Ramble On Ron

Diamonds, Music and other Facets of Life

Foursquare or Stalkersquare?

Posted on | March 3, 2010 | 16 Comments

Being in the social space is often pretty weird. The king of social networks, Facebook, has made it easy to check out everyone’s family pics, personal interests and hobbies, and everything else that you want to know (or not know) about someone. Often these people aren’t really “friends” but acquaintances at best. After all, do I really know 850 people?  Twitter is #2 with a lot of people that I really don’t know and have never met spewing out all kinds of links, comments and other BS.  The trick with Twitter is to try to find the good stuff among all the noise.

Now we have some new social networks that popped up – Gowalla, Foursquare, Brightkite, even Google Buzz. These are social networks that share your exact location, using GPS technology, to your friends on Facebook and Twitter. You can earn badges and points if you “check in” to more places, so it’s like an addicting game (if you buy into it). When I first saw a status update or tweet saying, “I’m at Starbucks” or “I’m at the Safeway on York Road” I thought to myself, “WHO CARES!” Why do I care if you’re at Starbucks, Safeway, or Shell Gas Station? What does that do for me?

Well, before I trashed this idea, I had to hop on Foursquare myself to see what it’s all about. After all, there are some pretty bright guys invested in this company, including Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey. I wanted to find out what’s there from a marketing standpoint. I assume that they will find a way to make money from this. Once you know where someone is, you can market to them through their mobile device in all kinds of creative ways.

Since being on Foursquare, and even before joining, I saw a big problem with this concept. Then came the site that affirmed my paranoia called Please Rob Me. The site is basically a live stream from Twitter titled “Recent Empty Homes” and those people are labeled as “New Opportunities”. I am so glad that this site is out.  Read what they say on their “why” page:

Hey, do you have a Twitter account? Have you ever noticed those messages in which people tell you where they are? Pretty annoying, eh. Well, they’re actually also potentially pretty dangerous. We’re about to tell you why.

Don’t get us wrong, we love the whole location-aware thing. The information is very interesting and can be used to create some pretty awesome applications. However, the way in which people are stimulated to participate in sharing this information, is less awesome. Services like Foursquare allow you to fulfill some primeval urge to colonize the planet. A part of that is letting everyone know you own that specific spot. You get to tell where you are and if you’re there first, it’s yours. O, and of course there’s badges..

The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face.

The goal of this website is to raise some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz etc. Because all this site is, is a dressed up Twitter search page. Everybody can get this information.

Foursquare and other similar sites fill the self-promoting way of the status update and tweet. People LOVE to say “I’m at the beach” or “I’m on vacation” so others can see how cool they are and what an exciting life they lead. These sites feed right into that need. I found myself doing it in New York City last week. It was sooo cool of me to be at Radio City Music Hall watching a concert while all of you were home watching The Bachelor. 🙂 Guess what? It’s stupid! My wife was home alone. In the jewelry business, it would be extra stupid for a salesperson to tell anyone where they are.

One other thought that is not addressed on Please Rob Me goes out to women who are telling us guys where they are all the time. Now, I’m a happily married man and a good person. But there are a lot of sick people out there! If you’re an attractive woman, do you really want every guy on Twitter to know where you are so they can happen to just show up to see you? Or even worse to hurt you?

Maybe I’ll eat my words and these sites will be the next Facebook, but remember that the internet is full of stalkers, criminals and psychopaths, so use some common sense here people!

What do you think of these sites?  Are they game changers or a stalkers heaven?