Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How I became mayor of my local Gym

Since a General Election has just been called in Ireland, many people might be wondering how to achieve elected office. Those of you who follow my Twitter stream might have noticed my recent tweet "I just ousted @ as the mayor of Westpoint Health and Fitness Blanchardstown on @ " and wondered how I achieved that.

This was actually achieved very easily compared to how difficult it would be to become a real mayor. I recently started to use a service called FourSquare which allows you to check-in to various locations to tell your friends where you are. Initially I was quite skeptical about the potential benefit of using such a service, but since it seems to be growing in popularity I said I would see what the fuss is about.

An obvious thing to worry about using a service like this is that you might not want people to know where you are at any particular time. However, this is not really an issue, since FourSquare only tracks my  location when I explicitly check-in to a location (typically by using an application on my phone). This is quite different from services like Google Latitude or Facebook Places which can sometimes be publishing your location without you being consciously aware of that.

Initially I did not use it much because I was not sure when I might want to publish my location but then I joined a local gym and decided that I ought to boast about that fact to my friends. In my first check-in, I did not realize that the Gym was already registered on Foursquare and so I accidentally registered it a second time. The next two times I visited the gym I check-in properly with FourSquare and hey presto I was declared to be the mayor (based upon the fact that I had checked-in more frequently than anyone else in the previous 60 days) and FourSquare automatically tweeted the good news on my behalf. I should point out that at the time I was the only person check-in to the gym on FourSquare, but the gym was packed so the most frequent person to check in on FourSquare is not really a good estimate for who is visiting the gym most often.

Will this service catch on? I think it probably will, because it combines a fun element. I saw that my predecessor as mayor of the gym tweeted "nooooooooooooooooooooo!" in reply to the news of me becoming mayor, so maybe FourSquare can encourage more visits to the gym as we battle for the mayorship.

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