Thursday, July 8, 2010

Foursquare and the Beer Rule

Techcrunch published an interesting article on the growth of Foursquare and Gowalla today ["Foursquare is 5 times larger than Gowalla and growing 75% faster each day"] that's worth a look if you're into such things (mobile, location-based games and applications). I happen to think that they're pretty important - and pretty fun as well. I've been using both services for some time, but I tend to spend most of my time in Foursquare ... because I have a bigger, more active group of friends there. For the uninitiated, here's how it works:

  1. Either sign up online, or download the foursquare app for your mobile device
  2. Find your friends; it'll allow you to connect to both your twitter and facebook accounts to find active foursquare users. Highly recommended (for reasons you'll see below).
  3. Whenever you go somewhere (with the important exceptions of your home and anywhere your kids go on a regular basis) you use your mobile phone to "check in." By doing so, you alert your friends to where you are; earn points; and move towards becoming the "mayor" of the location (by checking in there more than anyone else).
Although some businesses are getting smart and offering free or discounted stuff to their mayors (imagine how much extra traffic this drives for people trying to take over the mayorship!) I can take or leave the points, badges and mayorships. What I like about foursquare is that it allows me to a) stay in tune with and b) connect with my friends. And that's where the "beer rule" comes in.

Foursquare, still in its early days, is a lot like facebook in its early days in one key respect: People who are complete strangers try to connect with you. This is not only inadvisable in my opinion, its also creepy and potentially dangerous. That's why I have a beer rule, which is as follows:

If I randomly found myself in the same town as this person, would I want to have a beer with them?

If yes, then I would accept a foursquare contact from them (or offer one of my own). If not, I just decline and go about my business. It actually does work (I've met up with foursquare friends in various cities on numerous occasions), which, in my opinion, makes it a good rule. What are YOUR rules for accepting someone's offer to connect on foursquare? Twitter? Facebook? I'd love to know; leave me a comment!