Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Dear Foursquare and LivingSocial: Thanks for the Ad! (Seriously, Thanks for the Ad.)

Dear LivingSocial and Foursquare,


I tend to be a griper, not a praiser. And I’ve griped about you guys in particular before. So I just want to make sure I’m fair about this, and slap you both on the back: You just sent me a daily deal I think I want, right to my iPhone.

Why bother to note this? Because, while location services — like Foursquare — and daily-deal distributors — like LivingSocial — are supposed to do this all the time, they never do. Instead, the daily-deal guys just tell me about discounted Brazilian Honey Waxes, and the location guys don’t really do much at all — they just let me tell my friends I’m having tacos for dinner. Again.

(See? Griping.)

But look what you guys just did: You took data from Foursquare, which let you know that I like to get expensive cheese and meat and beer from Stinky, an expensive cheese-and-meat-and-beer store right by my place. And you sent me a daily deal, via Foursquare, for … Stinky.

I didn’t have to check any boxes in advance. And I don’t have any problems with you guys using the Foursquare data to target me. Because if I did, why would I bother checking in with Foursquare, anyway?

I’m not sure I’m going to actually pony up — I’ll have to do the math on my annual cheese budget. And if I were going to gripe, I’d say that asking me to sign up for LivingSocial to actually purchase the deal is a hoop you guys should leave out if you can. Better to win my trust first, then ask me to sign up for more, right?

Anyway, back to praise: I have no idea about the mechanics involved here, but in my mind, it’s not crazily difficult. LivingSocial (newly flush with cash) matches its available deals against Foursquare’s database of check-ins, and, voilà. Of course, if it were that easy, we would have seen a lot of it by now, right?

My colleague Tricia Duryee, our e-commerce expert, assures me that all of you guys, from Groupon to Google, are struggling to get your heads around this stuff. This seems like a very promising start. Please keep it up.

[Image: Shutterstock/Kalmatsuy Tatyana]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik