This article was published on May 20, 2010

Foursquare Columns Bring Location Streams Front & Center

Foursquare Columns Bring Location Streams Front & Center
Chad Catacchio
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Chad Catacchio

Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in th Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in the US and China. Check out his personal blog to connect with him or follow him on Twitter (if you dare).

One of the major new features included in Tweetdeck’s desktop update today was Foursquare integration. Seesmic and Hootsuite also have Foursquare functionality in their web browser based clients. Not only do these integrations work great, but they do something that the Foursquare API was meant for in our opinion: they make location streams come alive.

Foursquare only

First of all, if you use Tweetdeck desktop or Seesmic or Hootsuite web and are not on Foursquare, or prefer another location/check-in app, you now in our opinion have two options: either join Foursquare, or send Tweetdeck/Seesmic/Hootsuite emails begging them to include your service’s API (assuming they have an API – Gowalla, for one has half an API, but Brightkite and now Latitude have full read-write APIs). We’re not judging  any of these services here, we’re only saying that Foursquare’s API is currently the only one that is getting this treatment, which is a shame, but until the others get the same treatment, Foursquare rules the hill.

One caveat for this post: we use location services a lot, and on Foursquare, like other services, we have a fair number of friends (or whatever they’re called) so our streams refresh often. Just like any social media service, if you follow too many or too few people, your stream isn’t nearly as interesting, and location services are no different.

Why it’s important

This kind of visualization has the power to change how location is consumed (and to a lesser extent created as users can check-in from their laptops, but compared to mobile check-ins, laptop check-ins are few and far between). Here’s how it will change: instead of wading through your Twitter stream to find or catch Foursquare updates of where people are and what they are doing, with the dedicated column, these updates are pushed to you all in one place. Simply put, these streams can offer a lot of information in a condensed format. The new version also supports a map mode of all of your friends’ recent check-ins, as well as geotagged tweets (which again, are few and far between).

The whole experience is a very visual one and somewhat hard to translate here into the written word – but trust us, if you haven’t tried it before, its compelling. One thing that we would like to see, however, is an emphasis (another column option perhaps) on trending/hot places that people are checking into. While not too useful late at night when you’re out and about (again, this is only available on the desktop), for daytime events or say breaking news, this kind of a column would be invaluable, especially if it went beyond your current friends list to the public stream (and especially if Foursquare opens up its home stream firehose).

Expect a lot of innovation with these streams moving forward, especially as the APIs mature and developers begin to integrate multiple location services.