Keeping track of friends’ whereabouts

by Eszter Hargittai on May 31, 2007

Not long ago I was going to post about the challenge of keeping relevant people posted of one’s travels. That is, the challenge of knowing who among one’s friends may be in the same location at the same time. It’s one thing to remember who lives at a particular destination, it’s another to try to guess who may be travelling there at the same time you are.

Fortunately, just as I was about to post on this, I came across Dopplr, which is a site that addresses this precise issue. Once you sign up, you can let the system know about upcoming trips. You also link up with other people to share your itineraries and the system tells you when you’ll overlap. It’s in closed beta, but if you can think of a friend who has an account, you can ask him/her for an invitation.

Obviously, the value of such a service increases by the number of relevant contacts that join and keep their accounts up-to-date. I wonder if they will be adding the option of distinguishing among contacts. You may want certain people to know about a trip, but not others. And of course, if you prefer that people not know about a certain trip at all, you can exclude it from your list altogether.

I’m excited about this service, but the usual challenge remains: getting enough of my non-geeky friends to join and update their travel info.



Stentor 05.31.07 at 9:48 pm

How much traveling do you and your friends do? It never would have occurred to me to need such a service. I’d cry “class privilege,” although I suppose flight attendants and truck drivers might find it useful in addition to world-hopping businesspeople and professors.


Eszter 05.31.07 at 10:15 pm

A lot. I have over 30K miles in 2007 and that’s less than some of my friends.

But this isn’t just about that. It would still be useful even with a friend who only travels once a year as long as that one time happens to coincide with a trip I am making. There is no reason to keep all of my friends abreast of all of my upcoming trips. However, it’s a bummer if the relevant one doesn’t now. This happened to me recently. There was no reason to let a certain friend know of a trip, but it turned out she was in the same town at the same time. Unfortunately, we found out too late to spend time together.


vivian 06.01.07 at 1:11 am

Hmm. When you get to the destination, do you typically have free time to socialize with people not on your agenda/tour group/conference/interview? Most folks I know spend time explaining why they can’t get together when in town for work. Unless a point of the trip is to meet friends, stay longer, make a detour, etc. in which case you’re already seeking out people who might be nearby through the usual channels.


Eszter 06.01.07 at 2:50 am

Interesting, I had no idea that the basic premise behind this service would be so hard to appreciate.

Vivian, see my comment above. The usual channels don’t include friends who may also be travelling to the same destination for completely different reasons.


Kenny Easwaran 06.01.07 at 4:16 am

Sounds great! I recently had opportunity to meet up with a friend when we were both in Calgary for conferences, even though I live in Berkeley and she lives in Vancouver – we happened to have one day when we were both going to be in the area, after I returned from Banff and before she went to Lake Louise.


Richard Zach 06.01.07 at 1:10 pm

Facebook has a plugin for this (“Trips”). It also has functionality for organizing shared trips (ie, “I want to go to X, who’s coming along?”)


Stentor 06.01.07 at 7:21 pm

Interesting, I had no idea that the basic premise behind this service would be so hard to appreciate.

That’s situatedness for you. The usefulness of this service seems obvious to the jet set, but to those of us with more modest travel schedules, the likelihood of this service alerting us to an otherwise-missed path-crossing is too low to make it worth keeping an account updated.

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