Dopplr: More Fuzziness Wanted [en]

[fr] Dopplr est un de ces "social tools" (si vous avez une meilleure traduction que "outils sociaux", qui franchement, ne traduit pas du tout l'idée, faites-moi signe) qui permet à chacun d'indiquer quels sont ses prochains voyages prévus et de les partager avec ses contacts. Là où Dopplr ajoute véritablement quelque chose, c'est qu'il va informer l'utilisateur s'il se retrouve dans la même ville au même moment qu'un de ses contacts.

Dans ce billet, je parle de deux choses qui pourraient à mon avis rendre Dopplr encore plus utile: un peu de "flou spatial", pour que Dopplr "sache" que Genève c'est tout près de chez moi, et que je ne veux pas seulement être avertie quand mes amis viennent à Lausanne, mais aussi s'ils sont de passage à Genève (et pourquoi pas quand ces villes seront dans le système), Morges ou Yverdon. Et deuxièmement, du flou possible dans les dates, que je puisse indiquer si ce sont des dates "fermes" ou déplaçables -- ou encore si mon voyage est sûr ou bien en projet.

I really, really like [Dopplr]( I does something rather simple (from a user point of view) and does it well. It lets me know if [my travels]( are bringing me in the same town as other people I know, either because they live there or because they’re travelling too. It also allows people to keep up-to-date with my travels, maybe in a more user-friendly way than my [Where is Steph?]( public calendar.

My Dopplr Page

Having said that, there is a way in which Dopplr could improve its usefulness for me quite a bit, by introducing some amount of temporal and spatial fuzziness. Huh? Let’s start with the shortcomings I’ve found, and hopefully I’ll explain things more clearly. *(Ugh, feeling clumsy with English today, not sure why.)*

I have set my hometown as Lausanne, Switzerland, so when Dopplr-contacts of mine travel to Lausanne, I’m informed. Great, so far. But what if a normally US-based Dopplr-contact of mine comes to Geneva? Geneva is about 40 minutes away by train. If somebody I know, and who lives on another continent, is coming to Geneva, well, I would definitely want to know. Even if the destination was Zürich, for that matter. It’s as good as if they were headed for Lausanne.

See where I’m headed? Of course, this is a complex feature to add. For the moment, I imagine Dopplr matches trip coincidences based on location names. This would involve computing distances between various cities. It would also involve determining what level of geographical fuzziness makes sense in which situation. For example, I’m going clearly going to be interested in knowing when people who live really far off are coming less far away — hell, I might even go to Paris to meet up with some of my friends who live on the other side of the pond. I might not be that interested in knowing that a friend of mine from Geneva is travelling to Paris, when I haven’t got any plans to go there. Maybe we could have sliders somewhere to change location fuzziness easily.

The other shortcoming I’ve bumped into has to do with time (hence “temporal and spatial fuzziness”). For some of my trips, the dates are set. It’s the case with my upcoming trip to Denmark, for example. I got a special priced flight with “no changes allowed”, so the dates are set in stone. (And yes, of course, [I’d like to]( change my return flight. Gah.) My upcoming trip to Paris in November, however, is very fuzzy. I know roughly what dates I’m going to be there, but I could head there earlier or hang around a few days once the conference is over. It would be really useful for me to be able to indicate how “hard” my travel dates are.

Another type of “time fuzziness” I’d like to have is for “not sure yet” trips. I’d like to go to India next winter — not quite sure when, not quite sure where exactly.

Of course, having said all that, I’m going to play devil’s advocate a bit (am I really?) by reminding everybody that “less is more” and that it’s often better to “do one thing, and do it well”. I feel the same about Twitter: I feel it’s missing features to make it “really great” for me, but on the other hand, I fear that adding too much to it will make it lose what makes it special and turn it into a tentacular monster. I’ve seen that happen, to some extent, with coComment — at the beginning, a rather straightforward comment tracking system, now with many layers of icing and social goodies which make me feel a bit lost when I look at it. *(Disclaimer: coComment were a client of mine, and I encouraged them to add certain features to it at the beginning — like tagging, neighbours — but now I wonder if pushing in that direction was such a good idea after all. Future will tell, I guess — version 2 is due out soon.)*

So, what’s missing to make *your* Dopplr “perfect”?

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