Probably just about everyone over 25 remembers the game and show 'Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?' If San Diego were around today (maybe she is, who knows), we would all know exactly where she was because she would broadcast her whereabouts by tying her FourSquare account to Twitter. It wouldn't be much of a game. Publish 2 CEO Scott Karp pretty much nailed my feelings about FourSquare announcements on Twitter the other day when he wrote:
When you connected @foursquare to Twitter, you assumed everyone wanted to know where you are. Time to revisit that assumption.
The fact is most people don't need to know you're dropping off your kid at school or stopping at Dunkin Donuts for coffee or sitting in the terminal at Airport X. 99 percent of the people who are see your location-based tweet don't give a rat's petutti where you are.
We thought we were down to the lowest level of personal minutiae when we all started using Twitter. At first, people not sure how to use it, broadcast their meals. As the medium matured so did the level of tweets, and now we get actual insight such as the previous tweet from Mr. Karp. But we were wrong when we though that Twitter was the final frontier. It turns out that we can actually broadcast our every move if we are so inclined.
What I've found is services like FourSquare and Gowalla do is clog Twitter with mostly useless nonsense and it's really time to stop.
Do These Services Have a Role
I do suspect these services have a place, but we just haven't quite discovered what it is yet, and that's the problem. Much like the early days of Twitter, we are still trying to figure out just how to use these services to best serve us.
Microsoft announced an interesting use of FourSquare this week. Instead of using FourSquare data to find out what your friends are doing, you use it to find out the most popular places in a given area (a kind of on-the-fly Yelp). I'm not convinced this is a great use of this information either, but it's heck of a lot better than a random broadcast of your current location.
Privacy Issues Aside
The thing that bugs me about these services aside from the obvious nuisance factor for everyone who has to read them is that you are broadcasting your location in some cases to strangers. I could imagine some woman, for instance, being tracked by some creepy guy who likes her avatar and would love to watch her drink coffee at the Brew Room on 4th Street.
I suppose, social media tools have to go through these growing pains and eventually, we will figure out the purpose, but for now, I would be very happy if people stopped broadcasting their every move and confined these announcements to those few people in their lives who should actually know where they are right now. The rest of us don't care. Really.