More Tracking (Please!)


Remember last year when I wrote about how your iPhone tracks your location? (Sort of.) Some people find this stuff creepy, but I’m a fan of geo-tracking, and I want more of this data. It’s part of the reason I use things like Foursquare and Google Latitude. A fellow Milwaukee Makerspace member is even working on a device to seamlessly let your office mates know which office you are in. (See Marco.)

Last 30 Days
Last 30 days of tracking, via Google Latitude

The fact that Google Latitude only shows the last 30 days is (to me) a bug, not a feature, and it means that if I want to save that data, I probably need to dig into the API and write my own code to do it. I wrote some code to grab and save all my Foursquare data, and it worked great until they deprecated the API. I haven’t upgrade my code to use new API because it’s an OAuthMess, which I haven’t wanted to deal with yet.

A sad list of choices for hardcore geo-nerds

I understand that many (most?) people don’t want this data public, or shared, or kept, or all of those things. I mean, look at the options: Show timestamps, Export to KML, Delete history from this time period, Delete all history. Half of your choices involve deleting data.

When I look at some of the mapping crazy-geo stuff that Aaron has done… I’m floored by it, and I want to see more of that, not less. Again, it’s not for everyone, but for the people who want their own data, or the ability to share/republish their own data, there’s some good potential there… and I hope to see more of it in the future.


Your iPhone is tracking you!

Oh yeah, time to freak out, because your iPhone is tracking you! Well, it’s tracking itself, or cell towers, or wifi access points, or… something of interest, but sadly, it’s not doing a great job at it.

For some people, this is “Big Brother” type of scare… and for others (fans of geo-tracking) it’s not quite good enough.

I grabbed iPhone Tracker, and dug through some of my files, and took a look at the SQLite database, and was fascinated by the data (I tend to get fascinated by data) but I didn’t feel like alerting the media about it…

Will Clarke has a nice blog post about this as well. It’s worth a read.

Here’s some data that was marked 2010-12-29. I’m not sure what that date refers to, but this seems to show my trip taken on 2011-01-01. I find it interesting to see this data. Back in mid-2010 I wrote some code to make an archive of my Foursquare data, with the thought I would map it all out at some point. Sadly, I’ve collected a lot of data, but haven’t done anything useful with it yet. Maybe it would make more sense for me to just get my geo-data directly from my iPhone. I mean, I don’t even have to check in and it knows (roughly) where I’ve been!

This seems to do a poor job of showing where I was. I mean, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in all of these location. Maybe it was just my phone connecting to towers in all of these locations…

A nice table view of some of the geo-data the iPhone records. Now to figure out how to use it for something good. Or bad. Or somewhere in-between.


The Foursquare Experience



  1. Arrive at Post Office
  2. Launch Foursquare
  3. Wait
  4. Tap “Check in”
  5. Wait
  6. Leave Post Office
  7. Foursquare found no venues
  8. Quit Foursquare
  9. Launch Foursquare
  10. Stare at splash screen
  11. Wait
  12. Quit Foursquare
  13. Launch Foursquare
  14. Tap “Check in”
  15. Tap “Check in”
  16. Tap “Check in”
  17. Foursquare doesn’t find Post Office
  18. Type in “Post Office”
  19. Wait
  20. Scroll through a dozen post offices
  21. Tap the one I was at about 10 minutes ago
  22. Check in
  23. Quit Foursquare

Foursquare is a geographical location based social network that incorporates gaming elements.


Foursquare Fun – Who is Here?

Foursquare I had this idea for Foursquare… I thought it might be cool for a venue to have a screen showing who recently checked in. So I dug into the API a bit to see if that could be done. Here’s what I got.

I fired up FoursquareX and saw that old pal tapps was at MOCT, which happens to be a bar/nightclub. (I know this because I’ve been there once… though it was a paid gig and I was operating a camera.) Anyway… I needed the venue ID (vid) for MOCT, which you can get from the URL: Once I had that, I did this:

curl -u [USERNAME]:[PASSWORD]-o moct.xml ''

(You’ll need to substitute your own Foursquare username for [USERNAME] and your Foursquare password for [PASSWORD]. Also, your username is your email address, not what displays as your name on Foursquare. )

This gave me a file called ‘moct.xml’ containing the data I needed. (Note that this API call requires authentication… without it you’ll get venue info, but not the list of people checked in.)

I won’t show you the entire file, but here’s the first part to look at, the stats:

        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

You can see the important bits are: checkins, herenow, and mayor. The herenow tells you how many people are there right now. (I believe “right now” means, they have checked in within the last 3 hours.)

So here’s the info for tapps:

      <created>Wed, 20 Oct 10 23:17:23 +0000</created>
        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

And here’s a user named “Ty S.” who I do not know…

      <created>Thu, 21 Oct 10 00:20:45 +0000</created>
        <homecity>Milwaukee, WI</homecity>

We can construct the URL to his Foursquare page using the id:, and if the user has a username set, it will redirect to custom URL. (At least, it will if you are logged in with your browser.) We can also see their photo, so you could do something interesting with that as well. (There are no access controls on the images, you should be able to see any of those.) You can also see their homecity and their gender. I’m sure you can come up with an interesting Boys vs. Girls display using that data… And for a nightclub, well, it just seems fitting.

OK, well that’s all the time we have for now, keep on hacking… and if you build anything interesting with this info, please let me know.

Update: I probably should have linked to the API docs as well:


Foursquare Mapping

I’ve been a fan of geohacking for a number of years, so when Foursquare showed up it seemed like it made geotracking easy and popular. Which is good for me, because I like geodata. (Some call this stuff “LBS” or “Location Based Services.”)

Foursquare I recently added a Foursquare widget to my blog. It’s in the right column and titled “recently at” and it just displays a short list of recent checkins. (It’s a simple WordPress Plugin that I was going to write, but since someone else did, I figured I’d just use theirs. Thanks Andrew!)

I’m also a believer that visualizing data makes it more powerful, so after digging around in Foursquare’s App Gallery, I found a few interesting things.


CheckoutCheckins is a nice little web site that mashes up your Foursquare data with the Google Maps API to show you where people and venues are. The creator is also on Twitter as @CheckoutCheckin aka @dannypier. was written by Steven Lehrburger in a Mashups class he took in school. It shows a heatmap of where you’ve been. (He’s also on Twitter as @lehrblogger and is working on something called


FoursquareX is a Mac OS X native client which lets you just use your computer instead of your phone to do the Foursquare thing. It also has a nice map view, again using Google’s mapping services. (One thing about FoursquareX, the first time I used it connected to my home wifi network, it didn’t work at all. I tested at work on our wifi network, and it worked fine. So I’m not 100% sure when it will work versus when it will not work, YMMV, etc.)

Twitter was probably one of the most instrumental in leading they way showing why you should provide an API to your users, and I applaud Foursquare for making their API available, and I’m glad to see more and more services doing it.