Time to Swarm the Country Music Marathon

12 04 2010

Foursquare is a relatively new mobile social networking tool, aimed at smart phone users. The concept is that you ‘check-in’ to a venue on the Foursquare app on your phone and you can get discounts or coupons from the venue if you meet some criteria set by the venue. (See the end of this post for an update).

One also finds out if any of your friends recently checked into the same venue, or you can search the locale you are in to see which places your friends are currently at.

‘Badges’ are awarded to Foursquare users as a motivator to use their service more. You can get badges for achieving certain milestones in your Foursquare journey’s. Foursquare make many of these milestones obvious and achievable, but many badges are either ‘hidden’ or difficult to earn and are considered to be coveted by those that can earn them.

One badge that is clear but difficult to earn is the ‘swarm badge’, it is earned when 50 or more people are checked-in to the same place at roughly the same time. Big venues and events are where one can earn such a badge. Hey, fellow country music marathon runners/walkers/spectators, we have the perfect opportunity to earn a ‘swarm badge‘ by checking into several checkpoints as marathon participants and spectators. I have setup in Foursquare all the main milestones for the Country Music Half Marathon, i.e. Start line, each mile marker and the finish line. (Search for marathon and you’ll see them on Foursquare).

Click to Enlarge

Let’s check into all of these as we go around the half marathon and hopefully 50 or more of us will pass that way at roughly the same time and earn us all this difficult to achieve badge. Plus we can share in real-time ‘unofficial’ times as we pass each mile marker, so our friends and family can see our progress on the marathon as it occurs.

Even more coveted is the ‘Super Swarm’ badge where 250 or more check-in at the same location. Not sure there are 250 Foursquare users registered for the marathon. Consider it our ‘stretch goal’ :-)

You are coming to the Country Music Marathon on April 24th this year but you don’t have Foursquare on your phone? Well get it and sign up!! It is free and available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices.

Update: 2010-04-16

Today (April 16th) was Foursquare day and there was an attempt by Nashville Foursquare users to earn the ‘swarm badge’. Unfortunately we fell short with just 33 simultaneous folks checked in at the Parthenon. Let’s see if we can do better on the 24th. You will need your cell phone with the Foursquare application installed and signed in. (Click here for details).


Between 7am-8am on the the 24th April 2010 check-in at the following ‘start-line’ venue created just for the marathon.

http://foursquare.com/venue/2063149 (This is near Centennial Park)

Between 1pm-2pm on the the 24th April 2010 check-in at the following ‘finish line’ venue craeted just for the marathon.

http://foursquare.com/venue/2312039 (This is at the Titans Stadium)

Firefox – Will it die on the vine?

21 01 2010

Firefox is my primary browser and has been since version 1 of the browser. Prior to Firefox I used SeaMonkey/Netscape going all the way back to Navigator 1.11. I’m glad to say that I have never used IE as my primary browser of choice, ever.

However I am concerned that Firefox’s days maybe numbered. Here are few facts.

Microsoft Develop IE
Google Develop Chrome
Apple Develop Safari.

Three major software corporations with lots of resources in terms of money and talented staff and all making money hand over fist. I’m not sure how the Mozilla Project can compete with them long-term, as much as I’d like them to. My argument is not technical nor based on merit or intellectual preference, it is commercial.

Prior to Chrome, Mozilla had the backing of Google as the major competitor to IE. I’m not suggesting that Google have or will abandon their cozy relationship with the Mozilla project, however their attention and resources are now divided, clearly they will try and make their Chrome browser and Chrome/Android OS’s work well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Transfer Contacts from Blackberry to Droid

31 12 2009

The easiest way to transfer contacts from a blackberry to a Motorola Droid phone is via the GMail contact import feature using a CSV file exported from the Blackberry Desktop Manager. There is one gotcha though; Google does not give you a preview of how the contact data will map, which can have undesirable results!!

Here is the procedure.

  1. Backup your Blackberry data using the BB Desktop Manager.
  2. Export BB contacts to an Excel compatible CSV File. Follow the procedure found here.
  3. Open CSV file in Excel. Read the rest of this entry »

How Accurate is Google Latitude?

10 12 2009

Google latitude is a service Google offer to its mobile Google Maps customers. Latitude is able to optionally transmit and/or track a cell phones(and hence the owners) location.

It’s accuracy depends directly on how accurate the phones location tracking is. Some phones have fairly accurate GPS systems allowing for turn by turn applications, others are ‘approximations’ based upon triangulation of the adjacent cell phone towers. Nothing surprising or earth shattering here, however I was interested how far off the triangulation location is on the Blackberry 8830.  Even if you have very accurate GPS, how much can you depend on the present location of contacts you share location data with?

If your contacts don’t have accurate GPS on their phones, their location is very approximate. In addition to preciseness of GPS functionality of the phone itself, Google Maps/Latitude drops into low precision mode when you are running it as a background application. See here. So even if you do have great GPS,  results may not be that accurate.

Density of cell towers where you are located appears to have the greatest impact on accuracy if your phone uses triangulation. At home it is accurate within 1/2 mile most of the time. At work near the airport at  Gallatin TN, I found it can be off by as much as 10 Miles!! Latitude History maps are shown below.

Poor accuracy when in low density cell tower zone

Reasonable accuracy with a higher density of cell towers

In the map on the left I was stationary for several hours at a location with a poor signal. The map on the right has a tighter cluster of points close to my home and the route to work, where I had a stronger signal and was closer to more cell towers. Google’s website indicates that it will typically default to the local cell tower location when you run it as  a background application. If that were true I’d expect a  cluster of points at the same spot while I was present at work and not that mobile. Clearly that did not happen.

Latitude will be of more value when all cell phones have true GPS. That day hopefully is not too far away. My next phone from Verizon maybe the Droid, I’d hope it to be more accurate than the 2+ year old Blackberry 8830 I currently have.

Update:2010-01-23 – I got the Droid.

On the Motorola Droid the GPS while Google Maps is running in foreground is wonderfully accurate, and even has the ability for a digital compass pointer. The problem comes when it runs in background, as I described earlier Google Maps drops into low precision mode, so I found my location could be off by several miles. No better than the Blackberry 8830 without GPS. The features on the Droid are superior however. Better map resolution, better traffic data, more map layers. I found the GPS Status App for the droid to be a nice app for troubleshooting GPS issues and it doubles as a compass and altimeter. The droid is accurate to 6 feet according to the GPS Status app.