After resisting the use of location based social networks for a long time, I finally joined up to foursquare last week. My reason was a mix of curiosity after speaking to people who use it regularly, and unashamed narcissism in wanting to get my Klout score up.
I have to admit – and I hate having to admit stuff – it’s actually pretty good fun. But I do have one problem with it, and that’s that GPS tracking can sometimes be pretty innacurate and leaves the game open to cheating.
A few times, earlier in the week, I checked in whilst standing in the place and foursquare didn’t give me any points, saying “your phone thinks you’re a little too far away from this place to check in” – yup, it basically called me a big Cheaty McCheaterson.
This happened at Airdrie train station while I was on the platform, Waverley Station, again while I was on the platform, and Sainsbury’s across from my work while I was standing outside.
I know why this happened. It was because the weather was awful and it was so overcast that my phone couldn’t get a GPS fix. It still thought I was at home when I tried to check in at Airdrie station, and it thought I was in Blackridge (must’ve gotten a brief fix on en route) when I was actually in Edinburgh for the other two.
So I got to thinking, how could you stop that from happening? If GPS is having an off day, how could you make sure foursquare doesn’t penalise you for checking in to places?
What I would like to see would be the use of QR codes. I had been watching a video of a guy getting a QR code tattooed on him to produce an animated tattoo, and I thought “wouldn’t it be cool if each venue had a unique QR code on a foursquare branded sticker or poster, and the mobile app had a QR scanner? You could scan the code to check in, and eliminate the need for GPS.”
It seemed so obvious, I figured others must have thought of it before, and I was right. Turns out this idea has been kicking around for quite a while, and a lot of 3rd party developers have actually implemented it; the trouble is that it doesn’t have the uptake from businesses that it needs to be a success, and it requires a 3rd party app to do the scanning.
Not every venue will want to generate and print off a QR code, but places like Domino’s Pizza and Wetherspoon’s, who do special deals for Mayors, should give some serious thought to doing it.
As it stands there’s nothing to stop me from standing within a few meters of Domino’s Pizza, checking in, and wandering off without so much as even looking at the menu. I could become the Mayor of my local Domino’s Pizza without ever spending a penny in the place. But, if I was only able to check in via a QR scan and the code was kept behind the counter, only available on request, I would have to buy something before I could check in.
As I said, it’s not entirely practical. Each location would need their own QR code, the mobile app would need a scanner built in and foursquare would have to allow venues to opt out of check-in via GPS, but I think it would be worth the effort. Mayorships and check-ins to places doing Specials would be a truer reflection of the business’s foursquare using customer base, which would in turn give them a more accurate measure of how well their foursquare offers are performing for them.
I’m no businessman, but I reckon I’d want to know if I was giving discounts or free stuff to people who claim to be loyal, regular customers but actually aren’t.
So, this is a call to foursquare to implement QR check-ins in the mobile app and sell the concept to your corporate clients. Your users want it – if you sell it right, I bet businesses will want it too.
Do you use foursquare? Have you ever had trouble like I did? Would you like to see a QR check-in made available? Leave a comment and let me know. KG.