I’ve been using Foursquare since their iPhone app first came out. The promise of Foursquare has yet to be fulfilled (for me), mainly because the demographic is so specific. You’ve got to have a smart phone (which used to be more of an issue than it is today). You and your friends have to care enough to bother checking in. And it helps to be located nearby. All this conspires to make Foursquare well suited for urban environs like NYC or San Francisco, or tech-saavy events like SXSW. Orange County is still a little too sleepy to realize the full potential of Foursquare.
That may be changing.
The most recent update to Foursquare incorporated a leaderboard. You could always compete on Foursquare with your friends for badges or mayorship of the local Starbucks, but the leaderboard brings a whole new level of competition to the “game” of Foursquare.
I upgraded to the new version as soon as it came out — I’m religious about upgrading. But I didn’t really pay much attention to the new features. The most obvious new feature was the “Specials Nearby” which now shows the number and a list of all specials within a few miles of your current location.
When I checked in, I also noticed it showed my current rank, but I still didn’t pay much attention to that. Then I noticed some unusual check-in behavior. Pete McGowan — one of my friends at PlainJoe Studios — was checking in all over the place. He even checked in from the 15 freeway! Weird, right?
Then I stumbled upon the reason. Clicking on the leaderboard from your profile shows your rank next to all of your Foursquare friends. The gauntlet had been thrown down, and it seemed that — at least for some people — they were determined to sit at the top of that leaderboard.
My girlfriend will tell you I check in a lot. She marvels at my consistency, but really it’s just a matter of habit now. I figured I’d rank pretty high, which I do, but when you look at my total check-in points, it’s a fraction of those of my friend Pete.
It’s possible that some people are abusing their check-in powers just to game the system. But it’s also clear that Foursquare has taken the game aspect of their popular app to a whole new level.
Are you on Foursquare? You can find or follow me here.