Adam Schwabe writing about Gowalla (and Foursquare) in his 2010 SXSW highlights:

Neither application had been particularly useful for me at home here in Toronto up until SXSW, but that changed in Austin where they were great in tracking down friends and getting a sense for what was worth checking out at the conference and beyond. This worked only because I was a part of a very similar set of users with aligned goals, motivations and contexts for using the apps. I’m not so sure the usefulness of Foursquare/Gowalla will extend beyond SXSW unless you live in an urban area with a wired population; Like all social media, they won’t take off until your friends are on board.

Adam Schwabe on Gowalla at SXSW