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July 15 2011

Google News Now Awards Badges To Voracious Readers [VIDEO]

Now you can get badges for reading Google News. The company is now offering a variety of 500 different emblems, each one for a particular topic.

As you become more well-read, you’ll get a star added to the badge for that topic. There are five different levels of the stars, starting with a bronze star, and as you read more articles you receive a silver, gold, platinum and the coveted blue ultimate star.

Goofy? Maybe, but as you can see in the video, there is a method to this madness. According to the Google Blog, you can keep all this badge mania to yourself by default, or you can brag about it to others, showing off what an newshound you are, and perhaps stimulating social interaction between you and others with like interests around the Google+ sphere.

The badges are interactive, too — if you hover over one and click “add section,” you’ll get more article choices for your chosen topic. Beta-happy Google says that’s not all, calling this a “bronze release,” and adding that “once we see how badges are used and shared, we look forward to taking this feature to the next level.”

To use the new feature, Google News Help shows you how. To make it all work, you must have your web history enabled, and it registers both desktop and mobile clicks.

We can see how it might be helpful for your Google News page to keep track of which types of articles you’re reading, making it easier for you to further customize your personal Google News site. We have badges here at Mashable for using our Follow social layer, and we like them.

What about on Google News, though? Does this matter? Is it important to show yourself how much you’ve read, or have proof of same to lord over others? Or is this just a non-compensated loyalty program that benefits Google the most?

More About: badges, google news, social networking

For more Social Media coverage:

April 15 2011

Do We Need an Online Trophy Case For Our Digital Achievements?

This post is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark as a new part of the Spark of Genius series that focuses on a new and innovative startup each day. Every Thursday, the program focuses on startups within the BizSpark program and what they’re doing to grow.

In the digital realm, achievements take the shape of badges, pins, points, stamps and other paraphernalia that startups and games dole out to users who check in at locations, complete tasks or repeat some form of “good” behavior.

To some, these achievements are meaningless baubles. To others, they are trophies to be celebrated with friends. For the latter group there exists Score.ly, a fledgling startup.

Score.ly aggregates badges and activities via APIs from 12 different social media and entertainment sites. On Score.ly, users connect accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, GetGlue, Flickr, XBox Live, Netflix and so forth, and Score.ly grabs their earned achievements, awards badges of its own and then houses them all in user “Folios,” short for portfolios.

“It’s an online trophy case,” founder Elizabeth Fuller explains.

An Online Trophy Case

Fuller, ever-curious about the way in which people choose to represent themselves, has been thinking about the discrepancies between real-world achievements and online accomplishments for years.

She, along with business partner David Leibowitz, started to think specifically around the idea of an online trophy case as a place to collect and share achievements in the summer of 2010. The idea grew into a business after the pair pitched the startup at a Startup Weekend event in New York city and won $10,000 in seed money from AOL Ventures.

Score.ly then launched an alpha version of the site in September and has since go on to receive a tempered response for online denizens. The startup isn’t publicly releasing the exact size of its user base, but the number is in the tens of thousands.

Are These Collectors Items?

Not all trophies are created equal. An honorable mention is far less memorable than a first place or grand supreme showing. Does the same stratification exist for digital awards, and which, if any, have lasting value?

And will our children and children’s children one day see our online trophies as testaments of real achievement? Will they say, grandma, “I can’t believe you unlocked the Douchebag badge on Foursquare? Tell me how you did it!”

Perhaps not. Still, Fuller insists that Score.ly’s small user base is actively engaged. “We’ve noticed that people linger on, and get excited about, the LeaderMap,” she says.

The LeaderMap is a portion of the site where Score.ly users can sort a leaderboard of friends by achievements, kudos (Score.ly’s answer to the “like”), Twitter followers, Foursquare badges and the rest.

But, Fuller sounds uncertain about what the startup can realistically do with the achievements it aggregates in the long run. Her answer to the question, “What’s the point of collecting these things?” is barely tangible. “We’re looking at new ways to aggregate and spread this information,” she says.

The young startup has plenty of time to explore the “So, what?” question, and it even has a few ideas around monetization that Fuller’s not ready to disclose.

So, is this a give-it-time-to-mature startup or a service that celebrates a temporary fad in internet culture? That’s for you to decide.

