Foursquare, ESP and Pat Phelan

If this turns into a bit of a meandering post you can blame Pat Phelan, it is all his fault and being a Galway person I love having any excuse to blame a Cork man. Phelan’s post got me thinking about Foursquare and the phenomena of ‘check-in fatigue’.

But before I address Foursquare, I wanted to introduce a new name: Luis von Ahn. von Ahn is one of the foremost thinkers on ‘human computation’. That is getting humans to do tasks that computers find difficult if not impossible to do. If you use the web as much as I do you will be familar with his work at least in one respect.
captcha
That annoying box is called a Captcha, it’s purpose is to try and reduce the proliferation of spam and ensure that valuable computing services are only used by human viewers rather than machines. It is von Ahn’s other human computation projects that are of most interest. von Ahn’s team have worked on a series of games to solve a number of problems. von Ahn wrote a paper published in IEEE Computer magazine which covers the whys and wherefores.

von Ahn’s work is recognised by the titans of computing such as Microsoft who have sponsored research into measuring the probability and predicting what labels | tags humans are likely to assign an image. And Google bought the reCAPTCHA system which was used to protect sites from bots and help digitise collections. Every time you complete a captcha you are helping to digitise the archives of The New York Times.

Google also bought a licence for von Ahn’s ESP game. This is where two users (unknown to each other) are shown the same picture and they get a higher score the quicker both of them put in the same label. Google uses this to improve the semantic data that its search engine has around images. If you’ve got time to waste check out Google Image Labeler (though personally I think they should fire the branding person and call it the Google ESP game). People in low stress monotonous jobs have been known to spend 40 hours a week on the ESP game! Clay Shirky calls this cognitive surplus; von Ahn went for the more descriptive Games With A Purpose.

Which got me thinking about Foursquare, Pat like Om Malik, was interested in the phenomena of check-in fatigue but I was more interested in the other side of the game.

When I started to use Foursquare, I got a strong sense that is was a game with a purpose. Six people in an office in New York got the world to build a database of locations and tips, that they otherwise would have had to license. And that this database and user information would have some sort of value that could be monetised at a point in the future – it is updated more often than the directories that Google licenses for its local search products for example.

Then there was the marketing opportunities that you could potentially exploit in the game: sponsored badges and company profiles a la Louis Vuitton. So if the game needed to be changed in order to combat check-in fatigue it shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

However, if the game is the purpose then Pat and Om’s concerns are a much bigger issue. You can’t stray too far from the first successful formula otherwise it isn’t Foursquare any more.

Ten consumer goods that I can’t give up

Pat Law talked about then consumer goods that she couldn’t give up, here’s my ten.

  1. Mechanical watch – surprisingly given my job I have a deep irrational distrust of electronic things. I also like the comforting glow of tritium markers on my watch if I wake up during the night. I usually rock a Rolex Sea-Dweller and also have an IWC Aquatimer 2000 in titanium. I currently have a new model Rolex GMT Master II, Seiko Marine Master Professional 1000M Diver and Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea on my lust-after list
  2. Caffeine – I am a junkie and like a meth head I am not too bothered how I fulfil my habit: light blue Red Bull, my Cuisinart brew machine, Starbucks or Pepsi Max. I am psyched by the recent tentative relaunch of Mountain Dew into the UK market and am hoping that they will bring on a diet version
  3. Galtee white pudding – several million Irish people can’t be wrong about this potent mix of pork meat and spices fried to a crisp
  4. A crisp S-Double t-shirt: ideal wear for whatever I am doing
  5. Gillette Mach3 razors. Keeping my silhouette crisp like a new Benjamin and a splash of Acqua di Parma to finish the handiwork off
  6. MacBook Pro. The Kato to my Green Hornet.
  7. New Balance kicks particularly 574, M575, 576 and MT580s. I seem to go through Nikes like a hot knife through butter (though I still have a soft sport for Footscapes, Wildwoods and Huaraches) and just haven’t liked anything adidas have done recently apart from the ZX8000 reissue
  8. Mystery Ranch 3-day assault pack – well I need somewhere to put all my cables, chargers, reading materials, classes etc. I own one in black and one in coyote
  9. Wired (US edition). Like the season in Ibiza its never as good as it used to be back in the day, but its a damn better than the alternatives out there. I love the way Wired keeps its finger on the pulse of things.
  10. My record collection. There is something about the tactile nature of my vinyl records and my Technics SL-1200 Mk IIs that make my digital music collection feel unsatisfying. They also rock through my Denon amp-powered B&W speakers – though I have been thinking about getting a set of Studiospares SN-10s recently

