Rafe's solution to check-in fatigue: Check out

When you can't decide which check-in app to use and can't get a good mobile signal anyway, sit back and smell the rose-infused vanilla ice cream.

When Foursquare fails, shut up and eat. Screenshot by Rafe Needleman/CNET

It's a sunny weekend day. I'm out with my son, who's 5. We've just walked to that hipster sniffing post, the Bi-Rite Creamery. I'm about to get a cone for the kid, I'm proud to be his dad, he's happy, I'm happy, and all is right on Earth. It is, obviously, the perfect time to share my love of life and ice cream with the world. It's time to check in on my iPhone.

But on which app? This is how my thought process went:

The default is Foursquare. That'll tell the world where I am and let me rub virtual shoulders with other ice cream snobs who've been to Bi-Rite. But Foursquare is a bit of blunt instrument, more a friend finder for people who aren't really your friends. Furthermore, I don't actively manage my social connections on it, so it feels imprecise.

Or maybe Facebook. This is my smallest active social network and also the most personal. It's where my real friends are, which is its big plus. But to do a location check-in on Facebook feels beneath the importance bar for this service, at least for me. Also, everyone I know already knows how great Bi-Rite is. Why post?

Yelp? I could tell the whole world how much I love Bi-Rite. That would help other people in search of a good cone. But although Yelp has check-in features, I don't get the same immediate social stroking from putting a quickie review up on Yelp as I do on a social-first network.

What about Oink or Nosh or Foodspotting? These services would let me check in at my menu item (a scoop of salted caramel--I told you this place was obnoxiously trendy) instead of the whole ice cream shop. They're fun and probably represent the future of consumer product reviews, and all of them will send out Facebook and Twitter updates so my precious adulations will get seen by the maximum number of people. But which one? Also, what if I do really want to check in at the store and not the menu?

I had to consider The Eatery: This is a pretty smart service where you can check in your meals and let other people rate how healthy you're eating. Great idea. Totally the wrong app for ice cream.

And of course, standbys Twitter and Google+. I use these services as my marketing vehicles. They're where I put my professional persona online. I love them, but I already feel like I'm turning people off when I talk about how staggeringly brilliant and adorable my child is. Nobody needs to see a post saying that he likes ice cream. What a shock. He's 5.

Each of these check-in apps does have a place. But the problem is, for my Bi-Rite check-in, none of them was the best solution. What we need as a roll-up app, a meta-check-in service that will let users post an update on one service for check-in to several. That's harder than it sounds, though. The emotional content of each service is quite different, so a one-post-fits-all model will make for some awkward updates. Furthermore, Gowalla tried this with location check-ins, and it didn't work. The company is now doing travel guides .

Eventually, I settled on Foursquare. But when I went to sign in, I found my phone couldn't hold a data connection at the store. So I didn't check in, on Foursquare or anywhere. Except with my kid.

It ended up being the best trip to get ice cream ever, and I never cared that the only people in the world who knew it were me and him.

 

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