Going Social

Navajo Bridge

The Venture Capitalist was displeased.

“That’s all you’ve got?” he barked, taking a deep swig from his bottle of soylent. “People don’t even travel anymore; they do everything in VR! You should be making goggles and helmets. But no! You wrote a travel app?”

In our imagination, a pin dropped and shattered our eardrums in a burst of silence. A hundred eyes focused in unison as our stock split and our fair market value turned tail and went negative.

The Venture Capitalist went in for the kill.

“Maybe your users need a GPX track to find the bathroom after Netflix and chilling?”

The elevator pitch had begun so smoothly. We had designed for ourselves and expected like-minded people to come out of the woodwork. Maybe it wasn’t exactly Uber for adventurers. But could it become Word for wanderers?

But now things had gone awry. We passed the hundred and eleventh floor, and the elevator was beginning to shake. We were fairly sure the building only had nine stories.

Looking down, the floor was clear glass. A sargassum of forked blockchains writhed beneath us, abandoned by even the hoariest of miners. The lights flickered. The elevator’s display no longer had a floor number, just a name. We had arrived at the cemetery of failed software projects. Several floors beneath us, a Pets.com sign blinked ominously.

It was then that we noticed the distinct lack of pants in our lives. While embarrassing, it explained a lot.

We awoke in cold sweat, still hearing the Venture Capitalist’s final mocking laugh. “Hey, maybe you can make it social, too! Like Facebook for hobos!”

As we poured ourselves an unusually large bowl of cereal, we reflected that even bad nightmares can bring good ideas. It was true: we had conceptualized trip planning as a solitary activity: our target customer was a modern-day Magellan, burning the midnight oil over maps and charts, searching out obscure petroglyph sites on Instagram while polishing his astrolabe and sextant.

So why not do something more social? No man is an island. And our extensive user research has hinted at the possibility that some of our users might even have friends.

With that realization, the scenarios practically wrote themselves.

Maybe you’re travelling with someone, and they’re not terribly fond of surprises. You share the trip with them. They might even give you some feedback. Or even navigate while you drive.

Maybe you’re travelling someplace risky, and you want someone outside your travel party to know where you are. You share the trip with them, and they’ll know to call the County sheriff when you don’t check in.

Maybe your friends want to go on that hike to see the waterfall you posted on Flickr the other day. You reluctantly share the trip with them, feeling a twinge of responsibility for when they inevitably get lost. At least they have you to call the sheriff for them.

The app already supports uploading trips to cloud storage. So why not just share those trips with other people as well? You can even set read/write permissions, and choose to share all your trips or just one.

And so we did that. We went social. Sort of.

Somewhere, someplace, the elevator lurched into motion. This time, we had remembered to dress professionally, hiking boots and all, backpack loaded with water, spare lenses, and a packed lunch.

“Come hiking with us, and try it for yourself”, we said. “We’ll share the trip with you.”

The Venture Capitalist installed version 2.1.0 and asked for a premium code. We watched nervously as he downloaded the trip.

Suddenly the elevator stopped. The door opened to a high alpine forest. Morning sunlight filtered through the dwarf trees, scattering off erratics and wildflowers. Patches of snow lingered in the shadows. The air was crisp and clear. A mature blockchain rattled happily in the distance. We had arrived at the trailhead.

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