Saturday, February 13, 2010

Foursquare & Buzz: Building Community or Too Close for Comfort?

I recently started playing with two newish social media applications, Foursquare and Google Buzz. Foursquare is an iphone app where you "check in" to different places when you visit them. If you are the first to check in, or you check in the greatest number of times, you can become the mayor of that location.

The mayor of my local Starbucks is @KevinPalmer a social media blogger who I follow on Twitter. He lives just a few blocks away from me. I DM'd him and suggested we meet for coffee (at his Starbucks of course).

Google Buzz is a new Twitter like service that is integrated into Gmail. The iphone app can show me who is buzzing near me; it will even give me their approximate street address.

The idea that social media applications like Foursquare and Buzz could connect me to people in my neighborhood is exciting, but also pushes my privacy boundaries. I live in a pretty urban suburb of a big northeastern city. I know a few of my neighbors, but not too many. I don't usually say hello to strangers on the street.

These might be great tools for my community, but they also scare me a bit. For the most part I've gotten over my fear of making virtual connections. I remember when that was pretty terrifying. Now it is just a way of life. Maybe the logical next step is to bring those virtual connections full circle, back to the real world. That is still a little outside of my comfort zone, but I'm willing to give it a try.

What do you think?


Theresa Milstein said...

I think it's a great idea. It's always struck me that the more densely an area is populated, the fewer people around that we know. More and more people are using cyberspace as a way of connecting. My blog has commenters from England and Australia, which is great but doesn't keep me from feeling isolated when I'm away from my computer.

Meet someone in a public place and use your instinct to decide whether or not they seem like sociopaths. I guess that's what all those people who use on-line dating services do.

Jeff Utecht said...

I think we have to be careful in this new geo-tagging world. I do believe it's the future and I do see huge benefits in it. But I worry about those that don't truly understand it.

For example, while back in Seattle over Winter Break I was using FourSquare and was able to shake hands and meet other "techno geeks" that were on FS the same time I was...pretty cool!

But I also noted that when I went to look at other people close by that there were two Single Females (I know from their profiles) who had checked in at their home (aprt or condo). Of course this data went right to a Google Map and anyone could have easily seen where they lived.

Two things worry me. First is their personal safety, and Second....if I know where you live and you just "Check In" to a place that is not your house....then you're not home setting yourself up for a robbery.

We both know it will only take one horrible thing to happen because someone knew where someone else was because of geo-tagging their location to shut the whole thing down. It will happen it's only a matter of time......That's what worries me the most!

Jackie T. Ewing said...

I've also just started using FourSquare and have had those concerns pop into my head. Common sense tells me not to us it for everything - I don't want the world to know my every move, why would they care to?! I believe the technology to be new enough that we are correct in our tentativeness with it, but giving it a chance.
From a retail location point of view, it could be a huge wave of the future.

Lee Kolbert said...

Regarding FourSquare:
I agree with Jeff. It's easy to become very comfortable and forget there are people who are looking to do bad things. I also have to wonder what is the value of wanting to meet strangers who I don't already have some connection with other than proximity.

Liz Davis said...

I am intrigued by the possibility for these tools to open up my neighborhood to me, but am also cautious. I'm trying to push back on my own anxieties. I know how over-blown the stalker fears are in the press. I don't want to let that get the better of me. But I also want to use my instincts and avoid being too trusting. There are some bad people out there.

Theresa - yes I want to see the potential, but I also need to use my instincts. I am a little too old for the on-line dating experience. Perhaps if I had been through that, I would be less fearful.

Jeff - I had never thought of the potential for being robbed. Yikes that is scary. I haven't checked into my house and now I won't do so. What else haven't I thought of? Is that paranoia or common sense. It seems like there can be a fine line between the two.

Jackie - I do see the retail end as having potential, if they are savvy enough to take advantage of it. Pictures of the mayor and free cups of coffee. Here is an inroad to the "influencers" that marketers hold in such high esteem. It will be interesting to see how that evolves. And- do I want to be part of their marketing efforts?

Lee - I was hesitant to try Foursquare for just those reasons. But at Educon people where having a lot of fun with it, so I decided to give it a chance. I'm still not sure what I think. Those strangers are also my neighbors. Wasn't there a time when people knew their neighbors. Now I know you in Florida better than I know the guy who lives down the street. Might it be nice to know both of you?

Mary Brothers said...

Great conversation about Foursquare as I have been thinking about using it but have had great concern about safety and putting out to everyone where I am located. My husband started using this about a month because he wants to become the "mayor" of somewhere. How strange I thought!

I have to do a disclaimer though. I met my husband through an online dating service. I was EXTREMELY cautious in doing this. Always met people in very public places and told a zillion people where I was going for my own safety. I also went with my gut feeling and would not meet someone until I had talked to them on the phone a few times.

In this day and age of technology our daily lives are becoming more and more transparent depending on how much we share publicly. I believe this leads to conversation and teaching others about internet safety in our ever evolving world.

Stranger danger lessons from yesterday still apply today!

Arlene said...

Aren't there enough people you have contact with? Your instinct to resist this tool is wise. Your discomfort, fear is alerting you that this tool could be dangerous. I agree with Jeff. This tool may be used innocently and misused by another to harm someone. Your Momma

buffingtonagora said...

I think caution is always wise when using any online tool. When you use the tools safely, and the tools are reliable themselves I think some great connections can be made online.

Carolyn said...

We teach, or at least try to teach, our young people not to post anything personal on their social networking sites. The rationale behind this would seem to apply here as well. We (at least some of us) or no longer in the "youth" category, but it would seem to me that some caution would be wise.

Ray said...

I think you should start saying hello to your neighbors.

It may not lead to any great friendships, but chances are your neighbors are good people, possibly great people. And they are conveniently located!