Category Archives: FourSquare

Holy Data Harmonization Batman : What Does That Mean Again?

This is a follow-up post (I am few months behind actually getting this post up) to an announcement we made in 2011 with our data harmonization deal with FourSquare. Since that time we have done the same thing with OpenTable and TripAdvisor and have launched an internal DealsAPI (soon to be public, check out our DEALS API page) which aggregates local deals.

So what is data harmonization. In a nutshell, it is matching two separate databases and matching the records that are the same. In the case of local, its about mapping business “A” in one database to the same business “A” in the second database. Google was one of the first real data matching pioneers when they were aggregating local content from many sources into their place pages (remember those good old days).

What is really more important is the output of doing this. The output of matching data boils down to a creating a better and more robust user experience by combining presenting information from multiple sources to help users make better decisions.

So in practice here is what the end product looks like.

Let’s take a look at Tipperary’s Pub on YellowPages.ca. As an aside; if you like thick crust pizza, this is one of the best places in Calgary.

Here is an image of the standard information you would expect; name, address, map. Notice right above the map on the right hand side is the first indication that this listing has additional content from TripAdvisor.

When you scroll down the page the user has a couple of sources of reviews to look at. Reviews that comes from YellowPages.ca users and reviews that come from TripAdvisor

To the right hand side on the page, the user also has the ability to look at tips and who has checked into this location courtesy of FourSquare.

The mobile experience is the same thing. If you want to check out the Tipperary Pub mobile page.

On this page you will notice the reviews from TripAdvisor, checkins/tips from FourSquare as well as the photos from FourSquare.

So what’s next.

We are working on bringing more of these content partnerships into place. Soon we will be opening up the ID’s of our partner venue’s through YellowAPI which will then make it super easy for developers to mash up content just like we did on YellowPages.ca. If you have local content that can be mapped to a specific location in Canada that you think might be useful, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

That’s never happened before and how many miles I have travelled in FourSquare

Since joining Yellow Pages Group as an employee in 2006, I have spent a lot of time in airplanes and hotels. My airline of choice is Air Canada (yes, I am Super Elite) because of the upgrades to business class; which despite what some Westjet loyalists say (you know who you are) is important when you plan to do work. For the most part my experience has been pretty good, but then there are the odd times things get messed up.

I have had allot of firsts in the past 6-years (losing luggage, delays, getting spit on accidentally by kids, seen people get kicked off the plane, seats breaking mid-flight) but this past Sunday I experienced another first. This time, as I was boarding the plane, the attendant pulls me back and says, “sorry sir but you have been off-boarded from this flight by your concierge“. For context, I was on the 9am flight leaving Calgary to Toronto and was seated in 4A. After waiting until the plane was fully boarded the gate attendant spoke to my concierge service. Turns out she made a mistake by hitting the wrong key on the computer which off-boarded me that resulted in the gate attendant giving another person my seat. Anyway, I got my seat back after the gate attendant went onto the plane to tell the person sitting in 4A that they will have to move back into economy.

This day their might have been two firsts; getting off-boarded and being only minutes away from enjoying business class only to be bumped in the last minute. That person was definitely enjoying business case; they had already finished their pre-flight orange juice.

Speaking off travel I am also an avid user of FourSquare. Really interesting usage of the FourSquare API is by a company called tripsQ. Basically you connect your FourSquare account and it provides you with a nice visual of key stats regarding your travel. Since 2010 I have travelled 87% of the distance to the moon.

If I had data going back to 2006, I think I might be at the moon and back twice already.

Click here to see the my tripsQ page – http://tripsq.com/darbysieben

Darby Sieben Distance Travelled

Data Harmonization: FourSquare and YPG Canada Round-Up

One of the latest deals to get announced by YPG Canada was 2 days ago with FourSquare, “Canada’s Yellow Pages Group Announces Strategic Agreement with foursquare“. Over the past 48-hours, I have definitely been receiving lots of positive feedback, but a few people have asked me the question – what does this specifically mean for YPG advertisers? Before explaining how this benefits YPG Advertisers, let me explain the deal itself. I am going to grossly simplify this, but in a nutshell, harmonization of data really means connecting the IDs of venue’s listed in FourSquare.com to venue’s listed on YP.ca. Once the IDs are connected, then YPG and any developer using YellowAPI.com can use 1 ID to interface with 2 APIs. Further to our announcement last year with Twitter, in face, usage of the YPG ID is also mapped to venue’s within Twitter, check out “Canada’s Yellow Pages Group Partners with Twitter“.

