Why FourSquare Will Never Be Admissible in Court

Why wait for New Years to resolve to do something new?

Few months back, I recognized within myself a skeptical nature which prevented me from adopting new Social Media technologies as they come out.

Sure, many of them will die. Many of them will be dead ends, and even the ones that succeed will die within few years. Think Friendster and MySpace as perfect examples. Wanna go even further? Fine! How ’bout GeoCities.

But does that mean I shouldn’t be trying them out?

As one of the Founders of such technology, I decided that it was my responsibility to stay abreast of new social media developments and -simultaneously- keep an eye out on potential competition.

In Comes FourSquare

Ok, so I know FourSquare is not exactly new and not exactly competition, but I figured it would be a good start because I always figured it to be a really useless, unnecessary service.

FourSquare has an exploitative business model which collects personal information about its users and trades it to the highest corporate bidder. Alas, this is not unusual. Googles and Facebooks of the world have the exact same business model.

‘Tis the way of the world these days, and we’re willingly playing along. But I digress…

Problem With Four Squares

Few months ago, I started using FourSquare.

First, I wanted to be exposed to the game mechanics of FourSquare in order to study its effects on me. And second, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Or should I say, what all the fuss WAS about…I’m kinda late to the 4 to the power of 2 party. (hehe…get it? 4 to the power of 2? Four Squared? Oh nevermind…moving on…)

The Game Mechanics

The Game Mechanics of FourSquare are quite sound.

The one that works the best, and in the most powerful way on me, is the Mayorship status. The minute I see someone else as the Mayor of my favorite hang out (these days that’s Sparkroot in downtown Tucson) I get slightly enraged and extremely motivated to keep checking in and knocking the other person off their Mayroship.

What does this say about me? It tells me that I’m motivated by status and I fall in the Killer gaming category.


Status is the most powerful game mechanic. We all seek Status. We are genetically programmed to seek Status. After all…

  • High Status males get to breed. Have you ever seen a Chief of the tribe without a woman? Yeah, me neither.
  • High Status males get their choice of genetically favorable females
  • High Status females (by way of High Status male) are virtually guaranteed to have their offspring well taken care of

Humans LOVE Status.

It’s why Starbucks drink costs 5 dollars more than a coffee drink at a no-name local coffee shop. Local coffee shop’s “brand” doesn’t broadcast my Status to the onlookers.

It’s why Apple computers cost considerably more than PCs. It’s why rappers wear bling. It’s why yuppies wear an alligator on their shirt. It’s why men go to work. It’s why the world has advanced to the point where we carry phones with us which enable us to check into our favorite hangouts. And hangouts = my territory. And my territory = I want to be the king of it.


Killer is the psychological designator created by a fellow named Richard Bartle. It’s used to classify Gamers into a player type. The other 3 designators are Socializer, Achiever, and Explorer.

Don’t get hung up on the “Gaming” nomenclature. As far as we’re concerned, EVERYTHING is a game.

  • The number of your Twitter followers is a kind of a score, and wherever there’s a score, there’s a game
  • Buy 10 get 1 free cup of coffee punch-card in your pocket is a game mechanism
  • Boarding first on the airplane is a game mechanism

Life is a game, my dear reader.

Anyways, the Killer in me who wants to knock-off a current Mayor of my favorite hang-out is called a Killer simply because in order for me to win, someone has to lose. That’s what makes a Killer different from other psychological designators.

It’s not enough for me to win, someone else must lose. I never knew that about myself. But FourSquare has brought it out of me and enabled me to explore that side of me. Thnx FourSqaure.


Combine those two factors. Status seeking male with a Killer instinct, and you get a male who’s looking to “game” the system.

The simple truth of any system (Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Government, school, Triberr…) is that someone will ALWAYS look to game it. And so I did.

So, I decided to try and game FourSqaure, and let me tell you, it’s sooooo easy.

There’s a coffee shop by my house that I never stepped foot into, but it comes up on my FourSqaure check-in list when I’m home. I have a funny feeling I will become the Mayor of that place in no time what so ever.

There are couple of places in downtown Tucson that are near by. So every time I check into Sparkroot -for example- I can check into Hub. Or if I’m walking my dogs and passing by one of these places, I can pull them up on my phone and check in without actually stepping foot.

Why would I want to do this?

Well, like I mentioned, Status alone is enough reason to want to game the system. But Mayors often get significant discounts, so there is a monetary incentive to cheat, as well.

Privacy is a non-issue

For privacy advocates and people who worry about stalkers, I don’t think you have anything to be concerned about.

