Feature Friday: The Swarm Widget
One of the best things about being back on Android is widgets. And my favorite of them all is the Swarm Widget. You can see it on my home screen all the way to the right second row down.
I started checking in on Foursquare sometime in 2009. And I’ve been checking into the places I go every day since then. I don’t know exactly how many checkins that is (probably around 5000), but it’s an incredible database of where I’ve been and when that I value very much. When checking in was part of Foursquare it would take two or three clicks to checkin. When they moved the checkin to Swarm it still took a few clicks. You had to open the app and hit the checkin button and then confirm it.
With the Swarm widget, it’s one click, plus a confirm. It works great. I love it.
I used to check in a lot and my main motivation was too to keep track of where I had been. However, more or less about the time the app was split into swarm and foursquare I started to check in less and less. I didn’t have as many check ins as you, but I must have a good couple of thousands. I’m really not sure why this happened.
you can download swarm login and start checking in againthey are all still there
I know, I have it. I simply lost the motivation. I believe it was the lack of benefits I got from my database. I’ll check how they do it now, but back then there were very few things you could do with your data. I would like to be able to really play with it, even export it to do more things by myself.
I agree with you. They should come up with clever ways to visualize your check-in data. Currently it’s just a simple list. I’d love to see a map with a timelapse pathway of me travels, or something along those lines!
I used to check in a lot and my main motivation was too to keep track of where I had been.Why did you want to keep track of where you had been? I mean it would be neat to know (from an entertainment and curiosity perspective) that I had been to Starbucks 6700 times in the past 10 years but in what way does it matter? (I don’t mean in terms of what Starbucks would offer me if it knew that (it already does btw) but I mean “to me”)I’m really not sure why this happened.it happened because knowing the information didn’t exceed the effort necessary to collect the information.For curiosity (and entertainment value) there are plenty of things that I would like to keep track of. But unless there is value (that exceeds effort to collect) most likely I will never take the time to collect the information.
I liked to know where I had been for different reasons that the one you mention. Most usual one was trying to remember the name of a restaurant I had been in the past. In several occasions, I was able to find it thanks to Foursquare. Another one was to try to remember the date of certain events. If I could remember some place associated with that, I could get that from Forusquare. Anyway, I agree that the effort of having that info was too high. Collecting it was not the only problem, querying 4SQ was also difficult.
I actually handle that by just taking a picture. IN IOS it notates not only the date but also the location as well. Likewise if you pay by credit card (which I do) you have all of that information as well. But the query problem you mentioned then comes into play you’d have to search credit card records.I would find it nice to have a complete log of where I was that was complete and accurate but there is no way I would want to take the time (in an active sense) to make that happen by pushing any buttons.This “friction” is really important. It’s the reason why I set alarms on the iphone but never did that on any phone before that. Devil is in the details. To much friction to set an alarm pre-iphone, to many clicks and not enough flexibility.  Iphone nailed that and I now use it as an alarm clock. With iphone you can pre-define a bunch of times and then select the one you want very easily with just a tap.
That is cool. Is there a way to search photos by location? I believe Android also has the geolocation option for photos, maybe that can be a good solution. I’m thinking maybe pair it with Evernote, it can search into text in photos, so it can help a lot to retrieve information.. Anyway, thanks for the idea, I’ll play with it 🙂
I would think it would be relatively simple to program something to search the meta data in the picture to access that information actually. Not sure if anyone is doing that already but they might be.As far as text in photos you could use something like adobe acrobat to take an image and apply OCR on it (and any similar solution).
It might be different for someone like Fred who goes to lots of different places in different cities. But if you go to the same few places in the same city, then, it’s probably not as interesting.It always seemed to me that the logical step for an app like Foursquare would be to link it with location- and time-based coupons, e.g., you check in at the movie theater and when you get out there’s a coupon for a free ice cream cone at the late night ice cream place down the street, or a free beer at the bar down the street, something like that.
Loved foursquare – thousands of check-ins all over the world. Then they split the app in two to force a context switch in appspace where there was none on the ground. I just faded out over the next month, then deleted my account.
I’ve fallen off the FourSquare wagon and honestly they are doing little to get me back on.If you look at their Tumblr blog it is an example of value in search of a market. Of marketing one step removed–like advertising in a way–from whatever message they are trying to connect.I’ve fallen out of love. I still appreciate the initial attraction. Just can’t seem to put in the time as I don’t sense they understand why I should really care.Not resolute or harsh, just how I feel when I bump into an old friend who is less connected to who I am today.
well if you want to talk marketing, the big error in my view was taking the Foursquare name away from the checkin app which is now called Swarmi would have preferred to see them keep the name Foursquare for the checkin app and come up with a new name for the discovery app that is now called Foursquarei think they got the branding all mixed up in the process
always ready to talk marketing fred.i agree it’s all kinda jumbled up. I actually googled ‘is swarm foursquare’ and got a zillion responses to the question as obviously i’m not the only one that asked.i’ve spent countless hours over the years cross industries talking about how to address changing names and evolving brands as you fork your product. 90% of the time the answer would have been to follow what you advise.
Have not put much time on it, but first reaction is you are 100% correct.
I asked a few sub 25s about that recently, most of them liked swarm, still hit gap of “but what am I supposed to do with this?” … I think for FS / Swarm the challenge is to stay simple / flexible enough and yet still suggest how it could reflect the world that’s nearby. lots of opportunity, as noted in your reply to Matt, but still a wide open problem with hidden value to dig out.
never thought of that, but makes sense. i agree.i wonder if check-ins increased or decreased since the divorce.i’ve been a big fan of foursquare for a long time but the split has impacted my engagement. i also wish i could use my check-in data for more interesting things.lately i’ve been using moves (app) to track and map where i go. i love the visualizations i can easily produce:http://brandondonnelly.com/…
Split the app in two , split the name in twoFoursquare”Four” for checkin ( as in teeing off)”Square” for discovery (as in townsquare)
“Do you use Foursquare?””Both!”
Not a foursquare user (or fan) but I could argue the other side of that if I had to.Given that Foursquare didn’t exactly set the world on fire, coming up with a new name could have potentially been the correct strategy.People who have already heard of or tried Foursquare might have decided “not of interest”. (Like me for example!) But using a new name they are signaling that there is something potentially significant or rebooted. Nothing wrong with doing that and I’ve seen it done before marketing wise.A good example is how you are touting the swarm widget. Telling someone about the foursquare widget evokes memories about foursquare (which could be negative). Telling them about the swarm widget says “something new” in their brain.Point is, this is not a science it’s an art. And it’s quite possible they fully considered and thought about various reasons to do what they did. In retrospect it’s always easy to say “wrong strategy”.
I gave-up on Foursquare as I did not have many friends on it. Facebook’s location/check-in product works better for me.
Same here but recently I’m sensing massive social/community fatigue.Facebook won cause everyone was there regardless of truly sucky search and commenting systems.There is a new kernal of homeless community connections that is lost in space. Too contentless to thrive under blogs, too tangible to exist within facile infrastructure of Facebook.Dunno what it is. Don’t think its here today.To me honestly I’m getting together more often in the flesh. Less broad more depth.Not a network solution but definitely a reaction to the status quo.
Re: that last thing, the technology we use should help us do that more, connect to people with and around us. Whether the host of location based apps and platforms that we currently have available are doing that, it’s hard to say….but I wish it was a more explicit goal, instead of trying to suck us into being wired all the time and getting us to engage in “immersive interactive online experiences” or similar jargon-y things.
open ended yet interesting discussion.i find myself:-messaging more and more often-using email to codify agreements, to ask specifics-skyping more and more
Same here, with all of those things. I think that’s one of the tensions at work: we’ve finally seen that online can be IRL, but a lot of the things built for the WWW still require us to suspend our real lives and the way we connect offline and 1:1. Is location helping with that? I think so, but apps like 4Square still have a long way to go.
Actually that’s an interesting followup Q: do you believe the internet is real? I know that sounds funny, but it’s a kind of uncanny valley. I’ve met enough people on the web in the flesh to believe it is, and I conduct myself (with some safety / privacy boundaries) as such. But I don’t think it’s really built that well for that yet. Of course, I’m weirder / think-y-er than most, I like to call that the homeschooling brain=) …but still, it feels like there’s something there that requires more exploration.
