This post was inspired by three things.
- My addiction to social media/location based social networking
- A few annoyances with the Gowalla system
- A post by Dave2 (aka @blogography) about his similar complaints.
Check out Dave’s post at Blogography. This post started as a comment on his blog before it became this blog post.
For those who didn’t go to Dave’s blog first and those who haven’t heard of Gowalla, here are the basics.
Connects to Facebook and Twitter to allow you to check-in to your favorite locations, let your friends know you’re there and get cute little awards for doing it! I’ve got 111 stamps in my passport and 12 pins so far.
Unlike some other location-based social games/systems, Gowalla is 100% user generated. Your favorite coffeeshop not listed? Just add it. It uses the GPS in your iPhone (and soon the Android) to locate you and create the location. This is genius and one of the major reasons I went to Gowalla. But there is a problem.
At least part of the problem has to do with Gowalla itself. If I put myself two blocks away from The Bean when I commissioned that location to Gowalla… everyone needs to be in proximity of where it was commissioned, not actually where it is.
This happens to me a lot. People seem to mark the location of places from their car, after leaving the restaurant or store. Probably because they get better GPS outside and to keep from being annoying to their friend who is w/o iPhone or doesn’t get Gowalla/Twitter, etc. You know the type.
I feel like Gowalla could greatly improve this by making the boundary somewhat fluid. If 10 people are trying to check in to the same location a few meters away, or maybe even a couple of blocks away, maybe move the landmark or make the boundary pull out to those locations.
This Starbucks location is a great example of how this could work. At this particular Starbucks location, customers often spread out down the street, drinking their brew on the patio space. This becomes especially true for locations that don’t fit the normal, front door, layout. If you check in at the west door of Macy’s the first time, will you be able to check in at the east door another time? I know Gowalla increases the size of check-in spaces to provide for this flexibility but it doesn’t seem to be smart enough, to me.
What about editing checkins from people in cars or people that are just plain lying? A number of times I’ve seen locations on Gowalla that simply don’t exist. I should be able to report them, or if they do exist, move them.
It’s all about crowdsourcing. Let the users fix these problems simply by checking in or hitting a “Report this Location” button. Easy peasy!
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@lonelycoo thanks for the comment and link. Those mostly involve another step, not easily done or even possible from the iPhone. I often tell myself I’ll go back and see if i can edit a location when I get back to my computer but it rarely happens. If it were automated, as illustrated above, these problems wouldn’t need another step to be fixed.
@Gowalla suggests in that link that they often increase the radius of a checkin point. That is actually a less accurate way of fixing the problem. The front door doesn’t just get larger and larger… Checkins aren’t radial. If people consistently checkin at the front door, and the radius is just increased, the checkin point will encroach on other buildings and checkins, instead of following the actual shape of the checkin areas, as I illustrated above.
I think most of the responsibility has to be put on the people creating the spots, because it would be impossible for Gowalla to monitor the bajillion spots that have been made. I am always very careful to login to Gowalla after I create spots so I can edit my entry and make sure that the location is marked properly (sometimes the GPS can be off and it gets registered in the wrong spot). I also sometimes adjust the radius of how close people have to be to “check-in” point. They don’t specify a distance, but there is a site called “gowallatools.com” where they give actual measured distances.
@blogography I agree, with the implementation I suggest, @Gowalla would be able to put their users to work, instead of their employees.
Actually, I think maybe you misunderstood or we mis-stated the radius increasing bit. We increase radii on things like stadiums, enormous parks. But for what you’re talking about here, we move the location pin to the appropriate spot. It’s what we’re shooting for, anyway, and the Gowalla Street Team Elite (basically, Gowalla users who have some great editing tools that we’ve provided them) is always helping people get these kinds of things cleaned up. We couldn’t do it without awesome people like that!
We definitely hear what you’re saying, and are always doing our best to make locations not only easy to check in at, but also accurate as to location, description, names, etc. You mentioned needing to be able to report fake spots and what not, and since Day One we’ve encouraged people to do just that at http://getsatisfaction.com/gowalla, which is linked up on Gowalla.com. We welcome those suggestions and tips, cos without them, we would be overrun with dupes, spots made in error, sites that aren’t real, etc. So hook us up!
Thanks for giving this some time and thought. We’re glad to have you on Gowalla and can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!
Thanks @Gowalla for reading my blog, providing some great insite in how your system works.
I have no doubt that you guys are way smarter than I am about the proper implementation of your service and I’m pleased to learn about Gowalla Tools, though I don’t think I am one that has access to them.
Sticking to my point that an in-app solution would be greatly appreciated. Going to another website just isn’t as fluid. If I see a problem with a location, I then have to close out the application, go to the Safari app on my iPhone, log into GetSatisfaction (which is an awesome service) and submit my correction. I’m pleased to see that this is an option but, in my opinion, it is clunky.
Seems simple enough. Commenting systems on blogs and probably most notably, YouTube, have used this sort of system for years with great results. It could be as simple as a one tap solution.
Anyways, thanks so much for taking the time to elaborate on your system and how it works. It’s just another testament of why I chose Gowalla over all the other options out there. It’s fun, active and built by a group of people I feel I can trust who are making a product that is truly the one to watch in 2010.