2012 travel has kicked off in earnest. I’ve already visited four countries, am about to embark on the first of three short trips all to be completed in the next 11 days with the prospect of serious long haul just around the corner. I’m more than glad that I have TripIt (Pro version) on my mobile device. It helps me keep travel plans organised, provides routing directions when I have to walk to new places and ensures that I know about flight delays. It automatically ingests email I receive from the airline companies, booking agents, the trainline and hotel booking sites. Most of the time it works automagically.
It has hooks to Yammer, Chatter, Google Apps and LinkedIn so that I can share my plans with whomever is in my dedicated networks and add to my ever cluttered calendar. But I wonder if they are missing something or perhaps I am not observant enough. I’ll throw the question out and see what comes back.
As I was making ready to go on this trip I idly tweeted that I was preparing to visit London, UK (there’s one on Arkansas.) Within a few minutes, a handful of people I know personally and are part of my Twitter network all said they will likely be in the same vicinity and maybe we could meet. A few Tweets later and we set a date/time for what was already a pre-arranged event but ‘open to buddies’ and to which some of us can make it. Sadly not all. Bear in mind this is a group of people who are already traveling either in and around London or arriving from the shires, Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands. Also bear in mind that we are not in mutual private networks. Hold that thought.
Coincidentally, I received an invitation to join (yet another) social network called Foreca.st. It takes a very simple idea that could have proven useful in the above scenario. As the name implies, it takes plans, although this time from Foursquare locations you have recently visited and adds them into a future timeline that can, in turn, be shared with your Foursquare friends. Foursquare allows me to share my location on an opt-in, place by place basis with my Twitter followers and Facebook friends.
It’s fun checking into different locations, earning silly badges and occasionally becoming the mayor of a location. Some of the geo-located discount offers are useful. But when you’re traveling, it is not much good for randomly meeting people unless they are roughly in the same place at the same time and know you are in the same place. And I’m not sure that I want to necessarily meet with people I don’t know who may (or may not) be in the same location. The bigger problem with Foursquare is that it only knows where you are when you tell it. Right now, it thinks I am at a boarding gate in Gatwick airport when in fact I am cranking this out on my office machine a 1,000 miles away. Limiting eh?
Foreca.st has more promise but it still doesn’t square the circle for those occasions where I may be traveling for specific purposes but would like the opportunity to fill in otherwise dead time with meetings of the kind that were organised via Twitter. These kinds of meeting (and I don’t expect this upcoming session to be any different) are frequently more valuable than those that are pre-arranged because they open the door to sharing fresh ideas from the point of starting with a blank slate. We’re meeting, there’s no agenda, ergo I’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.
What I really want is a way for TripIt, Foresquare (or is it Foreca.st?) and Twitter to come together so that I can still randomly Tweet plans but have everything about a specific day and/or time available to those who care to open a link. I’d like each of these connections to be optional because I don’t always want to share everything with everything and everybody.
I would prefer that however this works doesn’t clutter up Twitter with messages among what quickly becomes a private group Tweeting session but I’d still like it to eventually populate my calendar and update my TripIt account with those plans. Today, that happens manually. I’d also like all this linked to expense handling which, in turn gets automatically fed to my accounting solution. TripIt can selectively handle that. You might argue that TripIt could easily be modified to deal with all of this or that with some though I could do all this myself. Well yes, but not quite. It doesn’t work because I see people increasingly living in places like Twitter with TripIt on the side. It is therefore not top of mind in the Tweet stakes. It is more a matter of somehow personalising the planned bit onto networks like Twitter and Foreca.st.
From what I have seen, there must be a way for this to happen because the programmatic hooks among the various applications already exist. Its just that no-one seems to have thought the whole thing through? Or am I missing something?
From the professional’s perspective you might be wondering where the heck this has application in day to day life. I see huge potential. For example, you could establish a client network – perhaps via Yammer – that fullfils most of the requirements I am thinking about. But when you want to open that up to your wider network, which may only be connected via Twitter, then you have a different problem. It could for example help you to fill in some of those dead spaces when you’ve (say) stopped off from a client visit for a coffee. Is it really that much fun nursing a flat white (or your chosen poison) on your own while trying to look incredibly busy checking email in a Starbucks? No. Coffee shops are places where we meet others.
I’m guessing if there isn’t today then there will be an app for that ast some point in the future.