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A new mental map for Lexington

2012/03/18 4 comments

I grew up in Omaha, NE which is geographically organized in a familiar Cartesian coordinate system (ie a grid). There are 8 major roads running East-West, and a series of numbered streets increase in value as you move from East to West. Once you understand this model of the city of Omaha, you can rather easily visualize where “156th and Dodge St.” is located*. I’ve struggled to do the same with my new home of Lexington, KY. It is neither arranged on a N-S axis, nor follows a common grid pattern outside of downtown. As I am involved in a company that provides indoor navigation services, I wanted to try my hand at designing for the outdoor world. Additionally,  improving the communication of the design of transportation systems seems to be a popular thing these days. So, I offer you the following as a potential alternative mental model of Lexington’s geographic layout:

Map of Lexington, KY

This map shows a quick overlay highlighting the major roads in Lexington. You’ll notice that there are roughly two rings around the city (New Circle Road is the inner ring, and  Man-O-War Boulevard/I-75** form the outer ring). There are also 4 major paths that cut through the city (I say paths because there are actually 8 named roads, more like spokes). If we assume that downtown is a finite point (which it is not), then these 4 paths intersect each other near the center of the concentric circles (there is a slight North shift in actuality).

Lexington's major roads in a simplified diagram

This happens to form the basis for a polar coordinate system, wherein we can describe any location in Lexington based on an angle from North, and a radius from the center point (or, as it works out in this case, CentrePointe). For instance, the University of Kentucky is located between 135° and 180° (ie South-Southeast) at a radius of 0.5 (somewhere between the origin point and New Circle Road, which I assigned the radius value of “1”). It is important to note that this is not a geographically accurate map. It might be better described as a diagram, similar to the famous London Tube Map.

Lexington in polar coordinate slices

Realizing that many people are less familiar with the Polar Coordinate system than they are with the Cardinal Directions, I decided to offer the city of Lexington chopped into 24 slices. These slices are formed from the directions on a 16-point Compass Rose, and a radius of 0 (inside New Circle), 1 (between New Circle and Man-O-War/I-75), and 2 (outside Man-O-War/I-75). Here, the University of Kentucky is located in SSE0. The amorphous green outer band is meant to symbolize the ring of horse farms that surround Lexington. The other colors were selected more arbitrarily (because I like RGB). If you have a keener eye for design, feel free to share something that uses color more purposefully, or at least aesthetically.

So, do I expect this nomenclature to catch on? Heck no! But armed with this oversimplified mental model, perhaps more people can start using a more colloquially-relevant Polar coordinate system to more concisely communicate locations in Lexington. For instance, I would describe the location of University of Kentucky as, “between Nicholasville Road and Tates Creek Road***, inside New Circle.” The Hamburg Pavilion shopping center is located, “between Richmond Road and Winchester Road, just inside Man-O-War Blvd.” I favor this method because of its precision. Based on my casual anecdotal observations, my proposed system must overcome the incumbent coordinate system, which is primarily landmark-based. Most people I have observed make references relative to UK, Hamburg, Fayette Mall, Lexmark, Keeneland/Bluegrass Airport. “Check out this new restaurant, it’s by the Mall.” While this is useful for conversations among locals, with sufficient local knowledge of these landmarks, I don’t think this helps as much for new visitors. However, it’s possible that I am wrong and that these major landmarks are easier to quickly commit to memory than the 9 major spokes (Newtown, Broadway, Winchester, Richmond, Tates Creek, Nicholasville, Harrodsburg, Versailles, Leestown) and two loops. As long as the landmarks maintain stability (I don’t think UK or Keeneland will be relocated any time soon), then these could serve as a reference mechanism as reliable as the named roads.

If you have any improvements to this model, please share them in the comments!

* A more widely familiar model than Omaha may be New York City. For example, Radio City Music Hall is located on W. 54th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.

** In particular, I’m referring to the section of interstate where I-64 and I-75 are merged, as this helps complete the Man-O-War loop. For this model, I ignore I-75 once it splits back off and heads South, as this could be confused as an additional radius demarcation.

*** Tates Creek Road was not one of the the main thoroughfares listed in my model, but is certainly a major spoke in Lexington’s road system.

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Gmail UI Updated

2010/08/11 Leave a comment
gmail updated ui

Ooh, pretty!

