This morning, a bunch of geeks from around Silicon Valley got together at the local Hobee's to talk about location.  Our guest for the day was Stephen Hood, co-founder of Blockchalk.  Stephen is the former product manager for Delicious and is working on some really interesting things.  Blockchalk is a location based service where, believe it or not, you don't check in!  With Blockchalk, you leave a short message, or chalk, based on where you are.  The chalks are anonymous and anyone can see all of the chalks for a particular place.  You can think about it like a place based message board or kiosk.

One of the more interesting comments came from Adam Helweh of Secret Sushi.  Adam pointed out that whenever he and his wife go out and he whips out his phone to check in at wherever they are, she comments about how anti-social the behavior is.  For most of us in Silicon Valley, we don't even think twice about it when someone pulls out a device to check in or check email or tweet, but for most of the world, this behavior removes you from what's going on around you and separates you from the people you're with–it's anti-social.  Someone brought up Scoble posting pics from his trip to Happy Hollow Park over the weekend (a great place to take your kids, by the way) and wondered what his wife must have been thinking with him posting every few minutes while the kids played (he'll probably tell us in the comments).  My wife would have thought the same thing.  And actually she did when I checked in and tweeted from Happy Hollow just a week ago while the kids ran around an played.

This led to a discussion on the value of checking in.  For the most part, checking in at a location serves three functions: 1) Ego gratification because you think other people care where you are, 2) collection of points or prizes (see also, game mechanics), and 3) occasionally making it possible to spontaneously meet up with someone you want to meet up with (I've been checking in places for over a year and this has happened twice–once recently at Happy Hollow, believe it or not).  But really, what real world tangible *value* does checking in provide?

I think, and the Silicon Valley geeks I had breakfast with seemed to agree, that this is the next great challenge for local.  How do you add value to the experience of not just the person whipping out the iPhone, but to everyone they are with?  This would transform an anti-social activity into a social activity.  How do you provide value so that when I bust out the iPhone when we get somewhere, instead of saying, "Put that thing away, you look like a dork," my wife says, "Oh good!  You're checking in!  What does it say?"  This is the value that will help location based services go mainstream.

Integrating with local businesses and local deals is going to be part of this, but getting coupon for a yogurt doesn't make the experience social.  Yes it adds value for the people that you're with, but there has to be more to this than saving a dollar.  Note that I'm not discounting the value of saving a buck, but there's got to be more to it than that.  The whole idea of being social is that the activity provides value to you and the people that you're with.  As the web comes full circle and acts as a layer that adds data and value to where we are RIGHT NOW, someone will solve this.  Is Blockchalk going to be the one?