You can check-in to wherever you like (as long as you’re somewhat close to it) and you don’t actually have to ever step foot in the location. Actually, it might be a good way to fool a stalker. And since it doesn’t have to be true check-in, privacy is not really being violated.

It Wasn’t Me

It made me think. Could there ever be a day when a FourSquare check-in would be admissible in court?

Imagine a lawyer saying something like:

Your honor. It couldn’t have been my client who committed these crimes. See? His FourSqaure records clearly show that he checking into Place A while crimes were being committed in Place B.

Nope. I suspect that day will never come.

  • Are you on FourSqaure or Gowala (Facebook check-in)?
  • Do you cheat?
  • Do you consider yourself an early adopter?

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi 🙂

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  • EvelynAlvarez

    Great post killer!

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      thnx sweetness 😡 @EvelynAlvarez

  • http://DempseyMarketing.com/journal/ RobertDempsey

    Yes I’m on FourSquare. No I don’t cheat (my iPhone isn’t even connected to a cell network here in Thailand). Yes I’m an early adopter of technologies, unless they’re complete f*ing pointless to me like say, Klout or Empire Avenue. Tried those and left. Got better things to do with my time, like build awesome apps.

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      wud up there, 4Sq buddy 🙂

      When am I gonna start seeing you check in state side? @RobertDempsey

      • http://DempseyMarketing.com/journal/ RobertDempsey

        @dino_dogan should be this summer, and I might be near your old stomping grounds, on the other side of the river. We’ll see 🙂

  • GeeklessTech

    I like Foursquare, and never cheat. You get some decent deals in the area. The only thing that I dislike is my phone not pinning my current location, and bringing up locations 5 miles away. That’s when I say maybe next time, as I’m not starting a search.

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      hey Steve…loved your SU post…Im going overthere to answer Mark’s statement of SU being “bad” traffic. @GeeklessTech

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com/ wonderoftech

    Yes, I’m a Killer and I cheat. I’ve lost mayorships a few places and currently am mayor at four establishments in two states. Four Square has given me some great deals ($25 off an Android phone) and has helped me meet up with a friend who was at a local restaurant.

    I don’t use my actual photo, making it a wee bit more difficult for stalkers to find me. Oh yeah, the cheating helps with that too.

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      hehe..now the Killers are coming out 🙂 @wonderoftech

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      wait! two states? how is that possible? Do you live on the border of two states or are you secret superman flying back and forth? lol @wonderoftech

  • http://zombieresponseteam.net/ MorganBarnhart

    I will admit that I have gamed the system a couple times. But I only gamed the system when I was competing with other people to be the mayor of one location. In order to become mayor of a location, you have to go to other locations, check in there and then go back to the location you want to be mayor. This way Foursquare knows that you’re not just sitting in the same place, checking in every 4 hours trying to get mayor – I guess Foursquare thinks that cheating or something. Psh.

    Anyway, I was as reluctant to use Foursquare as you were. I would always say, “Yes, that’s exactly what was missing in my life, for everyone to know where I am at all times!”

    But I quickly got over that when I realize I could get mayorship of my couch.

    Really funny you mention Foursquare going to court…I think it’s possible. If someone is dumb enough to check in somewhere when they’re not supposed to (for whatever reason…say…robbing a bank, I can see it now, “Mark checked in at Allied Bank with this message, “Robbing the place, bitches!!!!”), then why can’t it be used against them in a court of law?

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan

      oohh…thats an interesting situation. I can NOT see 4Sq being used to prove someone wasnt someplace, but I guess I could see it being used to prove someone WAS someplace. At least to build a circumstantial possibility. haha…that woould really such for the robber lol @MorganBarnhart

  • zakkthebear

    I seriously cannot tell you how many $1 beers, $25 AMEX gift cards, movie, tix, concert tix, free muffins, appetizers, and lift tickets I’ve won on Foursquare. it’s an awesome bonus, but the badges and the digital trail of breadcrumbs of my (mis)adventures is what keeps me coming back. Its almost like geo-digital-scrapbooking

    • http://diyblogger.net/ dino_dogan


      App idea. Hansel and Gretel spacial and timeline view based on 4Sq, and other location tracking software. As in, I click on the data, and it shows where I’ve been, what I’ve done (tweeted, posted, checked in, etc).

      hmmm….sounds like a nice side project 🙂


  • http://www.highballblog.com/ Constantin Gabor

    Yeah, this is the Dino I’ve been missing. Awesome post, man!

    Not an early adopter. No iPhone (and I wouldn’t receive one even as a gift, I’d give it away), no iPad, not on FourSquare, not on Gowalla. 

    I don’t cheat too much. And when I see those “bastards” winning I feel like I should reconsider. 🙂