During spring 2013, I used this blog to host a project I executed for a graduate school course, in which I investigated the practice of a select population through their online activity during a period of time that roughly began in summer 2009 and ended in spring 2013. Specifically, I am referring to those individuals who were using the smartphone app (or companion website) developed by Foursquare to log their regional activities by checking in to venues. More specifically, I tracked their individual and aggregate activity relative to ten Central Phoenix coffeehouses which Foursquare shortlisted for its Best of project which featured 30 major metropolitan cities including Phoenix.

As mobile devices proliferate and geolocation technology pervades our day-to-day activities, online interactions and connections that we used to think of as being the exclusive domain of the desktop computer have given way to more nimble and immediate channels: texting, Twitter, smartphone apps, and synchronized and shared content. How do these channels influence our practices; and how do our practices push these channels to evolve? These questions provide the basis for this sampling of activity within a population that has conducted itself, in part, along one such online channel. While the posts associated with this project have been written to allow for reading in any order, the recommended sequence (if desired) is listed below. They follow in two acts: (1) the context of communities that connect online as well as the use and practice of Foursquare, and (2) profiles of select coffeehouses meant to illustrate some of the major themes evoked by user-generated comments posted to Foursquare.

Foursquare Coffeehouses
  1. Online Communities
  2. Collect and Connect
  3. Local Contributions
  4. Codes of Conduct
  1. Copper Star Coffee
  2. Giant Coffee
  3. Lola Coffee
  4. Jobot Coffee
  5. Lux Central

The majority of this work was conducted during March and April 2013.

Select slides for in-class presentation on May 2, 2013:

  1. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/foursquare-matrix.jpg
  2. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/coffeehouse-tip-analysis-by-topic.jpg
  3. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/ms-access-scorecard1.jpg
  4. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/coffeehouse-photo-analysis.jpg
  5. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/giant-coffee-service-tips.jpg
  6. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/lola-coffee-place-tips.jpg
  7. https://netnographyandthehood.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/jobot-place-tips.jpg

About this Site

The above image of a Chihuly glass installation at the Desert Botanical Gardens in 2008 offers a visual metaphor for concurrent channels (such as the ones under exploration in this blog): the organic yet slow progression of the cactus blended with the powerful yet fragile constructs of glass…each pulsing with different energy and information

With regard to what this blog is truly about, well, I expect that to change over time. For now, what I’ve outlined above is what is on the menu. Each time this channel gets tweaked or shifts, I’ll endeavor to archive the past here, at the bottom of this page. For now, this is only the first shift away what was intended to be a more regular exploration of online venues during the course of spring 2013. Much of those explorations happened outside the boundaries of this WordPress blog; however, for the genesis of this blog, see my first entry: Adventure Ho!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Lux Central

2013-02-08 19.17.15

Upcoming post.

Chart Lux

To compare this data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click here

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Jobot Coffee

2013-04-13 13.51.27

I have always been a sucker for bookstores. So when I pulled up to Jobot Coffee along the hip tranquility of 5th & Roosevelt and noticed an old house with the sign “Lawn Gnome Books,” I was hooked. This sleepy venue had no more immediacy than an abandoned lemonade stand but I could easily sense that I was blind to what it had to offer. Presently, I decided to cross over and open my eyes. I browsed the shelves and discovered that this was, in fact, a local publishing house. During my brief visit, the two staff members — each in separate rooms and on their own laptop computers — simultaneously erupted in smug delight over the just-then published web article in which USA Today declared this very plot of downtown Phoenix (a.k.a., Roosevelt Row) as one of the “10 best neighborhoods that tourists haven’t found yet.” How embarrassing: I was this close to having the entire nation beat me to discovering the gem in my own backyard.

As I made my way over to Jobot Coffee I could see the entire block, both sides, were historic homes in varying states of disrepair and mostly home to distinct local businesses: the Lost Leaf (selling craft beer), Think! (graphic art and printing), Missconstrued Boutique, MADE Art Boutique (featured in the USA Today online article), and others. I felt as though I was trespassing through someone’s backyard. When I entered Jobot, the main room sizzled with indirect sunlight and I was immediately and warmly greeted. After asking for and accepting a recommendation on what was good to eat I explained that I was on sort of a “pub crawl” to discover local coffeehouses…for a “project.” With a mix of healthy circumspection and unaffected confidence one staff member was willing to talk with me, in-between taking customer orders. As I waited for my food, I had the opportunity to conduct an informal interview. While the conversation was fluid, I closely followed a preconceived list of questions (see bottom of page) that I thought could help me get a feel for the community particular to this coffeehouse and what might set it apart from other, nearby coffeehouses. Our interview proceeded in the main room which is dominated by a large bar with eight stools with just enough room left over for a couple of tall, round tables with a couple of stools each. I’m at the bar and the music, a mix of groovy and urban hip, is loud above the din of the coffeehouse and I dutifully take notes…

