How to make location-based services less underwhelming

August 26th, 2010 § 2 comments

There’s been an explosion of location-based services lately, with even Facebook hopping in on the action, and frankly, I’m underwhelmed.
Before I go on though, I should make something clear. I don’t have one of them fancy new-age phones – I use a Nokia 6500-s. I have data on it, but no apps, so my opinion of location-based services is coloured by using their WAP sites.

Most of these services are focused on broadcasting where you are, listening in on friends’ broadcasts and simple gaming (check in, collect a badge, trade virtual goods etc). I feel that this gets boring really quickly. After the initial rush of unlocking badges and becoming the mayor of places on Foursquare, I became completely apathetic towards it. Getting a badge these days makes me go ‘Meh…’ and the only mayorship I really want is that of Red Rock Coffee or of a friend’s house. (cos let’s face it, that’s hilarious. :P) Oh, and don’t even get me started on FB Places. I checked in there once and lost all motivation to click through again.

What I’d really like is more practical use out of these services. Some ideas:

Location-based recommendation (idea A):
When I check in somewhere, show me what’s available around me, not just which of my friends are around me. Would be very valuable when I’m travelling or in an unfamiliar area. The tools I use to do this right now are either crowd-sourcing via Twitter or browsing Google Maps.

Location-based recommendation (idea B):
Keep track of the types of places I check in to and recommend similar places when I change my location. For example, I check in a lot at cafés around Mountain View and Palo Alto. When I’m in San Francisco, give me café recommendations! My check ins are a valuable insight into my preferences and habits. Use it to keep me interested and informed.

Event planning functionality:
My location doesn’t only exist in the now. It has a past and a future. An event isn’t only about when it is. It is also about where it is. Merge these aspects and allow me to plan or schedule in my location-based service. This is what we have to do now – event discovery -> rsvp on a service like Eventbrite -> add to calendar -> get reminders via email -> check calendar/event site for address -> attend event -> check in. Why not bring parts of the whole process together? I’m thinking Plancast infused into Foursquare.

Discovery:
Slightly related to the first idea listed above. As far as I can tell, the only way to find new locations is to browse where your friends have been or to check out the newly-crowned mayors list. If I am in City A why not show me a list of places with the most check ins, with the most tips, with the highest mayorship turn over…. You’ve got all this information, why not lemme at it?!

Location-based irl social networking:
Facilitate irl connections between people who have checked in at the same location. Guess what? I’ve done this by simply searching for a location on Twitter. People tweet that they’re where I am, and sometimes I reach out with an @ reply, and we connect irl. Or allow businesses to connect with people who check-in regularly. This already happens irl (with attentive businesses) and via Twitter. Once again, this information is out there. Just make it easy for us to use it.

I have a few more ideas which need to be fleshed out more, so I’ll leave it at that. Also, most of these aspects could be monetised. I’m running out of time – it’s time to check out of Red Rock – so might leave that for another day.

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§ 2 Responses to How to make location-based services less underwhelming"

  • Loic says:

    Agree with all your points, they have the data but don’t use it, what a loss!

    I’m getting bored really quickly too and badges or mayorships are not enough, your point would add a lot of value.

  • dekrazee1 says:

    Yeah, it’s what most people I talk to say. Lets see where these services take it.

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