A Tribute to Items

I’ve been a fan of Gowalla for a very long time. I’m sure many people know the application simply as a check-in service. To me though, Gowalla has always been about the items. Over the last 2 years, I’ve taken different routes home, gone out of my way on trips and arranged swap meets with fellow Gowalla users nerds to collect all the items. In it’s heyday last year, Gowalla was introducing a new item every week (New-item Tuesday!) and sometimes even did surprise, real-item giveaways like a new AT&T Smartphone or a pair of TOMS Shoes. At that point in Gowalla’s history, every user was an item collector, or at least paid attention to them for the chance of winning real items. Since then, Gowalla has made lots of incremental changes to their service to appeal to a wider audience. With each change, items became a less and less prominent element of the app. Today, in an blog post titled Going Forward, Josh Williams announced that less than ½% of their users made use of items and that they, “will be removing Items completely with the next release of Gowalla”.

While I certainly saw it coming, it’s still a sad day. Am I angry? Not really. I know that businesses have to do what businesses have to do – especially VC funded ones. Gowalla is still the best check-in application in my opinion and I’m curious to see where it’s going. With that said, I think dropping items is a horrible decision and I’m going to miss the fun of collecting them. I’ve archived my entire collection (or vault) below. Each of these 185 icons represents a moment in time. For almost every single one I can tell you a story about where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a little game you play on your phone.

5 comments on “A Tribute to Items

Samantha says:

Looking at the statistics I understand why they are removing items. Personally, I think that they missed an opportunity a long time ago with not making it more obvious to the wider population what “items” are. Adoption could have been higher if the geocaching aspect of the interface was made more intuitive. More people would have used items if there was a clearer explanation of what they meant, and possibly more incentive in collecting the items. They handled items like a quirky afterthought and not like a feature that set them apart. It’s unfortunate. I really only used Gowalla to collect items s and I have gradually stopped using Gowalla because I was no longer finding items that frequently. It’s a bummer.

I think you’re right, Samantha. It’s almost as if item collection could be detached from Gowalla and plugged into Geocaching somehow. I loved that game in the early 2000s but I haven’t Geocached in years. Wouldn’t it be cool to find a cache, scan a QR code to sign the log and get virtual items and pins the way you did with Gowalla checkins?

ericl says:

Very nice post Jason, that’s quite a awesome collection of items you’ve amassed.

I’ll miss the items but looking forward to what evolves from the Gowalla team.

Bummer–I love the items! I’d gotten to 124. Here in Jacksonville, FL, I rarely see any that I don’t already have, though, so I’ve been stuck on 124 for awhile.

aarron says:

Items were my favorite aspect of Gowalla. I used to use it non-stop. I can’t remember the last time I opened it.

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