One of the few things I've missed since abandoning the good ship Windows PC for the Mac... er... Zeppelin (why not?) is magazines. I used to really enjoy reading the PC gaming and hardware mags. Oftentimes they were pitched at about the right level for me. I felt neither patronised nor confused. I'm afraid to say that this is not the case with Mac magazines. For the most part they tend to aim a little low, tech wise (no kidding, right?). I did also try Linux magazines, but generally found them to be way too dry and not especially well written. Once again, quelle surprise. Quelle surprise beaucoup.
So I was, as I'm sure you can imagine, quite overjoyed to discover Wired magazine. A platform agnostic tech magazine pitched about the right level (ish) for me, tech wise, whilst also having some focus on the business side of technology? Win! If you're not reading it already, I highly recommend it. So, when Wired decided to give the cover story to location based social networks, concentrating on Foursquare and Gowalla, I though "sure, what the hell?" and gave them both a go.
That was a good couple of weeks ago now, and I can categorically say that I'm not sure if I like them or not. Nor am I sure which of the two I prefer. The idea, basically, is that you periodically tell them where you are.
Where are you going? Wait, there's more.
It's a game of sorts, you see. Foursquare awards you points for visiting places (more if they're new places) while Gowalla gives you badges in your"passport." Both of them also award you bonuses for various things, and Foursquare declares you the "Mayor" of locations if you visit them more than anybody else. There is a bit more to it than this, of course, there's a social aspect, connected to both locating your friends and finding out where is currently "happening," (this is the correct term, yes?) but I think I've given you the gist.
On balance: foursquare seems to do more in terms of the whole "life as a game" idea, and makes it feel more worthwhile to visit places multiple times... but Gowalla has a MUCH better design, and the badges and pins (achievements) it gives you are much prettier, but lacks the competitiveness of Foursquare. I think, at this point, I would tentatively recommend both, but particularly Foursquare if you're a competitive sort. Either way, feel free to friend me if you do give them a try (it's free).