Improving Foursquare

FourSquare is a social media application, allowing you to use GPS enabled phones to ‘check in’ to venues, earn badges, etc. As with most social media platforms, 4sq lacks several features and would benefit from additional work. Some of my ideas, after using the site for a month.

  • “Things done” is a poor choice of words for “I left a note / tip”, unless it encompasses more than that. If so, there should be better / more prominent documentation about it.
  • “Things done” part 2. Walking in the door and leaving a tip is often pointless. It’s only after you have been there an hour or as you walk out, that you may think “great drink special tonight” or “lots of hot scattered ass”. Having an option to check out of a venue with a tip would be handy, or some method to add the tip without re-checking in.
  • Editing a venue is messy. Doing it via phone allows you to edit all the fields, sometimes. Other times it just let me “flag venue info”, “flag venue as closed”, “flag incorrect address” or “flag venue as duplicate”. The one venue I did edit was not fixed a week later on subsequent checkins. The web page lets me edit tags, but not submit changes to the name (Park, not Parl).
  • Flagging a venue as a dupe, seems to do nothing so far. If they are eventually dealt with, how are they handled? Is the ‘best’ information from each merged into one? Is the mayorship based on the most checkins to either/both?
  • Why can so many dupes be added? There are at least three variations of one bar I frequent. When adding a venue, a routine should look for similar names in the surrounding 500 meters and suggest them. Why? (read next bullet)
  • Because the search feature is not as reliable as you may expect. Searching for a venue may pull up one quickly, but not show the duplicate venues. This indicates a bug in the search engine.
  • If the venue editing process is limited, I would guess it is due to the lack of employees at 4sq. This site would greatly benefit from community involvement. Having a handful of community moderators, say 1 moderator per 250,000 population of a city, would allow for considerably more accurate venues.
  • 4sq needs to stay up on current phone issues. I have a Samsung Galaxy phone, that is notorious for poor GPS functionality. The physical device is fine, the software that drives the phone just interacts with it poorly. This causes it to take minutes to get a current GPS location, sometimes be off by as much as 500 meters or simply not pull back a current location without rebooting the phone. If I check into a venue over 250 meters away, it may say “we think you are too far from this, we’ll let you check in but NO POINTS FOR YOU”. The application should detect my phone and instead, let me check in for points and offer sympathy that Samsung can’t figure out GPS 101.
  • Missing venue: Denver is known for its big selection of microbrewery / restaurants. This category should be added, as well as a “Brewmaster” badge for visiting X venues flagged as such. (this has been submitted to them)
  • The ‘find friends’ functionality is severely broken. It cannot find friends on Facebook that use 4sq already.

Box of Shit: Aloria’s Response

At some point around 2008 I put together a box with a bunch of random shit laying around. Nothing of value, all stuff you question why you even kept it in the first place basically. Off it went to an unsuspecting victim/friend. From there, the box-of-shit was born. Since then, I have sent out hundreds of boxes or envelopes of shit. On occasion, people document what they receive with comedic flair. This is one of the boxes I received and wrote about. This was originally published on attrition.org.


After sending Aloria a box-of-shit, she felt that something was left unsaid between us. Perhaps my stalking was not firm enough, decisive or just left more questions than answers about my resolve in demonstrating a certain level of ‘affection’. Perhaps she just wanted to send a message of “hey, not scared of you pansy”. Perhaps she is just excited, and this may finally result in a box being sent without a subsequent TRO. I can hope, no, dream…

As with all packages, the bomb-sniffing cats had to be given ample time to determine the level of threat. Badger examined the ink for traces of chemical agents and Speedbump went to work on the seams to get an idea of what illicit materials were stashed in the box. Twenty minutes later, Badger looked up at me and gave me the nod. All is well they concluded.

Next up, examine the handwriting. Using expert analysis techniques from the FBI, I could discern that the person who wrote this has serial killer tendencies. Letters that looked like pointy objects, a pronounced comma and not completing the ‘O’ are all tell-tale signs of serious personality imbalance. This may be love.