Image courtesy of confidence, comely, Flickr

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, bizspark, foursquare badges, gamification, score.ly, spark-of-genius, startup

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December 15 2010

Indie Fashion Website Rewards You For Having Taste

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark.. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Moxsie

Quick Pitch: Moxsie is a community-driven, online shop that crowdsources design input from its users. Today the site is unveiling a partnership with Badgeville, a white-label social rewards and analytics company, to create custom social rewards to stir up even more participation among the Moxsie community.

Genius Idea: Yes, there are a ton of social media-savvy fashion brands out there tapping into community to make product decisions — Ann Taylor and Levi’s spring to mind — but Moxsie aims to be a one-two punch when it comes to putting power in the hands of the people.

First of all, the site is replete with wares from indie designers, giving folks access to the kind of boutique shopping that may not be available in their hometowns. Secondly, the site takes matters a step further and allows its users to call the shots in many respects. Moxise, with the help of its 115,000-plus-person Twitter feed as well as Ustream, frequently holds what it calls “#BuyerChats,” during which followers can give direct feedback and advice to designers who sell on the website. That way, users can do more than just shop — they can decide what products are actually manufactured.

“Fashion used to be associated with the unattainable,” says Moxsie CEO Jon Fahrner. “Moxsie takes an open, inclusive approach where anyone can come to discover their own personal style. And now, with #BuyerChat and Facebook badges, anyone can participate in the process of creating fashion and be rewarded for their insights and ideas. And, now designers who are under-distributed and lack brick-and-mortar stores can get in on the Foursquare-style buzz they’ve been missing.”

Fahrner is referring to Moxsie’s new Badgeville partnership, which will enable the site to reward active users with badges that can be shared and displayed via their social networks. Now, before you start rolling your eyes over the value of a virtual badge (“Oh, pretty, so what?”), the badge isn’t the only thing users will receive. Badges, which will be earned in an incremental fashion (Buyer-In-Training, Head Buyer and Celebrity Buyer, etc.), will also garner users store credit and possibly even internships. There will also be a leaderboard on which users can keep track of their ranking.

“Brands need new ways to engage users through techniques from social interactions and modern loyalty programs,” says Kris Duggan, CEO and founder of Badgeville. “As social gaming continues to grow –- commerce is the next frontier.”

Although Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley announced that the checkin service would start experimenting with badge rewards back in June, we haven’t seen that many instances of badges going hand-in-hand with actual prizes. We’re interested to see what this union does in terms of consumer engagement.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, berekin

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, badgeville, business, fashion, MARKETING, moxsie, spark-of-genius, startup

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October 14 2010

Badgeville Gives Publishers Trendy, Plug-and-Play Game Mechanics

This post is part of Mashable’s Spark of Genius series, which highlights a unique feature of startups. The series is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Badgeville

Quick Pitch: Badgeville is a social rewards and analytics platform designed to increase, maintain and influence loyalty for online publishers.

Genius Idea: Applications and web services that reward users through activity-based bonuses like badges and reputation tokens are very trendy right now. These game mechanics encourage repeat behavior, inspire user engagement and reward loyalty.

Badgeville was built to be a plug-and-play solution for publishers wishing to add these social rewards to their services without the heavy lifting.

Badgeville is a just-add-water way to reward your app users or site visitors for their actions. Publishers can define the user behaviors they want to reward and attach points, badges, trophies, levels, status and other forms of reputation to these behaviors.

Should a user “unlock” an achievement, those tokens can be shared to Facebook and Twitter, and users can earn more points in the process. Publishers can also highlight user behaviors through real-time activity streams, leaderboards or friends graphs that rank users against their friends. There’s also a Badgeville API for deeper site or app integration.

Obviously, the idea is to use Badgeville’s platform to motivate users to take additional actions and spread the word about your product or service as they level up or earn elevated status. As an user, these additional elements may turn an otherwise stale experience into a competitive sport. So users can prove their ultimate fan status for a blog, website or application they love and get digital rewards in the process. Who doesn’t appreciate a little recognition from time to time?

Badgeville is fresh on the scene but has $250,000 in seed funding and a client list that includes SlideShare, Comcast Sports and Philly.com. We find the idea to be promising, but we also see the potential for badges, reputation and rewards to lose their luster once they become commonplace.

Sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark

BizSpark is a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: badges, badgeville, game mechanics, loyalty, loyalty program, rewards

For more Tech coverage:

October 01 2010

Foursquare Releases Merit-Based Badges for Better Living

As checkins become commonplace, Foursquare has changed its location-based game to reward players for actual achievements. RunKeeper was the first partner to introduce merit-based Foursquare badges, but today another partner has emerged.

Health Month, a game that inspires players to set self-betterment rules to live by for a month, will now gift successful members with up to four different Foursquare badges.

For those unfamiliar with Health Month, the site challenges users to commit to better living for a month. You set your own rules — it could be related to your health, fitness, diet or mental states — on the first of the month, and for each rule you commit to, you’ll be slotted in to one of four brackets based on difficulty.

Each day, you’ll complete your scorecard and indicate whether or not you satisfied the terms of each rule. You start the month off with 10 life points, and you’ll lose a life point every time you break a rule. Should you finish the month with more than one life point, then you will have successfully survived your bracket and will be placed on the Wall of Awesomeness.

Now, HealthMonth players who survive their brackets will be also win a Foursquare merit badge for their dedication to self-improvement, so long as they connect their Foursquare account to their Health Month account.

Foursquare asserts, “We want Foursquare to help people live better and healthier lives.” The startup’s first two merit badge partners seem to back up that sentiment. What’s more interesting, though, is that the social gaming network is cleverly experimenting outside the crowded arena of checkin-based activity. Clearly, the product is evolving to account for checkin fatigue, inching closer to those “moments of magic and delight for users” that Founder Dennis Crowley hopes to inspire.

More About: badges, foursquare, health month, merit badges

For more Social Media coverage:

August 05 2010

Top 16 Unusual Foursquare Badges

Since Foursquare’s launch in March 2009, there has been a lot of excitement about where the company is going. But we’d like to take a moment to reflect upon where it’s been, via one of its most entertaining features — badges.

Badges are, for many users, one of the main benefits of the app, driving competition among friends, co-workers, and even enemies. Whether the badges provide a real-life benefit or just bragging rights, users go crazy to figure out how to unlock the latest ones.

We talked to Foursquare’s Lead Designer, Mari Sheibley, about the stories behind some of the most unusual badges in their collection. It’s only fitting to showcase 16 of the most unusual badges here today since Foursquare launched with exactly 16 badges back in the day. Without further ado, please enjoy this collection of interesting badges, ranging from rare and retired, to quirky and puzzling.

1. Mr. Bill

This badge was created by interaction designer Eris Stassi in celebration of her beau’s birthday. David Bill, the lucky birthday boy, and CTO at CoTweet, said that his friends nicknamed him Mr. Bill as a joke, with reference to the Mr. Bill character on Saturday Night Live from the ’70s and ’80s.

To unlock this badge, you had to attend Bill’s birthday party at Dave’s on July 2, 2009. As Stassi put it, “The best gifts are happy experiences. And what would bring a smile to his face more than realizing his checkin earned him a badge specifically celebrating his birthday and general awesomeness?” Hat tip to Stassi for giving one of the best, and geekiest gifts of all time.

Sheibley explained the specificity behind the badge: “In very special cases we’ve created one-off badges for friends who have been big supporters of Foursquare. This was the first of these ’special friend badges.’ ”

2. PK JG 2010

Another instance of a “special friend badge” was the PK JG 2010 badge, which celebrated the marriage of Paul Kermizian and Janelle Gunther on June 26, 2010, at The Montauk Club in Brooklyn, New York. Those who unlocked the badge now receive free drinks for life at Barcade, a bar arcade in Brooklyn which Kermizian co-owns.

3. The Graduate

This badge was designed to be unlocked at the 2010 Stanford Graduate School of Business graduation ceremony, which took place on June 12, 2010. Why? Tristan Walker, VP of business development at Foursquare, would be receiving his MBA. With Tristan’s Foursquare bot suited in a mortarboard cap and decked out in Stanford colors, this badge would have been an amazing surprise for attendees checking into the ceremony. Unfortunately, the badge wasn’t activated in time. It’s the thought that counts.

