Sunday, May 22, 2011

Improved SMS interface for Foursquare

Last November, I wrote a post criticizing Foursquare’s SMS (text message) interface. The interface was so badly broken that, more often than not, it was impossible for me to check in to my desired venues.

Last week, I was informed through a comment to that post that a company called DOTGO had implemented a new, improved SMS interface for Foursquare. I’ve tried it out a few times since then, and it’s a big step forward. It attempts to correct at least two of my biggest problems with the old interface:
  • When your venue search matches multiple venues, the new interface asks you to pick which one you meant.
  • The new interface purports to allow you to change your current city. However, I’ve run into problems using this, as described below.

Here’s an example session of a successful checkin. DOTGO’s responses came promptly after each message I sent. Note that each of DOTGO’s responses was split into two SMS messages.

Send:

Foursquare checkin froehlich

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Froehlich Packing Company

77 D Street Ext

Nobody’s here!

(1) Public Check in (reply 1 + shout)

(2) Check in with options

(2/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

(3) Matthew H is mayor

(4) Tips – (0)

(5) Home

Send:

1

Receive:

(1/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

OK! We’ve got you @ Froehlich Packing Company. You’ve been here 4 times. (3 points for this checkin, #4 on leaderboard

(2/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

(1) You’re still the Mayor of Froehlich Packing Company! (1 check-in in the past two months)

(2) Back

(3) Home

Here is an example session in which I try to change my current city. I was unable to get this feature to work. (There’s a couple of false starts at first, which were my fault, in the sense that I wasn’t using the menu options as intended. But by the end, I think I was doing it right, and it still wasn’t working.)

Send:

Foursquare

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Welcome back Matthew!

You’re in Johnstown, PA

(1) Check-Ins

(2) Tips Nearby

(3) Check in (3 + place)

(4) To-Do

(5) Profile

(6) Help

Send:

3 ebensburg pa

Receive:

(1/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

Venues for ebensburg pa (near Johnstown, PA):

(1) Justins Parents (… Street)

… (additional venues continue, overflowing to a second message)

(2) Chateau de Parker (621 …)

(2/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

(3) Roxbury Park (1430 Franklin St)

(4) More

 

(5) New search

(6) Search another city

(7) Home

Send:

6 ebensburg pa

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Please enter a location you’d like to search around (e.g. new york city)

You may also reply (1) to return home

Send:

ebensburg pa

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Please reply with a venue name to search near ebensburg pa

You may also reply (1) to return home

Send:

giant eagle

Receive:

(1/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

Venues for giant eagle (near Johnstown, PA):

(1) Giant Eagle (1451 Scalp Avenue)

(2) Giant Eagle ()

(3) Giant Eagle ()

(4) More

(2/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

(5) New search

(6) Search another city

(7) Home

Send:

6

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Please enter a location you’d like to search around (e.g. new york city)

You may also reply (1) to return home

Send:

ebensburg, pa

Receive:

(1/1) FOURSQUARE.COM

Please reply with a venue name to search near ebensburg, pa

You may also reply (1) to return home

Send:

giant eagle

Receive:

(1/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

Venues for giant eagle (near Johnstown, PA):

(1) Giant Eagle (1451 Scalp Avenue)

(2) Giant Eagle ()

(3) Giant Eagle ()

(4) More

(2/2) FOURSQUARE.COM

(5) New search

(6) Search another city

(7) Home

You can see that even after it asks me for venue names to search “near ebensburg, pa”, the results it returns are still “near Johnstown, PA”. This seems like a bug, and I’ll see if I can get a solution from DOTGO. (Also, I’d like to be able to say “6 city, st” to set the location in a single go, instead of sending “6” and then sending the city and state in another separate message.)

Once the location change is working right, this new interface will be a dramatic improvement over the old one, and I applaud DOTGO for their efforts. I do find the new interface a bit too chatty (too much back-and-forth, as in the examples above). The one thing that the old interface had going for it was that you could do a checkin with a single message (when it actually worked). If my venue search is unambiguous, I’d like it to just check me in right away.

Because of all the back-and-forth, with many of DOTGO’s responses split over two messages, users who pay by the message, or have a limited number of messages, should keep an eye on their usage.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Matthew,
    I share your opinions on the new SMS check-in system. I had the same problem checking in when we went to NYC. I went through almost the identical scenario to try to check in at the restaurant we went to. It just kept sending me that restaurant near my home town. I gave up on the restaurant, but later tried to check in at the theatre. That was no problem. Went through just the way I think they intended it to work. It is still a few more messages than I would like to have to send/receive for one simple check-in, but definitely better than the old system!
    Kathy T.

    ReplyDelete