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In a previous post I talked about communicating with those back home while travelling and how in the 90s this relied on the solidness of postcards, letters and phone calls. The audience for these was, by necessity, rather small – family and a couple of envious best friends.

Ekit online postcardNow, my brother is on a one-year overland trip and I, along with the world, can trace his every mile thanks to his ekit.com online travel journal. From the journal I can send him a text, call him, post comments on his entries, see his current location on a zoomable Google map and find out whether his phone is on or off.

It all works through a SIM card and he can make live updates to his journal from his phone or PC all time-stamped to pins on the map. Everything is reciprocally integrated with Twitter, Facebook and his blog. The added benefit is that when I ring him it’s just the cost of a local UK mobile call and also free to him in most of the countries he’s visited so far. All useful stuff.

On the down side of this beta version, the interface and a lot of the interactions are not very user friendly. For instance, previous and back buttons face the wrong way. The interaction ‘make a call’ actually works as ‘request a call back’ so why not name the button that way. And the journal entries themselves are preceded by too much pre-bumph like ‘Paris 18 Buttes-Montmartre, France. This is in Paris, France’ spaced over two lines.

From my brother’s point of view, as a user, the sign-in doesn’t remember him and he has found some of the set-up pages unintuitive and difficult to learn.

But on the whole it’s been really useful to know where he is and read his updates and there are some nice touches like the email I get when he makes an update is an image of a postcard. With more user-centred development this could turn into a slick, dependable service. Not to mention every mother’s gap year dream.

Comments

  • Caitlin says

    Postcards, letters and phone calls were very early 90s. By the mid 90s we had Hotmail and group email.

    4 November 2009 at 3:36 am

  • Andy says

    Thanks Frankie.

    The free incoming calls on the sim card are a really great feature, and have made me feel really connected in the more lonely moments.

    To my mind the interactive map is such a useful feature that it would really make sense to focus the entire user experience around the map.

    I can also MMS pictures to the journal, although the text entries that accompany them are currently a bit weird and unfortunately that’s the bit that ends up on Twitter.

    A future development might be to integrate the MMS images with twitpic or an equivalent site.

    http://www.ekit.com/ekit/tj/TJM/biotruckexpedition

    Andy
    http://www.biotruckexpedition.org

    4 November 2009 at 8:42 am

  • Frankie says

    Thanks both for your comments.

    Caitlin, agreed, in developed countries. My main trips were 92-95 and in Central American villages email hadn’t penetrated. Poste Restante on the other hand was, in retrospect, a miracle or reliability!

    Big Bro, thanks for widening the picture. See you next week as a real person rather than a pin on a map!

    4 November 2009 at 11:31 am

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