What You Should Be Doing Instead of Checking In

I use Foursquare a lot. You could say I'm part of the passionate but niche group that checks in at least a couple of times per week (more like a couple of times per day). The odd part of it is that I can't really tell you why I do it. Is it for the badges and mayorships? Not really--for all the talk of "game mechanics," these things are mostly pretty lame. Is it for the specials I can get from local retailers? No, there aren't enough of those available yet. Is it because of the serendipitous encounters I can have with friends? No. Having two young children precludes that quite a bit.

So if I'm not doing it for any particular reason, maybe I should spend some of my check-in time doing something productive.

Enter CloudMade's Mapzen POI Collector. This iPhone app exists for one purpose, and one purpose only: to add and update points of interest to the open-source geo database OpenStreetMap--the Wikipedia of geography.

I realized today that instead of always checking in everywhere I go, I could earn a lot more karma points (if not badges and mayorships) by entering and editing points of interest everywhere I go. (By the way, if you want to search points of interest, don't use this app; use something like the Open Maps app.)

Why the karma? The data I contribute using the Mapzen app is open and licensed under the Creative Commons SA license, so it can be freely and easily used in myriad applications that are competing with closed platforms such as Foursquare and Yelp.

So from now on I'm going to try and do my part to make the world a better place--instead of checking in on Foursquare, I'm going to spend that time making OpenStreetMaps so good it'll give Google, Foursquare and Facebook all a run for their money.

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