I love Foursquare (but I wish it was better)

Four months ago I moved from London (in the UK) to Toronto (in Canada) and I’ve started to notice that I’m now using internet services differently than I did back in London.

Saying that, my Facebook and Instagram usage hasn’t really changed. I actively try to avoid Facebook and Instagram is my crack. What I have really struggled with is Twitter – of course it doesn’t help that I don’t follow many people on Eastern Time, and I’m sure if I followed more Torontonians it would become useful – but my old habit of reading Twitter in the evening before bed is useless now, because the only people I follow that are awake at that time are either drunk or insomniacs, it that doesn’t always create great reading.

However, the biggest usage change that I’ve noticed is Foursquare. I find it massively more helpful than I did in London, using it a lot more for discovery with the Explore tab (which is great) and by making lists of places to visit (although I also use the fantastic PinDrop app for that). I still check in to places, mainly through habit, but friend’s checkins and the radar feature are largely redundant.

Because I’ve been using Foursquare in this way I’ve been thinking a lot about the way that the Explore feature recommends places to me. It often will say things like ‘you’ve been somewhere similar’ or ‘one of your friends has been here’, but I really don’t think that goes far enough.

When I’m choosing a bar or a restaurant to visit the decisions I make are often based on my tastes, my personality and the types of people I spend time with. If I loved metal music I probably wouldn’t enjoy a bar that had the latest Michael Bublé album on loop. Conversely, if I was the Bublé’s greatest fan and had scrobbled his album 5000 time on Last.fm, it’s unlikely I’d want to go to hardcore clubnight.

In fact music can be a very strong indicator of personal taste, especially among younger groups, and can have a big impact on the types of bars, clubs and restaurants someone would enjoy.

Why shouldn’t each bar, restaurant and club have an ‘artist inventory’ – the top artists listened to by the people who go there?

When I visited a new city, or if I was exploring places in my own city, I could be recommended bars, clubs and even restaurants based on the types of music I like. Less, ‘one of your friends has been here’, more ‘loads of other people who also like McFly and Wild Nothing go to this bar’.

Of course, Last.FM is largely useless now and the Spotify/Facebook data is locked down, so it would be pretty hard to make this happen in practise, but as the big internet companies gather more and more data on us, who knows? I’m all for data gathering and profiling if it makes real life better.