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Gentle Introduction

privatesquare is a simple web application to record and manage a private database of Foursquare check-ins.

It uses the Foursquare API as a single-sign-on provider, for user accounts, and to query for nearby locations (using your web browser's built-in geolocation support).

Check-ins can be sent on to Foursquare (and again re-broadcast to Twitter, etc, or to your followers or just "off the grid") but the important part is: They don't have to be.

The Long Version(s)

Installation - The Short Version

privatesquare is built on top of Flamework which means it's nothing more than a vanilla Apache + PHP + MySQL application. You can run it as a dedicated virtual host or as a subdirectory of an existing host.

You will need to make a copy of the config.php.example file and name it config.php. You will need to update this new file and add the various specifics for databases and third-party APIs.

# You will need valid foursquare OAuth credentials
# See also:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['foursquare_oauth_key'] = '';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['foursquare_oauth_secret'] = '';

# Don't change this. If you do update the main .htaccess
# file accordingly.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['foursquare_oauth_callback'] = 'auth/';

# You will need a valid Flickr API key *or* access to a running
# instance of the 'reverse-geoplanet' web service. By default
# all the code that runs the reverse geocoder is included with
# privatesquare (hence the requirement for an API key)
# See also:
# See also:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['reverse_geoplanet_remote_endpoint'] = '';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['flickr_api_key'] = '';

# You will need to setup a MySQL database and plug in the specifics
# here:
# See also:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['db_main'] = array(
	'host' => 'localhost',
	'name' => 'privatesquare',
	'user' => 'privatesquare',
	'pass' => '',
	'auto_connect' => 1,

# You will need to set up secrets for the various parts of the site
# that need to be encrypted. Don't leave these empty. Really.
# You can create new secrets by typing `make secret`.
# See also:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_cookie_secret'] = '';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_crumb_secret'] = '';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_password_secret'] = '';

# If you don't have memcache installed (or don't even know what that means)
# just leave this blank. Otherwise change the 'cache_remote_engine' to
# 'memcache'.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['cache_remote_engine'] = '';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['memcache_host'] = 'localhost';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['memcache_port'] = '11211';

# This is only relevant if are running privatesquare on a machine where you
# can not make the www/templates_c folder writeable by the web server. If that's
# the case set this to 0 but understand that you'll need to pre-compile all
# of your templates before they can be used by the site.
# See also:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['smarty_compile'] = 1;

Installation - The Long, Slightly Hand Holding, Version

Get the code from GitHub.

Decide on whether you'll host this on a sub-domain (something along the lines of or in a subdirectory (maybe something like

This rest of this section will assume the following:

  • That you'll be hosting on a subdomain called privatesquare on a domain called, or, to put it another way Just mentally substitute your domain and sub-domain when reading, and physically substitute your domain and sub-domain during the installation process. Unless you actually own the
  • That you'll be using Flickr for reverse-geocoding and not an instance of the reverse-geoplanet web-service.
  • That you want the URL for privatesquare to be and not
  • That you want privatesquare to be on a public facing web service. You can install it on a local machine that isn't publicly accessible but to do this needs some careful copying-and-pasting of database settings from a public facing machine to your local, private machine. See the Here-Be-Dragons Locally Hosted Version Below if you want to get your hands dirty.
  • That <root> is the path on your webserver where your web server has been configured to find the sub-domain.
  • That you have shell access (probably via SSH) to your web server.

Register with Foursquare - go to

  • Set the Application name to privatesquare (or something that means something to you)
  • Set the Application web site to
  • Set the Callback URL to
  • Note the Client id and Client secret the registration process gives you (it's a good idea to save this in a new browser window or tab so you can copy-and-paste)

Register with Flickr - go to

  • Apply for a non-commercial key
  • Set the App name to privatesquare (or something that's meaningful to you)
  • Set the App description to something meaningful, such as An instance of
  • Tick both boxes!
  • Note the key that the registration process gives you.

Now ... upload the code, plus all sub-directories to your web-server; don't forget the (hidden) .htaccess file in the root of the code's distribution.

Copy <root>/www/include/config.php.example to <root>/www/include/config.php and edit this new file.

Copy-and-paste your Foursquare Client id and Client secret into the section of the config file that looks like ...

$GLOBALS['cfg']['foursquare_oauth_key'] = 'my-foursquare-key-copied-in-here';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['foursquare_oauth_secret'] = 'my-foursquare-secret-copied-in-here';

Copy-and-paste your Flickr Key into the section of the config file that looks like ...

$GLOBALS['cfg']['flickr_api_key'] = 'my-flickr-key-copied-in-here';

Set up your database name, database user and database password. Copy and paste these into ...

