Foursquare and the problem of SuperUser fatigue

UPDATE: As if on queue, things are suddenly looking up. :)

Foursquare’s greatest strength and also it’s greatest weakness is that its database is built and maintained by its users. Users can instantly add venues that the database does not contain, and easily make changes, such as adding a new phone number or submitting duplicate venues to be merged.

The advantage of this system is that new venues are rapidly surfaced by the community, making Foursquare’s venue database one of the most accurate available. The disadvantage is that the system can easily be abused – both intentionally (by people creating fake/spammy/illegal venues) or unintentionally (by inexperienced users accidentally creating duplicates or entering incorrect data).

To help keep the database clean, Foursquare employs so called “SuperUsers” – dedicated and passionate members of the community who help clean up the venue database. When a regular user submits a fix or change – SuperUser’s are the people who approve it.

In dense urban areas, where the Foursquare community is flourishing, this system generally works pretty well, since there are plenty of enthusiastic SuperUsers to help out. This makes Foursquare’s location database generally far more accurate than its competitors, but unfortunately not always – there are situations when it falls short. In small towns and rural areas where there may be no local SuperUsers the system breaks down, since fixes submitted by users are not being processed. Equally, in some large cities, there are simply too few SuperUsers to cope with the volume of work being created, and many problems remain unfixed.

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