I joined foursquare only because I wanted to create maps in Pinterest organized around specific themes. For example, Used & Vintage Bookstores in Westchester County. But most of the locations I wanted to add to my highly me-centric maps did not exist in or were incorrectly located in foursquare. So I gave up. But I still would like to do these maps, but with less manual work. (I will add this to my ever increasing list of cool priducts to create in my spare time)
That’s an interesting use case….my co-founder and I are actually writing a piece about that, how there are all these apps that are addressing a narrow use and need to be constantly updated when what people want (at least with respect to location) is something that’s more flexible and that they can define themselves. To your point, it can seem like a small or hidden need but it is a strong one.
vast breadth.been a huge user as as a wine blogger and previous wine community ‘owner’ have a vast community there.but–something is changing. fatigue is the only way i can describe it.
I know you may not be able to comment Fred ( so sorry if its an awkward comment), but how / why does foursquare keep operating at this point. I can’t imagine they are profitable, and with $160 million of capital raised it seems likely that they are just hoping someone will take them out and return some of that value? Just not sure how do you motivate leadership and attract talented employees to a heavily financed company (with what probably 300-400MM of preferences)… maybe I am off base, just feels like a zombie
not a zombie at allthey have doubled or tripled revenue every year for the past three years and are very close to profitability nowthey have a very engaged user base all over the world across two products and a geodatabase that is the envy of everyone but google and facebook they did this deal with twitter last month, for example http://fortune.com/2015/03/…and they have the most popular location api out there. uber uses it, for exampleit’s a great business to be honest
well i am wrong then for sure. Glad to hear they are doing ok. I guess (besides showing my lack of knowledge of their business model) it shows how public perception changes. I can still remember five years ago when they seemed nearly as big as twitter / fb etc. I guess that is probably where my perception comes from. Curious if others readers of this blog have this view of foursquare or if i am out of touch on this one (never been a foursquare user, but i just remember when at college everyone was trying to be the mayor of everything.. which i don’t think is nearly as common now?)
perception is reality until it is notmeerkat is the bomb when it is notfoursquare is toast when it is not
Perception is correct that Foursquare is not what it was supposed to be.Nature abhors a vacuum.So nature fills the vacuum with a default conclusion.Same goes with Meerkat – this is going to be huge is the default.
Yep. Huge credit then to Dennis Crowley, because from what i understand he made some good money before foursquare, was close to being a zuckerberg, jack dorsey type level of acclaim, has had huge struggles (perceived with the company), and has kept chugging. I would assume you have huge respect for him and in all honesty if he ends up making foursquare successful financially that is very big indicator of his character in my opinion. Those people don’t get celebrated as much obviously, but very cool that he has been able to power through such a hype cycle.
Not a shot at you, but, celebrity amongst internet founders is nonsense. Just build businesses and don’t compare yourself to others; compare yourself to yourself. Am I better today than I was yesterday? That’s what I tell others. I don’t know Dennis, but I admire what he’s done. And I don’t think he’s going for the acclaim. I mean, I doubt he’s measuring his success by the number of press mentions he has. Did do the headnod “yo” with him at SXSW one year 😉 I know I’ll meet him proper one day.
Dens worked the personal PR aspect hard though.I assumed it was tactical – him being cool = 4Sq being cool.
Oh its ok to take a shot at me every once in a while. 🙂 And yeah, I may have made the comment come across wrong, because my point was along those lines. That he doesn’t really have the huge celebrity status anymore (although more than 99.9% of entrepreneurs), he is executing. which is impressive as hell. And trust me, at 27.. so idk.. not exactly middle age but not really young, I have come to appreciate the latter. That is the reason I belive i can/ will get my current startup to success and impact because of the growth I have had and the ability to focus internally and what matters not to get swayed by hype. But we all want to be rockstars a little 🙂
That’s the fault of foursquare and PR (as mentioned) not the people that see the toast.You can make fun of “Trump’s hair” or you can learn from it.
I think your perception is quite common, most comments done by now are of not really positive. I’m also glad that the business is doing good!
so–if the value of the data is dependent on populations perceived value in the product, and this community at least has questions–this spells nothing but opportunity for them.of all the companies that i didn’t expect to have a marketing problem…good news is that it should be fixable.
