The absurd satisfaction of playing Foursquare

Friday, April 03, 2009

When I try to explain to people that I'm really into four square these days, I get a lot of blank looks. That's the natural reaction, given that most people's first association is of course to think of the schoolyard game. And sure, that's good fun, but I haven't played it in probably 15 years. The Foursquare I'm referring to is a kind of game, and a kind of social networking service -- and yes, you can score points, but that's only part of the fun.

Foursquare, from the same programmers who created the much loved and now closed service Dodgeball (they have a thing for games), is a mobile social networking game -- you "check in" from wherever you are, either using their iPhone app or via text message, and it lets your friends know where you are and what you're doing. This is useful enough as it is, and joins the growing ranks of location services like Loopt and Google Latitude that are all about broadcasting where you are and keeping track of your movements. Instead of connecting people through friends of friends, these networks connect people through what they do and where they go. Rather than learning about you by reading your list of favorite movies, I can find out what your favorite bars are, and how you spend a Saturday afternoon. Foursquare adds another element to this interaction, though: You get points for your check ins, and badges for reaching certain achievements; for instance, the Bender Badge is awarded if you check in more than four times in a row in any given week.

The points don't get you anything, except for the respect and admiration of other Foursquare users. There's a leaderboard you can check out from your iPhone, which ranks you against your friends and other people in your city (so far, the service is available in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, LA, Minneapolis, NYC, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC). Since each check in means points, there's an incentive to check in with every little thing you do -- it gets addictive quickly. At the deli? Better check in! Waiting at the bus stop? Let the world know about it! Like the absurd mundanity of Twitter, Foursquare encourages broadcasting the small stuff, letting people know where you went for lunch. And that's exactly the appeal -- get to know what I do, and you'll get to know who I am. And there's an undeniable joy at finding yourself near the top of the week's leaderboard. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go check in -- I'm trying to earn some points here.

You can check in, too -- The Takeaway's playing a game with your morning routine, and you can revel in the glory of winning points by calling in to 1-877-8-MY-TAKE, by emailing us at mytake@thetakeaway.org or by leaving a comment. Let us know the insane and incredibly mundane things you're up to. Instructions are here.

Scott Lamb is a senior editor at BuzzFeed. Related:
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Play The Takeaway's "Where Are You?" game this morning online and on air

Friday, April 03, 2009

We're talking about the online/offline game Foursquare this morning, and we're playing a game on air and online at The Takeaway.

It's easy to play. Call us at 1-877-8-MY-TAKE, email us at mytake@thetakeaway.org, or leave a comment to check in. Tell us where you are and what you're doing. Be as specific as possible. And don't forget to tell us your name or handle!

You know what we're doing right now. It's time to tell us what YOU'RE doing! No matter how mundane or insane! If you're in the kitchen: Call us. If you're on the subway: Call us. Fleeing the country? Call us! You get a point each time you check in. And you'll get bonus points for frequency and outlandishness. Look for a leader board Friday morning at thetakeaway.org.

Read more about the absurd satisfaction of playing Foursquare.

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Ask Ford CEO Alan Mulally about future of the U.S. auto industry

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Like a Rock, or a little rocky? Ford Motor Co., the innovator behind the Model T, is seeing its sales slide as GM and Chrysler seek a government bailout. What's Ford's new model for the American car? Ford CEO Alan Mulally took your questions on Friday's Takeaway. Listen to his answers.
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The Takeaway for Thursday, April 2, 2009 (Final Edition)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

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Saving history: The biologist who protected six million bird-watching notecards

Thursday, April 02, 2009

For nearly 100 years, birds couldn't shake their human paparazzi.

As part of the U.S. government's Bird Migration Program, bird enthusiasts from Kansas to the West Indies tracked down our feathered friends — the Jennifer Anistons of yesteryear — scribbling down notes about their habits: When they came to the area in springtime, where they roosted (and with whom they roosted), and when they flew away for winter.