Jobot is located in the middle of the arts district and intentionally participates in the synergy of the arts community and local business.  There are about five local coffee shops within a mile of this community and Jobot (my interviewee often refers to “we” as a conglomeration of the owners and employees) distinguishes “itself” by being “much more laid back” and a “little gritty” which is “its” way of being honest and unpretentious. Jobot Coffee cultivates community by participating in events as a member of “5th Street” which has a strong identity and practice of hosting multiple stages and activities during local events such as the monthly Art Walk. New JobotDuring the weekends (when most of these events take place) they are open 24 hours/day. Jobot displays, promotes, and sells local products every day (e.g., shirts and locally roasted coffee from Cartel Coffee Lab). Locals account for about 80% of the client traffic as well as about 80% of return business. Clientele is comprised of students from ASU downtown campus, long-time residents of downtown, and other varied patrons but not many from Scottsdale. Jobot now considers itself more as a café than a coffeehouse but it still maintains “the heart of a coffee shop” because that is how it started, with just a few treats. The food offerings have grown; bake their goods in-house. Their coffee service remains a point of pride. When I told my interviewee that Jobot was identified by Foursquare as a “best of” destination she did not know. When I mentioned that the neighborhood had just been declared an undiscovered tourist destination, this was news. I got the impression that the local “take” meant more than these large, national voices. Jobot Coffee has a Facebook page and it is maintained by a core group of current and past employees. Otherwise, there is no online advertising; for the most part their online and offline strategy is simply this: word-of-mouth.

I got my food and thanked my interviewee and set myself up in one of the two side rooms. I’m here during the lunch hour and it is active. Everyone is socializing, including the small groups of students at laptop computers, accessing the free, unrestricted wi-fi. It is a young adult crowd; 20s to 30s. In addition to the front room, there are three other areas: the front patio and lawn(seating 42-48), a side room (seating 11-12), and a back room (seating 12). It is in an old house and, aside from the repainted walls (alternating gray-blue and butter yellow), much of the worn look has been retained. All of the furniture is mismatched and suggests that the place is one, large tree house. An old linen closet sans door is the designated bulletin board with four shelves stocked with flyers, posters, and postcards for local venues and events. Artwork is hanging on every wall, even 2-3 items on a wall in some cases. Half the art work is framed; all of the art work features robots. I devour my amazing lunch and leave a tip about it on Foursquare.

The following video uploaded in 2011 shines a local spotlight on Jobot Coffee. Says the owner: “What sets us apart from other coffee shops is that we’re really connected with the community.” 

Chart Jobot

To compare this data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click here

Analysis of User-Generated Tips

What isn’t readily apparent from a cursory look at the user-generated tips from Foursquare is the subtext of “place” underlying these remarks. Of the 70 tips left by Foursquare users, 7 (10%) specifically refer to place.  All five of our coffeehouses considered, this is average. However, these remarks also (1) are consistently accompanied with a declaration (i.e., signifying “love,” [goodness], or “best”), (2) usually reference [space], (3) are in no cases accompanied with a directive (i.e., “go,” “get,” etc.) or unrelated content and (4) are generally and concurrently praising the coffee, the food/beverage, the ambiance and the staff/service. In other words, the following seven tips received more “likes” (collectively) and more frequent praise (on average) than any other sampling of place-based remarks for any of the other four coffeehouses in this study.

  • I love the cozy space and friendly people. The soy latte is fantastic. [181]
  • Chorizo crepe w/o the chorizo is great. I sub avacado or an extra egg. I heart this place – it’s open til midnight, has a cozy atmosphere, and friendly staff. [185]
  • Best place downtown to eat and grab a coffee Read more [219]
  • Best of Phoenix Winner 2011: Best Coffee House, Downtown Phoenix & Best Place to Take a Scenester.Special blend of locally famed Cartel coffee,homemade scones, & even crepes.Open 24 hrs on Fri. & Sat. Read more [297]
  • holy crepes! hello…one of the best places downtown, staff was super awesome too! [326]
  • Good coffee,good vibes and chill people LOCALS ONLY ! Lol [388]
  • Come by before class or work and grab a great cup of coffee and a crepe. The atmosphere is unbeatable. They are also open really late unlike most places in Phoenix. [420]

Table 1. Other subjects are concurrently and equally included with “place”

ID Coffee Food/Beverages Ambience Unrelated Staff/Service
181 Yes Yes Yes
185 Yes Yes Yes
219 Yes
297 Yes Yes Yes
326 Yes Yes
388 Yes Yes
420 Yes Yes Yes Yes
71% 57% 71% 0% 57%

Table 2. For declaratives and other references to “local” there exists a direct correlation; however, for references to directives there is an inverse correlation. These direct and indirect relationships do not emerge when looking at tips with the same criteria for the other coffeehouses.

ID Directive Declaration Localness
181 Love, [Goodness] Place, Space
185 Love, [Goodness] Place, Space
219 Best Place
297 Best Place, Space, Artisinal
326 Best, [Goodness] Place
388 [Goodness] Place, Space
420 [Goodness] Place
 0% 100% 57%
Jobot Place Tips

Isolating user-generated tips that reference “place” (in particular, the number of likes on average) suggests that Jobot Coffee clientele affirm their value of place. Click image to enlarge.

The above comments have been transcribed verbatim from foursquare.com and are wholly user-generated.

Prepared list of questions for on-site interviews
  1. What percent of your traffic is local?
  2. What percent of your traffic is return traffic?
  3. How would you describe the community around this coffeehouse location/neighborhood?
  4. How do you imagine the community (that frequents this coffeehouse) views the coffeehouse?
  5. Follow up to #4: Is this what you aim for or do you aim for something else or something more?
  6. Knowing that most if not all of your frequent customers and community members spend time online, personally and professionally — what has the coffeehouse done to establish a presence online? Is your strategy for accomplishing “what you aim for” (see #5 above) via online?
  7. How do you imagine your community fulfills that “aim” for themselves online? If other online spaces complement the coffeehouse ( i.e., accomplish something the coffeehouse cannot accomplish online) than what do you suppose the coffeehouse affords those online spaces in the “real world” (i.e. offline)?
  8. How do you or your staff or regular patrons deepen their connection to the local community online?
  9. What would you say for your connection to other local coffeehouse or your network of business owners?
  10. Who designed the logo for the coffeehouse?
  11. How have you attempted to infuse local elements into the coffeehouse?
  12. What effect do you aim for when customers experience these elements?