Why is this important for YPG advertisers? In a nutshell, it means more leads and more business. How is this you might ask? Two things – 1) with the synchronization of venue IDs, you have a scalable way to push future enhanced content to multiple external sources and 2) by adding more value to YellowAPI.com, ie) making developers lives easier, we will see more innovation in the local space which means as more and more applications are created to fulfill user needs, more and more leads will be delivered to local advertisers. In this scenario, the user wins (they have more choices of how they want to interact with local), the developer wins (they can focus on innovative apps), the local advertiser wins (they are getting more business to their location) and YPG wins (as we fulfill our commitment to drive more leads to our advertisers).

In April, I posted the Eco-System in Canada of YellowPages.ca which garnered alot of attention and mostly people commenting to me that they did not realize YPG was involved with so many partners. Here is the updated Eco-System slide, now with FourSquare:

To conclude, the past 48-hours is bring more attention to YPG’s data initiatives. Here is a round-up of the stories covering this announcement.

AboutFourSquare.com – YellowAPI becomes first Canadian partner for foursquare’s venue harmonization project

TechCrunch – Yellow Pages Teams Up With Foursquare For “Venue Harmonization Project”

Kin Lane – Canada’s Yellow Pages Group Joins Foursquare to Harmonize Data

Scribbal – Foursquare, Canada’s Yellow Pages Announce Strategic Partnership

Techplz – Yellow Pages and Foursquare team up in mutually beneficial deal

WashingtonPost – Yellow Pages Teams Up With Foursquare For “Venue Harmonization Project”

Direction Informatique – Groupe Pages Jaunes placera votre entreprise sur foursquare

Next Montreal – Yellow Pages Teams Up With Foursquare to Share Data

Kelsey Group – YPG Canada and Foursquare Team Up for Venue Harmonization

Tech Vibes – Yellow Pages Group announces Strategic Agreement with Foursquare

TD Waterhouse – Canada’s Yellow Pages Group Announces Strategic Agreement With foursquare

If you know of other locations, please post a comment and I will add to the list.

Are Canadians Checking In?

There is no doubt about it, if you follow the online local space that Check-In is “In” for 2010. A recent article on Mashable, “Foursquare’s Growth Not Slowing Down: 725,000 Users, 22 Million Checkins” definitely proves the point for this 1-year old startup organization.

In February I did a post on my FourSquare experience that you can read on my initial experiences and the impact on local.

A couple of days, one of my work colleagues, Mohamed Kahlain, follow him on Twitter, sent me the link to CheckIn Mania, a mashup that features checkins from FourSquare, GoWalla and Britekite. This was originally posted on Mashable.

In a nutshell what CheckIn Mania does is allows you to enter any city, click on the map and select a business. Once you select a business you can see who is the mayor of that place + how many checkins to that business and any tips. You also have the ability to select the “Search by Map” which is a neat feature that allows you to move the map and the locations update as opposed to updating the locations by click.

Here is the screenshot with one of my favorite restaurants (of which I am in the Mayor in Calgary) called Spicy Hut.

Check In Mania for Calgary and Spicy Hut

It is no secret that any of the location based services listed above have the highest penetration in major US markets like San Francisco and New York, but what about Canada?

Are Canadians checking in?

So I decided to spot check some businesses in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal to see how active Canadian’s are. I decided to focus on Restaurants. My selection criteria for which restaurants and spas to choose was as following, In Google I did a local search and selected business #3 in their 7-pack. In YellowPages.ca, I selected the #8 business and in Yelp.ca I selected business #6. This would give me a random sample of businesses. I also limited this to FourSquare as this is the most popular check-in service.

Here are my findings.

Vancouver Restaurants:
C Restaurant (selected from Google) – 9 checkins
Tojo’s Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 33 checkins
Top Of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant (selected from Yellowpages.ca) – 17 checkins

Calgary Restaurants
Calgary Marriott Hotel (selected from Google) – 21 checkins
Capo Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 5 checkins
Karma Fine Indian Cuisine (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 2 checkins

Toronto Restaurants
Bistro 990 Restaurant (selected from Google, this is actually listing #4) – 11 checkins
Pomegranate Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 8 checkins
The Real Jerk (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 34 checkins

Montreal Restaurants
Restaurant Toqué (selected from Google) – 5 checkins
Santos (selected from Yelp, actually #8) – 40 checkins
Arahova Souvlaki (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 15 checksin

The only thing that surprised me about the above results is Toronto. I would have expected to Toronto to come in closer to Montreal in terms of checkins because of population concentration and smartphone penetration. However, this might be a result of the fact that Toronto does not have the density of Montreal (land mass to population size), which might also explain why Vancouver is more comparative to Montreal. Calgary actually holds it own, relative to its population size and the fact that Calgary.

