A recent trip to WNC got me thinking about why/how I do checking in. The rambling post below is what fell out.
I was a early adopter of the "checking in" idea with Brightkite(so much promise lost there). With Brightkite's demise I looked to the next best thing which at the time was Gowalla. It allowed comments and picture posting, something foursquare still doesn't do very well, and allowed me to meet my "why check-in" goals of:
- Have a history of where I had been and places I liked.
- Leave a trail for future visitors, providing useful tips, pictures and comments.
- Seeing what my friends were doing and to interact with them.
- And a bonus of getting cool badges.
Google took an unfocused shotgun approach to the check-in idea with Latitude, Hotpot and now Google+. It never felt right, so I mostly ignored it, but now Google seems to be merging ideas and coming up with something interesting. Hotpot is gone and has become part of Places(places.google.com and the Places Android app.). Latitude can now check-in to spots(manually and automatically), post ratings, reviews and pictures. Pictures, ratings and reviews show up in Places and in public Google search results(this is important to me, will come back to it). Check-ins(via Latitude) are not public and posted to your Google profile(not G+) with limited sharing(Private list? I assume this is your Latitude friends). This leaves the outlier of Google+ check-ins. Which do show up in G+ and obey your normal Circle sharing rules. I'm not sure how Google plans to consolidate the two(Latitude, G+) check-in concepts(if ever).
This leaves me with what I'm planning to do. Stop using Gowalla and foursquare. Instead I'm going to rely on some combination of Latitude and G+ check-ins. Why? Latitude and G+ allow me to meet my "why check-in" goals better(easier with automatic check-ins) and probably more long term(Gowalla is more likely to go the way of Brightkite than Google is).
How does Latitude meet my goals:
- It keeps a history of my check-ins down to the minute, something Gowalla doesn't do(or at least expose in the UI).
- Having my ratings, reviews and pictures from a spot show up in Places and Google search is huge for "leaving a trail for future visitors". This was invaluable during my trip to WNC and what really got me thinking about this.
- I can see what my Latitude and G+ friends are doing(not that they use it much).
- Badges are overrated, but maybe Google will eventually "gameify" this a bit.
- Latitude and G+'s spot database is, surprisingly, no where near as good as Gowalla or foursquare and doesn't have a way to add missing spots. Hopefully this will improve over time.
- Cannot comment on check-ins in Latitude, but you can in G+.
- I have less friends using Latitude and G+(for checking in).
- Handing more data and services over to "the goog".