Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sometimes geolocation can suck

So normally I love the way that software applications incorporate geolocating tech. Google Maps seem to work better when they know where I am, the iPhone has several apps that provide great experiences because take into account my location (well, my wife’s location).

However, there are some edge case scenarios when geolocation can be a pain in the ass. I’m in Canada this weekend visiting family and I’ve been hosed twice because of the fact that my computer is hooked up to a Canadian run internet service provider.

Case #1: Trying to purchase a game on Steam. I tried to purchase the full version of Everyday Genius: SquareLogic after playing through the demo. Nope. Steam provided me with an error message “credit card holder address not the same country as current location”. I then had a typical Steam user experience when trying to trouble shoot: Figure out where to go on the web, create a new account for customer service purposes (no, my Steam login wasn’t enough – I needed to create a completely new account), be solicited through this account for my credit card information, and then finally 2 days later sent a new link to try in order to complete the purchase. I almost backed out and purchased the game off of the Mumbo Jumbo site using Paypal but decided to hold off as I really didn’t want to sign up for yet another ecommerce site.

I get that software developers and publishers have complex relationships with digital content providers like Steam. But this doesn’t have to translate into a frustrating user experience. There have to be more graceful ways to handle the purchase request of a loyal customer than “find forums, create new account, wait for email response”.

Case #2: Google search. My wife and I are currently researching home ownership and I had a few questions about closing costs that I wanted to research. Of course, all of my search results for “closing costs” were links to Canadian content sites. Close, but no cigar.

I’m sure if I did more research and futzed with my settings I could have tricked Google into giving me the standard search I wanted. But, again, why make it so hard for me? I am constantly logged into Google (gmail, blogger) and it should recognize that I’m traveling and might need access to my default Google experience, not the Canadian version.

Truth be told, Google’s contextualization of my search based on geolocation was a plus and minus this trip. It was very nice to use Google Maps on the wi-fi enabled MegaBus (Buffalo to Toronto) to help me triangulate my location by typing in the names of the various landmarks we passed.

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