Foursquare Cheaters Never Prosper (or do they)?

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Your parents always told you that cheaters never prosper. It’s a saying we tell children (and occasionally a few adults) so they learn to become honest, wholesome people.

Unfortunately, cheaters may be prospering on Foursquare.

These cheaters could very well be uncrowning your coveted Mayor status at your favorite Starbucks. They may be racking up all the points and kicking your butt on this week’s leaderboard. They may be ‘checking-in’ all over town swiping up badges, all from the comfort of their couch.

Last Month, the Los Angeles Times published “Confessions of a Foursquare cheater” about a California man who thought it would be funny to become the ‘Mayor’ of the North Pole. From that idea, Jim Bumgardner (the cheater) later wrote about 10 scripts that would check him into different venues every 20 minutes.

Ok, so being the mayor of the North Pole is kind of a cool idea, but as Bumgardner stated in the article, Foursquare should be accountable for its security.

“My goal was to eventually reveal my findings, so Foursquare would be motivated to tighten their security. But obviously I was having a bit of fun during my land grab.”

According to Bumgardner’s blog, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley commented on Bumgardner’s post regarding his North Pole mayor crown. Crowley states:

“On one hand, we want everyone to be able to check-in from anywhere on any device. We’ve never liked the idea of creating a service that only your coolest friends with the coolest phones could use so we made sure any user on any phone would be able to check-in (SMS. mobile_web)

On the other hand, the social game really works best when you can rely on GPS accuracy to police the checkins – if you’re not really there, you shouldn’t get credit for being there, right?

But what’s more valuable – a system in which everyone can play & participate? Or a system that places emphasis on the validity of each checkin/post at the expense of all inclusiveness? I think the thing that makes fourssquare so interesting – and yet so difficult – is that it wants to be both things at the same time. And if you survey users, just as many use it for finding their friends as they do for trying to get points / badges / mayorships.

At foursquare, I think we still have some thinking to do on this. We do see a lot of fake checkins (yes, we log and flag them… i think 2-3% of total checkins were ‘fake’ last time we checked) and there are a few bad apples that like to steal mayorships from their couch. We’ve been punting on addressing this because it requires removing some of the magic from foursquare (mayors, points, badges) for users with non-GPS phones.”

What are your thoughts about Foursquare cheaters? Should Foursquare become more accountable with its security, or keep it as is?

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