They are the “Intel inside” for location.
it’s a great business to be honestWell they are executing poorly on PR in that case. None of the above I know. And I read all sorts of things and am pretty aware. And that’s me. Most likely if I did a random “Starbucks” test I can guarantee that I would probably not find users let alone many people who had even tried Foursquare. Not everyone lives in a urban environment, is under 30, and checks into bars and restaurants.Just did a google search and the only things I am seeing are mention in the random tech blogs.Foursquare isn’t Amazon Web Services or Heroku. It needs to hit up traditional consumer media and get mention there.
“Not everyone lives in a urban environment, is under 30, and checks into bars and restaurants.”Tell that to the 22 year olds in the valley and their investors = )
I wonder how the proliferation of beacons will help Foursquare down the road. On iOS, they’re starting to open up new app options and widgets. For instance, if you’re out for a drink and there’s a Foursquare beacon at the bar (which may be very likely one day), it can be programmed such that a little swarm icon shows up on the bottom of your iPhone Homescreen. From there, apple could turn it into a widget like they have on some notifications.
beacons–i’m interested.know nothing about them.
taking the Internet to the streetsI’m interested too.
I am seeing more startups integrate beacons in B2B.
links on beacon ecosystem.clueless here and shouldn’t be
http://www.getyella.com/ here is a startup that’s integrating beacon’s into their business and getting some traction.
Thanks. I’m clueless on this too.
The Doobie Brothers. Oh, yeah!https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Don’t worry, marketers are going to ruin it for everybody.
i’m not biting on that one!
https://developer.apple.com… tons of information there with videos. Beacons were deployed at CES to allow navigation indoors at the show, and it worked pretty well with their app.
thanksreal issue is how useful they are deployed.
There’s a ton of stuff online, but the basic premise is as follows. Imagine you have apps on your iPhone already, but you may not use or think when to use them. A pre-programmed beacon set with rules in a physical location can ID your phone, call it, and wake up the app and present it to you via push or being visible in the tray.
When you first said beacon, I thought you meant web beacons. Not too clear how those work either.
I mean the one-pixel-in-a-web-page kind.
Okay, the Wikipedia article on web bugs (synonym for web beacons) makes it clear what it is.
The main issue with Foursquare, whether it uses GPS or beacons, it is by design a passive interaction. Beacons simply provide very close proximity information to trigger an interaction. Documenting where you’ve been clearly doesn’t have mass appeal as evidenced by Foursquare’s ever decreasing use. It’s a feature of a broader service. What’s required is interesting, entertaining engagement that utilizes proximity information.
But, the counter here is say you’re in a new NYC restaurant, you already have 4sq installed, and the app appears on the homescreen tray, you simply tap or swipe up and it can reveal reviews, pictures, etc.
I wonder what patents exist around Beacon and if there is going to be a patent trolling extracting $100s of millions or even billions from the ecosystem.
Snapchat on the home screen?
He’s got kids, ya know?
You are suggesting that we all say things to our kids that we would like to have disappear?
No. Evidently the other way around. 😉
My kids never forget what I say. They’ve been known to quote me years later.
I never forget a Snapstory.
Try watching a Victoria Secrets Fashion show on Snapchat and that might get your attention 🙂
I use snapchat to send messages to my son.
Fahrenheit? Still? 😉
I thought that widget became available on iOS8 prior to Android.Swarm also has a new Messaging feature they just rolled out for messaging friends within the App.And I can’t figure out how to make that Swarm widget appear on my Xiaomi.
Five icons across. Wow!Is that a Nexus 6 in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
You can have as many as you want with most Android launchers. My preferred one is Nova, but there are many.
Oh, just makes them infinitely small?
Yes 🙂 but I have a 5 inches phone and 5 columns work fine. I have even tried 6 and it is not bad. You can play with the space between them, the margins and take out the text, so it is flexible enough.
I think the question of Foursquare’s perceived success comes down to whether you’re a contributor or consumer of local data.I too grew fatigued of checking in (it got reduced to a cycle of two daily check-ins: gym, work, gym, work, gym, work….darn, I lead a boring life…help!). But when I traveled to Sweden last summer, or skiing in Massachusetts this winter, it came in handy when I was looking for restaurants or spots of interest (e.g. museums). And finding some gems, motivated me to leave a few comments about places I discovered on Foursquare.So years of contributors (crowd sourcing FTW!) have made it valuable for me as a consumer.
