What My 10 Year Old Teaches Me Every Day About Technology & Social Media

Bill Hartnett: What a 10-Year-Old Teaches Me Every Day about Technology and Social Media

Here’s something I wrote a few weeks back for David Berkowitz’s Marketers Studio marketing blog. If you are not already familiar with him or his work, he is an all-around awesome guy with an insatiable curiosity for gadgets, innovation and desserts.

Fourstalgia vs NYPL Time Traveller

A few weeks ago the New York Public Library launched NYPL Time Traveller, an app that connects to your Foursquare account and surfaces historical pictures when you check in near historical places around New York City. When you check in, Foursquare alerts you that there are historical pictures nearby and you can click through to check them out. I love anything that supercharges the Foursquare experience and hooked it up immediately.

Check out history when you check in

The photos come from the library’s Photographic Views of New York City collection. The archive is more than 54,000 photos deep ranging from the 1870s through the 1970s with the bulk coming from the 1910-1940 period. The app was created as part of the NYPL Historical Geolocation Hackathon.

Step back 96 years in time

Another historical photos app that covers the same territory is Fourstalgia which launched about a year ago. The app was created by Jon Hoffman, a coder at Foursquare, and draws upon the archives of SepiaTown. I raved about it here last summer.

Places that are gone

Having two powerful apps that make my check ins more interesting and informative only makes Foursquare a more valuable tool when I am out and about. History is a big draw for me and I love the ability to dig beneath the surface and add context to my daily travels.

However, I want MORE from Fourstalgia and Time Traveller. Give me information about the buildings, structures and places from the past. Photos are the primary attraction, but additional context, depth and knowledge are key to fuller engagement with both apps. One huge plus with Fourstalgia is the photos are big and well-captioned. The Time Traveller does date the photos, however they are small and dark. You can tap to enlarge, but they don’t get that much bigger. It is such a shame to have a rich archive only to shortchange the user with tiny photos. Another advantage with Fourstalgia is their photo library is global while Time Traveller is NYC-only. Both apps allow social sharing to Twitter.

Please make the pictures bigger
Big, bold pictures

In the end both are great add-ons to Foursquare and provide a richer way to explore the city. Give them both a test drive and let me know what you think.

Turf – For the Foursquare Obsessive who has Everything

Turf start page

Some might say I am a little bit obsessive with Foursquare … and that might be true. Yes, I have checked in everywhere and anywhere for the past 2 1/2 years. Yes, I spent an entire weekend in 2010 on a quest for badges (extensive blog post coming someday). Right away I loved the game mechanics and the perfect combination of curation, discovery and random serendipity of the location based app. I want each update to give me better tools to find the best dish on the menu, locate the coffee shop with free wifi and help me discover the secrets of every new neighborhood.

I love checking out new Foursquare apps and hacks that add to that experience. A favorite new one that I’ve discovered is called Turf (or fully Turf Geography Club). It started as a Kickstarter project and now you can find the app in the Apple App Store (coming to Android soon). I first read about it on Mashable earlier this month where Turf founder Michael Tseng called it “real-world Monopoly.”

Basically you earn coins and crystals for checking in and spend your loot on acquiring locations. Once you own a property you not only collect rent, but must maintain the properties and can develop them to add to their value. Watch out, other stealthy players will try and spin the wheel to nab your prized properties. Of course, you win trophies as you gain experience and add to your virtual real estate portfolio. Also, it seems like the game offers plenty of opportunity for the developers to add to the experience and make Turf even better.

Initially the user interface and learning curve offer a bit of a challenge, but a little gameplay and trial-and-error will have you navigating the app like a pro. Right now they aren’t that many people playing and since Twitter has been blocking apps from helping you discover your friends, it’s hard to find your people. However, I know a couple of fellow obsessives who are playing so it has been very fun so far. While I love Foursquare apps that are baked into the core app, Turf is a standalone app, but it’s worth your time to open it up and play real estate mogul. And the retro Ranger Rick/Smokey the Bear graphics are pretty cool indeed.

So I am calling on all Foursquare obsessives to check out Turf. Download the app and start buying up your neighborhood. I would love to see you there!

Belonging – Past, Present and Future


Today I visited the Hoboken Historical Museum for their excellent new exhibit I Belong: A History of Civic and Social Clubs in Hoboken. What was truly remarkable was how strong the need to belong to a group has been throughout the history of Hoboken.

More than 250 groups have bonded together in the Mile Square City going back to The Turtle Club, an organization dating back to 1796 initially dedicated to eating all the turtles on the west side of the Hudson. Freemasons, Elks, Oddfellows, theater groups, singing organizations and the ubiquitous social clubs all followed. Today, the Elks and many of the social clubs are still around as well as new groups dedicated to running, motorcycles, parenting, skiing, theater and more.

I had an interesting conversation with the curator, Bob Foster, about the impact of social media on Hoboken’s groups and organizations and on the museum itself. I introduced him to Fourstalgia and solved the mystery that had brought me to the museum in the first place.

Fourstalgia kept surfacing a vintage picture of the Quartett-Club whenever I checked in on Foursquare in uptown Hoboken. Where was this striking building and what was this club? It turns out that the club was a German American singing organization formed in the latter half of the 19th century and their hall was right next to the present day Elks Club on Washington between 10th and 11th. It became the Gayety Theater early in the 20th century and was unfortunately torn down in the twenties.

Throughout the exhibit the photos, stories, programs and memorabilia told a fascinating narrative of proud people uniting around common interests and fulfilling that strong basic need of belonging. We marvel at the power Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to attract millions of users, but sometimes forget how people have always come together to share stories, laughter, causes, passions and fellowship. Maybe we just have better tools today.

I love the power of social media and the ability to find my people, but wonder if gathering online adds or subtracts from our capacity to come together in the real world. What do you think?

In Praise of Fourstalgia

One of my favorite new additions to Foursquare is Fourstalgia. It’s a very cool hack project built by Jon Hoffman @hoffrocket, an engineer at Foursquare.

When you connect the app your check-ins surface local historical photos through SepiaTown, a crowd sourced database of historical photos.

What’s awesome about Fourstalgia is both how simple and immediately rewarding it is. You get additive content that is completely relevant and it is built right into your Foursquare experience. If you want to share the photos you can tweet right from the app.

The only thing on my wishlist is additional historical information that tells me more about the pictures. You get a short description, but I need to know everything about the Quartette Club Hall in Hoboken right now.

Try it out and let me know what you think.