Location-Based Testimonies

I love it when a new way comes along for sharing Jesus with others.  Sometimes it feels like the technology was meant for it.  Well, in this case it definitely wasn’t created for it, but wow, it’s almost too easy.  You see, location-based social media apps, like Gowalla and Foursquare, were developed for users to share where they are, businesses to deliver deals to regulars, and patrons to rate and give tips to others thinking about stopping by.  Inadvertently these service providers have created another outlet for us to share our stories of how a relationship with Jesus changes ones life. Read more of this post

If I had a dime for every time I checked in there…

I recently decided to reevaluate my use of location-based check-in apps. For some time I’ve been an avid Foursquare user (Don’t try friending me, unless you know me, because I don’t want to go down that whole stalker road again), but I have been hearing more about some other services and wanted to give them a shot. After reading a few articles of some up and coming apps, I added, to my repertoire of attendance takers, these fine specimens: SCVNGR, Gowalla, Loopt, and Friendsaround. The following is a summary of my in-depth, scientific testing. Yeah, Yeah, that’s what it was.

Loopt quickly got axed because of its fondness for wanting to keep my location beacon active on my phone, leading to quicker than average battery drain.  In addition, Loopt really had nothing to offer me for my check ins, aside from letting my friends (one) know where I was.  I mean come on, you’ve got to give me something.  All I’m asking for is a points system, or nicely designed badges.  I’d even settle for a funny sound upon checking in.  Yet, what did I get from this app? Nothing but heartbreak. Loopt, You’re Fired!

Following quickly behind Loopt on the delete-o-matic was Friendsaround. It had potential, but ended up being:

  1. Too confusing – What’s a Fame, and why should I want it? I supposedly have 520 of them.  Is there a cash equivalent?
  2. Ugly to look at – Really, orange? Who thought that was a good idea? Frank, pack up your things and turn in your badge.
  3. “No venues have been loaded yet.” – When trying to do a quick check in, so as to not look like you are married to your phone, there is nothing more annoying than having to create the place you are checking into.  I can understand once in a while having to, but come on, do I really go to that unpopular of places?  Beets-R-Us, had to create it.  Snuggie factory tour, no one? The Love Shack, I don’t care what the sign says, it’s a little old place where we can get together, just not check-in. Friendsaround, you are the weakest link, goodbye!

Now SCVNGR has a lot of potential, but still has aways to go. It has a points system, but I can’t figure out why, just that I’m accruing them. The badges are nice, but nothing interesting.  Some businesses are even offering discounts for using the app, but these are smaller local places and the discounts aren’t that amazing.  Where I can see SCVNGR really taking off is the challenges portion.  You can create or do a task at the location and then get points for it.  It could be anything from take a picture and post it while you’re there, to answer a question related to where you are.  The problem so far is that I have only come across one place to have one of these challenges already created.  I guess I could just start making them, but from the looks of it, I may be the only one. SCVNGR, I’m sorry to tell you that you have been eliminated from the race.

From everything I can tell, Gowalla has the second largest amount of users, next to Foursquare. It works like a virtual passport, where you collect badges, pins, and items from locations you check-in to. I really like the custom location badges for a plethora of nationwide businesses.  The items are very intriguing to me.  With in the period of my testing I have collected a pair of ski boots, a scarf, and two digital slr cameras.  What these are used for, I have no idea, but if some one out there knows, please tell me. So Gowalla, you passed the test.  Don’t get to comfortable though, one peep out of you and back to the cellar you’ll go.

Foursquare is good to me, and completely out in front of the competition.  There’s still nothing comparable, in the other apps, to being mayor of a location in foursquare.  More and more businesses are offering discounts through foursquare, and some of them are actually pretty good. For now, this is still the best check-in app available.

In the end, if you are in to checking in, just find something that you have fun doing. Then, try to convince your friends to do it to. So, what’s your experience with these apps?  Have one you like? Are you linking it up with Twitter or Facebook?  Most importantly, explain to me the Gowalla items? Please, I’m begging you.

First timer follow up

Check out what Vince Marotte is doing over at Gateway Church for first time checkins on Foursquare.

You can check out his blog post on Church Crunch.  Seems we have similar ideas about the use of this medium. Very cool. For more ideas dealing with location-based services check out my previous post on the subject.

Check-in a Box 2.0

Well here we go again.  In a meeting last week we found out that our newest campus was going to meet at a different location in a couple of weeks.  No big deal, everything is meant to be set up and torn down every Sunday.  Oh wait, there’s a catch. No network drops will be available for us to plug-in Check-in a Box for our children’s ministry.  Solution….. Check-in a Box 2.0

In reality, all we did was switch out the wireless router and add a mifi card.  The difference is, the new router is amazing.

The MBR1200 – Failsafe Gigabit N Router for Mobile Broadband works like a normal wireless router, but can connect to a 3G or 4G mobile device.  Check out the product page here.  The router has a very impressive web interface where you can pretty much adjust any aspect of the device that you want.  It also accepts a plethora of mobile broadband devices (tethering phones, usb dongles, and pci cards).  Another nice feature was that after plugging the router in, it said, “Good Morning Michael.”

When running check-in on all 4 Duo’s going across the mifi there was some substantial slowness, but it worked.  For a more long-term solution we would like to purchase a 4G unit to connect to it.  Either way, it’s a great way to run check-in when you have no network drops available.  Can you say outside at a sports camp?

Check-in a Box

Finally!  It has been so awesome to see one of our BIG ideas come to reality.  It was a lot of work, but well worth it.  I am very pleased to introduce you to Check-in a Box.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Check-in a Box is our mobile solution for checking kids into Sunday school.  We just opened a new campus at our church that has to be completely set up and torn down each Sunday.  We wanted a solution for our Fellowship One (Our CHMS (Church Management Software) that has a native application used for keeping attendance and managing volunteers) check-in stations that would be easy to set up and tear down while at the same time have a minimal amount of points of failure.  We initially looked at all-in-one desktops with touch screens, but it just didnt’ flow well with the building we were in.  Using iPads had intrigued us for some time, but the truth is, as much as I love the iPad, the back side of the set up was too complicated and came with too many points of failure.  Then we read about the Dell Inspiron Duo.  Instead of me writing about it, watch this:

So here’s the breakdown of what’s in the box:

4 Dell Inspiron Duo’s (we stripped a ton of pre-installed apps off of these guys, so they are running very smooth)

  • Intel N550 Dual Core, 1.5GHz, 2 x 512K L2 Cache
  • 2GB,DDR3,1333MHz, Runs at 800MHz
  • 10.1 in W 16:9 RGBW HD, Multi-touch, 1.3M Webcam (1366×768)
  • 320G, 2.5inch, 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • 29WHr Lithium-Ion Battery (4-cell)

4 Zebra TLP 2884-Z Label Printers

Zebra PS4000 Wireless Print Server

Belkin Wireless Router

The PS4000 was easy to come by, but the management port cable (Serial to RJ45, apparently a very specific type BL17502-2) wasn’t easy to find.  We ended up finding the cable at Barcodediscount.com (Item: Zebra AK18350-1
Cable Kit for PS4000, DNLD Shield, DB-9 ).  Once the correct cable was obtained the server was very easy to set up.

Each of the Duo’s is mapped to all 4 printers, with each tablet having a different default.  The printers have the same IP address, but with different ports (all of which are tweakable via the console port software for the server).

Update: We’ve added a new feature to Check-in a Box.

Please comment with any questions you have and I will update the post with more info if requested.

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