eventually, I’ll get bored and move on.
Here’s a brief explanation of the two services from Foursquare vs. Gowalla: Inside the Check-In Wars on the Fast Company blog:
On Foursquare, a user “checks in” to locations (as pinpointed via satellite) to invite along friends, leave tips glued to GPS coordinates (like ordering advice at restaurants), and compete for digital rewards in the form of badges, or titles like “mayor” (for the user who checks in the most at a venue). Similarly, Gowalla asked users to check in places in order to collect digital goodies, akin to virtual geocaching.
And here’s an excellent video from App TV (AppTVShow on YouTube):