Gowalla and Foursquare

I have become quite alarmed recently as several people have inquired about my sobriety. Oh dear, how can this be? I like a pint of beer – but not so much or so often that people should feel the need to mention it?

What can be the cause?

Some months ago. I took to using situational social Apps like Gowalla and Foursquare as I moved about the country. These Apps just sit on my phone and use GPS to register (with my instigation) my presence in place ‘a’ or place ‘b’.

I started with Gowalla for no other reason than it seemed to be the one least used by friends. I had thought there were too many of my Facebook ‘friends’ using Foursquare and that Gowalla needed some attention.

I started by noting my presence at a number of venues already registered with Gowalla and then as I became more used to the system, I registered a number of venues on the system myself. These venues included the local village, where I shop, the local pub where Sharon and I might meet after work for a drink before dinner and the local bakers – which is a real delight. All was going well until my connection to the Gowalla servers became very erratic. Some registrations wouldn’t load while others just disappeared. I found this frustrating and decided to reconsider my actions.

Although I have no real reason to use these tools for my own satisfaction, they are systems I felt that I should experience and research as part of my wider work role as the use of virtual and situational services has great potential. Gowalla’s lack of reliability made me move over to Foursquare – I didn’t particularly want to, but my peers were saying “use ‘Foursquare’ Dave”.

So, on Foursquare I can (and have) now become the ‘Mayor’ of various places. I become mayor by being the person that attends/visits a venue/location most frequently in the previous 30 days (don’t quote me on that, I’m working from received wisdom here). Each visit to a registered site gains me points which then show on a leader board that shows how you compare to your other friends. So an element of competition does creep in here, which makes Foursquare a little more user friendly than Gowalla. There are other services – I just haven’t used them much yet.

The big problem is, as alluded to above, people now think that I am a alcoholic!

Many of the venues already registered on Foursquare and Gowalla are social venues like nightclubs, pubs and restaurants. These are the sort of venues that people go to to relax and perhaps stay for longer than one might if buying a pack of aspirin at the chemist (although some chemists are registered). It’s much easier therefore to register your presence at a venue where drink is served than where you might buy milk or petrol. And I do!

What I don’t do, is register my presence at every place I visit (they may not be registered or I may not have the time or inclination) or at home – somewhere I spend that vast majority of my time. Giving the exact location of your home may well be folly – especially if you happen to note that you are going on holiday soon. The pub visits therefore stand out and even if they are at the end of (or in the middle of) one of the beautiful walks we have around my locality they just make me seem like an alcoholic.



Ale Trail

On Saturday last I met Dave Boulton (and several members of his family) along with Vic Dejean, to undertake (it’s a chore – but someone has to do it) the Beer Train Trail from Stalybridge to Huddersfield. This is slightly different to the one Oz Clark and James May did on T.V. and actually takes in several of the villages that the ‘local’ train stops at.

If you ever want to follow the trail you need the train that travels between Manchester Victoria and Huddersfield (or visa versa), usually one per hour. We started in Stalybridge, where the pub on the platform sells real ales (which is the main criteria for this trip) and reasonable food. Here, they specialise in pies with black peas – a particularly west of the Pennines delicacy.

We then went to Greenfield, missing out a stop at Mossley.

At Greenfield, the Railway pub is across the road from the station. Greenfield is close to Uppermill, if you know the area. I have no idea what I had to drink in these first two pubs, but it was a great pleasure getting to know Dave’s relatives and friends and talking shop with Dave and Vic.  Sadly, the pub was very quiet and without much atmosphere, in fact there was no one else there except the eight of us.

So then we moved on to Marsden, just one stop down the line, but at the opposite side of the Pennines.

Now, at Marsden I’m back in home territory and we walked into the village only as far as the Riverhead Brewery pub. I do know that I had two pints of Cardamom Bitter here – which were the best two pints of the day.

We also ate here (hot beef sandwiches with gravy) and therefore had to let one train go by. But what a lovely day!

We had our second pint outside, by the river in brilliant sunshine. Sharon had joined us by this stage.

Slaithwaite was next; Slawit, as we say around these parts. The Ale-Trail web [http://www.realaletrail.net/] suggests a walk to the Swan pub at Crimble but I suggested that we go to the Commercial instead. The Commercial is right in the centre of the village and has a great selection of real ales. Because the weather was so good, everyone else was outside, so we had plenty of room inside to relax in the cooler atmosphere.

Then we hit Huddersfield.

The area outside the station, St George’s Square (the home of a Harold Wilson statue), was heaving with people. The Huddersfield West Indian Carnival was well under way, so not only did we have two real ale pubs to go at, but plenty of things to see and do as well. Apart from Sharon and me, everyone had to get a train to Wakefield about 7.30pm – so until then we had beers and curry or kebab (at Kebabish opposite Wetherspoons).

Cracking day. Thanks everyone.