Archive for the ‘Geo-Social’ Category
Google continues to push Places and Offers very aggressively in the Portland area. When Google first released HotPot in Portland in December, Matt McGee wrote about how they broke their own guidelines by offering over $13,000 in free dining to those who posted the most reviews.
Well, it appears they are at again. This time it’s a promotion centered around the Google Offers for Ground Kontrol and the only place it is being promoted is on a Facebook Events page. Interesting. This promo incentivizes folks to go review mad. 50 reviews gets you an invite to a special event at Ground Kontrol, 100 gets you the invite plus a drink and a unfathomable 200 reviews gets you 2 free drinks, some grub, a t-shirt and a $15 gift certificate. If you have enough time to write 200 reviews for some SWAG and a couple of drinks, you either need to look for a job or move out of your parents’ house.
Conflict of interest
Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. Even if well-intentioned, a conflict of interest can undermine the trust in a review. For instance, do not offer or accept money or product to write positive reviews about a business, or to write negative reviews about a competitor. Please also do not post reviews on behalf of others or misrepresent your identity or affiliation with the place you are reviewing.
At the time of Matt McGee’s article the guidelines had the following sentence: “In addition, we do not accept reviews written for money or other incentives.” That sentence is now removed.
I understand that Google is trying to prime the pump by injecting the system with some reviews, but I question whether a synthetic strategy versus an organic one is wise. Google built a search empire on the foundation of quality and relevancy and shouldn’t forget its roots as it forges ahead in social.
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The geo-social market is experiencing an evolutionary explosion. This week at SXSW several new services have popped up and existing services, such as Gowalla and Foursqure, have released new more robust services. It has piqued my interest enough to start doing a little bit of research to see what is out there and speculate on what is to come.
Personally, I am not an early adopter of location services. I don’t check in when I go to a restaurant and have no desire to become the Mayor of my local coffee shop, let alone my office – I’ll leave that to my business partner. I may be crotchety, but I do understand the ultimate value of these services and that one day in the not too distant future location-based applications will just be another layer that is probably as proliferated as Facebook. Only a couple of years ago it was hard to imagine 250 million people would be logging into Facebook on a daily basis.
Through my cursory research of the industry, I have noticed that geo-social applications generally fall along a spectrum of open and closed networks. An open network being one where you connect with people you don’t know that are in the same general location and a closed network being one where you connect only with those who are confirmed friends. In the short life of this industry most applications have falling towards the closed end of the spectrum, but a few new players are jumping in on the other side. Ultimately, for location-based apps to achieve mass adoption and critical mass, I believe that the networks have to walk the line of being open so users can connect with others with similar interest while minimizing the noise and presenting the most relevant content.
FourSquare falls in the middle of the spectrum and provides detailed information of where your friends are checking in, but also gives you the opportunity to see who is currently checked in and leader boards for particular cities. Foursquare 3.0 introduces a few key features that help users parse through the noise, most notably is the recommendation engine that leverages the database of Foursquare check-ins from you and your friends.
There have also been recent releases of apps that fall more towards the closed end of the spectrum. GroupMe falls into the category of location-based group messaging to people already in your network of friends. Beluga allows users to set up “Pods” (as in the whale variety) for group messaging as well, has been billed as the “anti-Twitter” and was recently acquired by Facebook. Mogwee, launched by the founders of Ning at the end of February, allows users to create “hangouts” for private group messaging. In looking at the beta, it seems that they are lacking the ability to geo-locate. Also, some of the features, such as virtually throwing a sheep at a friend seem a bit juvenile.
More recently an app has come on the scene that represent the open network side of the spectrum. Yobongo, which has only released in New York, San Francisco and Austin, is group chat for anyone in a geographic location. When you launch the application you are automatically put into a chat session with the 10 closest people to you. On their website they claim “there are no rooms to select or people to follow.” While this will certainly decrease the friction of adoption, it also strips out any sort of location-based context. Instead of being in the same restaurant, movie, concert, etc, you are connecting with people who are in the same city. Ultimately, this will create mostly irrelevant content.
The next 12 months should be very interesting for the location-based app industry. We will continue to see more fragmentation as players enter the fray to take stabs at what will be the next killer app. Stay tuned…