FourSquare Cheater Rant

One of my favorite iPhone apps is FourSquare, aka #Foursquare and #4sq on Twitter. FourSquare is a location-based social networking website, software for mobile devices, and a game. Registered users can update their location and connect with friends via mobile application (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm, etc). FourSquare gives you the option to connect to  Facebook and Twitter to share your checkins as you choose to. It’s a great way to see where your friends are, get ideas on places to eat, and highlight local businesses.

Points and incentive badges are awarded for adding new venues, checking in with a certain frequency, or for visiting a specific venue a designated amount of times. When a user has checked in more times at a specific venue than any other user, they will be crowned “mayor.”

When you have a suggestion that other visitors might enjoy at the venue, pay it forward and post a tip. You may save someone a really awful meal/experience by giving them the heads-up.

I have to admit that FourSquare can get very addicting. I started “playing” at the end of January, and I was one of only two “players” in Spanish Fork. The southern Utah County area was barely touched with places to check in, and I racked up points like crazy going to all the places I frequent. One problem is that there are no firm/established guidelines or rules for Foursquare use, and it would be helpful if new users were given some type of etiquette tutorial. The etiquette for FourSquare use seems to be constantly evolving. Unfortunately, as anything gains momentum and becomes popular, people are going to start cheating.  Within the past 5 days, I’ve gone from 31 mayorships to 14, due to two particular local newbie cheaters. Can you guess who?

Is it really worth your integrity to cheat on a social networking game? Why knock off the rightful mayors, who actually support local businesses, with driveby checkins at places you don’t even frequent? The two particular cheaters have already put in 50+ checkins in 4 days, and are threatening to oust me from the rest of my local spots. Why would someone want to be the mayor of a physical therapy office, if they’ve never had an injury? What’s the street cred (other than drug seeker) in having twice-daily stops at a pharmacy? What’s the worth in checking in at a library when they aren’t even open on Sundays? Most of my frequent stops in town know me by name, appreciate my business, read the reviews I’ve written on my blog, and smile when I walk in their store. I’m a competitive person, and this game is right up my alley, but I’m not willing to cheat to stay on top.

A personal word to cheaters: If you REALLY want to rack up mayorships and points, add your own venues. Don’t steal the mayorships that are valid and earned honestly? You get +5 points for every place you add. Sure, it’s easy to open the app, punch in rapid-fire driveby checkins, and hurt feelings. But also…once you’ve ousted me, I’ve got your info. I have a personal contact at FourSquare that has asked me to tattle on the local newbie cheaters. Once you show a series of invalid checkins, you WILL be banned. And what fun is that?

To all the FourSquare Cheaters out there…this badge is for you:

  • Nice link at the end. 🙂 It may not have as much to do with cheating to win the game as it is just to get away with cheating. Not that I’m saying that I ever do that. Nope, never.

  • Great post… I have seen this trend starting as well…with people getting insane, if not impossible points.

    You have a contact at foursquare? #POWER


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  • Thanks for mentioning my Foursquare Etiquette piece! I was basically inspired by cheaters, but also by silly locations that I would see when trying to check into a “real” location, like a restaurant or bar.

    It’s really sad that people feel they need to cheat on Foursquare to “win” it. There’s really nothing to win, folks!

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  • It’s such a shame that people feel the need to cheat, it really belittles the efforts of those who genuinely and fairly play the game and add & edit venues for the benefit of all.

    I’ve seen people check in to ridiculous amounts of places in a short space of time including a restaurant for just 5 minutes, 2x coffee bars in the space of a minute and then 2x pubs 2 miles apart in the space of 15 minutes (Yes, all in the same “session”)

    The patterns of play are also interesting; such as only ever checking into a quiet place twice, just to get the mayorship. Or checking in to just one railway station (did they get on or off a train or just drive-by check in?). I saw a weird one where a guy checked in to 2x stations in short succession and they weren’t even on the same line!

    And then there’s checking in “after hours” – OK, some pubs have “lock ins” but I’ve seen people blatantly check in to places that are closed.

    What I really love is when you manage to get someone’s Gowalla feed and see that they’re checking in to places that are miles apart at exactly the same time – Gowalla is so much more accurate that you *know* they’re cheating by checking in to somewhere on 4sq that’s a mile away.

    Hopefully the mods to the checkins will soon eliminate cheating from people who check in from miles away, that day can only come too soon 🙂

  • It may seem like no big deal to pump your numbers just so you can get mayorships, but ultimately Foursquare is about sharing and adding value. Being one a few Foursquare participants in Spanish Fork, I can attest to what Nicole said about just adding venues. I haven’t done much as far as adding tips, but I have contributed venues, and venues with accurate information as far as address and phone numbers.

    Nicole did call me out on a double checkin that was actually accidental (phone said that it had problems connecting to server and ended up checking in twice). Accidents are one thing, cheating is just lame.

  • Agreed. It’s easy to get those unintentional double checkins. Because most of my FourSquare use is on my iPhone, it’s difficult to monitor my history. I occasionally catch my duplicates, but it’s never intentional. But when those cheaters decide to hit the library, grocery store, bank, deli and pharmacy at 1am…do they really think they won’t get caught?

    I’ve recently been entering my tip data. I’m not so interested in the “to dos.”

  • Unless you plan to meet other Foursquare users at your local convenience store at 1am, don’t check in there.

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  • I 100% agree with the above article, especially with those lame cheaters in the area – I know how bad they suck since I play in the same general area.

    But, I have noticed that ignoring the cheaters and playing like normal will eventually win out(at least for now). In one venue I frequent, I would check-in every time I was there. The cheater would steal my mayorship from me once a week with 7 or 8 quick checkins. Over time, the cheater has given up, and I am still the mayor.

    I think 4sq needs to figure out sub-venues/homes/work checkins, and then anti-cheat mechanisms can grow (more) organically from that. Or, a “report” button couldn’t be too hard, could it?

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  • Jared Parmenter

    So who was the other player in Spanish Fork?

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