Blog | May 20, 2011 | 8 Comments

[where’s wagner?]

[On Location with Gowalla]

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’m not the target user for location-based services.

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.

Why do I keep doing this back in San Jose?

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.

If you’re still curious about the lure of location, read 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):

I’m curious: Do you use Foursquare or Gowalla? Do you see any value in these services other than fun? Do you think they’ll stay around a few more years?

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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.


After the Giants won the series last year, people in San Francisco were using Foursquare to check in at the riots. You’d see: “So and so is at the San Francisco Riot” and similar posts.


Claire Wagner Reply:

Gary, I shouldn’t laugh at this, but I did.


Gary Singh


Geolocation is such a great new info toy.
Love hearing how it is finding it’s way into people’s lives.

Though an absolute devotee of Mari Sheibley’s Foursquare Badges & Icons, GoWalla’s graphics are quite tasty.


Claire Wagner Reply:

I do like the Gowalla interface, Justin. I just don’t know what those badges are for. Just fun, right?




I was all over Foursquare in my little Georgia town, but then it just got boring. No new badges.

Justin’s got the right situation in NYC though! I love the game aspect to it with badges, etc., and most definitely use it during conferences and while traveling. There have been a few specials that weren’t too bad either!


Claire Wagner Reply:

You’re right – it is more fun when traveling. I don’t think Gowalla has any specials or discounts, though. I haven’t been offered any.


I think we should go geocaching and Gowalla-ing (is that the verb?) at the same time. Addicts should support each other.
Lisa H.-S.
(who uses billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods)


Claire Wagner Reply:

Lisa! This comment DID come through, thankfully. I know how much you love finding Tupperware. If I wasn’t so out of shape, I would probably go off with you…


Lisa Hettler-Smith


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