The box opened, a hand-written love letter spilled out followed by an orgy of odd items. Rubber gloves, stickers, plastic animals, a book.. oh my, pure bliss. The traditional beer caps showed my stalk[ee|er] had a higher quality taste in beer than boxes of the past. The rubber gloves are always a good safety measure for times when personal violation is in order. Large round stickers to act as pasties for my buxom bitch-tits. For the next security convention I suffer, I can label myself a ‘narcissistic vulnerability pimp‘. Well, she got two of the three words correct.

The transit ticket must be a test of my stalker ability.. what information can be gleaned from it?! Using mass transit in NJ is smart, because those weirdos don’t allow left turns. NYP must be New York Plot, how New Jersey sees that big plot of land next door. RTX was the defense contractor in The Falcon and the Snowman, giving me insight as to where she may work. I am pretty sure MORRTWN is a vague reference to Drunloria screaming “MOAR TOWN”, desperate to find the next bar serving up roofie-coladas. Thirteen dollars, the price of escape from New York?

The Soldier’s Creed card, to remind me just how far away I am from being a real man. Thanks reminder! I will say that I am proficient with ‘drills’ and stand ready to engage, if you catch my drift.

Yiddish with Dick and Jane‘ is a nice touch, encouraging me to branch out in my language skills. Being a cunning linguist, the more I learn, the more it satisfies my friends and partners. After all, a chachem must es gezunterheyt!

The Katjes-kinder, despite appearance, is not a bribe attempting to placate my guard cats. Rather, it is a throwback to the old “want some candy little boy?” routine. Yes, please. The inclusion of a Grow-a-Girlfriend is so thoughtful, giving me something to practice on while we are apart. Once she grows, this bitch is going to pay for the past sins of every ex-girlfriend, and then some.

The hand-knitted robot crafted especially for me defines cute. ‘Alorbot’, aka Mr Huggles, had an immediate identity crisis, thinking he should be with his people. Waffle was curious, Tater took the to bunker unsure of what Alorbot was there to do. Tater was sure of one thing.. he didn’t come bearing dandelion greens.

Selling out one more notch…

over a year ago, i created a twitter account under ‘attritionorg‘. it is shared with others on the system, but i do most of the tweets. it was a break down from my previous notion of avoiding social media. i figured out how to use twitter for my own benefit; not only as a source of information, but a new method to poke small bee nests. i now really appreciate the value of being able to throw stones at charlatans and large security companies, who now feel the need to be mindful of their social presence. that means, often times replying to me and trying to put out small fires i set once in a while.

weeks/months ago, i broke down and created a ‘real’ Facebook account (real name/pic/info attached), started following close friends and others i have known for some time, even if not as close these days. i even started playing a few of the various browser games to see what millions of people found so fun. while i do see the appeal, i also see countless bugs and annoyances that infuriate me.

today, i bought a smart phone. after years of getting by just fine with my RAZR, i sold out further and got a phone that does much more than phone calls. while my old phone worked, the service was pretty horrible, yet served its purpose. i probably told three dozen people over the last year that when i left my computer, i didn’t want to have one on me. that getting away from the computer was just that. so why the change of heart?

convenience. watching friends be able to google a restaurant, pull up maps of the local area or check e-mail has merits. while i don’t have any notion of checking e-mail while out and about, the ability to get to it if needed is helpful. having a real camera will also be nice; no need to carry the small camera in addition to the old phone. the ability to carry a sizable collection of music and not lug around an ipod is even better.

who knows, perhaps this phone will encourage me to get out even more. help sever various senses of obligation i sometimes feel that lead me to check online more often than i need to.

