Motivations for "off the grid check-in" on Foursquare

TechCrunch is generally not a website I follow that much, but there's an interesting article by a Guest Author about "Off the Grid" check-ins on Foursquare. Following up on the blogpost about automatic location capture I wrote last week, I think it's worth having a look at this survey mentioned in the TC article. The survey was about the purpose of using the "OTG" feature, i.e. the possibility on Foursquare to avoid disclosing the location where you checked-in to your contacts. Being "off the grid" however enable to gain points, badges and compete for mayorship. Although the methodology may be a bit rough in terms of sampling (I wonder less about the quantity of peeps who participated than the stratification), here are the conclusions I found interesting:

  • "The single largest reason for OTG was hiding from friends [46%]. People gave a variety of motivations [examples: buying a gift for girlfriend, on a date, avoiding someone in particular, hiding one’s poor eating habits from friends, and seeing a doctor.]
  • 60% of respondents cited the desire to keep track of where they’ve been for their own future reference. (...) your Foursquare History is a flat set of your check ins but the user interest here points to the opportunity for a much more robust feature. (...) loyalty programs and offers; customer acquisition and retention instruments.
  • 34% of respondents used OTG to check into a location that could have been considered confidential or sensitive to their job.
  • Mayor stalking was the surprise motivation for many OTG check ins since they count towards mayorships but don’t display your name associated with the venue.
  • Only 15% of users report using OTG to signal a “check out” — leaving a venue and not wanting to publish location out of concern friends will arrive to find you departed.
  • 26% of people utilize OTG for repeat check ins at a location over the course of a few days (such as a hotel). These could easily be public but collapsed into a single line. Or subsequent check ins might be public, but not published as alerts."

Why do I blog this? Simply because we (Lift Lab) are currently conducting a short user study of Foursquare with both lead users and people who abandoned using it after a while. Our approach is much more open-ended and based on visualization of spatial data (such as the one generated with where do you go). The TC data will allow to triangulate our qualitative data with this quantitative insights.