Thursday, August 24, 2006

It all comes together

I've just had one of those brilliant ideas when you suddenly see how half a dozen disparate things can all fit together.

I was having an email chat with Geoff Farmer about some ideas for CanalplanAC, mainly on the lines of what to do next (other than all the stuff I've written about here before, of course).

I was mentioning all the really neat interactive stuff Google now does that could be integrated in some way and mentioned the idea of place searching; imagine people being able to search for pubs and
restaurants, and then add them to the map for the benefit of people
coming along later.

Or how about a canalplan Google Gadget that provides Canalplan gazetteer
stuff.

In his reply he reminded me that the thing everybody really wants is more sophisticated overnight scheduling, and then said (I've taken the liberty of quoting him here):

For me though, the thing that will really make Canalplan a killer app will be itinerary planning.

Whilst Canalplan can plan a journey, the places it suggests I end my day at are not ideal - but then, I guess, Canalplan has no idea what a good stopping place is.

If you are aiming at getting Canalplan to produce itineraries, I would suggest that some way is introduced to record the suitability of stopping places. This would probably require the addition of visitor mooring places etc. and some sort of 'suitability as a stopping point' from zero for locks/bridges/winding holes etc to 10 for somewhere really nice. Users could select a minimum stopping suitability rank when specifying there journey details.

Then again, other criteria could be used like 'maximum distance to pub' or 'minimum number of real ales at local pub'

At that I wandered off to bed, mentally planning my reply which would go something like the one I've sent to others in the past:

That's a wonderful idea, but I'm far from convinced that anyone would go to the effort to put places in (Geoff has contributed heaps to CanalplanAC, and may think everybody is like him) and without all that data, it wouldn't work. And data bashing like that is not something I'd want to do.

And then, in the middle of the night, it all came together. If you merge these two thoughts with what I was saying a few weeks ago about the benefit of being on line, you get this - my super new idea for the future:

People can produce their own adjusted routes. They chose where to stop, but - if it has the data - Canalplan AC will suggest a few local places itself. And then -- the clever bit -- when they pick places they have to say why they are stopping there, and CanalplanAC keeps the data. So everytime you plan a route and select your stopping places, you are also helping the program select stopping places for everybody else, without doing anything different.

It's real next generation web stuff. Its one of the things that only an on-line program can do. And everytime the program is used, it gets better, all by itself!

None of this will happen tomorrow. But it is clearly the way to go. I'll keep you posted.

4 Comments:

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous David said...

On reading this - have you considered a link to the waterscape.com maps which do show "official" visitor moorings pubs etc? those are probably more useful to the boater than streetmap?

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger Nick said...

They're nice, aren't they. Probably the best use of flash I've seen on a web site.

One problem is that I can't see any way to link to them - because it is all done in a flash plugin, there is only a single URL to link to, for the top level map.

When the data really is up to scratch - and the enthusiastic use of the new virtual lengthsman feature gives me great hope for getting some collaberative user input - Canalplan's Google Maps should be every bit as good as Waterscapes.

If I'm wrong, of course, and there is a really nice way to link directly to a Waterscape map, can someone please let me know and I'll add it to the automatic list of links.

 
At 12:02 PM, Anonymous midnight cowboy said...

Nick et al.

I agree with your ideas - I am obsessive enough to be a lengthsman and will help

 
At 3:46 PM, Anonymous steinitz.fam@which.net said...

All sounds great, and lots of us will add stuff, but if too many people start acting on the data won't that skew everything? If, for example, 50 of us all select the same mooring because it is very peaceful..? So please can you add in some data about how many others might be considering stopping at the same site because you have featured it???

I do enjoy your site - well done!
Eleanor

 

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