Gowalla and Foursquare in Sweden

So I’ve been using Gowalla and Foursquare a little while now – to experiment and evaluate, and I’m still doing just that. It feels, however, that I have managed to get a basic sense of the two location-based services (LBS). Internationally, which I interpret as in the US, Foursquare is kicking Gowalla’s butt, at least number-wise. Foursquare have as of today 4 million users while Gowalla boasts a mere 600,000. Looking at just Sweden, I’m not sure which one is the biggest. I will therefore make a very subjective assessment of the two services from a user perspective.

I really prefer the look and feel of Gowalla compared to Foursquare. Have a peek at the “front page” of the two apps below. Foursquare has a map icon but Gowalla does the feed a bit sleeker.

Foursquare frontGowalla front

Checking into places, what’s it’s all about, is also a bit different. Of course the basics are the same, where are you and what are you doing there. In Foursquare you can choose to share this with your friends or not. In Gowalla your friends get the update but you can choose to also send this update to Twitter and Facebook (if you’ve connected them). This is nifty if you sometimes, some places, what to give a shout out (or brag) to your tweeps or FB friends.

Foursquare check-inGowalla check-in

Since it’s all about places, places is a big part of the functionality. Here Foursquare beats Gowalla in my opinion. As you can see below, in Gowalla there’s often duplicates and I find myself always looking for the right spot with the most check-ins. Foursquare is more precise and usually have one correct spot, often with an address as well.

Gowalla duplicates

Looking at what businesses are doing, it’s like with the user base and thus number of friends you’ll have, depending on where you’re at. In the states more and more business are joining forces with the location based social gaming. In Sweden Ica had a Gowalla campaign with a store opening and H&M are now saying that you can unlock discounts on Foursquare. Below you see H&M’s coupon or what you can call it, next to it is what I think can be an even more fun way of engaging your fans. Svenska Spel (the Swedish state-owned gambling company) has launched a trip on Gowalla. Check in on at least three hockey arenas and answer a question to get a couple of tickets for a match, a nice and fun way to reward your fans – Sweden’s hockey nuts.

Foursquare dealGowalla Sponsored Trip

I mentioned the Trips in Gowalla and that’s one thing that I believe can bring me value from LBS. I like exploring and trips can help me discover new spots and… well trips. The hockey trip is one example but there’s a lot more, both commercial and non-commercial. You can even create your own trips and show your friends new discoveries that way.

Foursquare has an even better take on this with their Tips. On every spot you can tip your friends or other visitors on whatever you like – that special order not on the menu, or a favorite dish, best corner, well you know I’m all about eating out but you get the picture. Another neat thing is that when you check in near a place where a friend of yours has left a tip it gets displayed – like “Mr. Smith says the coffee around the corner is awesome”. You can of course list all tips nearby as well. As you can see, they also have a to-do list, nice but nothing I’m using very much at the moment.

Gowalla tripsFoursquare tips

Wrapping up I still prefer Gowalla. If they were to add the Tips-function from Foursquare and cleaned up their spots – then I’m all in. Nevertheless, in the end it all comes down to where your friends are. If one service is the shiznit but no friends are there, what’s it good for? For me, Gowalla is where it’s all at. Seems like Sweden is a Gowalla country after all, or what’s your experience?

The Jante Law’s effect on Customer Service in Sweden

– Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.

That is, according to Wikipedia.org, the essence of the Jante Law – a set of rules or a sentiment that every Scandinavian is familiar with. Most of the time it gets referenced in a humorous way, sort of in the same way we love the caricatures of our beloved neighbors within Scandinavia. But in the same way that it’s funny, it also hits a nerve because we recognize ourselves in it.

The Swedish middle way has in my opinion furthered the presence of the Jante Law. I don’t have the energy to go into that particular debate, let’s take it in a separate post someday, because now I just want to throw up on how this sense of conformity has severely crippled Swedes sense of good service. You see I have a theory that this ‘law’ affects Swedish organizations’ quality of customer service.

I’m pretty fucking tired of having to do business with people who don’t seem to want my business. I’m sick and tired of having a sales person/client service rep/waiter/what-have-you sigh themselves through my humble wish of spending my overly taxed income at their venue. It’s like I’m bothering them at work. Their job is to effing facilitate our effing little transaction.

And don’t get me wrong people. I don’t look down on any job demanding to be pampered as if I was royalty. Somehow it feels like the average Swede worries that others will do so thus having the attitude of “don’t think your better than me just because we’re on different sides of the counter”. Every job I’ve had that included elements of customer service gets so much better when you take pride in what you do, like any old job. And there you have it – pride is at odds with the Jante Law.

So called real jobs of manufacturing stuff and making stuff grown out of the ground have been spared of this anti-pride campaign thanks to Luther and his goodie-two-shoes doctrine of get yourself up in the morning and pull your bit. Now it’s time to incorporate good service into this part of the Swedish mentality.

Because customer service is not only important in a more service intense economy, good or rather great customer service is key to all businesses. Several well-known bloggers and pundits have underlined the importance of customer service as a cornerstone for good PR, marketing and business excellence. Zappos is a good example of this.

So, aren’t you sick of bad service too? Any suggestions on how to fix it or do we need to await the invisible hand or new generations?

Image by Here’s Kate.

A little gem called Grythyttan

Salmalax

We were travelling from Gothenburg to Leksand and thought to ourselves – what the hell can we find on the way. In the middle of Sweden. In the middle of all that coniferous forrest. In the middle of nowhere. Then it hit me – there’s a culinary epicentre somewhere on our way with a culinary school and a lovely inn with a renowned restaurant called Grythyttan.

We booked a night at inn and a table for the evening. The room was charming. In fact the whole town is charming. But let’s focus on – surprise – the dinner. We had a summer tasting menue that was affordable and worth every penny. They kicked it of with Cucumber Water. It was a refreshing cleanser of the taste buds with taste of citrus, mint and of course cucumber.

First course was Salmalaxsalmon from Norway famous for how the freshness is preserved. The lax was accompanied by baked egg yolk and cured cod roe emulsion. The wine with this was 2008 “Le Bel Ange” a Chardonnay by Domaine Begude, Pays d’Oc, France. Nice!

Main course was Veal Shoulder with Fried Tongue – a magnificent pairing with the tender veal and the crisp tongue full of flavour. To this came chestnut puré, butter fried apple and oxtail gravy. Wine was 2006 Pilheiros from Douro in Portugal by François Lurton. Yummy!

Before dessert we got some great Hard Cheeses from Sivans Ost. Along came honey from Mörkö, peach chutney and toasted fruit bread. A perfect escort to the dessert and well matched with 2009 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling by Fritz Haag, Mosel, Germany.

Dessert was Baked Chocolate served with caramelised malt, rosemary croutons and raspberry sorbet. Wine was 2007 Curina by Barone Pizzini, Marche, Italy.

To top an already perfect evening we made our way to the garden and ordered some coffee and avec. I also jumped at the opportunity to enjoy a good cigar – a Swedish brand called Hafströms that was a pleasant surprise. Quite potent.

The room at Grythyttan's Inn