In a previous post I talked about communicating with those back home while travelling and how in the 90s this relied on the solidness of postcards, letters and phone calls. The audience for these was, by necessity, rather small – family and a couple of envious best friends.
Now, my brother is on a one-year overland trip and I, along with the world, can trace his every mile thanks to his ekit.com online travel journal. From the journal I can send him a text, call him, post comments on his entries, see his current location on a zoomable Google map and find out whether his phone is on or off.
It all works through a SIM card and he can make live updates to his journal from his phone or PC all time-stamped to pins on the map. Everything is reciprocally integrated with Twitter, Facebook and his blog. The added benefit is that when I ring him it’s just the cost of a local UK mobile call and also free to him in most of the countries he’s visited so far. All useful stuff.
On the down side of this beta version, the interface and a lot of the interactions are not very user friendly. For instance, previous and back buttons face the wrong way. The interaction ‘make a call’ actually works as ‘request a call back’ so why not name the button that way. And the journal entries themselves are preceded by too much pre-bumph like ‘Paris 18 Buttes-Montmartre, France. This is in Paris, France’ spaced over two lines.
From my brother’s point of view, as a user, the sign-in doesn’t remember him and he has found some of the set-up pages unintuitive and difficult to learn.
But on the whole it’s been really useful to know where he is and read his updates and there are some nice touches like the email I get when he makes an update is an image of a postcard. With more user-centred development this could turn into a slick, dependable service. Not to mention every mother’s gap year dream.