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Sam’s recent post about Google Latitude got me thinking about check-ins in general.

I’ve used Foursquare and Latitude before, but I don’t live in a buzzing metropolitan area (and my local friends don’t use the service), so the actual benefits of checking in are lost to me. I can see the appeal of being able to broadcast, “hey, I’m at the trendy wine bar on such-and-such street” to my pals and have them pop in to meet me, but it’s never happened for me.

(Does it actually happen for anyone? I’m assuming the issue is that I live in a small British town rather than, say, New York, but perhaps I’m being too optimistic.)

So, most of the time my usage of check-ins is restricted to not-so-subtly showing off where I am – on holiday, perhaps, or in a fancy restaurant. To be honest, I could do this without the actual longitude and latitude of the location, but the little pin icon does give me an excuse to share where I am, rather than just what I’m doing.

The rest of my time with these features is spent figuring out how to turn them off. Recently, Facebook seemed to change their default settings yet again, because a friend of mine started broadcasting her home address alongside all her messages, free for the world to see. Not what she intended.

How about you?

People have fairly strong opinions about Facebook Places and checking in on Facebook. As a college professor that teaches primarily freshmen, I’ve had discussions with my classes about how they feel about it, and it’s received a fairly negative reception from them. I personally feel it’s best used for special events: a baseball game, a concert, cool places you visit on vacation. While I’m not the type of guy who checks in everywhere, there are quite a few people who do, and who use the service frequently. If you’re one of those people, Smart Places might just be the app for you. (more…)

A couple of years ago, it seemed like a ridiculous idea to let other people know where you exactly are. Privacy and security were paramount concerns. Tune in today, and not only is everyone quite happy to broadcast their location but also to take a peek at where others are visiting. Thanks to this trend, we now have a bunch location based startups (LBS) with really crazy valuations.

Foursquare and Gowalla stand out in the crowd of LBS apps. And, even though it’s a distant second to Foursquare in the LBS game, Gowalla is a compelling alternative that has its own strong suits. After the break let us take a look at how helpful the app really is.