Islington in London started something similar years ago, with a “technology mile” and iPlus kiosks. They still seem to be there, and I’m not sure if they’ve been spruced up recently, but my main memory of them is that they were terrible to use.
Partly it was the old-style touchscreens, which were unresponsive, and partly it was that I suspect they really didn’t have fast enough connections, but the kiosks themselves ended up being largely ignored, while the wifi wasn’t worth the hassle of connecting to when there was 3G around instead.
I also recall that BT converted a few of their telephone boxes to include keyboards so you could send SMS and emails from them, but I don’t think I ever saw anyone using one (and at £1 a shot, I can see why).
Obviously, technology moves on, and a new attempt with a new generation of hardware (hell, three or four cycles of Moore’s Law have passed) might well prove more usable and useful, but I thought it was worth adding a little historical perspective from another city.
Alexis C. Madrigal, in the Atlantic: Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong.
Perhaps this crystallises why I’m upset with the state of the internet at the moment: I’m following everyone else in looking at the corralled data stacks, not at the edges where, it seems, many people’s experience of the network still is.
Raging Thunderbolt, in John Gruber Is A Smart Guy (Or, Maps).
He’s not wrong to state this, but a little historical perspective: at this point five years ago, the only phone that came with a mapping application installed was the iPhone, with its Maps application (coded by Apple, data from Google). Nokia at this point had begun to offer mapping applications (and built-in GPS), but my memory of trying to install one on an N73 (after they’d stopped charging for the app) was one of failing repeatedly.
If you go back just another five years, the state of the art was Streetmap and Mapquest, both of which had interfaces with what seems now to be startlingly primitive indirect manipulation: if you wanted to look a tile to the right, you clicked on the little arrow to the right of the maps. If you were very lucky you had a big enough screen to expand to a 5x5 view, instead of the default 3x3.
Nonetheless, maps are now essential. It doesn’t matter that this is a change that took less than five years; whether or not we deserve to feel entitled to them, we definitely miss it when they’re not there.
Bill Nelson, HBO’s chief executive, paraphrased in the Economist’s article from last August: HBO and the future of pay TV.
(Re-reading that article was prompted by a friend asking why I hadn’t streamed Veep to see if I liked it. The answer is that I can’t pay HBO to let me do so.)