We are a forward-looking community, here in Bernal Heights. We may prefer our meat butchered mid-20th century style, but when it comes to the latest Intertube technologies, Bernal Heights is very much on the cutting edge. So when Neighbor Isaac, a Bernal resident, got fed up with wondering “What neighborhood am I in?” as he wandered around our City, he solved the problem by creating a simple iPhone applet to answer the question with satellite-guided precision.
It doesn’t show you a map, or tell you the history of the neighborhood, or link to Wikipedia, or provide droll stereotypes or give you vital stats like population or elevation or weather. It just tells you what neighborhood you’re currently in—and how far you are from the closest adjacent neighborhood. That’s it.
I say “iPhone app” and I mean that in the same sense that Steve Jobs did in 2007 when he announced that the iPhone would support third-party apps. It’s a web page.
Add it as a bookmark to the home screen, though, and it’s pretty app-like. It works like this
- determine current lat/long using the HTML5 Geolocation API;
- compare with Dave Schweisguth’s SF neighborhood boundaries (thanks Dave!); and
- determine where you are, and where’s closest.
Some limitations, even within the admittedly narrow feature scope:
- you pretty much have to be in San Francisco for it to be of any use;
- if you’re not in San Francisco then not only will it be no use but the distance calculation (which depends on a pretty rough and ready approximation from spherical to planar geometry) will become less accurate the further you are away; and
- error cases aren’t handled terribly gracefully.
I took the app for a test drive in my back yard, and as you see above, it worked flawlessly. But I was also curious about how it would handle the delicate geo-politics of the La Lengua Autonomous Zone.
So I went for a walk into the heart of La Lengua. Once there, I stood on a sidewalk deep in La Lengua territory, between Mission and San Jose Streets, quite literally in front of the La Lengua Rebel Command Compound (LaLeRebCoCo). Then I fired up Neighbor Isaac’s app to see how it would describe my location.
This was the politically explosive result:
The La Lenguans will not be happy about this. But that’s the way it goes: Those who make the tools also get to make the rules.
PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics