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It occurred to me the other day that a great deal of the functional requirements I have to go about my daily life (from an app perspective) are covered by a growing – rather than shrinking – number of personal apps.

And I don’t like it.

The reason being is that my iPad is jam packed full of little apps. Little apps that each do a little bit. Some that connect to each other (a little bit) and some that connect not at all. I still have plenty of disk space on my iPad for more apps. But what I would really like is less apps that do more stuff. I admit that there are a great deal of apps available out there that connect back to facebook or to twitter or to linkedin or to that other one. And that’s fine. But that’s assuming there’s a need to tell the world that I went on a 10 kilometer run.

Why this is a new and emerging first world problem!

As an example, I’ve offered to perform a letterbox drop of about 100 or so pamphlets to my neighborhood in support of my friend’s business. Because I’m a huge nerd, I want to record the event. But not in a video or a sound-bite. I might write about the experience in a later blog…

Anyway, what I want to record is a map of where I’ve been. The reason isn’t creepy, but pragmatic. You see, I want to record where I’ve been so that if I do another letterbox drop of the same pamphlets, I won’t accidentally hit the same letterbox twice – thus limiting the reach of the distribution (and potentially annoying people who got the same pamphlet but on different days). Another useful factor is that I can show my friend where I’ve been, by sharing the coordinates of each letterbox drop. As proof. Not that he’s asked for it, but because I like to try to provide additional and delightful service.

So.  How to do this thing? It sounds easy right? Maybe not. Here’s what I found:

  • every app I have (except for one) doesn’t do what I want it to
  • I didn’t realize that an app I already have does what I want (I think, anyway)
  • performing a search in the iTunes App Store and performing an internet search didn’t help (keywords utilized included ‘breadcrumbs’, ‘gps’, ‘ios’, ‘waypoint’, and ‘tracking’)
  • searching eventually led me back to an app that I have already
  • the app I have that will do what I want (I think) doesn’t do everything I want (arrgh)

So what is the solution? Well, I think I have an app that will save the day. It runs on my iPhone, and has a couple of options, one of which I’ll use. The app in this case is called “Maps n Trax” (it’s an excellent app by-the-way, and in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t have any affiliation with the author of the app). Whilst Maps n Trax can create a track of automatically recorded breadcrumbs (plus other really cool mapping-type stuff), that’s not what I want to do in this case. But that’s OK. Because what I want it to do has so far worked quite nicely in a ‘proof of concept’ kind-of-way in a beta test I have already conducted. What I’m going to do is lay down waypoints manually at every letterbox I drop a pamphlet into. That will generate something that I can export from Maps n Trax. And where my frustration begins anew. Instead of directly connecting to Google Earth or OpenStreetMaps or any other mapping service on the internet, I get to research which format to export to from Maps n Trax in order to best share the data.

I hope it’s worth it.

Which brings us back to the point of this entry. Too many apps doing one or two things. And when they connect to back-ends, it might not be to one I’m yet a member of. Or, the app may not be connected at all to a back-end service. And some vendors build useful apps that one would think should connect to an existing service that they actually own, but don’t. I might talk about an example in a later blog.

We are already at a point in consumer app-ery where an app for that is ‘one too many’. The day has come where vendors of app software need to integrate into existing services as much as is feasible. It doesn’t have to be in an imaginative or an innovative way. It just needs to be practical. Why am I recording a map? In order to share it with a friend in a nerdtastic kind of way. Being able to connect to a service I’m already a member of would be grand. I just don’t want another app for that, OK?


Image by David Lenker, used under License.