I think part of the problem isa) apps have traditionally aimed towards narrow use cases, so with things like Foursquare and Yelp Qs like “is this restaurant/gym/bar any good” and “where should I go” are answerable but the deeper connections people have on a local level are obscured…and as of now it seems like FB, Twitter, and others are so bound to the WWW that they can’t really merge local.b) lots of consumers find things like Foursquare helpful/interesting, but most local platforms aren’t properly optimized for the local businesses who would be paying customers. though I will say, am glad to see foursquare refocus and I like what they do. just that market isn’t yet filled out.
Re your a) ….oh, that didn’t come out right…”but the deeper connections people have on a local level are obscured…”I’m not sure I understand what problem you’re articulating?and b) “… platforms aren’t really properly optimized for the local businesses…”How so? Do you mean that the app doesn’t let me purchase things from the local business in-app? Is that required here?
Well, think about it this way – going to the gym isn’t interesting on the surface. But maybe you had a conversation w/someone you see semi-regularly and both decided to run outside for 15 mins on Tuesdays, or the homeless person you buy coffee for in the winter needs a jacket, but it’s difficult to find the local shelter that might be able to help. There are thousands, maybe even millions of those use cases right around us in a given moment, very few of which are represented by checking into an app.Re: local businesses, honestly most of the ones I know and the ones I’ve talked to hate the web for their business. they have to keep up a website, maintain a twitter and fb profile with hundreds or thousands of people who don’t regularly visit their business, and respond to yelp reviews (not to mention pay to play, it’s much worse than anyone w/o a local business can imagine). what they really want is to do what they’re good at, and connect to customers and potential customers who are likely to actually walk in the front door. very difficult to do right now.
tell em to start teaching Dabble.co classes.
That’s a good point, lots of value there and in platforms like Lynda
Yes, I get your second point. Local businesses must get tired of all the internet companies that call on them. But the times, they are a changin’. They can’t expect to stay in a world where all they had to do was stay listed in the yellow pages. I suppose there are service providers that manage local businesses’ online presence – from website to reviews to listings to reputation and onward.
Yeah I have ideas but think it’s still an open problem. That’s sort of the crux of it, they don’t need a World Wide Web they need a web that’s right around them. of course, that’s assuming there’s value in small / local business. viewed through the lens of Every Business Must Scale, then you’re right they better get with the times.
They can’t expect to stay in a world where all they had to do was stay listed in the yellow pages.Yellow pages brings (or better “brought” I mean) in business but it doesn’t help you keep the business that you get from YP ads. Also there are many businesses that will survive based on simply the retail location that they have and certainly have less of a need for any social media presence. (Think if you were located next to an Apple store or had a good mall location or were in Manhattan with thousands of people passing by every day..)Yes, there are companies that manage all of this and while I don’t know the cost I would imagine that as a general rule to get the job done right can be expensive.That’s actually a good thing. Similar to the way that YP advertising can be quite expensive. The fact that it costs so much is great if you can get onboard and pay the price as I found out years ago.
Someone once advised me to avoid the companies with the biggest YP’s ads; they were likely the over-priced service providers.
You probably don’t realize that it’s a somewhat common strategy to put in a large ad and a small ad for a number of reasons (including the one that you mentioned).The YP worked and it was a finely oiled machine.  As a general rule anyone who took the effort and paid money to putting in a YP ad in a category was serious about the product or service that they were offering.When I started my first business I reverse engineered YP ads of competitors. I also saw that they repeated their ads from previous years and the changes that they made. Plus I added little twists that they didn’t even do. For example I noticed that certain types of businesses put in phone numbers all over the region (my competitors didn’t) to make it seem they had a presence there. Was obvious. So I did the same. Instant business from those areas (and we just dispatched a truck to pick things up). None of my competitors ever copied that either.Also quickly discovered that people respond to specifics in YP ads, not generalities. “All types of widgets” doesn’t work anywhere nearly as well as “drain clearing widgets, fan blade widgets” and so on. Reason is when people open the YP they are looking for “the guy who can do the thing that I am looking for”. So they hone in on the word and what they perceive to be the expert. This is obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people miss that type of thing in their ads.Lots of business can be reverse engineered by carefully observing both your own behavior and what others are doing and thinking about why. Personal experience here from back in the day.