Other characteristics under consideration when conducting my time in the field (at the coffeehouse)

  1. Does it have local art on display?
  2. Is there a bulletin board, in one form or another?
  3. Are there “local” architectural elements
  4. Is there a logo and what might it suggest?
  5. Are there food offerings (i.e., what does the menu suggest about how long a typical visit might be, whether over a muffin or an entire meal). What is on the menu?
  6. Note the décor.
  7. Observe the music/noise.
  8. Consider the location in relation to the city and what is nearby.
  9. Is there wi-fi; is it… available, free, advertised, secured (requiring a password)?

• Lawn Gnome Publishing
• 10 Best Neighborhoods that Tourists Haven’t Found Yet | usatoday.com

Other Resources
• Jobot Coffee on Facebook
• Jobot Coffee on Foursquare
• Jobot Coffee on Yelp!
• Jobot | PHX Rail Food blog
Jobot Coffee | official website (recently offline)
Jobot Coffee on Tumblr
Jobot Review | Downtown Devil “News for the Urban Sundevil”
Jobot profile NewsWatch, Juan Magana | YouTube

This is page 8 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 9: Lux Central

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Lola Coffee

2013-04-13 17.18.46

Lola Coffee is such a wonderfully local coffeehouse that it is located at the intersection of local and local. Nestled into the corner of 3rd Avenue and Roosevelt, this coffeehouse is located within a stones throw of high density residences, historic neighborhoods, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Irish Cultural Center, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, the central branch of the Phoenix Library, commerce, medium-density business buildings, parks, churches, restaurants, more homes, vacant lots and an inner-city freeway. A quick glance at this area from Google Maps and you’d think you were watching someone play a game of Sim City. This is the local coffeehouse for brew on the way to work, a cup o’ joe after walking your dog in the morning, a Matador when you go downtown to attend the theater, to discuss business or catch up with friends over latte, or maybe just to step in for a bag or two of locally roasted beans. However, it is not necessarily positioned to host a book club or to cultivate community building. There is a bulletin board which is small and does not appear to be managed necessarily; there is also a low window sill with literature and flyers that seems more like an easement than a part of the coffeehouse.

The coffeehouse is comprised of a single room with two narrow bars along the west and south walls, four block tables, a comfy, worn leather couch with two matching chairs, a mix of matching chairs and vintage matching stools, two small tables in the hallway and a single table for six on the sidewalk outside (total capacity is about 40). The indie music is loud; perhaps too loud for so little conversation. On this occasion, I do not observe any younger, college-aged patrons but mostly a mix of professionals and young professionals. People drift in in groups of 2-3 and do not stay particularly long. There is more socializing than individuals working or reading alone.

In this large, single-room coffeehouse, with intentionally worn and unrefined décor, amid the concrete floors and industrial and loft-like details, there is a window to the kitchen — occupying almost the central point of the establishment: it is the coffee roaster, as dazzling as a steam punk contraption from the Land of Oz. Where other coffeehouses package community or delicacies or ambiance, Lola Coffee proudly presents the craft of coffee.

I spoke with the barista, the lone employee on duty during this sleepy, late Saturday afternoon about Lola Coffee and the community it serves. The clientele is upwards of 80% local and return business is also close to 75%. The pulse of the community is “very local first,” favoring local and quality over fad. They are a loyal clientele who desires what is good — food, coffee, staff, appearance — to not change, to be reliable. The owners strive to deliver a “consistent product.” Lola Coffee baristas participate in regular barista competitions and coffee education events and have even hosted them. While community groups don’t seem to meet here, this comfortably compact space fills during local art walks, marathons, street festivals and on weekend mornings when the “regulars” turn out for omelets, a word-of-mouth attraction. We discuss the current artwork on display and I learn that a single, local artist is featured every three months. I look at the inspired menu board suspended above and it occurs to me that the menu board must be to the coffeehouse what the signature is to a person.

Chart Lola

To compare this data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click here

Analysis of User-Generated Tips

Since I observed that there were significant Lola Coffee tips associated with coffee over the other topics, I chose to see what correlations might be observable if I filtered for user-generated tips that used intensifiers; i.e., exclamation points, ellipses, and using “I,” “my,” or emoticons. In the first chart we observe the percentage of tips that used intensifiers or were otherwise “enthusiastic.” This is like saying “okay teams, show us your spirit!” Some patrons are more enthusiastic than others (see the gold bars) and we see that patrons of the Lux are most enthusiastic with 67% of their tips being intensified in one way or another. Next, we ask ourselves, what are they cheering about? In this chart the blue bars represent the percentage of enthusiastic tips that are coffee-related. Consequently, the majority of the enthusiasm that Lola Coffee patrons express is about their coffee as opposed to other qualities, such as food, ambiance or service. If we look at which group of enthusiastic tips about coffee get rewarded (or affirmed) with “Likes” we see that both Lola Coffee and Lux Central are most affirmed and by a significant margin.