Looks like the friendly folks at Google released a UI update for Gmail to go along with some updates to the contact feature. Details: http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-20013203-248.html

Categories: Web Tech Tags: , ,

Being Friendly to the Environment

2010/03/23 Leave a comment

Some things don’t make sense:

Organic banana excess labelingOn a shopping trip to Meijer yesterday, I stumbled upon an ironic sight: Why do the “Certified Organic” bananas (left) have more than double the disposable plastic packaging of the chemically-enhanced bananas? Does that really cater to the Green crowd? Labeling aside, I have been impressed with the variety and quality of Meijer’s fresh produce section.

Others are a bit more logical:

Zero Waste discussion at SXSWPanelists from the Zero Waste discussion at SXSWi 2010 congregating around the Austin Convention Center’s innovative refuse bins. Labels: “Recyclable Paper”, “Recyclable Metal/Plastic”, “Landfill“. Sure makes the destination of your waste a bit more clear.

LexTran's new COLT TrolleyLexTran’s new COLT Trolley, servicing Downtown Lexington and the UK Campus area. Oh yeah, rides are FREE. Seems like a good way to attract ridership and reduce downtown parking issues.

UK Solar Car's new garage bannerFinally, just wanted to brag that my friends at the UK Solar Car Team finally installed a permanent banner. Quite an improvement over the electrical tape hack-job I did in a pinch last year. If you want to talk to a group of students who understand energy efficiency and won’t bloat the facts, catch a meeting on a Monday night at 7pm at the DV Terrell Building.

SXSW Download (in brief)

2010/03/18 4 comments

My $500 name tag @DaveMc9ee and @balanon are famous ReWork talk by David Heinemeier Hansson

I’d like to expand on this eventually, but likely it will remain short. We packed a lot into one week in Austin.

I greatly enjoyed SXSWi 2010. No better place to make connections in the tech startup scene, while chatting with touchscreen UI designers, eating Rudy’s BBQ, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and wishing that AplusK would get out of the way so we could extract a nugget of wisdom from Paul Graham.

My favorite sessions

Ok, so I liked most of the sessions I attended. These are the ones for which I took notes worth sharing:

Hung out with some cool people

Closing Thoughts

  • Time to relearn web development. I was so cool writing HTML back in 1996, but the world has come a long way. Some UI/UX design insight will help for touch screen apps, too.
  • Crowdsourcing some answers for this one: What is more valuable: go through a seed combinator program (get paid, network, create) or MBA (pay them, network, learn)?
  • Creativity WILL drive the future. I want to be at the wheel, not just along for the ride.
  • HUGE opportunity to bridge the Digital Divide (see above). It will take simplicity on the far side of complexity.

See you at SXSW 2010!

Two New Media events at Awesome Inc

2010/02/26 1 comment

This week, Awesome Inc has enjoyed being the host venue for two events that experiment with new, digital approaches to old concepts: politics and games. These are deeply ingrained traditions that affect how we as a society make decisions, and how we interact with other human beings in structured, competitive environments.

It’s been interesting seeing a variety of generations interacting with each other, and creating/sharing content via their smartphones and MacBooks. Next step: integrate stuff like this into the educational system. With ready access to free blogs and video posting, why are students still writing papers and delivering presentations that are only seen by teachers/professors and ultimately buried in a desk drawer? Post it online!

Nextington 3: Digital Democracy

Moderator: Prof. Kakie Urch of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

The first forum featuring all four 2010 candidates for Lexington mayor will be from 6-8 p.m. Wed. Feb. 24 at Awesome Inc. on Main Street, a technology incubator in downtown Lexington.

The forum, subtitled “Digital Democracy,” will be online in real-time in several formats, with bloggers as part of the panel.

The forum is sponsored by the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky.

About 60 people will attend the forum in person, but voters all across Lexington and beyond can participate in the digital aspect of the forum on Twitter, Cover It Live, UStream and local blogs.

Herald-Leader: Some Agreement, Some Friction, No Dancing at Lexington Mayoral Forum

IdeaFestival: Collective Intelligence / Game Design Workshop

Workshop Leader: Greg Niemeyer and Ozge Samanci, UC Berkeley Center for New Media

Participants will discuss the design, dynamics and potential of Collective Intelligence (CI) Alternate Reality (AR) games. Following this, participants will play a game or participate in the game as Non-Playable-Characters (NPC’s).

The hopeful collective resolution of the game will lead players and NPC’s to lunch, where all participants will discuss their play experience, review play statistics and share what they learned. In a final session, players will discuss how they would modify the game to help their audiences address specific issues.

At the end, participants will know if and how a CI/RA game can help them solve particular change, communication and education goals.