Exploring Millions of Footprints in Location Sharing Services
Location sharing services (LSS) like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places support hundreds of millions of user-driven footprints (i.e., "checkins"). Those global-scale footprints provide a unique opportunity to study the social and temporal characteristics of how people use these services and to model patterns of human mobility, which are significant factors for the design of future mobile+location-based services, traffic forecasting, urban planning, as well as epidemiological models of disease spread. In this paper, we investigate 22 million checkins across 220,000 users and report a quantitative assessment of human mobility patterns by analyzing the spatial, temporal, social, and textual aspects associated with these footprints. We find that: (i) LSS users follow the “Levy Flight” mobility pattern and adopt periodic behaviors; (ii) While geographic and economic constraints affect mobility patterns, so does individual social status; and (iii) Content and sentiment-based analysis of posts associated with checkins can provide a rich source of context for better understanding how users engage with these services.