4. The Prom King

The Prom King badge is yet another secret badge created for a Foursquare teamster. Sheibley gave us the details: “Co-Founder Naveen [Selvadurai] threw a giant prom-themed party for his birthday this past February in the auditorium of a children’s school in downtown Manhattan. We wanted to make a badge for him (it was a secret) as a present. Anyone who would check in to the location that night would unlock it. Unfortunately, it didn’t get put into the code in time, and it’s never been unlocked.” We’re sure Naveen would have won Prom King either way.

5. Banksy Fan

To celebrate the opening weekend of street artist Banksy’s first film “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” Foursquare created a special badge featuring a rat in star glasses, reminiscent of Banksy’s artwork. Sheibley commented, “We very strongly try to have the special badges uphold the Foursquare aesthetic (simple, iconic, rounded corners, etc). Our style and Banksy’s are very different, so we definitely had to work towards a happy medium that reflected both our ideals and Banksy’s art.”

6. Last Degree

During April of this year, 15-year-old Parker Liautaud and 44 year-old David Newman raced to be the first to check-in at the North Pole via Foursquare. Only one prevailed. Liautaud checked-in first and became the only person to unlock the Last Degree badge on Foursquare. Don’t put your skis on just yet; this badge was a once in a lifetime offer, never to be unlocked again.

7. Groupie

To unlock this badge, you have to be a true Foursquare groupie. You have to collect six different business cards from Foursquare employees (which all have different badges on the backs), and then go to foursquare.com/bizcard, where you can select the correct badges to unlock the Groupie badge.

Sheibley explained, “We made it for SXSW [2010] and carried it over for everyone to unlock after the conference was over… We wanted our business cards to be a game to go along with the game aspect of our product. During SXSW, it encouraged people to come up and say hello and talk with us, which is always fun.”

8. Early Adopter

Foursquare offered a slew of badges at SXSW 2010, one of which was the Early Adopter badge. As you may know, Foursquare launched two days prior to SXSW 2009, and was the breakout mobile app at the conference.

The Early Adopter badge was a nice surprise for Foursquare users who had previously checked in at SXSW 2009 events and were also attending SXSW 2010. Sheibley explained, “We wanted a clever way to thank all the early adopters from SXSW 2009 — the people who tried out our product from the very start.”

9. Karaoke RV

Not all badges are planned at Foursquare. This one, among a few others, was a spur-of-the-moment creation, based on user behaviors. Sheibley elaborated, “Karaoke RV is special, because it was made on the fly during SXSW 2009 to reflect activities that were going on that we didn’t know about when we first made the SXSW badges. We didn’t anticipate everyone driving around in a bus singing karaoke, but it was a hit, and so we created a badge for it.”

10. Internet Week 2010

Sheibley noted that “The Internet Week 2010 badge was unique, because it allowed you to skip party lines, which is not something we’ve ever done before.” Internet Week geeks unlocking the badge had the opportunity to skip lines to parties hosted by The Onion, #140conf, Pop Everything, Obliterati and SoundCtrl. Now that’s a badge with benefits.

11. World Cup 2010

This is another example of a badge made on the fly. During the 2010 World Cup, Sheibley designed the badge based on what users were saying and doing. Namely, users were mimicking the vuvuzela sound by shouting “zzzzzzzzzz,” and announcing goals by exclaiming “GOOOOOOOOOOOAL!” She commented, “Who had heard of a vuvuzela before this? It took a while for some users to realize one way to unlock it was by shouting 10 Zs.”

12. Gossip Girl

The Gossip Girl badge was originally called “Socialite,” but was later changed to “Gossip Girl in NYC.” “It’s unique because it’s actually really hard for people to figure out how to unlock it. It’s not tag-based (which people often believe), and not necessarily related to the [TV] show. People assume they can get it by going to places in the show, which isn’t necessarily true,” Sheibley explained, and pointed me to a blog post showcasing just how obsessed people can get about unlocking this badge.

Sheibley noted that “the Gossip Girl badge will soon be taken over by [the Gossip Girl account], so it will soon make more sense for everyone!”

13. Met Lover

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is just one of many brands on Foursquare, but not all brands have their own badge. Foursquare users who check in twice at the Met earn the Met Lover badge, which bears the iconic logo of the Museum. This badge is perhaps most unique, though, because it is reminiscent of the colored pins that visitors receive at the door to wear as entrance tickets as they walk about the museum.

