Their theory is that people often bond over a common love of the same location.
“We monitored the behavior of people going to places and the connections they made [on Gowalla]. We found that lots of people who go to the same places end up adding each other as friends, accounting for around 30 percent of new social links.”
To further develop the concept, they assigned values to places based on popularity and types of activity. A football stadium, for example, has a higher value than a train station because people bond over football but not so much over commuting.
While close to what Foursquare and Gowalla are already doing, it actually feels more like GetGlue who matches people based on their TV, movie and music choices.
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Now take Facebook’s suggestion engine (which is so off the mark more often than it’s on) and add in locations and interests. From there, I’d get friend suggestions that include people who go to the movies every week and those who share my love of TV. Those are people I’d be interested in hanging with, more so than a random friend of my sister’s (no offense, sis.)
It sounds simple, but it must be more difficult to administer or Facebook would be doing it already. Maybe once these researchers figure out the details, they can move on to something truly meaningful, like how to build a faux Facebook page for people you’re obligated to follow but really don’t want to.