Douwe Osinga's Blog: Crossing the US

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The last two weeks of May I was in Silicon Valley. It was very inspiring and we had a great series of meeting with the sort of people that the bay area is filled with: top class engineers, daring
entrepreneurs and angels who are willing to invest in great ideas and great people. And I met up of course with a great number of great friends (the first group and the last group overlap considerably of course) - when it comes to the Google Zurich Office Oscar Wilde was certainly right when he said "It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco"

We had two weeks before we were expected in New York City so me and my wife did the honorable thing. We took the train. It was an amazing 3300 mile ride that took me from San Francisco, to Denver, to Chicago and from there to DC, Baltimore and finally New York. Amtrak is a lot better than most Americans think though that isn't saying much. The trains do usually run late, but if you book sleepers, the food is included and the food isn't too bad even.

Another great thing are the lounge cars where you sit and do a little coding on your laptop while enjoying the amazing scenery of the Rocky Mountains and the slightly less exciting Great Plains. And every time the train slowly rolled into the station of a city we'd like to visit, I would build a Triposo Travel Guide and put it on my phone.

A great opportunity to use the guides we are building in the wild, and see if they are actually any good. To be clear, we've done a lot of testing with our guides in the wild, but more often than not you end up testing the guide in a city that you know quite well. Which is good, because you immediately spot the errors. But what you do miss is that unique feeling you get when you get of the train in a city you have never set foot before. The feeling of not having the first clue where to go and nothing to rely on but your phone and Triposo.

The good news is: it works. Triposo tells you where to go, has all the background info on the sights, has a great selection of restaurants and the offline map even makes sense when you have roaming - in many places it's just quite a bit faster.
The real good news is of course, that this trip inspired me. Here are a few things I guess I always knew, but that become even more clear during the trip I took across the USA.

Maps are crucial
I've loved maps all my life, but when you travel a map is a dire necessity. You want a fast map. You want to see where you are and what way you are looking. You want to be able to zoom in so deep you can see the cracks in the pavement. And you want all of that offline. Our
maps do work offline, but on the other points they need some extra attentions. So we're going to invest in this. To make our maps better, faster and more complete.

Less is more
Talking about complete: in Chicago Triposo had so much information, I had trouble finding out where to go. Every other tall building in the windy city had a nice description, but when you have under 48 hours, you're not that interested in all that. You want to know where to go -
and leave the rest.
The hard nut to crack is that the background information on every single skyscraper (and a bio on the architect) needs to be in there, but only when you need it. A nice UX challenge of course. If you have specific ideas, send us an email - we could do with a talented designer to help us out.

Sightseeing is not about the sights
The best way to enjoy Denver, especially when you have limited time is just to walk around the parks and streets and look at things from the outside. Maybe take in one museum, but other than that, just explore.
It would be great if you could just ask your guide book, I have 6 hours, I am here, tell me in which direction to walk so I get to see some cool stuff. Right now Triposo has the sights, but you still need to do too much planning yourself.

We will never be done
The world is such an amazing place and there's something to be seen in every nook and cranny. We'll give it our best shot to present all that information to you in a way that helps you decide where to go. But we'll never be done. We will keep having new ideas on how to improve.