Backstrok.es is a website for discovering where you've been on Foursquare and Swarm.

December 16th 2015

  • NodeJS
  • Swarm


I attended SxSW in 2010, for the third time. As always, there were a ton of things to see and do... but I found myself remembering places from past trips to Austin. Things like:

  • "where was that one place we went on Friday last year, with the ____
  • and the ____? Did we go to the ____-sponsored talk last time?
  • Where was that awesome restaurant where we met ____?"

With FOMO on my mind, those questions inevitably got answered, usually after a lot of painful searching through memory, anecdote, blog and social media.

One night of the conference, I was wandering through Austin (keeping a weather eye open for my next awesome experience), when I saw a very large group gathering in the lobby of the Hilton.

I checked my Twitter feed, and I saw Dennis Crowley of Foursquare had been tweeting cryptic messages hinting toward some kind of "swimming" event.

I discovered that, every year at SxSW, the Foursquare guys would lie on their backs and race across the lobby floor pushing with their feet and a making a backstroking motion with their arms. It was hilarious.

Inspired by the shenanigans, I decided I would build a "memory" tool for social media, and I would call it "Backstrokes"... allowing people to "swim back" through their history.

The Project

Backstrok.es currently has one facet, the one that was the most interesting to me at the time: trips to other cities. Using a home zip code, Backstrok.es will organize checkins within a certain range of each other into "trips", making it easy to list and recall the places you’ve been.

The code is now open-source on my Github. I update it as I have time.

Backstrokes Results View Custom Parameters Backstrokes Home


Backstrok.es is built on Node.JS. It uses my node-foursquare library for working with the Swarm and Foursquare APIs. As a point of pride (and to keep the hosting free), it uses no database: all data is retrieved and organized on each page load.

Perhaps in the future I’ll use a database for "sharing" trips with your friends. But for now, it's a useful tool when friends of mine are looking for recommendations in cities I've visited.