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Foursquare – a tool for crowdsourcing and digital diplomacy in Kosovo

EVERYONE is on Facebook in Kosovo, and that single social network is what most people associate with social media. Twitter will be in second place, because of its presence in media, not of the active use by much people (as facebook). Anyway there’s more: Foursquare is available worldwide and has 30 million users. It’s a so called location based network, dealing with venues where users check-in for several reasons:

– know where friends are at the moment
– find places in the surrounding area
– get tips for places
– unlock a special for discounts
– earn points and mayorships

My Foursquare experience in Kosovo

Foursquare users aren’t a large crowd – compared to Facebook and Twitter – but they are very active: My first Foursquare check-in was at Pristina Airport, which is visited by more than 1.000 people so far. In general traffic hubs are the places with the most people and check-ins in a country. Most of the places I wanted to check-in in Kosovo where available on Foursquare – implying, that at least one Foursquare user has been at the place ahead of me.

Crowdsourcing with Foursquare

As I experienced Pristina as a fast changing and lively city, Foursquare might work as a simple crowdsourcing tool. As almost all place are added to the service, it is an easy to use database for places in Kosovo. Users publish individual tips, ratings and pictures which are visible to everyone on the internet. Because of the user generated content Foursquare is a very up-to-date scource for places which are new or have recently changed.

The last three months on Foursquare show that users in Kosovos capital are more active than in my hometown Dortmund with nearly 600.000 inhabitants. The map (which is based on mapbox instead of Google Maps) is a real-time tool to identify hotspots and patterns in a city.

In Pristina some streets can easily be recognised by Foursquare check-ins: Rexhep Luci, Qamil Hoxha, Fehmi Agami and Justiniani are popular. These streets are dotted with cafes and bars. Also the shopping centre in Ravine is visible by Foursquare check-ins. Hence the last three months on Foursquare are visualizing the hotspots of Pristina on the map and over time it is possible to monitor changes in the behavior of the crowd.

It might be used to detect new popular or abandoned neighborhoods just by Foursquare check-ins. It is even easier than crowdsourcing: If you are an active user anyway it is not necessary to submit an additional entry anywhere else.

For instance in Pristina are some hotspots southeast of Ahmet Krasniqi street, where Google Maps is not showing any particular place of interest. So probably some popular places popped up recently.

Ahmet Krasniqi on Foursquare
Ahmet Krasniqi on Google Maps

 

Surprisingly in Pristina the traffic hubs cannot be identified by Foursquare check-ins: the bus station as well as the trains stops in Pristina and Fushe Kosove are hardly visible by check-ins. It seems there is a lack of good public transportation to and from the capital.

Note: current Foursquare check-ins around Pristina published via Twitter

Digital Diplomacy with Foursquare

Foursquare will also work as a part of the digital diplomacy strategy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since it is using Wikipedia, apps and Instagram to promote Kosovo – not only in a political but in a touristic way. It already did so: The Kosovar entrepreneur Kushtrim Xhakli has put efforts into talking with the Foursquare founders, in order to put locations with “Kosovo” or the country code shortcut “XK”, instead of Serbia. This has been emailed to me with a Foursquare screenshot by Xhakli in 2010. Exactly all my check-ins were located in Kosovo, with the exception of one: During my first check-in at the Pristina Airport I was welcomed in Serbia, although for the place the country “Kosovo” is shown.

 

STEP 1: An official page on Foursquare with a mixture of basic and current information by “updates” about the country.

STEP 2: Some lists of places on special topics like touristic places (e.g. monuments, museums), historic places (e.g. ancient buildings, mosques), political places (e.g. government buildings, independance), outdoor places (national parks, rivers, lakes) and so on. All the places can be provided with additional information, tips and pictures by Foursquare users. For instance a Foursquare user provided some background information about the Newborn monument. Places for the lists can be crowdsourced by a campaign similar to the Wikipedia workshops and Instagram contest.

STEP 3: Specials can be added for places to attract and reward tourists (with Newbie, Check-in or Friends Special) as well as locals (with Mayor or Loyalty Special). Although Foursquare is used sufficiently in Kosovo there is a lack of Specials so far – I found only one in Pristina and Prizren at a time.

STEP 4: Badges can be introduced – either online via Foursquare or offline for pick up. There are several options: A “Kosovo Badge” for a certain amount of visited places in the country or different Badges for places from a list by topics. Badges will appeal to peoples collecting passion and serve an individual souvenir.

Kosovo on Foursquare – in addition to other social media profiles and activities – can be easily included in the social media/digital diplomcay strategy of the Ministry of Forgein Affairs with the side effect to act as an early adopter of Foursquare in the region and with a promising perspective of success. Very interesting that Kosovo took action as early as 2010 to change the location of check-ins from Pristina, Serbia to Pristina, XK (a country code in use).

Note: Some points refer to allesfoursquare with me being one of the authors.

Use Foursquare!

While talking to people from Kosovo and other Balkan countries I learned that they notably use Facebook for check-ins in order tell friends their location. But Facebook does not offer any additional benefits like Foursquare does.

From my point of view Foursquare can become a significant social network in the Balkans with some promotion as its seems to meet the needs of social media users. Besides it can turn out as an alternative to Facebook.