The issue of early adopters (or the Welsh Digital Illuminati!)
- David Berry suggests that foursquare can be made a space where the Welsh language is used if the ‘Welsh Digital Illuminati’ rally round and start leaving Welsh tips. I agree in principle that this is how you make Welsh language use on a platform normalised. A stubborn few hardcore users making a language visible on a platform, and getting the ball rolling, reducing the sense of talking in a vacuum. With Twitter and Facebook this development happened organically. People loved to use those platforms and saw that their friends were using them and so on. What I saw with Foursquare initially was that those usual Welsh speaking early adopters were there, but were either using English or not leaving tips at all, and just checking in (using English by default).
- Berry suggests that Welsh speakers should rush to try to colonise a platform before English, but this is just impossible. The amount of people that speak English compared to Welsh (as well as those bilinguals who defer to English as their default online) will always mean that Welsh language use of a platform will come much later and much slower.
- There are only so many Welsh speaking people adopting new digital technologies early and who have the desire and will to use Welsh on those platforms. The number of new digital platforms is increasing all the time. It becomes a resource management and prioritisation issue. If the platform does not seem to be getting traction, then concentrate energies on something else, where time and effort can yield greater value for both the person creating content on that platform and end-user. People haven’t put all their eggs (or any eggs!) in the 4sq basket.
English and the invisible mass audience
- When confronted with the opportunity to leave a tip on Foursquare, the user would usually have some idea in their mind of an audience. This could be their followers, as well as other unknown 4sq users who may check-in in the future. Most Welsh speakers, I would hazard, would leave a tip in English in order for their message to be understood by the widest possible audience.
- But why leave a tip in English on 4sq when the same person would happily tweet in Welsh/bilingually when using another platform? I think it has to do with message frequency, permanence and a known audience. A tweet is one message amidst a busy flow giving the tweet less weight perhaps than a tip on Foursquare. The linguistic choice is therefore not dwelled upon too much. A Welsh speaking Twitter user also has a much wider range of followers that it knows do speak Welsh (as well as possibly knowing that tweets are aggregated on platforms like Umap), meaning that they can imagine their audience in a much more concrete way than 4sq.
Reviews vs Game Layer
- I started dabbling with Foursquare when it first launched. At the time, the tips elements of 4sq were not really how it was being pushed. It was the game layer that was the talking point which is non-linguistic in essence (although having automatic tweets of location etc in English only is a turn off). Even though Crowley has tried to shake this off, that is still how I perceive it.
Has anybody really taken to Foursquare in Wales in a widespread way?
- I gave up on Foursquare for several reasons: I found the game layer to be a little pointless; I found the social/serendipity element to be non-existent in my area (Ceredigion); I didn’t want to share my location in public; I found the take up of it didn’t reach a point where I thought ” I want to be part of this”; I found that tips on sites such as Qype and Yelp already provided me with deeper and better reviews for places I wished to go; and lastly: I didn’t want one other reason to get my phone out wherever I went!
- I haven’t seen a large amount of people whom I know beyond those who adpoted 4sq early that have started using 4sq. With 10m users worldwide (but no stats on actual usage by these accounts), and although much lauded as a competitor to Twitter, it is still hasn’t really managed to break out to mainstream use. I believe that most people are just too wary of publicly visible geolocation, or can’t see the point. The online review market is already fragmented, and in my opinion we don’t have enough Welsh speaking online reviewers who wish to use these platforms.
- One prime example of where 4sq should work in Welsh but didn’t is the Eisteddfod. But alas 5 checkins an no reviews.
Usefulness and population density
- How useful is 4sq in areas where there aren’t many regular users? I have looked at the tips in Aberystwyth today and still find them a bit on the weak side . In my opinion Qype and others have cornered the market on comments and reviews for places and Aberystwyth has a much wider variety and depth of tips. So the local and social serendipity aspects are weakened in areas where there is not a particularly high population density, as are many Welsh speaking areas.
- Instead of using 4sq Welsh language Twitter users have started their own simple Twitter based platform that shares reviews through the hashtag #adolygiad: Adolygiad.com. This to me would suggest that there are people who wish to write reviews online, but don’t want to use platforms such as 4sq and Yelp which make it difficult, if not impossible, to find all Welsh language reviews in one place, or have a Welsh interface (Qype at one point did allow you to tag Welsh language reviews).
- I don’t think it’s a coincidence either that 3G is so non-existent in Wales outside areas of high population density. Granted, 4sq is not heavy on data, but it may be the case that smartphone uptake is lower in these areas due to mobile data issues.
- On usefulness, I agree that if there was a lot of Welsh language information on 4sq that it could be used for other platforms to build upon, but the kind of density of activity for you to be able to build something viable upon it would be very difficult. I think that only Twitter and Wicipedia would have enough content to make any apps that use their APIs viable. 4sq would take a long time to do that, and would ultimately still be patchy in its coverage.
Interface and Descriptions
- Most places are named and described in English, which is understandable as that is the language of the interface. However, when you know that the place is commonly referred to in Welsh, or there is a Welsh name, it grates. It grates doubly if you can’t edit it. You have to be ‘first in’ or a superuser to amend the name of a place. Not a dealbreaker but certainly not much of an incentive to continue with it. The platform disincentivises use in any language other than English. Some platforms (such as Quora) remove Welsh language content as inappropriate language. As you can guess, I’ll never use Quora again, though’m not sure what 4sq’s policy is on this to be honest.