My most hated mobile applications, pt I

I've had a very bad day today, and I probably managed to piss off quite a lot of people. So I figured I might as well get this one (and the few next ones) off my chest as well.

Over the years, I've seen all sorts of wearable/ubiquitous/mobile applications, that just get me easily in the state of mild enragement. Let me list my top peeves in this blog, and be warned that there will be plenty'o'ranting. Not all of the following text is to be taken completely seriously.

This will be a series to which I'll be posting daily until I run out of holy steam.

YATG

Have you ever had the urge to find a good restaurant in a strange city, but just don't know what to do, and wish there was a way you could open your mobile phone and it could tell you? No? It turns out that there's a large number of socially inept people, who apparently don't want to talk to any of the locals and simply ask, but they would rather live in their own small little world and have carefully managed and computer-recommended "foreign" experiences when going abroad. Well, maybe not so large. Maybe it's just a tiny number of people. But way too many of these people seem to be building mobile applications, and I just can't count the use cases I've been presented which start with "You're in a foreign city, and you would like to have dinner, and don't know where to go to..."

For chrissakes - ASK a local person. You'll have fun trying to cross the language barrier - and if you don't pass, just be adventurous and pick a place, any place. There's nothing wrong with some human contact. Not everything has to be mediated through the computer and social algorithms.

Besides, while traveling is cheap, it's not something that most people do very often. And not very many people are willing to pay the sky-high mobile data roaming fees either (I've managed to rack up a 1200€ phone bill once while traveling, just by checking my email and a bit of googling). And there's a difference between whipping out your 3G phone or a battered copy of Lonely Planet in the middle of Miami...

We don't need a Yet Another Tourist Guide. We need more stuff that's useful in the daily life of a normal person!

This is not the only application that attempts to overlay relatively useless data on top of the real world. While some of the apps I've seen are genuinely useful, many of these so-called Augmented Reality applications seem to be more concerned in diminishing the nasty bits of reality out of the equation: things like language barriers and getting lost and talking to people. Building a social recommendation engine for restaurants so that you could find "the perfect place" in a faraway city sounds decidedly antisocial to me: what's so social about NOT talking to people and letting some algorithm decide your preferences for you? While you may have never seen your best friend except through a webcam, there's still life outside the internet, hell-o?!?

Perhaps this is because the guys who write this stuff are antisocial geeks. Or perhaps it's just that it would suit their particular lifestyle as well; a lifestyle I would call as "The Comfort Optimizing Frequent Traveller With Only Three Hours Of Free Time After The Meeting". While there's obviously some money in it (the kind of people that need this stuff usually don't have any life outside of work and therefore have lots of money because they have no way to spend it), I still wouldn't call it anything really useful to the average mobile phone user - which would be these days anyone who can talk and can scrounge the money for the phone bill.

Oh well. Check out the Ultimate Tour Guide at Tinmith. That's what everyone should be wearing in all foreign cities all the time. At least the locals would have fun.

Part II




Comments

When I go to a strange place where I know someone I ask for these recommendations:

1) A place that you go all the time. -- If they go there on a regular basis it's going to be good food and good service and won't really be that expensive. I've been to some really great places that would not have made any kind of guide.

2) A place that is really special and that you've been to more than once -- these places all have a wow factor.

3) (If I'm going to be there for awhile) A place that you have always wanted to go to. -- Normally really upmarket, but there have been some tiny, simple places.

I've also asked the first two of people at the hotel if I'm just traveling through.

So far (after lots and lots of travel) I've never been disappointed.

One interesting thing is asking people where you live now, you will find some great places you may have overlooked.

--Foster, 29-Mar-2006


This is very good advice. Thanks Foster!

--JanneJalkanen, 30-Mar-2006


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