What’s Foursquare for? I think people are still working it out. While the benefits for businesses of being able to target customers and record movement are interesting (and would be much improved with widespread adoption), it’s harder to see just why people are using it. That’s not because I’ve got privacy issues (I do in fact experiment with Foursquare), it’s just that it’s a clumsy way to do most location based things.

Much has been said about the ‘game dynamic’, the badges and mayorships, but it’s a pretty simple and pointless game really. No rules to speak of, no way of easily judging performance, no winner–and horrendously easy to cheat (try logging in to the site on your computer, you can check in anywhere). My jury is still out on it.

What does interest me is the idea of leaving ‘tips’ at locations, not so much in the “great coffee round the corner” or “Order the special sauce!”–with illiterate exclamation marks–way, but real information.

This is just something I’ve been experimenting with with Michael Grimes, there’s hardly any information in it yet, and no real way to get it out. It’s an attempt at a syntax, and an encouragement to people to try to use these new locative tools to add information. There’s more here, but basically the idea is to add ‘blue plaque’-style information as ‘tips’ on Foursquare and the like.

There are plenty of sites or apps that do things such as overlaying Wikipedia information over maps, but this isn’t quite the same thing. The problem with Wikipedia for location specific information is the same that blue plaques have: namely invisible gatekeepers of what’s “notable” or “historic”. Civic Societies with arcane rules (eg. subject must have been dead for 50 years), or Wikipedia editors waiting to pounce on things without reliable, verifiable, sources make it hard for people to record history as it happens. And it happens in tiny, homely, ways that committees can’t record.

I’ve tried, jokingly really, to liberate the blue plaque before, but this online way might actually take off.

Blue Plaques

As a demonstration, I’ve knocked up this: a #bp map. It pulls tips from Foursquare that are tagged #bp and lays them on a Google Map. You can change the point of refference of the map by entering latitude and longitude as part of the URL:

But there aren’t, as yet, many more ‘plaques’ to look at –why not add a few?