my world of work and user experiences

June 30, 2013

Digital Holiday Place

Filed under: Digital Workplace — frederique @ 22:58

I have just got back from my summer holiday, which definitely took place offline, in real life fresh air. But I enjoyed some great digital support. That is what the digital workplace is about, helping you to do what you need to do effectively and efficiently.

No, I did not keep working via e-mail and the SharePoint team sites that I could have accessed from abroad. I just used digital tools to facilitate and enrich my holiday. Ok, and kept an occasional eye on my mailbox for serious crises.

We went island hopping on Orkney, the islands in the north of Scotland, and we wanted to see a lot of its nature and culture. No leaning back on an all-inclusive beach: our holiday entailed a lot of planning and research beforehand, tweaking and deciding on the spot, and more research afterwards – all part of the fun.
We started at home, with our full range of online machines. And we brought a tablet and a couple of smart phones with us, taking advantage of the wifi facilities that many of the accommodations offered.

Browsing and booking online

People we met during our travels said the same thing: “how did we manage to arrange a trip like this before the internet was available?” Now we could find out online where to go and what to see. And we could find and book the ferries that would get us there and the B&B and hotels where we could stay. In some cases we had to revert to a telephone – one of the smaller islands had had issues with their internet connection, so they had not received our request. But even so, we found all the timetables and addresses and everything easily on the internet.

Preparing in a shared workspace

There were four of us, living in different cities. So we kept track of our options, bookings, reference numbers, contact info, actions, packing checklist and all of that online. Google docs was our friend here, plus the Google drive app that we used to pull it all offline went we hit the road.

Google Drive to take our google docs offline

Consulting information offline

To keep our car from exploding, we did not bring too many paper books and guides. And to keep our phone costs from exploding, we only went online via wifi. So we took a lot of information offline, mostly on the tablet for ease of use.

  • Downloadable leaflets and books that were only available electronically. For example, the organisation Historic Scotland no longer publishes a paper version of its Members Handbook: it now is a nicely searchable pdf file. We even took the tablet on a walk, because we had found an interesting leaflet with a map and description. It was worth lugging around the additional weight, because there was no paper version to be found, and it was easier to read on the tablet screen than on the smaller phone screen.
  • E-books that would take too much space in print: Wikipedia books, a copy of a detective novel that is set in an area we visit, the poems of Robert Burns who is mentioned all the time, our portable library of reference books and entertainment basically.
  • Multimedia apps, such as the RSPB app of British birds have value with respect to the paper version in that is also offers sounds: bird calls.

Checking up-to-date info

We were in Scotland, so we wanted to check the weather forecast, to decide whether we should take that long walk today or tomorrow. We actually looked at the Met Office’s (mobile) site and two different weather apps for a second and third opinion, which served us well.

The sea is everywhere on these islands and several sites we wanted to visit are only accessible during low tide, so we checked the tide tables. And the opening hours of the heritage centers and tombs that were not simple accessible via a gate in a field.

What we also kept an eye on, were the announcements of the inter-island ferry service. It turned out some of our ferries departed at a different time and one did not run at all on our planned date, due to mechanical troubles and industrial action…

Checking the weather

Researching new leads

It was great that we could go online in most of our accommodations, because that allowed us to research the questions that we came up with during our walks and visits. What were those egg shells that we saw? Do guillemots stick close to their nest or do they fly far to forage? Is ‘voe’ a viking word and what does it mean? Any new findings in the dig of the Ness of Brodgar? What is that rock turbot that’s on the menu? Google and wikipedia helped us find many answers.

Digital holiday after the fact

We went offline in the real world to see the scenery, inhale the fresh air, watch the birds and the flowers, feel the rocks and the sand beneath our feet, pick up interesting pebbles and shells, savour the fish and shellfish, crawl through the archaeological remains and inspect the artefacts. But I also took over 3500 digital pictures of everything. So I’ll spend a lot of time on my computer, reliving our holiday digitally when I select my photos and publish the interesting ones on Flickr.

Puffin greeting at Castle o' Burrian, Westray

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