One threat to a check-in service governed by users is digital litter. For instance, it used to be when you wanted to mark your location on a social network such as Foursquare that you’d get listings of places such as “Seat 23A” or “this rocking chair on the porch.” That’s still the case, but it’s much less frequent in the United States; overseas, however, it could be a big problem in the United Kingdom, where Foursquare is just now starting to emerge. Feedback’s Dean Browell outlines the threat of what he calls “Foursqualor” on iMedia Connection:
Perhaps [initial users] thought they were being helpful, but I suspect most of the reasoning behind “Seat 23A” or “This Tollbooth” had to do with boredom or a surreptitious motive to become mayor of something (anything) and therefore accumulate points. The problem was, the lowest level of engagement in Foursquare is supposed to be the check-in, not the creation of locations. By creating instead of interacting they were diluting the major concept. And worse yet, they were creating a mess for anyone else looking in, trying to check in.
Landing in any major airport in 2010 and trying to check into Foursquare meant scrolling past all of this Foursqualor in order to find the actual airport. Check-ins to dozens of seats, gates, regular commuter flights at even the smallest airport crowded the screen. With airport names sometimes invoking some local politician or patron saint of flying, mere searches would not always help. Later, Foursquare would appropriately weight these major hubs so they appeared towards the top of the list when you were nearby. But for a while a casual Foursquare user could be forgiven for just getting fed up with the chaff, the atmosphere of waste, the annoying litter of the fake-or-worse locations.
In London, however, this issue seems to be worse as the general population interested in potentially using Foursquare is far more diverse. In the U.S., you were dealing with a savvy first-mover who didn’t mind (and potentially relished) the clean-up and pruning while the general public gave Foursquare a chance after many of the corrections had been made. In the U.K., a cross-demographic shift to social with these tools in place would mean newcomers could be turned off immediately by the digital litter and abandon Foursquare altogether. For Foursquare to take hold in the U.K. will require a base of superusers who can make changes to locations easily, reporting, policing and editing venues as needed. More at the link.