Links of the day

TelecomTV | Europeans to be told what information is kept on them. Brits left in the dark – as usual – two-tier disclosure from a privacy perspective

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room | Wired.com – prediction of user intent as well as understanding the context of a search

Facebook Officially Launches Questions, A Possible Quora Killer – things are starting to get crowded with Yahoo! Answers, LinkedIn Answers, Quora, Answers.com and Ask in the space. The key thing is going to be the quality of the information, which will depend on the community and audience demographics. This may play against Facebook and benefit Ask

WPEngine: Top-tier WordPress hosting for the rest of us | :Ben Metcalfe Blog

Blake Fleetwood: Exclusive: NYT Columnist Faces Civil and Criminal Charges, But New Law May Get Him Off The Hook – The money quote: But Internationally U.S. authors are daily being silenced by the odious laws of England, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries that make it so easy to curtail the robust free speech traditions of the U.S. that make democracy possible.

IAC’s Diller: ‘I Was Wrong About Search Competition’ | paidContent – gives weight to the argument that Bing is on a hiding to nothing. On the flipside it is also a bit said as Bing and Google have been borrowing heavily from a look and feel pioneered by Ask

Pepsi’s Summer Campaign Journeys Back to China’s Literary Past – AdAgeChina – News – tapping into heritage to allow the brand to become further rooted in the Chinese market

PharmaLive: Pfizer Starts Social-Media Channel On Popular Site – Pfizer gets on Slideshare

Half of site searches are unsuccessful: report | Econsultancy – this has been an issue for a long time (since the rise of e-commerce), surprised that it is so intractible

MediaShift . 5Across: Beyond Content Farms | PBS – fascinating discussion on content farms

The Weekly Buzz: Bawang Innovates with Microblogs During Time of Crisis | China IWOM Blog- Making Sense of the Buzz

Akamai State of the Internet: Asia dominates in internet speeds, U.S. ranked 16th « Boy Genius Report – the west has a relatively poor performance

How Big is Social Media in the UK? [VIDEO]

Old Spice Sales Double With YouTube Campaign

HOW TO: Use Annotations to Promote Your Brand on YouTube – good stuff here for when video is used in a campaign

Search Dominates Social Media When Shopping Online: Study

Forrester punctures Location Based Bubble – broadstuff – they don’t think that it has a deep enough reach in the population yet

There will be blood: why Apple and Intel are destined to clash – I am not so sure on this, Given OS X multiplatform capabilities you could see iOS devices running on custom X86 core silicon in the years to come fabbed by Intel

vChatter Becomes Family-Friendly Alternative to Tawdry Chatroulette | Fast Company – interesting how tweaks in community management and design can make so much of a difference

Baidu Dealing With Its Own Chinese Issues | The Big Money – preparing to dominate mobile search in China as well

Asiajin » NHN Japan Shakes Hands With 70 Game Developers To Enter The Social Game App Business

Altimeter Report: The 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing « Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang | Social Media, Web Marketing – great content on effective Facebook marketing

Asia’s Leadership Struggle – Forbes.com – nice article on leadership that is actually global in perspective

Learning From China’s Online Advertisers « The China Tracker – Forbes.com – in many ways the Chinese media market is leading the way for the west

European Governments Unleash Online Gambling to Help Fill Coffers – NYTimes.com – pragmatism reigns in Europe

Backlinks Checker Tool – Backlink Watch

Intel demos 50-Gbit/s silicon optics – faster computer interconnects

MeeGo in-vehicle win gives embedded Intel a boost – Intel seems to be benefiting more from MeeGo than Nokia is

Oh My Gosh: Thor movie trailer

If the trailer is anything to go by the new Thor film is sufficiently awesome to forgive Kenneth Brannagh for all that Merchant Ivory guff he has done in the past.

Twitter and large corporate brands

Some interesting research from 360i questions what we mean by privacy with Brandchannel discussing the research using the phrase “Twitter takes the private space public” and the use of Twitter by large corporate brands.

In addition to the research 360i released a slide deck summary below.