If we want to delve deeper into these tips then we will look at tips for both Lux Central (21 tips) and Lola Coffee (18) and in the third chart they are distributed according to other elements that appear in the data set of tips; specifically, directive elements (i.e., try this, get that, go today), declarative elements (i.e., I love this, this is the best, this is awesome), and elements of localness (i.e., this is a cool space, they roast their own beans, a neighborhood favorite). It initially appears that this subset of Foursquare users are more often pairing declarative elements with their enthusiastic tips about coffee, more so than directive elements or elements of localness. However, if we tease apart the sub-elements of “declaring” goodness/favoritism we see they are nearly evenly distributed. Thus, it can be said that for those who post enthusiastic tips about the coffee at either Lux Central or Lola Coffee are doing so in an evenly distributed way, emphasizing any of these four elements: that they should consume it, that it is enjoyable and superb, and that it affirms local culture and commerce. The following are a few examples of user-generated tips that emphasize different elements:

  • Best to go with coffee, as their $4 lemonade tastes like crystal light. [160] [Emphasizing the directive element]
  • The iced chai tea with almond milk is so good! Depending on who makes it [435] [Emphasizing declarative element]
  • Yes! You must try the matador. It has the perfect blend of sweetness and cinnamon. [439] [Emphasizing both directive and declarative elements]
  • Smooth espresso…not bitter and overroasted like most [124] [Emphasizing the element of localness]
  • My favorite coffee place in the valley. I’d recommend their iced americanos. Even in winter. For the sweet tooth, get a muffin or scone. All baked by the lovely Sarah! [426] [Emphasizing all three elements]
Lola Coffee Place Tips

Top left: Percentage of enthusiastic tips, in general (gold) and specifically about coffee (blue); bottom left: percentage of “likes” that enthusiastic tips about coffee received; top right: distribution of enthusiastic tips about coffee among other verbal elements; and bottom right: redistribution of the previous chart. Click image to enlarge.

• Lola Coffee Latte Art Throwdown: December 11 | arizonacoffee.com

Other Resources
Lola Coffee on Facebook
Lola Coffee on Foursquare
Lola Coffee on Yelp!
Lola Coffee | PHX Rail Food blog
Lola Coffee | official website
Lola Coffee on Tumblr
Lola Coffee Bar blog (defunct)
Lola Coffee at Gold Spot | arizonacoffee.com (embedded below)

This is page 7 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 8: Jobot Coffee

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Giant Coffee

Giant Coffee Check In - S Goodman

As I settled into the tall, padded booth running along the length of the south wall I thought about how Giant Coffee was a bit of a contradiction: on the one hand it was the coffeehouse space I liked the most but on the other hand the vibe was all wrong. The crisp décor combined industrial and organic elements, with splashes of color in earthy tones; all illuminated by the indirect light pouring through the west end of the room — an entire wall of glass folded up and out of the way to simply erase the division between inside and outside. This was a delightful exhalation; this was a morsel of Zen. And yet, there was little about this large, single-room “slot” in Central Phoenix, populated by solitary working professionals and students, that made me feel welcome or even present. Which leads me to acknowledge the dichotomy of why I go to a coffeehouse in the first place: to conduct some manner of work or diversion alone and yet in a space that is buzzing with other people engaged in conversation. When I lose focus or momentum in my own work, the enjoyable pastime of people-watching is always on tap…or it is in most coffeehouses, but not Giant Coffee.

2013-04-13 15.45.33

Even the birds are quiet at Giant Coffee

Giant Coffee is located within a celebrated mixed-use space [1] just off the intersection of McDowell Road and Central Avenue and the light rail McDowell Station. It is tucked in, across from the Cancer Survivors Park [2], halfway between the Phoenix Art Museum and the Burton Bar Central Library. This is a prime Central Phoenix location that attracts both young urban professionals and students from nearby Phoenix College and ASU’s downtown campus. With space at a premium, the coffeehouse hall is structured like a cafeteria with four long benches crossing the length of the room from east to west: first, a low bench with four small tables; a long table running down the center of the room with benches on either side; and then a high bench with another four small tables (total seating capacity: approximately 32-40). With the entire west wall open, the wide entrance/patio sports four lounge chairs. Hip, independent music plays at a volume level that would normally compete appropriately with the din of the crowd, but this is a no-noise crowd.

At least 90% of the customers are completely engaged with their laptops or tablet computers with a few working smartphones also or instead. The wi-fi is free but the password is not posted; also, there are only two coveted outlets. Less than 10% (perhaps two pairs) are interacting even though it is apparent that several people have come in pairs or perhaps small groups. It is possible that the negligible interaction is attributable to the fact that in a single, large room without nooks or alcoves almost anything that is said by one mouth will likely be heard by all ears. Naturally, this is not conducive to or inviting of interactions and socializing. This begs the question: does the space evoke this anti-social behavior from its clientele or rather, do people who are inclined towards solitary work and little-to-no distracting socialization seek out this space? There does not appear to be any local art on display but rather two odd pieces on permanent display: a medium-sized “classic” painting with a gold wood frame and a guitar with a video screen embedded in the sound hole showing a video loop of birds. There is no bulletin board or venue for locals/regulars to exchange information. Giant Coffee does not have a Facebook page but it does have a Twitter account managed by the owner.

