In David Hirschman’s post, “Why Do We Check In?,” he quotes the tweet of a social media professional: “I did not want to be mayor of my dentist’s office. Why did I even check in?” I have been trying to figure that out myself over the past year.
Last fall, I drafted a post about “checking in” that I never published here, as I just couldn't tie it in sufficiently. But now I have a little better perspective on where the link is between “check-ins” and Unified Communications. Basically, a “check-in” is a piece of presence information and is clearly part of the UC paradigm (yes, that is my smiling face on the Wikipedia page for “presence”).
In the drafted post, I mentioned playing around with social networking tools that broadcast to the world where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with. For example, I “checked in” to a number of places and tagged my brother, Joe, as being in attendance. But because Joe might feel I violated his right to privacy, my brother could (and likely would) go into Facebook and revoke my rights to tag his location. However, even with such a privacy setting, nothing could prevent some other person in attendance from tweeting, “I am with @NetThink and his brother Joe at The Bedford in Chicago.”
There is some benefit to “checking in,” but because “location” is already well-established as a piece of presence information, what role do manual check-ins play? It seems like “check-ins” are mostly about bragging rights (i.e.—“Look at how cool I am, backstage with Bono at the #SaveTheWorld event with my brother Joe”). That said, there is something cool about the serendipity of meeting up with a long-lost friend who just happens to be at the same event you are.
“Check-ins” have a long way to go before they are broadly accepted. For example, I would gladly give LinkedIn my location information in exchange for notices that certain professional acquaintances were at the same trade show, but I would not welcome LinkedIn sharing with my whole professional network that I was at my local Target store buying laundry detergent. For that reason, I can understand why “check-ins” might be better as a piece of manual (rather than automated) presence information, because with manual check-ins, I am more or less inviting others who are at an event or in the vicinity to meet up with me.
All that brings me to the Mayor of Sprint (on FourSquare.com, of course). As of this writing, a total of 885 people have checked into the Overland Park, Kansas, headquarters of Sprint a grand total of 12,466 times. The FourSquare-anointed “Mayor” (the person who checked in the most over the last 60 days) had checked in 44 times. As far as I can tell, this is perfect attendance if the venue allows only one check-in per day. I am not sure how valuable FourSquare is for this type of venue (Sprint has presence information already as part of its UC platform), but if we look at the namesake Sprint Center, the utility of check-ins might be a little more obvious.
More than 6,400 people have checked in at the Sprint Center in Kansas City for its various events (concerts, arena football, NCAA basketball, rodeos, and Disney on Ice). A total of 322 photos have been posted of the venue and four pages of user-generated “tips” have been added to the page. I can understand why event-goers might enjoy knowing if any of their friends are also at any given event, but I am still not up with this “mayor” thing.
The only venue I am the mayor of on FourSquare is the Computers and Society class that I teach at Bradley University. Despite the fact that I have only checked in twice in the past 60 days, that is more than any of my students. This fact, more than anything else, suggests to me that this “check-in” thing will never be much more than a niche feature of UC, and it’s a long way from being valuable or practical for most people and for most venues.