Mar 26 AT 3:43 PM Clark Wimberly 12 Comments

One to rule them all? Almost…


While their usefulness is often debated, no one can deny that location-based check-in services are the new hotness. During SXSW here in Austin it was more apparent than ever. Every venue I visited I was greeted by a large crowd of geeks standing around staring at their phones. Checking in, asking if there was a specific check-in for the party, telling someone else they should be checking in- it was insanity.

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The sheer buzz surrounding check-ins has everyone and their mother hopping into the location pool. There are a dozen (probably more) location-based micro-status updating apps to choose from and some users are starting to suffer from check-in fatigue. Granted, it’s a silly term, but it highlights a real problem. There are just so many apps and networks to update that a simple concept like checking in can balloon into a multi-app tango requiring several minutes of your time.

One app looking to simplify things is With a single web app (read: cross platform) a user can check into multiple services (right now just Brightkite, Foursquare and Gowalla) simultaneously. The service is currently in closed beta but you can visit the site to sign up for an invite. was nice enough to sneak me into the beta and let me poke around some. The service hasn’t been extensively tested on Android so consider everything I say here subject to change.

In pursuit of a quicker check-in, the user can add multiple third-party accounts under a single profile. will then determine the user’s location and present a list of venues (pulled from the third-party services) to select from. With a single click the service can check-in to all the linked accounts at once (even including an optional status message).

Where are you again?

While the concept is amazing, the actual implementation leaves a bit to be desired. When trying to check-in to multiple accounts, seems to have a little trouble aligning the varying venue data from each service. When the venue has the exact same name from service to service, you’ll only have to select from one list. But if, for example, Foursquare has a location listed as the Main St Pub and Gowalla has it as Main Street Pub, will make you select it from a list twice (once for each service).

Having to select from multiple lists effectively defeats the purpose of having one app handle all your check-ins. The good news is is aware of the dilemma. When a repeat selection is required, the service learns from the user selection and tries to pair up the locations for future use. The bad news is a repeat selection actually allows you to check-in to two completely different locations on two separate services at the same time.

Another downer is the lack of full two-way communication between the services. You’d never know if you found an item in Gowalla or if you’d gained some Foursquare badge in the process of your check-in. In fact, you might not even know if your check-in was successful. A few times would appear to allow me to check-in somewhere I knew Gowalla itself would not. I’d still get a You’re Checked In! message in, but the actual act would never make it back to Gowalla.

For all my complaints, it’s still a pretty impressive little app (which is still in beta). If can straighten out some of the quirks arising from mashing services (and their data sets) together it could end up being mighty handy. As stands now it’s just an extremely cool proof of concept.

Check out the screens below for more

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Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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  • http://Website Todd is the Pavlov’s dog of check-in apps


    Ian Pavlov’s research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. The phrase “Pavlov’s dog” is often used to describe someone who merely reacts to a situation rather than using critical thinking.

  • http://Website Haggie

    Nobody has been able to explain to me convincingly why a normal person would bother to check-in everywhere he/she goes or how a person becomes so self-centered as to think anyone else cared?

    • Justin Shapcott

      I am right there with you on that…

    • http://Website nero

      What if they check in simply because they want to bereft of any self-aggrandizing thoughts? Nahhhhh, that would render your comment moot…

  • Martin May


    Thanks for the write-up. A few clarifications:

    - we only ask you to disambiguate when we cannot automatch, but our automatching is actually pretty smart, you must have gotten unlucky.
    - when you do disambiguate, we actually learn from it. So, as usage increases, it will be able to automatch more reliably.
    - you can skip individual services (e.g. if there is no match) by scrolling to the bottom and hitting “skip foursquare/gowalla/etc”
    - you can see if the checkin was successful by looking at the dot behind the service…green means success, read means failure
    - expect to see gained mayorships, points, items, etc. in the coming week after you check in

    If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.


    • Clark Wimberly

      Thanks for the follow-up. I’ve been getting fewer repeat selections so it appears things are smoothing out. Can’t wait to see the mayorships and points make it into

      I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it as you guys progress.

      PS: Is this using jQTouch?

  • Mobile Brazzer

    I don’t get what these things do..

    checking in to what?

    Waiting for a restaurant table?

    Please dont tell me its just updating your location status on some social network…

    this is something actually important in the real world, right?

    • Clark Wimberly

      different strokes for different folks.

      you not using/getting it doesn’t negate its usefulness to the hundreds of thousands that are. business agrees, the money being thrown around right now is ridiculous.

      • Justin Shapcott

        Ridiculous being the key word there. ;)

        J/K … Kinda-sorta….

        I guess I can see some merit in it, but not really from a user/consumer standpoint. Where I see the use is for businesses to learn about their customers and trends, and theoretically target their customers better. I probably just don’t know enough about these services to realize the user/consumer potential.

  • ciaoenrico

    I just got my beta key today, and so far it’s okay. What’s bothering me so far is that there isn’t a specific phone app for it at all – not for Android, anyway. So far it’s just page in my phone’s browser. I look forward to trying it out when I can upload it directly to my handset.

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