Chart Giant

To compare this data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click here

Analysis of User-Generated Tips

In approaching the user tips for Giant Coffee, I was immediately drawn to those addressing the topic of staff/service because they were considerably overrepresented based on the overall data set of the five coffeehouses. I began with teasing out the elements I’ve coded to compare tips about staff/service against those that were about other topics. Since tips can address multiple topics, those that addressed no staff/service totaled 26, whereas the total number of tips that incorporated elements from these other topics totaled 49 (See the Table 1 below).

It is possible that a venue that does not necessarily cultivate or thrive on community would have fewer comments about localness. This is validated by referring to the table and charts regarding local- and place-based tips from the Jobot Coffee post. The increased user feedback regarding staff/service coupled with the low user feedback regarding community and localness, places greater emphasis on these remarks. Generally, the data suggests that tips regarding staff/service are proportionately distributed across the other topic areas, i.e., regarding coffee, food/beverage, and ambience. However, when viewing these staff/service tips across coding elements, it is apparent that tips regarding staff/service are much less declarative (which makes sense since these elements are typically associated with coffee and food/beverage) but also much more intense, which can be negative or positive (complimentary); and yet, there is an overrepresentation of tips regarding staff/service under the code for critique.

 Table 1. Tips Tip Elements
Staff/Service 30 30
Other Topics 26 49
  56 79

Focusing on the second chart and filtering for staff/service feedback that is declarative, I get five results. In two cases, there is a declaration of appreciation (i.e., a barista is “one of the best in town” and the coffeehouse is offering a discount). These two remarks are all positive. The other three present some quality of critical feedback; however, they couple this with positive feedback; thus: restriction to cash purchases is balanced with “great coffee,” slow service is balanced with a cookie compliment, and only “adequate parking” and “LOUD music” is balanced by the “good food”). (Note: emphasis added, i.e., bold italics)

  • Cash only. Great coffee served w organic milk. Go in after 3 p.m. for a 1/2 off pastries. Quiet, great for studying. [154]
  • If Isaiah is on the bar, rock a macchiato. One of the best in town. Easy… Read more [249]
  • Espresso is not terrible, but not impressive either, peanut butter cookie I got was delicious and way buttery and heavy. Slow service. [288]
  • great atmosphere, great location, adequate parking (in the back), good food, LOUD music (just as bad as LUX). [318]
  • Try the goats milk mocha..fantastique. Also, the fresh pastries are worth trying &50% off in the late afternoon [325]

This practice of balance was offset by three other criticisms (see below) that were simply critical and yet oddly resigned to the source of disaffection. Thus, in all six cases, a remedy for the critique is not sought or advanced. Thus, they act — as a user tips are intended to act — as simply a warning sign for those who come along; not to affect change but to say something to fellow travelers about the territory.

  • Never order a burrito .. it takes for ever to get it ready. 31min in my case :/ too bad! I complained but the short guy with sunglasses didn’t “do” much about it. [274]
  • Total was $2.02 for coffee and received $2 back after giving barista $5. Hmmm [300]
  • I’ve checked in here 80 times now! Funny I just noticed they short all their large drinks on coffee. [359]

Of the user tips that were coded as being emphatic (i.e., using intensifiers), eight remain that have not already been discussed. Seven of these tips use a single exclamation point which effectively highlights them without granting them too much importance. The last remark contains ellipses which effectively show that the user is trailing off, having posted questions to the coffeehouse through Foursquare, understanding probably that an answer is not coming. It makes one wonder if this user was in the coffeehouse when submitting this “tip.” Possibly, they didn’t feel welcome to ask the barista at the counter.

Four of the “tips” reference the availability of debit/credit service at the coffeehouse. Another encourages patrons to make a purchase to sustain the use of free wi-fi; still another announces that free coffee is available for the second anniversary. These six tips are offering insider information which can be helpful (if coming from a sincere patron) but may also be overtly commercial (if they are coming from an employee or agent of the coffeehouse). It is worth noting that these four tips regarding debit/credit service received 21 Like votes, which is more than twice the average number of Like votes for all tips at Giant Coffee. So, regardless of who submitted the tips, the patrons have validated them. This leaves just one last emphatic tip about staff/service and it is regarding the “pour over” option. What is interesting about this remark is the use of “you” which comes up in other user tips because it suggests that the writer is on some level imagining the recipient of their feedback.

  • Giant Coffee now accepts credit! Which they scan with a iPad. Nifty. (As of 11/27) [159]
  • Matt Pool does it again! Honey vanilla latte is a nice twist. New iPad debit app makes paying with a card much easier. [166]
  • Credit and debit are now accepted here! [173]
  • In order to use wi-fi you have to make a small purchase. Place gotta pay for all that bandwidth somehow! [202]
  • For the smoothest cup of coffee ever, order a pour over. You will have to wait and watch it brew, but it’s well worth it! [284]
  • They are no longer cash only, so order that extra shot 🙂 [344]
  • Second anniversary today! Free coffee. [349]
  • Do you folks have a website? With a menu? Hours posted? I sure can’t find it with Google…. [425]
Giant Coffee Service Tips

User-generated tips are more emphatic and also more critical with regard to staff and service-related feedback. Click image to enlarge.

