Tuesday, July 29

Maybe a Information SuperPanicRoom is Acceptable

So last month I discussed the pleasures of an Internet-free vacation.

This month we went on family vacation #2 in southwest Florida. Standard "live at the beach for a week" lazy tourist trip. We left the laptops at home, but I still had some online connections via my iPhone. Which, as an information retrieval device, came in quite handy for making the trip more enjoyable.

We checked low tide times for optimal sea shell hunting. Quickly found remedies for jellyfish stings (4 beers is the best antidote). Used the new Yelp iPhone app to find good places to eat dinner. The Facebook iPhone app to mock my coworkers with news about manatee sightings, gulf waves, and sunset photos.

But it paid for itself at 4 AM when our 6 year old woke up with major eye pain, after taking a face full of ocean waves the day before. It took less than 15 minutes to find a good local ophthalmologists (yes, mom knew the techical name) via consumer reviews, confirm that they were in-network from our insurance company's site, and pull the exact location/directions via Google Maps. The only bad part was waiting 4 hours to make the appointment.

If you find yourself in the Fort Myers area with a child's scratched cornea, West Coast Eye Care is highly recommended.

Which has me conflicted between being Internet disabled (no access) and Internet restricted (no broadband/computer access, maybe mobile WAP/SMS access) while on vacation.

We could have printed out the tide charts, local restaurants, etc. prior to the trip. But mobile Internet access allows us to be more spontaneous and not have to think so far in advance.

We could just as well have waited until morning to begin calling the insurance company, local eye doctors, etc. and I'm sure everything would have turned out OK. But the ability to speed up treatment by a few hours -- and have some peace of mind at 4 AM -- definitely was preferred.

In the end it is all about self control, which it increasingly difficult in an always-on culture. Of course, once WebTV takes off, it will be less of a debate as long as your hotel room has cable...

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