$GLOBALS['cfg']['db_main'] = array(
	'host' => 'localhost',
	'name' => 'my-database-name',
	'user' => 'my-database-user',
	'pass' => 'my-database-users-password',
	'auto_connect' => 0,

Setup your encryption secrets secrets. SSH to your host and run php <root>/bin/generate_secret.php, 3 times. Copy and paste each secret into

$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_cookie_secret'] = 'first-secret-here';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_crumb_secret'] = 'second-secret-here';
$GLOBALS['cfg']['crypto_password_secret'] = 'third-secret-here';

(If you don't have shell access to your web-server, you can run this command from the shell on a local machine)

Create the database tables. Load <root>/schema/db_main.schema, <root>/schema/db_tickets.schema and <root>/schema/db_users.schema into the database. You can do this either via phpMyAdmin and the import option or via mysql on the shell's command line

Browse to

If you get errors in your Apache error log such as ...

www/.htaccess: Invalid command 'php_value', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

... then your host is probably running PHP as a CGI and not as a module so you'll want to comment out any line in <root>/www/.htaccess that starts with php_value or php_flag and put these values into a new file, <root>/www/php.ini, without the leading php_value or php_flag.

Click on sign in w/ 4sq and authenticate with Foursquare.

Browse to Select your Foursquare synchronisation options. If you want to sync with 4sq you'll need to run the sync script ...

$ php <root>/bin/sync-foursquare.php

... this is sole the part of the process where you'll need shell access; there's currently no way to do this via the browser.

You might want to put this command in a cron job, if your web host allows this.

That's it. Or should be. If I've forgotten something please let me know or submit a pull request.

Installation - The Here-Be-Dragons Locally Hosted Version

If you really want to hack and play around with privatesquare, it's best to do this on a private, locally hosted machine, like your laptop or your desktop machine. But as a starting point you need to have followed the installation instructions above as you need to have a public facing installation first and then clone this to your local machine. The reason for this is that you need to authenticate with Foursquare, Foursquare uses OAuth to authenticate and OAuth authentication needs a publicly accessible web server to authenticate with. With that said, roll up your sleeves, grab a cup of your caffeinated beverage of choice and follow along.

This rest of this section will assume the following:

  • That you're running MAMP on a Mac. MAMP is a nice convenient way to run MySQL, Apache and PHP on a Mac. There's also a Windows version called WAMP. Or most Linux distros come with all of this installed. YMMV so you may need to change some paths and file names.
  • That you'll set up a local host name called privatesquare
  • That your MAMP installation is running Apache on port 8888 and MySQL on port 8889.

So ... firstly create a local host name by adding privatesquare to your /etc/hosts file, which will look something like this ...	localhost localps

On some operating systems, this file is re-read each time your browser is re-started. On Mac OS X, you'll also need to flush and reload the machine's DNS cache ...

$ sudo /usr/bin/dscacheutil -flushcache

Now create a new virtual host on your machine. Edit /Applications/MAMP/conf/apache/httpd-vhosts.conf and append the magic incantation ...

<VirtualHost *:8888>
	ServerName localps:8888
	DocumentRoot "/Applications/MAMP/htdocs/"

Restart Apache in MAMP. Create /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/privatesquare/www. Browse to http://privatesquare:8888. Check you get an empty directory listing of / to ensure your virtual host is configured and working correctly.

Now download your working, public, privatesquare install (to ensure any customisations, including configuration, you've made are preserved) from your public facing webserver.

Export your privatesquare database from your public facing installation, either via phpMyAdmin / export or via the mysqldump command from the shell's command line.

Create a new local database to hold the, err, data.

Import your privatesquare database to your local installation, either via phpMyAdmin / import or via the mysqldump command from the shell's command line.

Edit your local copy of privatesquare's configuration file at /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/privatesquare/www/include/config.php to point to your new local database.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['db_main'] = array(
	'host' => 'localhost',
	'name' => 'privatesquare',
	'user' => 'root',
	'pass' => 'root',
	'auto_connect' => 0,

Still in the local privatesquare configuration file, set the environment config value to be localhost:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['environment'] = 'localhost';

Now browse back to http://privatesquare:8888. You should be asked to sign in w/ 4sq. Don't. You'll be redirected to the Foursquare site to authenticate and this will fail as your local install isn't publicly accessible.

Copy /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/privatesquare/bin/spoof-login-cookie.php to /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/privatesquare/www.

Edit /Applications/MAMP/htdocs/ Yes, this is fugly and hacky. Yes, I know it is. Change the $username variable to contain your Foursquare username (take a look in the users table in your cloned database to see what yours is). Save your changes.

Browse to http://privatesquare:8888/spoof-login-cookie.php

You should now see a message saying "All done; now click here". Click there.

You should be signed in and good to go. You'll probably want to remove the copy of spoof-login-cookie.php if you have OCD, but it's a local machine and if someone can access this on a browser running on your machine then this is the least of your problems.

