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Hometown vs. city

The words “hometown” and “city” have very different meanings—one’s where you were born (and usually grew up), the other where you live (when “now” or “at present” is implied). I’ve never really seen the two interchanged until I started using Gowalla. At first I thought it was a mistake, but after some thought it kind of makes sense given the context.

Here’s the field and it’s value for my account on Gowalla:

Gowalla hometown form field

The help text below it reads, “The location (City, State) where you live.” At first, I assumed I actually had somehow answered this incorrectly—it was showing the city where I lived (San Jose as I never changed it after our last move), and not my hometown (Hubertus, WI).

After thinking about it, I realized that it kind of makes sense for a location game service like Gowalla. If the point of Gowalla is to visit and check-in to places, then my hometown is considered in a different context. It’s my hometown in Gowalla—the city in which I currently reside—not my hometown in real life.

The label threw me for a few minutes, and continues to do so whenever I look at it. Perhaps another label would be more useful in this context (“current city,” “Residing in,” or “Place I call home,” etc).

I’d love to hear more around the decision here if there was one at all as I can imagine other people might stumble over this in the future as I did continue to do so.


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