Other Resources
• Giant Coffee on Foursquare for user-generated tips, user-uploaded photos, etc.
• Giant Coffee on Twitter as @giantcoffeeAZ
• Now Open: Giant Coffee by arizonacoffee.com
• Giant Coffee | PHX Rail Food blog
• Giant Coffee (on Yelp!)
• Giant Coffee as tagged on Tumblr

This is page 6 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 7: Lola Coffee

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Copper Star Coffee

Copper Star Montage

I step into Copper Star Coffee on a Saturday mid-morning, walking through the large, open bay door (this  coffeehouse is a converted, vintage gas station). With the bay door open, the inside becomes indistinguishable from the outside as the campfire smell of the fire from the “fire pit” outside wafts inside. Two young women are studying with laptop computers at one large table. An older man (perhaps in his 50s) at the counter playfully complains that his order is not being prepared — the employee forgot to place the order and there is light banter between the two. I place my order and say I’ll have what he’s having, adding “if my meal comes out first, he’s gonna’ be mad.” A young, disheveled couple are having their muffins and coffee at the couch; they are quiet, in a lovely sort of way. A woman in her 30s arrives with two kids, one in a stroller and the other fidgety. The traffic picks up and it is varied, with some just stopping in for a coffee and other staying longer to work or to visit. I consider Copper Star Coffee to be my neighborhood coffeehouse. It is halfway between my home and office and when I am there, I randomly run into people that I know but who I do not necessarily stay in touch with often or at all. If I showed up more often than once every other month, I feel pretty certain the staff would start to call me by name or at least say “hey, You…how have You been?”

In my next five posts, including this one, I will examine the data set of Foursquare user tips more closely. Since the data set for Copper Star Coffee and Jobot Coffee have a similar distribution, I will focus my analysis for this coffeehouse on user-generated photos for all five coffeehouses in general and Copper Star Coffee in particular.

Analysis of User-Generated Photographs

Foursquare allows users to check in to venues, leave tips, and submit photographs. It is probably not surprising to observe that the highest number reflects venue check ins and then, decreasingly, the number of unique visitors to a venue, and then the number of tips left and photos taken. In examining the last group, it is clear that, on average, more than three times as many photos are submitted than tips. For the five coffeehouses being explored in this mini-ethnography, Foursquare users have submitted 911 photographs but only 346 tips. Certainly, there are obvious reasons for this. However, when we consider the robust online communities associated with Flickr, Panoramio and other photo-sharing sites, it suggests that these user-generated images are, at least in part, intended to be shared and to convey information about their subjects (the coffeehouse and the photographer) and not just intended as a personal photo album.

Coffeehouse Photo Analysis

Top table and bottom-right chart: reflects the number of tips and photos submitted per user. Bottom table and bottom-left chart: reflect how many check ins occur, on average, before a person submits a tip or uploads a photo. Click image to enlarge.

Foursquare hosts a profile page for each venue and allows users to browse user-generated tips and photographs, among other information. I used this feature to access and examine the user-generated photos for Copper Star Coffee.

Copper Star Photo Pivot Table

Using the same coding that was applied to user tips, I have coded the photos. Additionally, I have added a further distinction and divided them between “artistic” and “non artistic” images. Of course, this is a highly subjective distinction; and only mitigated by the fact that the same person (me) is evaluating all pictures and at one sitting.

Copperstar Which Photo

Foursquare crowdsources its users to identify which user-generated photos are good or bad and which are best. Which of the two photos above better represents Copper Star Coffee? The artistic rendering of the storefront at dusk…or Apple MacBook Pro with the Kermit the Frog skin? You decide…and Foursquare wants you to. Click image to enlarge

The criteria I applied to this distinction was whether or not some additional effort was apparent in the composition of the photograph, in terms of lighting, angle, color, and arrangement. The essence of this distinction is that when a person aims for a more artistic image, they are investing themselves just a little more; they are, in a sense, bringing a greater intention to the task. Under this “gut rubric” I observed that, for this sample, approximately 30% of the 70 photos were artistic (i.e., more intentional) and that subject of these photos were predominately and evenly split between the setting and the food/beverages. Approximately 25% of these photo subjects were rendered artistically. Users also submitted photos of other people and none of these were rendered artistically. Finally, and more important to Foursquare (see image below), is that users submitted photos of the storefront and these were, on average, rendered artistically more often.

The following gallery illustrates samples of user-generated photo submitted to Foursquare for Copper Star Coffee. Images deemed more artistic are on the right and they are in the following subject order: ambiance, food/beverage, storefront, and unrelated.

Copper Star Ambience

Copper Star Food

Copper Star Storefront

Copper Star Unrelated

Chart Copper Star

Other Resources
Copper Star Coffee on Tumblr
Copper Star Coffee on Foursquare
Copper Star Coffee on Yelp!
Copper Star Coffee | official website
Copper Star Coffee on Facebook
Copper Star Coffee in the News | arizonacoffee.com
Copper Star Coffee on YouTube

To compare the above chart data against the data for the other coffeehouses, click hereClick image to enlarge.

This is page 5 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 6: Giant Coffee

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Codes of Conduct

Wordle 04

Word cloud created by the author at http://www.wordle.net/ and comprised of keywords for coding user-generated Foursquare tips.

