A Social Network Vacation
We have now lived in Arizona over 14 years. A lot of our family still lives in Idaho and Utah. As a result we find ourselves making the trek from Arizona to Idaho quite often (more often than I would like that’s for sure). We have gotten to where we have a fairly well mapped out path from point A to point B and back. This path is the result of trying just about every different roadway that goes between these three states. And what I have learned from all of this is that there really is no good way to get from Arizona to Idaho without subjecting yourself to a lot of small highways or back roads. I don’t so much mind driving the back country but it does have its drawbacks. For example there are large stretches of road that have absolutely nothing on them. Driving from Flagstaff Arizona northward for example takes you across Indian Reservations that barely have phone service let alone rest stops or places to get something to eat or drink. Even cellular service is spotty. Digital phone service is impossible and analog roaming is even questionable. This situation remains in effect through part of southern Utah as well at least until you can get near the Interstate when there are at least some cellular towers to give you adequate phone service.
This lack of communications choices has a couple of effects. First it is a little nerve wracking to think that if you had car troubles or were running behind you may not be able to get help via your phone and would instead have to rely on the friendly intentions of others on the road. Given today’s society that is not the most comforting thought I have ever had going into a vacation. The other less drastic problem is the fact that if you happen to be travelling to meet someone it is difficult to make sure and let them know if something comes up. This is further complicated when there are multiple parties involved with wanting status on your trip or where you are at. In times past we almost were required to create a phone tree where one person would call someone else who would in turn call someone else. This is akin to the old telephone game where you started out with a message and passed it from person to person. By the end the message was completely different than what it started. I was determined that this trip was going to be different.
I had recently written an entry on micro-blogging services and thought they may hold merit for this particular problem I was trying to solve. Rather than calling everyone I knew or setting up a complicated calling tree to notify everyone of our current location I would instead update the micro-blogging services and those who were interested could subscribe to my timelines to see where we were. Using Ping FM would make this especially easy since this allowed me to update most of the more popular social network sites with my status. That way people could chose whatever network they were most comfortable; whether it be Twitter, Plurk, Pownce, Facebook, or any of the other countless services there were. Since I first wrote the post on micro-blogging I have since gotten a lot more interested in this technology. I have especially become enamored with Plurk. This service has become much better and continues to evolve. It so far seems to have been immune to the scalability issues that have plagued Twitter and does provide with a more intuitive way of managing conversations. Periodically through the trip I would send an email or text message to Ping FM and it would in turn post my whereabouts and whatever I happened to mention I was doing. What I had not anticipated was that complete strangers would see these status posts and comment upon them. It has been a fun and interesting experience as I try to explain the various points of our vacation. It was almost like sharing “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” while I was still on the trip. I plan to continue posting updates each day for the remainder of our trip. It has been helpful to family members wanting to know where we are but it has also allowed me to meet some new people and make friends I might not have otherwise done. I have gotten a new appreciation for social networking.