If you want to run <root>/bin/sync-foursquare.php you'll need to make your your shell environment is set up to find the correct binaries and libraries. For MAMP this means putting the following into your .bash_profile.

export $PATH

Configuring fancy stuff – Trips (and calendars)

Trips allow you to record a visit to a given city. All the database and code-y bits are included by default so you just need to enable them in your config file, like this. Once enabled a "trips" section will appear in the menu bar on the right.

The trips feature also has the concept of shared calendar which allows you to publish trips matching a set of criteria as an ".ics" file. This functionality can be disabled independent of trips, proper. There is also a config flag to prevent users from being able to include past trips (at all) in their shared calendars. The reasons for wanting or needing to do that are left as an exercise to the reader.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_trips'] = 1;
$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_trips_calendars'] = 1;
$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_trips_calendars_include_past'] = 0;

Configuring fancy stuff – Artisanal Integers

By default privatesquare generates its own internal check in IDs using a local ticket server. One side effect of this approach is that it makes it difficult to reliably merge two (or more) separate instances of privatesquare because its likely that each instance will have issued the same ID for different check ins.

It is possible to configure privatesquare to use an artisanal integer provider to ensure that all your check ins are assigned globally unique IDs. Please note that creating these IDs involves calling these services when you check in and this will add a little extra time and overhead to every check in.

To enable the use of artisanal integers please ensure that the following variables are set (and enabled) in your config.php file:

# Use an artisanal integer provider to generate local privatesquare database IDs

$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_artisanal_integers'] = 1;

# Possible values are: mission; brooklyn; london
# If empty the code will default to a random provider

$GLOBALS['cfg']['artisanal_integers_provider'] = '';

The currently supported artisanal integer providers are: Mission Integers, Brooklyn Integers and London Integers. For a very very (very) long and thorough discussion of artisanal integers you should read this blog post.

Configuring fancy stuff – deferred checkins

A deferred check-in might happen when the foursquare servers are busted, like when everyone is at SXSW and trying to check-in at the same time. If that happens privatesquare will know where you are in geographic space (latitude and longitude) and will prompt you to record the name of the venue you're trying to check-in to.

That name of the venue, along with the latitude and longitude and the date, will be stored as a "pending" check-in in your browser's local storage database allowing you to complete the check-in when the foursquare servers are happy again.

If you're offline, though, your browser won't even know where you are. So instead of just prompting you for the name of the venue you're at privatesquare asks you for both the name of the venue and the city you're in. Like this.

Once you're back online your check-in will be waiting for you in the same "pending" bin as deferred check-ins (specifically the "pending" link in nav menu). Instead of asking foursquare for a venue named (x) near a given latitude and longitude privatesquare will ask for venues named (x) in the city you told it about. This means that you will probably be presented with a lot more venues to choose from but if the alternative is not being able to check-in at all that seems like a reasonable compromise. Like this.

At some point in the future privatesquare might keep a local cache of all the cities you're checked in from and try to be clever about auto-filling that field but for the time being you'll need to add that information by hand.

With deferred checkins you can only indicate that "you are here". Check-ins are not passed along to foursquare since there's no way to check-in to the past with foursquare. That's a perfectly legitimate choice for them to make. I've been tossing around the possibility of working around that constraint by adding a mention about the past-iness of a deferred or offline check-in in the notes field, but it's not something I've done yet.

To enable deferred check-ins make sure the following flags are enabled in your config.php file:

$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_deferred_checkins'] = 1;

Note: Offline checkins used to be part of privatesquare prior to version "2" but were removed because it never seemed to work very well and HTML5's offline cache is still a giant pool of pain and confusion.

Configuring fancy stuff - (Foursquare) OAuth2 token swapping

This allows a user to login in and update an mismatched OAuth2 token that comes back from foursquare by using the token to lookup a user via the Foursquare API and to then check for a corresponding local user by the email address (included in the foursquare response). If a match is found then the OAuth2 token associated with the local user (and foursquare_user) will be updated. You might want to do this if you need to migrate your privatesquare instance from one domain to another and you need to create a new Foursquare application. Use with caution.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_oauth_token_swap'] = 1;

Configuring fancy stuff - sending check-ins to Little Printer

privatesquare can now be told to send i want to go there check-ins to a user's Little Printer. To enable the feature make sure the following flags are set in your config.php file.

$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_bergcloud_users'] = 1;
$GLOBALS['cfg']['enable_feature_bergcloud_littleprinter'] = 1;

If you already have an instance of privatesquare installed you'll need to make sure that you run the 20130213.db_main.schema database alter to add the BergcloudUsers table to your database.

Once that's done individual users can go to http://YOUR.PRIVATESQUARE.URL/account/bergcloud/ and add their Direct Print API code and enable check-ins to be sent to their printer. The output looks something like this.


  • @vicchi
  • @lostfocus
  • @riordan
  • @edent

See also


privatesquare is a simple web application to record and manage a database of foursquare check-ins.



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