Location check-ins during South by Southwest

Location-aware apps are the hot topic nowadays, and with all the tech-oriented people congregating at South by Southwest, there was a whole lot of checking-in to be done, especially with all the parties and get-togethers. Everyone wanted to know where everyone else was at.

SimpleGeo scraped the location stream, which was available on vicarious.ly, and mapped the check-ins over time.

I didn’t spot any particularly interesting patterns other than the occasional bar-hopping, but still fun to watch. Looks like Foursquare leads, with Gowalla taking a big chunk too.

To be honest, I still feel kind of uneasy about the whole location-sharing thing. Anyone care to share their experience?

[Thanks @mrflip]


  • I’ve been using foursquare since June ’09 and have been geocoding tweets (mostly) since October 2009.

    I’ve had two sort-of serendipitous things happen with Foursquare — the first was when someone I hadn’t seen in years noticed that I’d checked into the restaurant next door and came over to say hi (noticed because 4sq tweeted the checkin). The second, a restaurant I regularly went to approached me and other people who had been “mayor” about investing in their new location.

    I haven’t had anything “bad” happen yet. Yet.

    I look at it this way: a lot of these devices we use spin off geo data already, available to government and commercial entities. Why not make use of it ourselves?

    I’ve run into a few technical glitches — too many services assume and trust the geocoding provided by “the system”. So, for example, I had the weird situation at this year’s SXSW where my Foursquare app (Gravity for Nokia) kept switching my location to San Francisco, because (I’m guessing) it (or some GPS/geo layer in the Nokia) was getting the locale from the wifi access point MAC addresses which were mapped to Market & 3rd St, San Francisco. I have an Apple AirportExpress ap which I travel with, and which Skyhook Wireless seems to think is permanently in Chicago.

    There’s also the “lag” from a check-in: some people “check in” when they enter a place, others when they leave. I personally don’t think this is right or wrong (I even “check in” to places after I’ve left). Gowalla posits that it’s better than Foursquare because it doesn’t let people fudge on their location, but I sort of like Foursquare’s model which, while susceptible to outright forgery and gaming, is flexible enough for the average user to get the point across without being anal about time and coordinate precision.

    None of the pure-GPS services work well where I live/work in Brooklyn. Even with the cell-tower triangulation or Skyhook wifi stuff the precision is often no better than 500 metres. Again, ok for the typical user, but not so ok if you’re dependent on precision or accuracy. And in Brooklyn, the typical building is less than 10 stories, I’m not talking about Manhattan where signals bounce all over the place.

    Net: personally I find the services useful in a sort of ambient awareness way. They’re not precise, they cannot be relied upon to be precise. But as a way of documenting & visualizing patterns of behavior and where information or activities occur, they’re a great start.

    • yeah, i’m totally down with capturing location for personal use, and even sharing with friends. sharing with a few thousand twitter followers though is the part that makes me think twice.