14. Tarantino

Among the long list of Foursquare badges offered at SXSW 2010 was the Tarantino badge. This badge had Foursquare groupies in a fit trying to figure out how to unlock it. Many badge lists, which chronicle all of the latest badges along with how to unlock them, presumed that the badge could be tapped by attending Quentin Tarantino film screenings at SXSW. And other attendees assumed that the badge could be unlocked by attending a panel that Tarantino was scheduled to speak on (but never showed up to).

“This badge didn’t really have anything to do with Tarantino,” Sheibley explained. “It was previously called ‘Redford,’ but we had to change it since Robert Redford is affiliated with Sundance, not the SXSW film fest. It was definitely unlocked, although not as much as the other SXSW 2010 badges.”

15. Andy Cohen

Bravo TV has a huge Foursquare presence, with a large offering of badges, one of which is the Andy Cohen badge.

“Other than the badges we’ve made for co-workers, this is the only badge that features a recognizable face,” Sheibley pointed out. “Bravo felt strongly that they wanted to use Andy’s face on the badge to drive home [his] brand recognition. In general, I try to push away from this, because it doesn’t marry well to our desired aesthetic of simplicity. My goal is always to communicate a concept with the least amount of details.”

Luckily, they found a happy middle ground, incorporating a simple outline of Cohen’s animated face.

16. Jobs

This badge is actually the second iteration of the Jobs badge. The original Jobs badge, unlocked after three checkins at Apple Stores, depicted the Apple logo.

Regardless, Apple fans love this badge. Famous Apple fangirl Justine Ezarik, better known as iJustine, tweeted her excitement when she unlocked the badge. You can see the original badge design in her TwitPic.

Sheibley’s clarified the reason behind the design change: “We just wanted to make sure there were no trademark infringement issues, so we changed it to something more generic. People picked up on the change pretty quickly!”

These are our top picks for the most unusual Foursquare badges around. Which would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below! And if you have unlocked some of these zany badges, feel free to take full advantage of your bragging rights, too!

More Foursquare resources on Mashable

- How Non-Profits Can Maximize a Foursquare Account
- Beyond the Checkin: Where Location-Based Social Networks Should Go Next
- 7 Ways Journalists Can Use Foursquare
- Why the Fashion Industry Loves Foursquare
- 5 Cool Non-Profit Uses of Location-Based Tech

More About: Andy Cohen, apple, badge, badges, Banksy Fan, bravo, early adopter, foursquare, geo-location, geolocation, Gossip Girl, Groupie, Internet Week, Internet Week 2010, jobs, karaoke, Karaoke RV, Last Degree, location, location based social networks, location networking, location-based, location-based networking, Met Lover, Mr. Bill, PK JG 2010, social media, Tarantino, The Graduate, The Prom King, Unlock, world cup, world cup 2010

For more Mobile coverage:

July 16 2010

How Non-Profits Can Maximize a Foursquare Account

foursquare image

Geoff Livingston co-founded Zoetica to focus on cause-related work, and released an award-winning book on new media Now is Gone in 2007.

Foursquare isn’t just a good place to find cheap Mocha-Frappuccino’s. The social media tool is quickly allowing for new ways to benefit a range of fields, including non-profit organizations.

There have been several articles on how non-profits are using Foursquare, but I wanted to find out how his location-based social network can help non-profits, so I chatted with experts about how non-profits can maximize their Foursquare accounts.

“Non-profits are about awareness, they want to get as many people to understand what they are doing,” Foursquare Co-Founder Naveen Selvaduari said. “Foursquare is a great platform for that, and bringing people together, and make it easier together for them to understand.”

The Standard Stuff

taft image

Having a location-based non-profit will obviously help you get the most out of a Foursquare account. Make sure you claim your location and then create specials that appeal to your audience.

“Location based non-profits have an easier road, since they can offer specials and other incentives on Foursquare,” said Chris Thompson, author of the About Foursquare blog. “In Cincinnati, the Taft Museum of Art uses Foursquare as a loyalty program, offering increasing rewards as guests return again and again. The fifth check-in gets a free dessert, the 10th earns a free membership and the 15th gets a free poster or museum guidebook. It’s a great, easy way for the Taft to increase repeat visits.”

