Archive for January, 2010

Foursquare vs Gowalla

The battle of location-based social media apps has begun.  The two heavyweights in my opinion are Gowalla and Foursquare (or 4sq for short).  Though Foursquare has been around for a while, it was only accessible to those in a limited number of cities until the first week of 2010.  I had been stalking it for some time hoping it would add Cincinnati to the list of cities.  So when Foursquare finally became available across the US last week, I immediately signed up and added the iPhone app.

As for Gowalla, I’ve been using it for over a month now and have continued to increase my usage over the past several weeks.  Unlike Foursquare, Gowalla hadn’t required the user to be in a limited number of cities to use it.  Though I’ve had the apps for a relatively short time, I think I’ve gotten a good feel for each.  Here’s my findings:

Foursquare

Pros:

  • By far the best thing going for Foursquare is the user submitted tips/comments for a location.  Both apps answer the question “where are you”, but this feature helps give Foursquare more substance by answering “so what?”  I was very impressed when I checked into a restaurant and immediately received a notice that one of my friends had been there and added a tip to try the tater tots and $1 burgers on Wednesdays!  The ability to immediately see recommendations (or warnings) is fantastic, and unfortunately something that Gowalla does not currently offer.  The iPhone app also provides a link to Yelp for each location.
  • Competition/Stats.  Though rather trivial, it is fun to obtain points and badges for checking into places and then “compete” against your friends.

Cons:

  • My biggest complaint about 4sq is the poor utilization (or rather enforcement) of GPS.  The iPhone app gives the ability to check into places that are quite a distance away from your physical location (Gowalla requires you to be so many meters away or you can’t check in).  Furthermore, their website provides the ability to check in anywhere in the US (whether you are actually there or not).  For an app that stresses competition through checking in and earning points/badges, I would expect 4sq to be a little stricter here.  Perhaps the issue is that not all smartphones have GPS.  In that case I would argue against watering down the app by catering to ill-equipped phones.  The primary idea here after all is location-based.  If you are not physically at a location, you shouldn’t be able to claim you are.
  • It is annoying that the iPhone app requires a user to know the physical address before they can create a new location.  While keeping a record of addresses is helpful, it could certainly be added after the fact and shouldn’t be a requirement as it is rarely common knowledge or easily available when checking in.  Again, GPS enabled phones should have no problem getting an accurate read on location. (Note: The most recent iPhone update now makes adding a physical address optional, yay!).

Gowalla

Pros:

  • The true fun of Gowalla involves discovering and “re-locating” items.  When you check into a location, you may be surprised to find a virtual item ranging from a Big Bag o’ Swag, to a Slice of Pizza, to a Muscle Car.  You can then drop those items somewhere else.  What makes this great is the history that stays with each item.  You can see all the previous owners of an item, where they got it and all the places it has been dropped along the way.  It reminds me of Where’s George.
  • Shiny!  The graphics, user interface and ease of use are brilliant.

Cons:

  • The app is only available for iPhone.  There is a mobile web version for Android users and apps are are being created for other platforms.
  • Lack of comments/tips.

Bottom Line: I’m currently using both apps to check in when I visit places.  After about a week, this has already become burdensome.  Still, I hate to commit to one or the other just yet, as I doubt this battle will end any time soon.  I think it would benefit both apps to come together and form the ultimate in location-based social media.

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January 13, 2010 at 9:48 AM 1 comment

Netflix Sells Out

I heard the prediction months ago but didn’t want to believe it.  Now today the rumor has become an unfortunate fact: the bigwigs over at Netflix are a bunch of sell outs.  Netflix customers will now be forced to wait 28 days after a new Warner Bros. DVD release before it will ship out.

This new agreement is unfortunate, unacceptable and won’t work.

Unfortunate because Netflix has typically been viewed as a company that just gets it.  They provide a great service and give great customer service while doing it.  That’s why I’ve been a member for over 3 years.  They’ve now gone from “sticking it to the man” to becoming the man.

Unacceptable because I for one will not tolerate it.  The media says it is only a matter of time before Netflix reaches similar deals with the other major studios.  Of course I have older movies in my queue, but my primary reason for having Netflix is to watch the newest releases on DVD because I rarely go to movie theaters.

It won’t work.  The studios are simply doing whatever they can in the wake of declining DVD sales.  And Netflix is ignorant for getting into bed with them.  Netflix may be getting a cheaper price now by selling out, but this will only come back to bite them.  Furthermore, this new agreement will not make consumers go buy more DVDs.  If someone wants to watch a new release and can’t get it through Netflix, they’ll go to a Blockbuster store, use cable/satellite on-demand services, or watch it online.  So why would I justify paying a monthly fee to Netflix if I have to spend additional money with a 3rd party to watch the movies I really want to see?  Answer: I won’t.

Bottom line: I’ll be canceling my membership with Netflix.  And I doubt I’ll be alone.

January 6, 2010 at 5:23 PM Leave a comment


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