Although comparatively to the US, Canada is not at the 1/10 rule (see some US results below), it is pretty clear to me that Canadians in the large urban markets have started to embrace checkin. This group, like in the US, are the ones at the start of the product curve and the big question going forward is whether checkin services will hit mass adoption.

How does this compare to the top US cities. Here are the results for San Francisco and New York using the same process as above. I used YellowPages.com as the 3rd source.

San Francisco Restaurants
Zuni Cafe (selected from Google) – 459 checkins
R & G Lounge (selected from Yelp) – 296 checkins
Cote Sud (selected from YellowPages.com) – 6 checkins

New York Restaurants
Spring Street Natural Restaurant (selected from Google) – 495 checkins
La Sirene (selected from Yelp) – 52 checksin
Serendipity 3 (selected from YellowPages.com) – 236 checkins

Blippy.com – Will You Share What You Buy?

Through Facebook.com (my profile) we decided to share who we were, where we went school, our personal photos and more. Using LinkedIn.com (my profile) we decided to share everything about our business life and business connections. Twitter (my profile) allows us to share our 140 character thoughts. With FourSquare (my profile) we now check-in everywhere and share our location with our friends.

Now there is Blippy.com – the service that allows you to share your purchases. On the Blippy.com website the tagline is simple : Blippy is a fun and easy way to see and discuss what everyone is buying.

Here is a screenshot from my Blippy.com Feed:

Darby Sieben Blippy.com Feed

At this point I am only sharing my purchased from iTunes. But if you want to share more of your purchases you have the following options:

Accounts You Can Share on Blippy.com

Most of these services are not available in Canada but you have the option of sharing your credit card or banking transactions. As a Canadian you have the following financial institution support on Blippy.com – American Express, ING Bank, and Capital One (although it does not explicitly say Canada). Here is a screenshot of the financial institutions supported by Blippy.com:

Financial Institutions Supported by Blippy.com

This past week I was forwarded this site to my colleagues and friends asking for their feedback. Some of them thought it was quite innovative in terms of asking your friends for feedback on whether they liked or disliked a movie or song. Others thought it was inappropriate to share this information on the web and flat-out told me they never would post their purchases online. Other thought it was completely stupid that somebody who post this info and that others would actually want to read it. One thing for sure is that Blippy.com evoked a reaction.

I actually think this concept is interesting. Think about it – everybody shares with their friends and family what they like and dislike. Did you see that movie? What did you think of it? When people come over to my house, they ask us how do you like your massage chair or your 4-door fridge (these are 2 common questions we get from most people). You can read about my Inada Massage Chair purchase.

Does Blippy.com allow people from long distances participate in those discussions?

Could Blippy.com help you make better decisions by asking people in your network about a product or service?

What about asking a total stranger on Blippy.com what he thought of a restaurant you have not been to before?

Is this so different than facebook, twitter, foursquare or linkedin?

Could Blippy.com be the next social phenomena?

Will You Share What You Buy?

My FourSquare Experience

I am little behind on my blog posts, lots of travelling for Yellow Pages Group in the past few weeks, but I have been meaning to post some thoughts regarding my usage of FourSquare. For anybody who has connected with me on twitter account, @darbysieben you probably have noticed that I have been all over foursquare lately.

For those of you who are not familiar with FourSquare – here is the summary:

– Get an account and install FourSquare on your phone – you need a smart phone (here is the link to foursquare in iTunes)
– When you visit a place, you simply open the application on your phone and “Check-In”. This will broadcast to your FourSquare friends (or Twitter and Facebook if you choose) that you have “Checked-In”
– You collect points for check-ins, providing tips or entering new locations and if you check in enough times in a location you become the mayor, some businesses will provide incentives for being the mayor
– You collect badges based on a variety of types of checkins. Here is my list of badges (my wife was joking with me that she outgrew badges in Brownies)

Personally, I think FourSquare is an interesting concept with respect to the “gaming” concept by using location as a way to compete with friends through points, badges or mayorship, the ability to discovery new venues and as a way to record your movements to broadcast to your friends.

In a nutshell – fun, discovery and ego massaging.

When I was in Hawaii at the end of January, I first experienced the concept of using FourSquare as discovery. Check out the screenshots below when I checked in to the Apple Store in Waikiki:

FourSquare Apple Store Waikiki

You will notice the “Special Nearby” green icon at the top. I suspect this is generating a massive amount of click throughs and as you see below when you click through, I was presented a 10% of at Doraku Sushi.

