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Winter Author Blog Challenge #9: Paranoia or practicality? A host of opinions about saying NO to FourSquare

Woo-hoo! The Winter Author Blog Challenge is underway. This time around, the Challenge is just 15 days, and our focus is social media. The goal is for participants to post all 15 days, following the daily prompts provided, if they so choose. As with the inaugural Author Blog Challenge that took place last summer, I’ll be playing along with all of the posts, even though Marcie and I are the hosts!

Here we go with the NINTH prompt of the Winter Author Blog Challenge:

What are your thoughts about FourSquare? For those unaware, FourSquare is a location tracking platform. Its users foursquare“check in” at various locations with a mobile device and are able to find out (track?) where their friends are. Location is based on GPS hardware in the mobile device or a network location provided by the app itself. Many members use foursquare and its competitors for the discounts. Or perhaps you want people to know which bookstore you’re in for your signing or event. Are you using FourSquare? Is there a way to use it to encourage better attendance at your signings and events? What are the pluses and drawbacks? Be sure to give us the link to your profile!

For lack of a better term, I think of FourSquare as a location revelation platform. People who use FourSquare and sites like it “check in” at various locations with a mobile device and are able to find out (track?) where their friends are. The location is based on GPS hardware in the mobile device or a network location provided by the app itself. Many members use foursquare and its competitors for the discounts. Or perhaps you want people to know which bookstore you’re in for your signing or event – but use your common sense. If you live alone, don’t announce you’re leaving the bar to go home at 2 a.m.

I'm WATCHING you!

I’m WATCHING you!

I recall meeting a guy nearly a half-dozen years ago who had an idea for an application like FourSquare. His thought was that you could simply send out a message that said, “Hey, I’m heading to the Community Art Cinema. Anyone want to catch a matinee of A Clockwork Orange?” Then those online at the time and interested could find you and hook up. I didn’t quite get it then (although Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy, no one was using them via their phones of for messaging like this), and I don’t really get it now.

I’ve never been what you’d call a privacy freak. If you want to know about me, just Google my name and quite a bit is revealed. I also know the risks of putting anything anywhere on the Internet. If you don’t want people to find you – or steal your content – don’t be online. Ever. For any reason. Not condoning plagiarism, fraud, or similar malfeasance – just aware that it happens, and exposure to such risk is the cost of participating in the World Wide Web.

All that said, I have no desire for anyone except my husband to know where I am 24/7 – and even he doesn’t know every detail of my days because our relationship is built on trust so we don’t require each other to wear ankle bracelets. Common sense also tells me that it’s probably best not to announce to the world where you are at every given moment of the day. The only benefit I see from doing so is to earn points or savings on certain items, but when it comes down to it, is any savings really worth exposing yourself so thoroughly?

I was concerned I stood alone on this issue, but the app has a tiny user base (compared to other social networks) that seems to be declining. Maybe everyone is starting to reconsider the desirability of location revelation on a mass scale. According to an August 18 New York Post article, “The mobile network counts 25 million members, even though … data shows far fewer active ones.”

Additionally, most Winter Author Blog Challenge participants stacked up with an unfavorable outlook on FourSquare. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

ASHLEY HOWLAND. Today’s prompt was about foursquare. I think I have an account, but never use it. I don’t like the idea of people knowing where I am all the time. So I’m not convinced this is of any use to me as an author or just in general. Will be interested to read other people’s takes. READ MORE HERE.

MERLENE FAWDRY. When I do want to publicise an event I tend to use other methods, print invitations, flyers, email, Facebook and other media On the plus side, it does have great maps and this could be useful in the absence of a GPS – or a print copy street directory. This works for me. READ MORE HERE.

RUNDY PURDY. Call me paranoid but I really wonder if people are thinking about these possibilities and implications enough. Yes, it is fun to share where you have been, what you are doing, but are you confident who is seeing that information? Would you be comfortable if the entire world could see that information? The more you become a public figure the more pointed these questions become. Authors want to use social media to get their name out in the world, but there is a negative side to that greater visibility. Sometimes you attract the attention of less savoury characters. Do you share on social media with that possibility in mind? READ MORE HERE.

MELISSA KHALINKSY. One of the drawbacks is remembering to check in, also, I don’t want everyone to know where I am when I’m out with my kids. Also, when I’m on my mobile, I’m conscious of not going over my data limit. It’s different when I’m somewhere I can connect with WiFi. I’ve also only just started adding friends to my list. I haven’t used discounts or special offers yet, mostly because the places I’ve been visiting haven’t had offers listed. READ MORE HERE.

SANDI TUTTLE. There is a saying: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” I don’t think I am paranoid, but I really dislike the thought that some unknown someone somewhere in Cyberspace can figure out that I’m getting a manicure. Perhaps this is just my age showing. I see all the ads on TV about how cool it is to ‘connect’ and how easy it is to use your smart phone to find the perfect fusion restaurant on a Thursday night. Except that I think my husband would rather starve than eat fusion, we haven’t eaten out on a Thursday night in 20 years, and I can’t imagine anyone being so interested in our location that they need to use some Eye in the Sky to find us.

I remember some early applications of cable TV that didn’t pan out because they were ahead of their time. Eventually, the practical application for the technology caught up with what they had, and a new fun thing was packaged and sold to the masses. It is possible that FourSquare is in this position. READ MORE HERE.

JO MICHALES. I find FourSquare to look a lot like my Google maps app. While I can see the usefulness of it if appearing in public, I’m a bit of a private person. I’m not really keen on everyone being able to find me anywhere I’m hanging out. Same reason I use a pen name. Not awesome to have folks you don’t know loitering on your lawn or sending you angry letters because you had the audacity to write something they didn’t agree with.

Now, if I wanted to know where to find something and didn’t have a different maps app on my device, I’d consider using FourSquare for that function. But to have a whole plethora of people knowing where I am at any given moment of the day? No, thank you. I’ll pass. READ MORE HERE.

Would love to hear your take on FourSquare in the comments section below. Do you see a practical use for authors – or is it just better left alone?

Sorry – you won’t be finding me on FourSquare. But look just about everywhere else!

Laura

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