After coding and analyzing the full data set for broad topics (i.e., coffee, service, etc.), I began to peruse the tips in an open and undemanding way, allowing phrases, words, and sentiments to simply settle in my mind. Subsequently, patterns and word “gems” caught my attention. A frequently used construction consisted of (1) announcing a consumable and then (2) declaring its goodness at varying levels of intensity (i.e., varied use of the exclamation point). Note: all of these tips can be viewed from the full data set by clicking here

  • Orange juice squeezed fresh daily! Yum. [179]
  • Sticky muffins!! Yummy!! [237]
  • Orange & Basil Scone! Yum!!! [213]

While not a construction per se, there were also instances in which the entire tip was simply a naming of an item; only suggesting that it was enjoyable and worthy of sampling (e.g., “Honey vanilla latte!” [223]). This construction was reworked any number of ways. Sometimes the writer would insert a command, insisting that the reader also get said consumable. In other cases the writer imposed grammar (an article and a verb) to communicate a more refined recommendation. Naturally, examples of refined commands presented. Furthermore, commands varied (i.e., go, get, try, and have).

  • Get a redeye, it’s awesome! [211]
  • The Honey Vanilla Latte is awesome! [251]
  • Try the velvet. And get whipped cream. It’s homemade and delicious. [138]
  • Get the chorizo crepe if you like delicious crepes. [330]
  • Have a breakfast burrito. A little pricey, but great local ingredients and delicious! [150]

Carefully selected words, such as “indulgent” and “savory” made otherwise common tips stand out from others. However, some of the first word “gems” that got my attention were invented, emergent, or otherwise modified words, such as: awesomesauce (awesome), delish (delicious), fav (favorite), food coma bliss (satisfying), and my personal favorite — an example of onomatopoeia — om nom nom (presumably the sound of one eating with reckless abandon somewhat like Cookie Monster).

Urban Dictionary is a serious and entertaining lexicon that crowdsources definitions for emergent words, including awesomsauce. Here we have the current high-vote definition for awesomsauce.

“Something that is more awesome than awesome. It is a modifyer [sic] of your basic awesome into a more awesome version.”

Not surprisingly, I began to notice tips that I would characterize as “insider information” for those who are “inside” the Foursquare network. This can include references to the “mayorship” of any given venue, but also details that may not be readily apparent from the first few visits, such as wi-fi codes, items not listed on the menu, understated practices, or skillful employees that don’t otherwise standout from their peers.

  • Wireless password is: bean2010 [252]
  • Ask to try the Dr Lux – whipped cream, dr pepper, and espresso. It’s different. Not on menu. [106]
  • Locally owned neighborhood cafe with sort of secret drive up service, and they are dog friendly!! It’s a winner!! [206]
  • If you go for cocktails, look for Ben, the tall hipster mixologist. Ok, that was kinda repetitive, but his creative work behind the bar bears repeating. Ask for his take on the mojito. Or anything… [394]

With these observations, some questions began to percolate in my mind and I returned to the data set with the intention of developing a list of keywords to look for in order to identify more complex constructions and uncover common linguistic practices. Naturally, I was also curious to see if any of these qualities lent themselves to more Likes/votes than others and if there were any curious variations among the different coffeehouses. I created a database “score card” using Microsoft Access that allowed me to set up columns containing multiple keywords. The result is that I would be able to filter tips for individual and collective keywords. This process came to resemble the method referred to in “The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers;” specifically, the three-column approach promoted by Liamputtong and Ezzy to render “code jottings” into established code categories. After reviewing the tips and making notations numerous times, I settled on the following codes and identified the keywords that counted for them.

In Microsoft Access, using columns with multiple “lookup” values makes data filtering easier. In this case, the highlighted row will be included in searches for user tips that refer to the coffeehouse space, food compliments, or general liking, Click image to enlarge

Examples of Keywords, [concepts] and (synonymous keywords)

Code Description Examples
Directive Tips that insist a reader consume, experience or otherwise partake in the recommendation. Get (also: enjoy), try, have (also: go with), go (also: get, show up)
Declarative Tips that make a value judgment about the location or its products or services. Like, love, favorite, heart (<3), best, [goodness] (including: yum, delicious, tasty, awesome, etc.)
Intensifier Tips that contain instances of non-verbal elements, such as ellipsis or emoticons; use of exclamation points, or use of “my” or “I.” Ellipsis with 2, 3, and 4 periods, smiley face emoticons, exclamation points individually or in groups of 2 or more, use of “my” and “I”
Localness Tips that use words or phrases to emphasize the local qualities of the coffeehouse or the ambient qualities within it; also, references to the artisanal qualities of their menu items. Local, home, neighborhood, homemade, well-crafted, ingredients, atmosphere, setting, hang out, [insider tip]

This is page 4 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 5: Copper Star Coffee

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Local Contributions

Foursquare users are able to publish a tip about any venue in the Foursquare database by using either a mobile device that supports the Foursquare app or a computer. Tips may be submitted prior to, during, or even well after a check in has taken place. Thus, it is possible for users to leave tips even if they have never actually visited or checked in to a venue. Of course, this opens the door for irrelevant or malignant user feedback; in some cases, outright spam. For this reason, every published tip presents users with a one-click option to Report mischief in any form. Of course, users are also able to Save and Like tips if they desire.

Leave a Tip for Others

The app encourages users to contribute tips to the Foursquare community in a few ways. After checking in, but not always, the app will present the user with a popular tip (see screenshot above; “1st time here! Here’s a popular tip”). Presumably (and based on experience), the app will promote a tip from the user’s friend network if there is one. Soon after checking in to a venue, the app will ask the user if they would like to leave a tip for that venue. Again, if a user is exploring venues via the app or the website, they are prompted to leave a tip at that time. Aside from making user lists, publishing tips is the primary way to make a contribution to the growing body of user-generated knowledge about venues. Users are restricted to 200 characters but, like Twitter, can include URLs that can direct others to additional, web-hosted information (Chris Thompson on May 24th, 2010, What is a tip?). Because of the fundamentally public nature of tips, they lend themselves to data collection; especially via computer.