FourSquare Doraku Sushi

This concept is pretty cool from a user discovery perspective – it can lead a user to potentially check out a new venue based on an offer. This has interesting implications for local businesses.

Because I broadcasted my locations to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, people were commenting and telling us about places to check out. It was interesting to see people from all over the world give us advise on our trip. This was a pretty cool and another great example of discovery, this time through my social network.

Data Problem With User Generated Content in FourSquare

After using FourSquare for the past month there are some problems with data in this application from a user perspective that I believe need to be addressed to move the concept of check-in into the mainstream.

Nothing is more frustrating that wanting to check in to a location and the location is not recognized in the database. This happen to me in the US and in Canada. Although a user can add a location and get 5 points, I am not sure this is a mainstream approach. I would identify data the source of verified data and still allow a user to enter a new location, but when it is a business that has been there for years, it seems like a unnecessary layer of friction. I would also allow users to enter information inside the merchant page for the business. I have missed a number of check-ins because of lack of data in the FourSquare database.

The other thing I have noticed about FourSquare UG content is that some people are entering locations multiple times – likely so that they can become the mayor of that location. This is frustrating as well. For example most Airports I have passed through have multiple entries. There needs to be some data cleansing or monitoring.

If FourSquare does not address the data issue, I think this could result in them losing their advantage in the long-run. Although Mavens, as described by Malcomn Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, will get you usage early, you need the masses to make a long-term sustainable business. The check-in concept is likely to be commoditized and I think data accuracy combined with smart UG content will be a key driver to who wins this space.

For Local Businesses

In the short-run, for any local business that has already starting leveraging social media – make sure you location is accurate within the FourSquare database. Second – provide an incentive for your “mayor”. Here are some examples of what companies are doing for their mayors.

Many people are talking online that check-ins will become commoditized and I think you will see major players around the globe will move into this space. If they do, there is a distribution play for local businesses based on the promotion of special offers, enhanced content (reviews, videos, photos) etc. The key for local businesses at this point is to digitize their content for the web and mobile and then distribute.

The problem with my Doraki Sushi example above was that my interest was peaked – 10% off Sushi (I like Sushi) but I wanted more information that simply a name and an offer. Show me pictures, give me a video, perhaps a menu in the case of a business – give me (the user) more information.

I think there is a synergy between users and businesses in this example. Users will want more information to help in making a decision and businesses want more opportunities to present why you should visit them. Provided the user experience is one that the user selects as opposed to be forced, then I think you have a winning combination that satisfies all parties

Privacy

The privacy issue is an interesting one. Many of my friends or my wife’s friends are horrified about the fact that I would broadcast my location. There are privacy implications here. When I was in Hawaii, it did cross my mind that I am broadcasting to the world that I am not home (however, I then realized I am not that important and I doubt there is a person out there who is waiting for me to leave my house to rob).

Check out PleaseRobMe.com – a site that broadcasts people in who have left their home – so maybe I need to be more concerned.

A THOUGHT: I wonder if an insurance company will challenge somebody who gets broken into as “irresponsible” if they broadcasted that they were not home and this promoted somebody to break into their house.

I don’t think the issue lies with FourSquare or any of the players who release a check-in service – this is opt in – but users need to understand what this means. You are telling your friends, co-workers, insurance company, potential people that want to harm you, etc. where you are and what does that means for you. This could have negative impacts.

My Conclusions

Check-In Service will become more popular and will be incorporated in many applications and eventually become commoditized.

Users will want a combination of accurate data + the ability to provide user generated content. They want control to contribute but I think it will go beyond just providing name/address information.

Users will want more information in the discovery process. They love the deal, but give them more content – videos, photos, menus, reviews, etc. – let the user go deeper in the discovery mode for local businesses from a check-in.

Local Businesses need to embrace digitization of their content and the management of that content. Check-in will become a distribution point.

Commercial real estate prices will increase because many people are checking into a particular area, location, location, location. This is probably not true but I wonder if social media could help in further articulating why one commercial location has a higher value than another – could check-ins become a supporting metric for foot traffic?

What Do You Think?

Is there a future for check-in?

Do you think users will want more information about a local business?

Do you think local businesses will embrace and provide offers?

Do you broadcast your location?

If you want more interesting reading on FourSquare, check out the following posts:

FourSquare and Geo-Games: The Future of Local?

Dennis Crowley (Foursquare): Check-ins Will Be “Commodity by the End of the Year.”