Your account can also help you find and mobilize a base of willing volunteers and donors. “There are also other organizations like hospitals and small advocacy groups who can leverage Foursquare,” said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech and editor of Care2’s Frogloop blog. “…Big Love Little Hearts, an organization which helps children in developing countries with heart defects, raised $25K in just 24 hours by getting a donor to contribute $1 when someone checked in or tweeted using the hashtag #100by100. The money raised was enough to pay for 12 heart surgeries.”

Leverage the API

brooklyn image

Perhaps one Foursquare’s greatest assets is its unique, open API. Developers can be deployed to create new ways to check-in, allow data mining and unique application creation to visualize foot-traffic at a location.

“Using our API, anyone can go in create a unique effort,” said Foursquare’s Selvadurai. “Shelley Bernstein from the Brooklyn Museum pulled data from the API to highlight the people that come to the museum and started keeping track of all the mayors. The museum announces the new mayor when it changes. They host special mayor parties, and have turned it into an event, a token ceremony.”

Valeria Maltoni, author of the Conversation Agent blog suggested a few simple steps. After you capture your check-ins, follow up with mailings that can push those users to your Facebook page or website. The most important step is to then give your audience an offer immediately. Foursquare is a great tool for honoring loyalty.

“I haven’t seen a ton of non-profits take to Foursquare or similar services yet but I do see opportunities,” said Ken Yarmosh, a mobile product strategist. “For the non-profit itself, what is much more interesting is leveraging the core data of these API’s—knowledge of those who’ve checked in—to mobilize those members around specific campaigns and initiatives.”

Do We Need Badges?

bodyworlds image

While you could certainly pay for your own badge, that can get expensive, and quickly. It might be worth your while to wait a couple months: Selvadurai said Foursquare was in the middle of revamping its badging procedures. In the end, creativity is the best asset for a non-profit. Still, badges could be a useful way to incentivize giving.

“Some interesting uses for non-profits, a kind of next level up, would be tying their loyalty card program with the ability to participate in a cause when in proximity of the information and story of what that cause supports,” said Maltoni. “For example, say you’re looking at the Body Worlds exhibit at the Franklin Institute and you have the opportunity to use your check in to donate to one of three causes of health issues. Each will get a badge equivalent to part of the proceeds from the ticket sales priced appropriately for the occasion. In other words, it’s time to connect the dots.”

More Foursquare resources from Mashable:

- 10 Foursquare Apps You Can Use Right Now
- 6 Foursquare Apps We’d Love to See
- 6 Tips for Getting the Most out of Foursquare
- Foursquare vs. Gowalla: Location-Based Throwdown
- The Twitter of 2010: Foursquare as Next Year’s Breakout Hit

Reviews: Facebook, Foursquare

More About: badges, donors, foursquare, naveen Selvadurai, nonprofits, taft museum

For more Social Media coverage:

June 05 2010

Yelp for iPhone Adds Foursquare-Like Badges and Royalty Status

The new iteration of Yelp’s iPhone app isn’t live just yet, but a company blog post gives a window into what’s coming very soon: badges, and a hierarchy of “royalty” that lets you “rule” venues, neighborhoods, and even cities.

The royalty feature is much akin to Foursquare’s mayorship feature, and lets Yelp users with the most checkins become the “Duke” or “Duchess” of a particular venue. Yelp goes a step further with the hierarchy, however, offering users with most Dukedoms in a particular neighborhood to be named the “Baron” and even a “King” to be crowned for most Dukedoms in an entire city.

The company itself acknowledges in the blog post that “we’re not the first ones to offer checkins,” but that adding these features “furthers Yelp’s mission of connecting people with and supporting great local businesses.” Yelp also provides some statistics behind why they’re investing in new mobile features: a full 27% of all searches on the review site come from their iPhone app.

Yelp has submitted this 5th major iteration of its app for Apple’s smartphone, which should become available in the App Store soon. The company also notes that Android owners won’t have long to wait either until the new functionality hits the Yelp client on that platform; we got a sneak peek of what Android users have to look forward to at Google I/O.

