What's Foursquare? And, What Can It Do For Me?

Amy Keyishian
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Foursquare
Chances are, if I'm meeting you somewhere, I'm going to be 10 minutes late. Then you'll see me, just outside the playground gate or the cafe door, but I won't be walking in, looking at you -- I'll be jiggling my toddler on my hip and staring at my phone, waiting for Foursquare to let everyone know where I am and what I've got to say about it.

Sad but true, I'm a Foursquare addict. Mostly it's because I want other moms to see where I am so if they're in the nabe, we can have a spontaneous meetup. Recently, as I've become a more established user, I've gotten a few discounts and treats at local stores. But it ain't always easy. Here's the DL on Foursquare -- what it is, why it's fun, and how it can work for you.

Foursquare is an app for the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Android. You can also use it via a mobile website or even using texts. When you go to a local business, you open the app, which uses your device's GPS to list nearby businesses; you pick the one you want (or add it, if it's not listed), add a line of text if you have something to say about it, and "check in" to the service.

Foursquare broadcasts your location message to other users in your "friends" pool, as well as to Twitter and Facebook (if you want it to). You get points the more often you check in, badges for certain adventures (for instance, I got the "Babysitter" badge for checking in at 10 playgrounds), and if you are the top checker-inner at a location, you get named The Mayor of that spot. Very exciting!

This is where my competitive spirit kicks in. It's easy to become the mayor of an unpopular spot, but what's the fun in that? I've been mayor of my local used bookstore for months, and nobody's come close to challenging me. On the other hand, though I became mayor of my synagogue quickly, I was just as quickly deposed by a guy who goes to a study group there each week. I was notified via Twitter that he had replaced me as mayor, I Tweeted him back saying his mayorship would be short-lived, and now we're Twitter friends. Oh, this is geeky stuff, folks.

But here's the meat of the matter: Though Foursquare hasn't decided what to do with all those points, the mayorships can get you discounts. Starbucks, Tasti-D-Lite, and many local businesses offer discounts and freebies to mayors -- you find out about them when you check in, and a pop-up screen lets you know which nearby places have an incentive available.

It's definitely a bit odd to make myself so public, but I've always enjoyed the open-door policy. I was one of those people whose dorm room door was always open in case someone wanted to pop their head in and say hi. This is like an open dorm room door, times 100. I'm having lunch at Toast! Pop in, say hi!

Do you use Foursquare? What are you mayor of? Have you ever gotten a discount?

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