At first, I thought the idea wasn’t all that interesting. Why would I want to “check in” to different location just to earn points, badges, and mayorships that really mean nothing at all? Then, I joined Foursquare and I started to understand why it could be fun or engaging… but then I started to wonder about how you could game the system. I started to wonder about the ethics of false check-ins and whether it really mattered. After all, is there such a thing as an ethical code of conduct when it comes to something like Foursquare?
Are You Really There?
This seems simple enough. Of course you are, right? This really comes down to your definition of “being there” in substantial enough of a fashion that warrants “checking in” to the location.
The semi-official definition from Foursquare is that you shouldn’t check into a location unless you’re going to be there “for a while.” What constitutes “a while” becomes another issue and it becomes particularly relevant with rapid fire checkins. I’ve received that warning more than a few times and while I understand its rationale, I’m not sure that it’s always fair.
Did You Check In Yourself?
Even if I get the “rapid fire” warning on Foursquare, all of those check-ins are done manually. That’s the way the system is supposed to work, but it’s not always the way that the system is used.
You may have heard about a service called Auto4Sq that lets you schedule automatic Foursquare check-ins. The idea is that if you are going to the same office five days a week, you shouldn’t need to check in manually for each of those five days. For my part, I still believe in the manual check-in, but that was the same philosophy I once had about scheduled tweets. Now, I don’t know what I’d do if my Twitter account wasn’t somewhat automated.
Is That a Duplicate Venue?
The person who checks in the greatest number of times in the last 60 days becomes the “mayor” of that location. And it’s a lot easier to become a mayor of a new place than an established location, so you may be motivated to create new venues all over town. Perhaps it has to do with some bad searches too, but I find many, many duplicate venues on Foursquare. Before making a new location, you should put in some effort to see if it already exists in the database.
Am I Sharing Too Much?
And that’s the risk you run with just about any social network. Absolutely, the personal is public in today’s online world, so just as your behavior on Facebook and Twitter can have real world ramifications, so can your behavior on Foursquare.