It may be derivative at this point, but it nevertheless stands to add a fun element to the process of checking in to locations. The addition of higher order titles in the royalty hierarchy for being the most active in your neighborhood or city are an interesting new spin on the concept as well. What do you think of Yelp’s move into the game mechanics territory of location services that Foursquare earlier blazed?

For more mobile coverage, follow Mashable Mobile on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Android, App Store, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Twitter, Yelp

Tags: -local, badges, foursquare, game mechanics, iphone, iphone apps, lbs, location, yelp

May 21 2010

Chatroulette + FarmVille + Facebook = ChatVille

There’s a new Chatroulette spinoff in town: meet ChatVille. It’s a Facebook app that combines the basic video chat elements of Chatroulette with the game mechanics, badges and leveling up of casual games like FarmVille.

Just like in Chatroulette, you have the opportunity to get paired up with a total stranger — but since the app can also take advantage of your Facebook social graph, you can also invite specific friends to chat with you as well. Plus, in chatting with either strangers or friends, you have the opportunity to earn badges for specific actions, like taking your first screenshot or getting a “compliment” from another user.

The app also features some other extra features like a built-in screenshot function; the screengrabs you take can then be optionally posted on your Facebook wall. Another extra feature quickly turns your webcam into an ad hoc photobooth, with the results also postable to your Facebook wall.

Built by the same team that made the popular instant messaging desktop client Digsby, many are already calling ChatVille “Chatroulette done right.” It’s certainly not the first Chatroulette clone we’ve seen, but it is unique for tapping into Facebook as an underlying social platform. Considering it stands to benefit greatly from the built-in virality of encouraging everyone to share their badges and accomplishments within the app, it will be interesting to see if or how fast this spreads as a much less “awkwardly adult oriented” version of Chatroulette.

Have you had a chance to check out ChatVille yet? If so, what do you think of the app — how does it compare to experiences you may have had on Chatroulette?

[via VentureBeat]

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Digsby, Facebook, Twitter

Tags: badges, chatville, digsby, facebook, facebook apps, farmville, game mechanics, games, video chat

April 14 2010

History Channel Launches Foursquare Campaign and a New Badge

America might be one of the youngest geopolitical nations around, but we’ve still got some interesting history to discover. Thanks to a partnership between Foursquare and the History Channel, some of the app’s users will get to learn a lot more about the history of their checkin locations over the next couple months.

According to the History Channel’s brand new Foursquare page, this initiative was concocted to promote America, The Story of Us, “an epic 12-hour television event that tells the extraordinary story of how America was invented. It is an intensive look at the people, places and things that have shaped our nation, and the tough and thrilling adventure that is America’s 400-year history.”

When users check in around various U.S. cities, they can find historial tidbits about their location and unlock the limited edition History Channel badge (pictured on the right). “For example,” reads a release from the History Channel, “users in New York who check in to St. Paul’s Chapel will discover George Washington worshipped there on his Inauguration in 1789, and users in Los Angeles who check in at the Cinerama Dome will find out it opened in 1963 with the premiere of ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ and that it’s the world’s only concrete geodesic dome.”

Users will also be automatically be entered into a concurrent sweepstakes, in which ten randomly selected users will win prizes each week from April 25 through June 6.

Foursquare inked this deal back in February as part of a larger initiative of partnerships with big media brands. Zagat, Warner Bros and HBO all committed to Foursquare campaigns around the same time as the History Channel.

For more social media coverage, follow Mashable Social Media on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Tags: badges, foursquare, history

February 17 2010

Nerd Merit Badges Bring Foursquare Achievements to Real Life

If you’re a fan of the mobile check-in service Foursquare, why not wear your proverbial badge on your sleeve? A company called Nerd Merit Badges plans on bringing your Foursquare exploits to real life with a series Foursquare Nerd Merit Badges.

The patches pictured on the right are still only prototypes, and their production is still pending approval from Foursquare itself. To find out when these might actually go on sale, you can follow @nerdmeritbadges on Twitter for the latest update.

Would you iron on a nerd badge or two in the name of Foursquare pride? What other nerd badges might earn a place on your nerd jacket or nerd bag?

[via BuzzFeed]

[img credit: John Young]

Reviews: Foursquare, Twitter

Tags: achievements, badges, fashion, foursquare, Mobile 2.0, wearables

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