Foursquare user Smokit is a Foursquare Jumper. Check out @somkitl‘s Twitter feed too.
Almost every modern, relevant web service and app is using badges and virtual goods to motivate their users to participate and act more on the app/service. Websites such as The Fancy, Foodspotting, Raptr, Untappd, GetGlue, OneTrueFan etc. all use basic game mechanics and virtual goods to motivate their users. While all of them are seeing some great traction with their users, Foursquare has a unique group of Indonesian users called “Jumpers” that have taken the virtual goods hoarding to another level.
The Indonesian badge mafia has a goal of grabbing every single Foursquare badge available and they’ll do so by any means necessary including fake checkins, web/geo workarounds and even paying other users to check them in. How did this group come about? Well a lot of it has to do with the country itself. Indonesia is a country of 240 million people, of which half is under the age of 29. These young adults are obsessed with the web and the startup culture that fosters innovation in the space. Not only are they die hard BlackBerry and smartphone users, but they constitute a significant portion of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare’s traffic.
Foursquare Jumpers have been seen as cheaters and even Foursquare has taken a lot of time to root them out and prevent badge hoarding. But why? The Indonesian Foursquare Jumpers have taken the Foursquare badge system and made it something new. Badge hoarding is just a new take on the Foursquare “game” and rather than discourage it, Foursquare should promote it. A segment of your users will always take your service in a direction you may not have considered and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. These are your power users and early adopters and in some ways they understand the value in your system better than you do.
A good example of the negative impact of Foursquare Jumpers comes from @ladylexy talking to Scoble about the Indonesian jumpers spamming her site with bad data. Apparently she spent an entire day trying to rid her system of bad data as Indonesian Foursquare Jumpers were checking in using her service in order to get the Platformer badge which you get from checking in from other apps. The site got spammed with fake posts giving a shoutout to Dennis Crowley. Alexa even said that when she checked in to her flight and received the Go-Go in-flight badge, she got a message from an Indonesian Jumper asking her to check him in so he too could get the badge.
On a side note, Alexa Andrzejewski also talks about how the Foodspotting BlackBerry app is “coming soon” and we saw a preview for it at SXSW. The app was pretty awesome but RIM and Foodspotting decided they couldn’t launch it for some reason. I even tweeted a screenshot of the app to the developers with a “good work guys” message and was asked to delete my tweets. It’s that sort of thing that really frustrates me about RIM. Here is someone trying to get excited about their platform and they’re met with demands to delete the tweets. Who cares if the app isn’t announced? Other than that, the Foodspotting event was awesome and the Foodspotting site is pretty cool as well. Definitely check it out if you’re not familiar with it.
In the end, this community proves that virtual goods are a powerful motivating force and any web service and app can be greatly improved with these simple game mechanics. It creates a game layer on top of your app/service and provides another level of interaction and potential for data mining. So if you can see the potential for implementing this on your website or app, do it.