I'm in NYC today coincidentally on Foursquare day, and what a lucky serendipity that is. I get to unleash my inner geo-caching geek and play in an old school four square day tourney today too. (OMG do they mean with a real live red rubber playground ball? Eeek.) Of course back at the office all the boys were agog with envy when I told them my plans. At least, I think it was envy. It might have been a concerned, confused kind of envy. They look at the servers the same way when they're humming along properly and suspected of going down in flames at any minute.
So what's so hot about foursquare? I'm on the hook to provide a write up for Biznology soon, but at risk of stealing my own thunder I'll share a tease here. First off, foursquare provides a mutually-beneficial ecosystem for relationships to flourish between customers and businesses. An example: a twitter pal of mine, Scott @Brewhouse in Indy, is using foursquare to make very targeted offers to customers in his restaurant - the customers get some bucks back on their orders and he gets word-of-mouth marketing.
From a user perspective, I use foursquare when I'm in a new place and suddenly its as if there's a huge red "YOU ARE HERE" arrow hanging over my head on a map with everything labeled. I can see what's nearby, who's nearby from my network, and make more informed choices about where to go. (Kudos also to Waze and Yelp for working this mojo too.) Right now, I'm getting input from other users. But more and more, I'm seeing businesses such as Scott's out there speaking up to influence my choices.
Finally, Foursquare is developing an ecosystem. Wheredoyougo.net shows a heatmap with your checkins. I can use my foursquare data to find deals in New York City or fight zombies. This reminds me of the early days of twitter; at the same moment that loads of people are declaiming "what's the point!!" the eager inspired techies are out building out the system, regardless of whether there's a point or not. Following the twitter trajectory wouldn't be bad at all. And f you think about it, it is pretty obvious that humans had dice games way before they had game theory or probability analysis. Foursquare is a game, but it is clear that from games very complex systems can arise.
Signing off from Starbucks, in a place where they list the calories on the muffins.