Marketing 101 🙂
Swarm’s widget makes it very effortless to checkin and I use it often. Mostly to keep a record of where I’ve been. I don’t know if it preceded the Android version, but Swarm has had a widget on iOS for a while.
it did precede the android version.http://thenextweb.com/apps/…
agree with a lot of the comments here about checking in. Interesting how 4sq has created a large B2B data model.
Is there anything similar on iOS to make it that easy? I never check-in anymore because it’s always passcode > find the app > oops i need to switch to swarm > wait for it to find my place > finally check-in :-/
Fred, I’m like you in that I use 4sqr like a diary. One problem has been accessing the information in the way I want it. IFTTT has some very nice connections to grab the 4sqr/swarm data, for example, I send mine into a GoogleDocs spreadsheet.
The ultimate unbundling.(Almost wrote penultimate but remembered that would be incorrect thanks to an old comment here.)
I remember my “aha” moment with 4Sq very well. It was at Penn Sta. and I got some killer tips about bathrooms and where to wait for your train. Made my day. I felt like the ultimate NYC insider.But now I’m another one who’s fallen off the wagon. Last time I tried (in NOLA, after nearly a year of not touching it) I felt like I didn’t know how I was supposed to be using it any more. I may not be the target user, anyway. I don’t eat out every meal or run to meetings all over town (or the world).What, at this point, is the value proposition to the consumer of 4Sq?
Unsure of answer to that last Q myself, but I do think some of Foursquare difficulty is they are victim of “apps are the ecosystem of the future” mentality….everyone I know under 30 (and lots over) feels that apps are disposable, there are too many, and that downloading a new app every time you want to do or access something is counter-intuitive.
That’s interesting to know about <30’s. The first thing I think about when I look at a new app is, “Will this be worth the memory, performance and battery cost?” And that bar is high for me. But I didn’t know if that’s also true for ‘kids these days.’
Huh that’s interesting….I wonder what that bar is for other people here…I occasionally host & write-up a thing called Millennial Think Tank, check out the first part of this one from a few months ago… there’s a moment where panelists are talking about how they feel about apps that’s just fascinating to rewind and watch —> http://arcompany.co/millenn…
Will def watch!
The problem with apps is that they are little slices, not a whole pie. We need better, more well-integrated backend systems for the next gen apps.
Exactly. What’s the pie? That’s a question worth asking…(one that I don’t think apple and google/android have really figured out yet).
Off-topic, but I was most interested to see the Settings icon as one of your four dock choices. I find Android’s quick settings pull-down mostly sufficient; would be really curious to hear why you give the full Settings that pride of place.
I always thought that the checkin focus was not interesting at all. Nowadays, I do use FS though, as it’s closer to what I’d like: I mainly use it to keep track of the nice restaurants I’ve been to. Not only in the cities I’m most of the time (to help me mitigate the issue of always going to the same places), but also for other cities where I’ve been and someone showed me a great place.I do try to use the app as a discovery app, but I usually dony find it to give me the type of recommendations I’d like (eg great restaurant that everyone is talking about)
Crowdsoucing at it’s worst = lowest common denominator.
4 is really good for “off the path” stuff where Yelp has no coverage and GMaps is sparse.Malta and Myanmar are two such places where 4 has saved my day, providing the only offering.
gamify the check-in, like Ingress
Why do you check in at all?
did you read my post?i explained it right there in the post
You said how, “Swarm makes it easy.” How long? “You said you’ve been doing it for a long time.” You said it was much easier to check in on Swarm. But you never said why. I’m asking why do you check in at all? Doing something because you’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s easy … that’s not a reason.
from the post:it’s an incredible database of where I’ve been and when that I value very much
Okay. That’s cool. I was just asking why.But it was weird finding the app. All the apps have a noun. Maps, etc. Check In is a command, a sentence. I was looking for Swarm and I was like, “Where is it?” It was the first time I tried to find an app and said, “Odd.” I guess it just breaks my mental app naming convention.
this is how it looks on iOS. it’s great. I use it daily.