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Foursquare blends gaming and networking

By Larry Fiorino
Dolan Media Newswires

Baltimore — Just when you were learning how to send Tweets on Twitter, there’s a new social media network that wants to link you to your friends.

It is called Foursquare, and it’s part connection tool and part game, and depending on just how social you are, you could end up being named the mayor of your favorite social gathering spot.

So, what is the deal?  Well, more and more technology is dedicated to connecting people. Just look at the way that social media is taking the world by storm.

Twitter and Facebook ask users to answer one simple question — what’s on your mind? Foursquare answers the question — where are you and what are you doing?

Now Foursquare notifies your friends of your location every time you “check in.”

You can use your cell phone to check in from almost anywhere — at a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, art gallery or pretty much anyplace.

When you check in, Foursquare alerts your friends to your current location so they can drop by and say hello.

What is so special about Foursquare? Foursquare has several competitors, but has attracted more attention because it incorporates elements of gaming and social competition.

Most people are very competitive (whether they know it or not), and Foursquare awards points and virtual badges to players depending on how often they go out and which places they visit.

The top designation is when you become mayor of your favorite location. How can you do that? Simple — just check in from your favorite hangout more than anyone else.

Anyone can join Foursquare. All you need is a phone that can text or preferably has access to the Web so you can check in and also receive updates of where your friends are. You can even check in from your PC if need be.

For the best experience, you will need to load an app on your phone.

The Foursquare iPhone and Android apps use the phone’s GPS to determine your location and suggest nearby establishments to check in from. An app for BlackBerry is on its way.

Of course there are privacy concerns with Foursquare, because you may not want everyone knowing exactly where you are. But, like other social networking sites, you can tweak the settings so only certain people know of your whereabouts.

Larry Fiorino is founder and chief executive of G.1440, a Baltimore-based e-solutions firm.

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