Leaving a Tip and Receiving a Tip

Left: publishing a tip. Right: notification of a local tip, after checking into a venue.

Even with a shortlist of standout coffeehouses from the Foursquare best of Phoenix page, I still had a collection of nearly 500 tips. In examining preliminary statistics regarding the top-ten list, clear division between the “top” five and “bottom” five emerged: the top five scored 9.0 and above on the Foursquare 10-point rating system; three of the bottom five had more than one location which challenged, and the bottom five also had lower total check-ins and a lower ratio of users to user check-ins as compared to those top five, which boasted super-high Foursquare ratings, single locations (i.e., personality),  inclusion in more user-generated lists, more user-uploaded photographs, etc.

Among the top five coffeehouses, there were a total of 346 user-generated tips. All quotes from these coffeehouses — ranging from summer 2009 through April 20, 2013 — were included for analysis in this study. They were collected using a desktop computer to browse individual venue pages so that each page of tips could be selected, copied and pasted. Data was first pasted in Microsoft OneNote to strip formatting and then copied and pasted over to Microsoft Excel. Initial collection included preserving the date the tips was submitted, user information on who submitted the tip, the number of likes awarded to each tip, and the tip itself in its entirety. This entire base set (minus usernames) is embedded in the spreadsheet below and it was used to derive second-level data, such as individual word count per tip, average word count for tips of the same coffeehouse, and, through discourse analysis, a breakdown of the broad topics associated with each tip.

Foursquare Coffeehouse Data

Getting a Flavor for the Feedback

I developed broad categories after an informal review of all tips and created columns in Excel to code them. With 346 tips and five categories, there were now potentially 1,730 “tip elements” to be considered. However, on average, each tip accounted for 1.4 tip elements and this only increased the overall total of tip elements to 488.

Coffeehouse Tip Coding by Topic in Excel

Table 1: Using Excel to code tips according to broad categories. Click image to enlarge

Figure 1 shows that the conversion of tips to tip elements had little to no effect on the distribution of tips among the coffeehouses. Additionally, the division of tip elements validates that each accounts for a substantial amount of consideration (approximately 20-30%) and that no fringe categories were under consideration.

Tips and Tip Elements

Figure 1. Percentage distribution of tips, tip elements, and categories. Click image to enlarge

With my major categories identified and after properly coding  the modified data set of 488 tip elements in Excel, I then generated a pivot table to examine how these variations could be organized to present one or more findings. Pivot tables allow data to be stacked, arranged, filtered, and rearranged hierarchically to tease out significant relationships. I prepared a table to look at how each of the major categories were represented by user feedback for each coffeehouse (Figure 2). However, the significance of these relationships among categories between coffeehouses could not be validated without recalculating the distribution of categories accordingly (Figure 3). For example, we see that tips regarding coffee at Lola Coffee account for 29 of the 44 tips and that this fewer than the 42 times coffee was referenced for Lux Central but more than the times it was referenced for the other three coffeehouses; specifically: Copper Star Coffee (13 references), Giant Coffee (23 references) and Jobot Coffee (26 references). Once these tips are recalculated relative to all feedback within each venue, we come to observe that tips regarding coffee at Lola Coffee account for nearly half of all tips for that venue (48%), which is about double the feedback for the same category at all of the other coffeehouses, which are now relatively similar, ranging from 20-29% feedback relative to other categories.

Comparison of User Feedback Across Coffeehouse Venues
Coffeehouse Tip Number Analysis by Topic

Table 2. Analyzing the number of tip elements by topic permits comparison among coffeehouses but not between them. Click image to enlarge.

Coffeehouse Tip Analysis by Topic

Table 3. Analyzing the percentage of tip elements for each topic relative to all tips for a single venue allows comparisons to be drawn between coffeehouses. Click image to enlarge.

Significant differences emerged and yet I reminded myself that the range of user feedback varied considerably

Coffeehouse Users Check-Ins Lists Tips Photos
Lux Central 3,060 16,202 93 128 458
Jobot Coffee 1,403 6,801 47 70 176
Lola Coffee 1,131 5,654 46 44 85
Copper Star Coffee 902 4,230 24 48 71
Giant Coffee 910 3,839 34 56 121
Tips and Likes

This chart illustrates the inverse relationship between number of user-generated tips and number of likes. Most tips have no “Like” votes and whereas 28 tips (approximately 8%) account for 50% of all “Like” votes. Click image to enlarge.

4sq Tips and Likes Chart

In this chart we have tips arranged along the timeline from oldest (left) to most recent (right) with the height in red indicating the number of words in the tip and the height of the gold indicating how many “Like” votes that tip received. Click image to enlarge.

Word Count to Likes

Word count is aligned with like-votes received and there is no discernible correlation. Click on image to enlarge.

Other Resources:
• Best of Foursquare – Phoenix
• What is a tip?
• 5 tips for creating foursquare lists that get noticed
• Foursquare launches rating system, competes with Yelp

This is page 3 of 9 in a Foursquare Coffeehouse Mini-Ethnography
Click here for page 4: Codes of Conduct

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