Washington DC metro area information architect and occasional blogger, with interests including personalization, the paradox of the active user, social apps/media, mapping and wayfinding, and rich Internet applications.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008


GPS Luddite

I love new web sites and gadgets. But the one thing I really haven't been able to get behind is GPS navigators. When I first moved to Rockville, MD, my parents loaned me their Magellan. I used it a little bit, and then I spent an extended period of driving, mildly panicked, around Potomac, while the Magellan attempted, unsuccessfully, to connect to the satellite. Eventually, I retraced my steps until I found the interstate, and thus am not still driving around Potomac, waiting for the thing to connect. The Magellan stayed in its bag until I gave it back to my parents.

Aside from the fact that it failed me miserably in Potomac, I didn't like the way I drove when it was attached to my windshield. I spent a lot of time watching the little Magellan screen that I should have spend watching the road, and a lot of time tensely waiting for the Magellan's next direction.

When my mom asked if I wanted a GPS navigator for Christmas, I said no (yes, I was quick to suggest a replacement gadget — an external hard drive — that I would actually use). I told her I was perfectly happy with Google Maps, which have never gotten me lost. I print the paper directions (admittedly, I am thinking about going to the mobile solution, to be a bit more green and flexible on the go), I reset the trip odometer at each intersection, and I watch the road the rest of the time.

Obviously, though, there are a lot of people out there who have really embraced GPS devices. It makes me think a bit more about this article, and whether my dislike of GPS devices has more to do with whether I flat-out don't like the technology, or I just don't like the way it works currently. If the "turn left in point five miles" voice spoke only when absolutely necessary, and there was no tantalizing screen of exactly-where-my-car-is-right-now to look at, I might be quicker to embrace it. Then again, what's the difference between that and my Google Maps directions, aside from a couple hundred bucks?

posted by Carrie G  # 2:59 PM   0 Comments

Tuesday, January 22, 2008



I really feel like smoke should have come out of my computer or something to back this one up.

posted by Carrie G  # 8:46 PM   0 Comments

Monday, January 21, 2008


Three from the NYT

Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike — The central premise is that as you get more knowledgeable, you get less innovative. The solution? Bring in people who don't have knowledge in your field. They'll have innovative ideas, and as you explain things to them, you will too.

The Risk of Innovation: Will Anyone Embrace It? — What's the difference between the Picturephone and the Prius? People saw the Prius as being worth changing for.

Noontime Web Video Revitalizes Lunch at Desk — The trend: Videos and Web surfing over lunch.

posted by Carrie G  # 8:02 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, January 5, 2008


"Over the Edge of the World"

A friend of mine occasionally likes to bring up this debate: Has the pace of progress in our time been faster than in other times? Her contention is yes, and she has great arguments for why, but somehow in my gut, I've always felt that the answer is no.

While advances like personal computers, the World Wide Web, cell phones and GPS have been enormous, they have built on the knowledge and technologies of the past — and I don't think any of them looms any larger, for their time, than the invention of movable type, or the discovery of new lands.

I felt that way even before I read Laurence Bergreen's Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe.

Magellan's journey boggles the mind — when he set off, he didn't have an exact location for the strait that would allow him to cross into the Pacific, only a notion that it existed, somewhere. And when he finally reached the Pacific, no idea as to the vast size of that ocean, or how to find the Spice Islands after he sailed across it. In our era, it would have been the same as the Apollo astronauts saying, "we think the moon is up there, so we're going to set out and see if we can find it and land there, and then if we can, get back."

Magellan himself didn't live to see the Spice Islands, or to return to Spain. Only a fraction of his crew, and one of the five ships that had originally set out, actually completed the circumnavigation. But the ship, Victoria, was so laden with spices that the mission was a financial success, to say nothing of what it contributed to knowledge about the world.

This was the other element that amazed me — this daring expedition, which so many men lost their lives for, was all for what we take for granted in our chai lattes from Starbucks. This was, really, the birth of globalization, of global trade on the seas.

The book itself is a fascinating read, a tale of horror and discovery. But more importantly, it's a reminder of the proportion of our own advances. We build upon the accomplishments of those that come before us, and Magellan's journey was one of the largest ever.

posted by Carrie G  # 11:22 AM   0 Comments