What does a political title, a favorite repository of genealogists, an emerging new social networking site and a playground game all have in common? Sounds like a crazy combination of unrelated things, but everything will soon become clearer. It all has to do with foursquare which might become the hottest social networking site of 2010.
Even though the web site shares the same name, it doesn’t have much to do with the childhood playground game you might have played in elementary school. Unless you consider that it is supposed to be fun, has to do with locations, moving around, “checking-in” at different locations, and claiming your spot at the top of the ranks. On second thought, they both have a lot in common.
What is intended as a fun way to encourage people to go out on the town and visit various locations might just find a place in the genealogy world.
On the foursquare help page the site is described as “50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.” It then goes on to explain:
If you tell us where you are, we can tell you which of your friends are nearby. We call this “checking-in”. You can check-in from a park, bar, museum, restaurant, whatever.
If you are located in one of the 21 cities currently supported, you can check in using your cell phone, mobile device, or web browser to get credit for visiting a location. You can also leave a tip so that other visitors will know what to do. As additional incentives to visit places, you can earn points, badges, and if you have visited a location the most the title of mayor. It just makes the experience more fun.
So how can this relate to genealogy?
Think of the places where you do your genealogy research. It could be a family history center, court house, or the National Archives and Records Administration. By adding these venues to foursquare and tagging them with the keyword “genealogy” others will be able to discover places to do genealogy research in that city. You could also give tips such as “no photography allowed,” “On Tuesdays, Mrs. Jones can help with probate record questions,” “photocopies cost $1 per page,” or whatever information someone visiting that location might want to know. Think of the help this will be to those who are new to that repository.
There are already a few genealogy-related places listed in foursquare including NARA and the Family History Library. Even better you could be the first to be named mayor of the Family History Library and it will only take you 12 visits to dethrone the current mayor of the National Archives:
Expect to hear a lot about foursquare in 2010. Pete Cashmore in an online CNN article titled, Next year’s Twitter? It’s Foursquare, states:
As 2009 draws to a close, with Twitter undoubtedly this year’s media darling and Facebook continuing on its path to global domination, you may wonder which social-media service will become tech’s poster boy in 2010.
Among the Web’s early adopter set, the answer is nearly unanimous: Foursquare.
While the technology landscape is ever-changing, I’d argue that Foursquare already has aligned itself to become next year’s mainstream hit.
That remains to be seen, but I see great potential for the use of foursquare by the genealogy community. I encourage you to join foursquare, add your favorite research locations, tag them as “genealogy” venues, share your knowledge using tips, and claim your position as mayor of the National Archives (or any other places you visit).
I look forward to your comments about how you like this service and if you have found it useful.