So far, yet so short…

two days into my smart phone experience, i am simultaneously amazed and disgusted by the state of technology surrounding these devices and ‘cloud’ applications.

back in the day, i had a ‘hacker’ mindset. i found flaws in systems that let me circumvent security or gain privileges not intended for users (or remote people not intended to have any access). over the years, that mindset shifted away from ‘hacking’ (penetration testing as a day job) and moved more toward usability (QA). these days, the idea of hacking and pen testing is boring and i avoid it as best i can. however, i am still a consumer and end user, so when a product doesn’t work, it bugs the hell out of me. more so if i believe any standard QA process should have caught it. my new phone is a world of new opportunity to find shortcomings in applications.

the other thing that bothers me about this process, is that when i find an annoyance and confirm it with a friend, i invariably get “that annoys me too!” so i am not the only one finding these bugs and shortcomings. is it complacency? do users no longer try to demand better from vendors? do they no longer report bugs and ask for simple features?

a great example of this is the Android Market (app store), the place to get applications for your Android based phone. i have a Samsung Vibrant through T-mobile, which uses Android apps, so this is now my go-to place to find neat utilities for the phone. go to that site, and search for applications that let you do $whatever. notice that? the distinct lack of a SEARCH MECHANISM? seriously, what brain dead dickholes run this operation, that didn’t think to put some kind of rudimentary search or at least embed a Google search link with “site:android.com”? unbelievable.

it’s ok, you can search the site via the smart phone! unfortunately, when you do it via your phone, you are given results straight from a 1995 search engine. the pattern matching is horrible. search for something with a space and results are hit or miss (e.g., “my app” will frequently not find “myapp”). further, applications that appear on the site you find via browsing, get no matches when you search for the exact name on the phone. there are some 100,000 applications out there. when you search for a common term, it isn’t surprising to receive 1000 results. but, instead of giving me primitive filtering (e.g., list only free apps, list only apps with 4+ star ratings), i get to scroll through all 1000 applications that do not appear to be listed in any discernible order.

my phone lets me connect via Wi-Fi in favor of 3G if i am in range. but, if i need to enter a password for the hotspot, i can’t enter the password. i am relegated to dealing with behavior of devices from 2000 that force you to enter the hex key.

the phone is advertised as being able to multi-task. i can run multiple applications at once! of course, very few let me cleanly exit the application. instead, they just keep running in the background, slowly helping drain the battery faster. everyone downloads a third-party application to help with this, a ‘Task Killer’ app. while this app is very helpful, it also makes me scream as i see countless apps start up that were never invoked by me. why does Amazon MP3 need to keep being invoked when i never did it, and i am not using any program that plays MP3s?

the built in ‘memo’ program is weak. so i got ‘Evernote’, a “cloud” based application that syncs my notes between phone and the web site. in theory, this is great. i sit at my computer and create a To-do list on the web site, and when i grab my phone and go, it syncs up the list from the web site. perfect! oh wait, the second list i created, i cannot edit. i can add text to it, but i can’t delete anything in it. i can’t use ‘DEL’, i can’t backspace over anything, i can’t even highlight and ‘cut’ the text via mouse/menu. seriously, what kind of drooling idiots write this application and don’t notice this? i can do it on the first list i created, but the invisible formatting crap i notice reminds me of MS Word from 1998. un-fucking-believable. so i deleted that list, and will re-create it by hand-typing the list instead of pasting it from a web page, which apparently caused the problems.

seriously people, hire a small QA team. if you are cheap and refuse to use the product yourself, then crowd-source the QA work. you do this by giving any users who want to help the ability to quickly and easily report bugs / annoyances or give feedback on features they would like to see. if you identify a person that seems to be knowledgeable and files accurate bug reports, flag their account/id and prioritize their submissions. example: a while back, i started giving feedback on a new version of Trillian, a program i use every day all day. within a few days, the lead developer was replying to my mails quickly. i believe he recognized a user that was familiar with the QA process (i marginally am), reported problems that were not one-off issues and would try to repeat the issue or provide debug output as requested.

in short, companies and developers need to use some of their time to use their own products, test them thoroughly and consider what features users may want. whipping up new code and flashy gadgets only goes so far before you have a product that is more annoying than it is helpful.