I was recently talking with Leslie and she asked me if I was using Philo, a service which allows you to check-in with their website and earn virtual rewards when watching television. I informed her that I did not, nor did I have any interest in using it or any other similar service because I felt that served no useful purpose.
With the advent of Foursquare’s success, a myriad of copycat sites have popped up attempting to capitalize on what they have done and try to add a slight twist to it. Philo, GetGlue, Miso, and others are all trying to find a niche in this newfound space, but to me they do not serve any useful purpose.
For me, Foursquare works in New York City because of its population density and the number of friends who are using it. It’s a way to find which friends are hanging at which bar or party and to know where to go to hang out that night. I see friends who live in rural areas who check into the same few places and either check-in with or trade mayorships with their significant others. If this was the case for me, my usage of the Foursquare app would severely dwindle because I don’t feel I would be getting anything useful in return for using it.
If I am watching television and want to share it with others, I don’t feel like I need to use a service to do that. I can merely put something on Twitter saying I’m watching it. My other problem with these check-in services is the lack of context. It announces that I am watching Lost or True Blood, but that’s all it does. It doesn’t add any commentary and conversation, except possibly within that small community. If the choice of conversing about John Locke with an insular community or my wide array of Twitter followers, I am going to opt for the larger audience
Some of the services do try to add additional value to their service. As an example, GetGlue has a recommendation behind their service. Checking in to and liking tv programs and movies is supposed to suggest more things to watch. The problem is that I find their recommendations lacking. One item that GetGlue recommended to me is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen because I liked Willow and Labyrinth, but I find the suggestion completely irrelevant to the two movies I do like. A couple of fantasy films from George Lucas and Jim Henson are a far cry from a Terry Gilliam film. I would much rather continue rating movies I watch on Netflix, which has the best recommendation engine I’ve found and I can watch the movie instantly or add it to my queue to have the DVD or Blu-ray sent to me from within the service, which none of the checkin services can do.
One recent service I have been trying out and finding interest in is Earndit.com. Earndit links up with your Nike+, Foursquare and a few other services in order to track your working out. It requires no additional checkins and rewards the user with points that can be redeemed for real world items, like consultation time with a trainer and sneakers. Earndit’s strength is that it does not require any additional work on the user’s side after setting up then just making use of services the user was already using. Although the site is still fairly barebones, I look forward to seeing where Earndit goes.
With every app and website offering virtual rewards now, it isn’t much of an incentive to go out of one’s way in an attempt to earn them. These services inconvenience a person by requiring them to do things with no intrinsic reward beyond virtual badges and Facebook and Twitter announcements. Services need to go beyond the virtual reward system and offer true value in order to find the wide spread appeal that Foursquare has.