As I mentioned, I’m learning to code with Codeyear. With every completed lesson or assignment, you get a badge on your profile page, and wow, that is addictive…

I wanted to get more badges, and considered signing up for Foursquare, where you get a badge for checking in to physical locations. Now I’ve never wanted to join Foursquare, because I don’t really want people to know where I am all the time. I see people using it via Twitter, and get updated whenever they’re at the supermarket. Who cares?

Maria told me that marketers really love Foursquare, and I can understand it from a marketing perspective, but still didn’t see any benefits to me.

In Cambridge, Foursquare is especially pointless. There are effectively no more than 20 places where people regularly check in, and they’re almost all pubs. There is simply nothing here. Everyone already knows where everyone is at any given time, because it’s a tiny village. And all Foursquare adds to that is a few people who broadcast this online.

For example, right now I’m in my living room, and I can see that a girl called Katya is presently at the gym behind my house. I don’t know her, but she’s broadcasting to anyone within range that she’s there. Also, she is the only person checked in anywhere at all within half a kilometer of me. What’s the point?

But I can only see this because I did sign up for Foursquare this week. Why? City Badges.

City Badges are a relatively new feature of Foursquare that I can totally get behind. For a selection of cities around the world (mostly within the US), locals have recommended particular places, and if you go to five of those places, you get a badge for that city. It started in Chicago, and a few cities have since been added, including London and Tokyo. Plus, New York also has some local badges that you only get in New York. Now it just so happens that this year I’m going to Chicago, Tokyo, and New York – and I’m regularly in London. I want those badges!

A few days ago I tried out Foursquare in London. I pulled up the screen to show what was nearby, and there were locations and people everywhere! I couldn’t find Platform 9 3/4 (one of the sites that gets you the Foursquare “London Calling” badge). It gets moved around all the time with the construction at the station, but a recent comment on the Foursquare page for the site said that it was now between platform 8 and 9.

Now that is useful. It’s like a live guidebook, written collectively, and always up to date. I finally saw the benefit of Foursquare.

Don’t be afraid of me checking into supermarkets. I’m trying it out a bit now that it’s new, but I intend to only go for the badges. Next week I’ll be in Chicago, and I’m going to try to get either the Chicago Blues Badge or the Windy City Badge. The eligible check-ins are spread across the city, so it’s going to be hard. London will be much easier. I ticked off two locations when I was there on Wednesday night, and will easily get three more over the next few months. Tokyo includes many locations I know we’ll go anyway, like Shibuya crossing and the Ghibli Museum, so that should be easy, too.

The only hard part is figuring out how to check in abroad. I never use data roaming, but may have to try switching it on and off when I’m in Chicago. It can’t possibly cost more than what I had to spend on a twenty minute phone call to Canada last month.