One of the recurring subjects of conversation at SXSW was the many competing location services. Attendees were using Foursquare and Gowalla extensively during the conference to help find their friends.
I decided to give them a try during the conference. That is until Foursquare decided to give me a “Hookup Badge.”
Apparently, the Hookup Badge is given to someone who checks in at two different hotels.
For anyone visiting Austin who doesn’t stay at the historic Driskill Hotel, there is a good chance you’re going to check in at two hotels during your trip. The Driskill is a must see and you will likely check in at the hotel you’re staying at.
That is what happened to me.
I checked in at the Driscoll Hotel when I met friends there. I purposely asked Foursquare not to tweet the check in because I feel like it is spam in my Twitter stream.
However, I didn’t remember that I had allowed Foursquare to post updates about badges that I won. Foursquare didn’t tweet the check in, but it did tweet about my “Hookup Badge.”
So part of the blame is mine. I shouldn’t have let Foursquare post to Twitter at all.
At the same time, I had no expectations that Foursquare would be posting inappropriate tweets. I’m a happily married man. Joking about hooking up while I’m on business travel is not funny.
Thankfully the damage was limited. A few months ago I disconnected Twitter from Facebook. Otherwise, my new “Hookup Badge” would have been shared with family members who would have no idea what Foursquare is nor understand Foursquare’s idea of a “funny” badge.
When I relayed this story with Péter Green of Finnish Mobile Association, he told me how he had received the “Hangover Badge,” and received many comments from his friends back home.
Those comments were funny, but imagine how quickly they would have turned into concerned or panic if the Hangover Badge was handed out to a recovering alcoholic who was half a world away.
I like the idea of gaming mechanics to get people to participate in a location-based service, but Foursquare seems to be making some big mistakes here:
- The incentive structure in the game should be known instead of a surprise. For example, if you check-in more times than another person, you become mayor. That’s well known and easy to understand. The Hookup and Hangover badges use rule combinations that you don’t known until you unwittingly unlock a badge.
- The badges indicate a lack of perspective on what issues they may cause for the people who receive them.
- The overall impression of the service based on these badges is one that is designed for party-going twenty-somethings. It’s hard to take such a service seriously.
We’ve heard a lot about location-based services and cell phone logs getting people in trouble for their infidelity. There’s no need for services like Foursquare to create problems where none exist.
As far as I’m concerned, this was inexcusable breach of trust. I deleted my Foursquare account and will not use their service again.