My #FoursquareDetox

So, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed a bit of a review of self. Other than needing to get fitter and lose some weight, I realised that I was a bit too tied to some aspects of my social media-ised life. And my competitive streak didn’t help either. For this reason, I decided that it would be good for me to go on a #FoursquareDetox. What this means is that I have not checked-in with Foursquare since then (currently 12 days, as of the writing of this post). The funny part is, I was inspired/motivated/pushed to it by what I realised was over-use since I got my iPhone. This was highlighted to me when I spent a weekend messing with the v1 API for Foursquare, and checked in around the United States, parts of London, and even the Arctic Circle and the Pyramids. I’d gotten a bit too tied to having the most points amongst my connections, and grasping desperately to my mayorships (one I found was mine still as long as I checked in before 7:15am each day – that way I beat my opponent to the daily arrival and maintained my tenuous grip on it [very sad!!]).

Since the start of this #FoursquareDetox, I have noted it daily on Twitter (hashtag #FoursquareDetox) and I’ve noticed that this is pretty much the only time I think of it. I’ve even managed to already train myself to not grab for my iPhone as soon as I get somewhere. Benefits abound also, as my fiancee doesn’t need to roll her eyes at me constantly as I check-in to yet another location, and struggle to keep a tentative hold on my points lead (ah, yes, just another intangible collection of ‘0’s and ‘1’s for us to base our sense of worth on).

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Foursquare (in fact, I will resume check-ins again soon) however I have gained a new perspective on my level of commitment to the app. Interesting check-ins that actually mean something are still golden, but needing to have 1000 check-ins to my house or office is just a little on the need-to-be-committed side of the spectrum. I would say that this is also tempered by my residing in New Zealand, where there has been less of a communal/collective uptake of the game than places such as New York (where it was invented for, and is stil targetted at) or San Francisco (which is another thriving tech hub). Additionally, my detox is nothing to do with privacy concerns – where I check-in is generally public knowledge, and is information that 15 seconds on Google which acquire or be able to extrapolate (eg I spent 5 days at work this week; I was at home 7 nights this week; etc). Honestly, it pretty much came down to valuing my time, and wanting to be a little more productive.

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embedding a dynamic map of foursquare check-ins into your website

I’ve just been working with embedding foursquare locations in a website, and displayed on a map. After a bit of a fiddle around, I’ve come up with, what I think is, a very simple and dynamic solution. Simply go to http://foursquare.com/feeds/ and get your KML link.

To the end of this append ?count=ABC (where ABC is the number of results you want); e.g.:

http://feeds.foursquare.com/history/[YOUR_PERSONAL_CODE_HERE].kml?count=1

Be warned that you should keep this link private, as it gives access to your foursquare data.

Now, head across to Google Maps and past this link in the search box and click ‘Search’. You will end up seeing a map with your most recent (in my example I used ‘1’) foursquare check-in pin-pointed. This link is dynamic, in that it requests the most recent check-in from foursquare at time of use.

With this you can then grab the embed code from Google Maps and paste this into your site to provide a currently updated map showing where you last checked-in to foursquare. Again, be aware that the link to your foursquare data will be visible if someone knows how to inspect the source code of your page. For this reason, I recommend doing what I have done below, and pasting the check-in/s as images. This is not dynamic, but it is secure.

my iPad app round-up

So, I’ve had my iPad for over a month now, and I felt it was time to review the apps I have on it now. I figure a month is enough time to settle into my usage patterns and have discarded apps that just didn’t do it for me afterall.

1: Social Networking –

I don’t run one app for all my social networking, some people prefer to but I have found it better to have apps that focus on one thing, and do what they do do well. For Twitter, I was originally using Twitterific, and had just upgraded to the paid version the day before Twitter released their own app. Since then I have been devoted to the official Twitter app which is clean, intuitive, and just pretty much perfect in my book.

For Facebook, I am still floating between two apps; Friendly and the official Facebook iPhone app. Both are pretty good, Friendly is more aesthetically pleasing due to being designed for the iPad form-factor, while the official FB app seems a little more intuitive and “like” Facebook itself (as you would expect).

I’m also running FourSquare on my iPad, as I don’t have an iPhone (still!!).

2: Utilities / Lifestyle –

I have quite a few utilities set up on my iPad, for news I am running the fantastic NYTimes app, the TVNZ News app, and the NZ Herald app. I also use GeekNews to pull all my geeky tech blogs together into one streamlined place. The Mashable! app is great for a quick check up on what is trending or popping up online currently.
I am currently using PrinterShare for printing directly from the iPad on my home network. This will hopefully change when iOS4 is released for iPad (rumors indicate late November 2010 maybe).
I also have Google Earth, the IMDb app, and a great tracking app – Parcel – which allows you to just put in your tracking code allocated to the delivery you are expecting. Saves having to visit different websites and remember your tracking numbers for different companies. Some other little gems are:
Epicurious
Wikipanion
Evernote
– The WordPress app for blogging on the go
Shazam
Then for a bit of creative fun, I have GrooveMaker and Drums! GrooveMaker lets you mix tracks, and even create your own tracks on the fly. Drums! is just that, a complete drum set on your iPad – in fact, it’s actually three complete drum sets, as you can choose between Standard, Groove, and Acoustic kits. The sound is true to life, so go get it.

3: Web Dev –

A few free web-dev helpers tucked on the iPad too. I’ve got JsAnywhere and three great apps from Interactive Blasphemy. JavaScript Anywhere is a JavaScript tool which enables you to edit your JS script, adjust the CSS, and then view the results in an HTML page. You can email the results to yourself. From Interactive Blasphemy I have robots.txt, which is just that, a robots.txt generator; Password, which generates passwords of random characters of length and complexity specified; and RGB/HSB/Hex, which enables you to create that perfect shade for you web job, and also then suggests good matching and contrasting colors.

4: Games –

Yep, the main reason most people have an iPad. I am personally a big fan of the logic/strategy games. I’ll list them all, then comment on a few of them, with more in-depth reviews being added, along with links to the iTunes store, later on:
– iFighter – essentially the classic fighter game 1945 remade for the iPad
– Harbor Master
– FlightControl HD
– Canabalt
– Gravity Hook
– Angry Birds
– Angry Birds (Halloween Special)
– Cut the Rope
– Pocket Frogs
– Plants vs Zombies
– Fruit Ninja HD
– Steve Young Football
– Build-A-Lot 2
– Blue Block
– Crazy Traffic: Crashed XL
– Train Conductor 2: U.S.A.
– No, Human
– Trainyard
– UFO On Tape
– Railway
– Chicktionary
– NOM
– Fish Eat Fish
– Dismount
– GearedHD
– Air Hockey
– TicTacDojo
– Little Metal Ball
– Soosiz HD
– Physics HD
– Gravity HD
– Tilt to Live HD
– NinJump
– Red Bull RC
– Asymmetry
– 8Bit Rebellion (the Linkin Park game)

Surprisingly enough, I have found my usage of the iPad to be alot different than I planned for. I have found the games an easy way to take a 5 minute break when I need to, but have found that I actually now tend to jump on Twitter or a news site when I want a 5 minute chill out. I am still just working with iBooks as my book-reader and PDF-reader of choice. Primarily because I have no need of the flasher features of the other readers out there. Overall, I have to say that the iPad is proving itself to be very worthwhile as a tool; and I keep finding new ways for it to excel and prove it’s worth.