I’ve been using the location-based social network Foursquare since 2009. Although it will come as no surprise to those who know me, my first check-in was at a Starbucks — although I was surprised to find it was in West Hollywood.
Since then, I’ve checked in 4,456 times, across the United States and around the world. What does this look like? Foursquare put together a Time Machine that takes you on a visual tour of your check-in history. Here’s what mine looked like:
I know some of you see Foursquare as a waste of time. I’ve found it useful, if for nothing else, as my digital memory. When my wife asks me, “What was the name of that souffle place in Paris that we loved?” I can tell her. And because I’ve used Foursquare regularly over the past four years, there’s a lot that the data says about me.
The Time Machine not only produces a slick animated history with an semi-annoying soundtrack, it also cranks out the requisite infographic. I’ve broken it into chunks to share my analysis.
First, there’s a heat map that shows where most of my check-ins have occurred. From 2009-2012, I lived in south Orange County, so this doesn’t really surprise me. You can see regular visits to places in Dana Point, as well as my work in Aliso Viejo.
Each of the colors represents a different kind of location. By far, most of my check-ins have been at restaurants and coffee shops. But the top spot goes to the office.
The category with the fewest check-ins is college and education. Again, since I’m not a full-time student, not surprising. When you look at the breakdown by year, you’ll notice a big growth in the number of outdoors and recreation check-ins. While I’ve always been active outdoors, I haven’t always made a point of checking in (you go outdoors to unplug, right?). Apparently my view has shifted.
My favorite place? No question about it — Starbucks. I’ve logged 830 coffee shop checkins. And my favorite food? The data says I love Mexican food best, followed closely by… tacos? Go figure.
When you look at patterns in activity, you’ll see that I most often grab a caffeine fix before heading to the office.
I was disappointed that their map didn’t show my international travel. But I have done a fair amount of travel around the country. My most visited cities? Where I live or work.
What does all this data tell me?
Not anything that I don’t have a pretty good general feel for. I like coffee (especially Starbucks) and Mexican food. I have been pretty consistent about checking in. And if marketers want to mine this data? Have at it. I’ll be watching my mailbox for invitations to coffee and tacos (I am, after all, a loyal customer).
What I love about Foursquare I’ve touched on before. I have a chance to share my experience with others. I learn from the experience of others (“try the french toast!”). And I have a virtual diary of where I’ve been, and when. That has proven useful to me personally over and again, and remains the main reason I continue to use Foursquare. Your mileage may vary.
If you’re a Foursquare user, give the time machine a spin yourself. And let me know what you think about living out loud, geographically-speaking.