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May 10

Check-ins Are For Parolees

I have been using Foursquare and Gowalla regularly to learn about the location-based social gaming trend. It has been interesting, but at the end of the day, I cannot shake the feeling that I am spending too much time for too little in return.

The check-in process takes too long.  It is not hard, but if you factor in the time to open the application, wait for the application to find you and suggest locations, then actually checking in, you have probably spent a few minutes. If you check-in to an average of three places per day AND use two location services (because not all of your friends are on the same service), you realize that you are spending a material amount of time.  In my case, I probably spend about 90 minutes a week just to check-in.

Once I realized how much time I spend, I started to feel a bit ripped off. I spend 90 minutes a week so that I might be mayor of a coffee shop or grab a virtual badge? Are there any other people who have to check-in on a regular basis? Oh yeah, parolees need to check-in to their parole officers to show that they haven’t skipped town. (Hmm… maybe there is a business model in there somewhere.)

Granted you are probably doing something else while you are checking in, like waiting for a table or hanging out. But if Google’s changes to Google Latitude take hold, then the days of actively checking in are numbered and thank goodness. I would like to have those 90 minutes a week back for something more useful – like maybe planting more eggplants in my Farmville.

(Read Josh Kopelman’s insightful post on the potential ramifications of changes to Google Latitude.)

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