Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 1:50 am.

Foursquare Radar and the art of creating a coincidence

Foursquare RadarI’ve always been interested in the idea of “creating a coincidence” — to the extent that, in college, it became a frequent catchphrase of mine, usually while spouting some nonsense to help my friends and me meet girls.

But it’s a fascinating idea! Taking information and presence and combining them to manufacture serendipity. Basic examples: Knowing what bands someone likes before they tell you, or saying the name of a foreign place someone has recently visited before they bring it up.

A properly created coincidence can seem more special than something planned in advance, because the most fun things always happen by accident. (You have to play it cool, of course.)

Anyway, I’m curious to see how Foursquare’s brand-new “Radar” feature turns out, because it’s basically the same sort of idea: Creating a coincidence.

It takes a bunch of information Foursquare knows about you — what you’re interested in, who you’re friends with, etc. — and pings you with real-time ideas based on your current location. In the background, without being asked to. Boom: Coincidence created.

As Foursquare describes:

Now, if you follow a list, like the 101 Best Dishes of 2011, foursquare will let you know when you’re next to one. Or you save that yoga studio to your To-Do List (because you really want to try it); we can remind you when you’re close. Or, better yet, if you’re driving home and three of your friends are getting together nearby, we’ll tell you so you can meet up. The app doesn’t even have to be open, it just works. We call it foursquare Radar, because it finds things nearby that you normally wouldn’t know about.

Sounds interesting. (Though, as with any of this location stuff, potentially delicate. For instance, if a bunch of your friends are all hanging out together, maybe they’re without you on purpose, and you might not be welcome!)

I set it up this evening but haven’t gotten any Radar pings yet. (Note: It requires Apple’s iOS 5 update and the latest version of Foursquare’s app, the one with the green ball in the logo.) But I think it could potentially be cool, creating some fun coincidences that might not have happened otherwise. I don’t know if it’s the feature that will drive Foursquare to the next level, but it’s a nice addition.

Related: It’s not enough to just be a “location app”… You actually have to do something