Gowalla, Hear My Cries!

This post was inspired by three things.

  1. My addiction to social media/location based social networking
  2. A few annoyances with the Gowalla system
  3. 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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