If you use Foursquare, it’s kind of hard to justify what you’re doing as you inevitably explain for yourself to non-playing companions that you’re not being rude and texting, you’re part of a larger, location based game with internet people and you don’t want to lose your Chipotle mayorship or you’re trying to get the “Bklyn 4 Life” badge.
Even then, most people don’t really get what you’re doing- the first time I excitedly tried to explain Foursquare to a boyfriend, he looked at me quizzically and said, “well that sounds kind of… childish.” But now you have an anecdote for the haters who might find Foursquare to be a juvenile or pointless pursuit.
You may have heard by now that Times Square was evacuated today for the second time this month due to a bomb scare. The NYPD has to be Billy Ray Serious about this kind of thing, because we don’t know which attempts to blow up the great city of New York will actually be successful in their execution. And while some of us geekily have our phone beep when there’s breaking news on the wire, most Foursquare users are more likely to respond to a buzz or beep when a friend checks in somewhere. (So even if you’re not checking the news every second of the day, something like this could come in pretty handy.)
When reports came in that a someone saw something and said something, and that the north end of Times Square was being evacuated, the Wall Street Journal checked in to Foursquare. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley tweeted the screenshot above reporting to users that an evacuation was underway. And really, isn’t that clever? While Twitter has been used to great effect to spread news that may not be as easily reported through mainstream channels, it doesn’t have that ability to grab your attention in such a direct way. Something compelling or relevant to you might be going down this very second, but if you’re walking down a crowded city street, you’re not going to see or hear it. (Or, by extension, possibly get out of harm’s way in time.)
Disaster management via channels like Foursquare may be far off down the road, but this is certainly compelling as a standalone incident that illustrates how location aware services could be more than a way of telling people how many shots of Grey Goose you just downed. In other words, Foursquare could save your life.