Social Networking Everywhere

This summer, as most summers, was over in a flash. I was reflecting today on how technology—social networking in particular—has changed how "I spent my summer vacation.” Well, our first vacation was a big one: Disneyland. Our daughter was turning five, and, in my opinion, there’s no better place to turn five (or fifty-five) than Disneyland. Social networking certainly enhanced our trip since our time was precious (everything takes longer with a five year old!). I downloaded two Disneyland apps on my iPhone and actually used both of them quite a bit: 

iphone at disneylandMouseWait and Walkee. Both apps “work” because users enter information about everything—wait times, restaurant reviews, cleanliness of bathrooms, where to see characters, etc. Both apps gave pretty accurate wait times for all of the rides—and if one hadn’t been updated in awhile for a particular ride, I checked the other app. This feature made it easier to decide in which direction to go and in which line to wait. Walkee had a great map that made it easy to see the layout of the land, integrated with your choice of overlays: where to eat, attractions, shopping, “we did that” checkoff’s, restrooms, your own itinerary, height requirements (very helpful with a five year old), and more. Mousewait did an excellent job of tracking where you were in relation to where you wanted to go. It even gave you suggestions as to attractions to visit next due to their short wait times and relative position to you.

 The other really fun social networking-enhanced portion of the trip was sharing—in real time—our vacation via FaceBook. It was a fun diversion to share pictures and have asynchronous conversations while waiting in line. I had several people tell me how much they enjoyed seeing the Disney trip unfold—especially from the eyes of a five year old.

 Since Disneyland was our “big” trip, the rest of our summer involved mostly day trips and short weekend camping trips. We recently returned from “camping” at the beach. I put camping in quotation marks because this camping was stress-free. For this trip, we didn’t even bring a tent. I registered online for an Airstream trailer after looking on KOA and at reviews at Yelp and TripAdvisor. All we had to bring was what we normally do for a hotel--plus this cool retro trailer had a full kitchen, flat screen TV with satellite (which we never turned on), gas BBQ, and fire pit outside... And let’s not forget the outdoor movie night, pool, huge air-filled trampoline, lots of kids’ activities, and of course, free wifi. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 We were arriving late our first night, and although my MapQuest app had never let me down before, it “lost the network” going through the Santa Cruz mountains in California and gave me no information whatsoever about our route. Luckily, I had entered the address in the pre-installed app, Google Maps that had stored our route. Lesson learned: I still need to PRINT out my driving directions and keep my directions in more than one app!

 beachOur itinerary wasn’t set for our three days at the beach, but the two beach apps I found were only marginally helpful. Once in the beach area, BeachSpot was an interesting app, providing information about beaches that were close to us. But it’s all built on users adding current information, so depending on where you are, it might have current information...or it might not. Or the beach may be missing altogether. However, I liked seeing current weather, tide information, pictures and notes from visitors, and being able to enter information myself so I can remember which beaches I liked.

 As my long weekend came to a close, I was really thankful for my Starbucks app that showed me all the Starbucks near me and which ones were still open at 10 o’clock at night. Now if I had only downloaded an app that showed road conditions/road work, I would have gotten home an hour earlier!

As we move into the school year, I’m looking forward to hearing from teachers about how social networking and mobile computing are changing and enhancing “excursions” students take as they travel through this year’s educational adventure. In fact, a free webinar tomorrow looks at Smartphone apps that can enhance education:

Intel Teach Live - Just for the Educational Fun of It -Mobile Apps for the Upcoming School Year .

 I’ll be there to see what’s new—I hope you’ll join me!

In March 2012, Judi Yost joined our extended network of alumni.