The note-taking program was first started in 1882 under the leadership of bird expert Wells W. Cook, and it ended in 1970. I spoke with the program's last director, Chandler Robbins, who, at 90, is just three years into his retirement from the United States Geological Survey. Robbins has been protecting the notecards from the incinerator for more than 30 years. He gave us a history of the bird program and told us why it's so important for the two-by-fives to be dusted off and used — before the paper that holds them crumbles away. Click on the LISTEN button below to hear the conversation!
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The Takeaway for Thursday, April 2, 2009 (Early Edition)

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Headlines; News from the G-20 summit
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It's the age of iPod diplomacy. What goes on the playlist?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

In yet another act of embracing technology, President Obama has invented a new kind of diplomacy: Giving world leaders iPods with custom play lists. The iPod he gave to Queen Elizabeth II was loaded with Broadway show tunes. We're asking our listeners, in the interest of world peace, what would you put on a play list for a world leader?
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Tax evasion, tax resistance and tax rebellion

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gandhi broke the law to oppose the salt tax. The early Americans railed against the tax on tea. From the first instance that taxes were levied, people have found ways to not pay, for reasons honorable, ideological, greedy and selfish.

Today, a new crop of people find new ways to oppose paying taxes. We talked on Friday with The New Republic's Jason Zengerle about "the tax honesty movement": people who creatively interpret the internal revenue code in various ways so they (argue they) don't have to pay taxes.

But those "tax honesty" folks are one small slice of tax scofflaws. The following aren't part of the "tax honesty movement" (for more on that, listen to the March 27 segment with Zengerle), but are some of my favorite people in the world of tax evasion, tax resistance and tax rebellion. Warning: With a few exceptions, most don't cut as sympathetic a figure as Gandhi.

Continue reading...
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John Waters on "The Wire," celebrity envy, meat thieves, making films during a recession

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Trouble viewing this video? Check out the YouTube version.
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Congress reaching across the aisle with morning aerobics

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Congress is of course embarking on a debate for a massive overhaul of the health care system. One big part of the plan is encouraging wellness and preventive medicine. Rep. David Dreier of California thinks Congress needs to lead by example.

Dreier has a plan to alter House rules to provide for member-led calisthenics every morning on the House floor. He calls it his "Three P's": the prayer, the pledge, and now adding physical activity. It's unorthodox, he says, but physical activity would get a big boost when Americans see their Congress doing knee bends on CSPAN each morning. Many may follow along?

As senior Republican on the House Rules Committee, Dreier actually has the power to try and do this. He wants to try a voluntary program including standup-scales in the Republican and Democratic cloakrooms, so that members can chart their weight-loss progress.

Upon hearing this announcement, the Takeaway staff began its own morning regimen to set an example:
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The Takeaway for Wednesday, April 1, 2009 (Final Edition)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

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How would you protest the G-20 summit?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Protesters from all over the world are descending on London for the G-20 conference. They're bearing signs like, "Capitalists! You are the Crisis!" If you were to join the protest, what would your sign say? Do you have a new protest chant?
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The Takeaway for Wednesday, April 1, 2009 (Early Edition)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Headlines; News from London
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The Takeaway for Tuesday, March 31, 2009 (Final Edition)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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The Takeaway for Tuesday, March 31, 2009 (Early Edition)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Headlines; New auto industry terms
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GM's CEO steps down. If you had the job, how would you save the American car?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors Corp., is stepping down. The move came at the request of President Obama, who is seeking to reform the U.S. car industry in a gloomy economic climate. So it's time for a job interview -- If you were in charge at GM, how would you save the American car?


What's your take? Leave a comment below or record your story at 1-877-8-MY-TAKE.
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The Takeaway for Monday, March 30, 2009 (Final Edition)

Monday, March 30, 2009

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The Takeaway for Monday, March 30, 2009 (Early Edition)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Headlines; Obama's agenda this week
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During this recession, everyone needs a helping hand. Do you have a recession hero?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Femi Oke introduced us to her "recession hero"--someone who resisted the temptation of a growing bubble. We're looking for more heroes out there. Do you have your own recession hero?


What's your take? Leave a comment below or record your story at 1-877-8-MY-TAKE.
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Read a transcript of President Barack Obama's address on Pakistan and Afghanistan from March 27, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Read a transcript of President Barack Obama's address on Pakistan and Afghanistan from March 27, 2009, and discuss the new policy in The Takeaway's "user-annotated" document viewer.

In this speech, President Obama says the situation in Afghanistan has become "increasingly perilous" and warns that Afghanistan cannot be allowed to come under control of the Taliban or al-Qaida. He plans an influx of 4,000 troops plus a civilian corps in order to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

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