check in…check out…

I thought John Batelle’s article on check-in services was quite interesting – if for no other reason than he expresses an opinion that things are not as rosy for check-in services as many of the boosters would have you believe. (here’s lookin’ at you MG)

I have spoken before about check-in services being a solution in search of a problem but I explored that point (and others) in a little more detail recently in conversations with @orineidich and @fredericl.

What follows is a (paraphrased from memory) summary of some of those discussions.

Check-in services seem popular today in part because people haven’t realised the downsides of broadcasting their location, and in part because the simple idea of a location based service is so new that even the supposed experts get confused.

You frequently see people referring to a check-in service as a place to “find your friends”. Interesting.

That’s sort of like saying you can find a highway offramp by driving while looking in the rear view mirror.

“Hmm…I wonder where the offramp is?”

“Not here yet…”

“Oh there it was…I missed it.”

“Now I’ll have to turn around again.”

Clearly – something is broken with this model. We developed echoecho specifically to address the question of where your friends (or family or colleagues) are NOW – it’s a sort of instance location sharing.

Not to mention that the privacy considerations are huge.

Foursquare (and Gowalla) in their current incarnations do not stand a chance of gaining a mainstream following – the trend will be towards applications that directly share the data only to specific friends rather than broadcasting data to your entire social graph.

As many have written about (including me) location data is a very different kind of variable to the flavor of ice cream that I prefer.

Now the fanboys may cry foul and say “Broadcasting data is fine – because everybody can adjust their preferences on Foursquare and Gowalla etc”

To that I simply say – bullshit.

Dana Boyd said it well at SXSW – privacy is context based rather that person based.

The UI problems inherent in managing location preferences will basically mean that 85% of users (if not more) will never change their default settings.

I see it as the developers responsibility to design apps that do not backdoor privacy and location settings – but rather address them in innovative ways. But the profit incentive for many developers drives this in the opposite direction.


I just don’t see check-in moving beyond early adopters.


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