The one where dogfooding almost ruined my weekend


[The usual disclaimer about my opinions not reflecting the opinions of my employer apply here]


At times, this was a very frustrating weekend. The biggest contributor to that frustration was a set of directions I got. You see, I was traveling from the Seattle area to Walla Walla, WA (think Northwest Washington to Southeast Washington). I needed to get some directions on how to get there and I figured it was as good of a time as any to start dogfooding Microsoft technologies now that I'm working here.


In the past, everytime I've needed directions, I've used MapQuest. I'm a long-time MapQuest user. Recently, I've started using Google Maps instead and have loved it. For those dissenters out there, I should make it clear that as a Microsoft employee, I am not required to use Microsoft products. Heck, to tell you the truth, I simply want to dogfood our products out of company pride. So, I decided to start with my weekend trip and went to Windows Live Local Beta to get my directions (http://maps.msn.com).


I suppose my first mistake was using a Beta product. But I've used other beta products with no problem. The directions looked good (and believe it or not, they looked better than Google (a 4.25 hour drive according to Windows Live, and a 5.5 hour drive according to Google Maps). Technically, the directions were _sort of_ correct. Practically, they were HORRIBLE. Oh my goodness, I think we need to give some people dictionaries.


One direction said "Stay RIGHT on local roads". When I see that, I immediately think "okay, I'll still in the right hand lane because there are probably exits and turns in the left lane". Nope, that was far from the truth. What did they actually mean? "Take a 90 degree right turn onto a different highway as soon as humanly possible". Oh, and I don't understand how they can say "on local roads" as these were highways in the MIDDLE OF FRIGGEN NOWHERE in central Washington. They might as well have told me "Look for the four-leaf clover and pot of lucky charms. When you see them, you should be right next to a leprechaun. Turn right at the leprechaun and drive through the rainbow bridge." Oy!!!


Later down the road (oh, 60 miles or so), the directions said "Take the I-182 exit". Problem is that they didn't say _which_ I-182 exit. At the first exit sign, there is no visible indication that there is another I-182 sign down the road. Combine that with the fact that the exit sign itself doesn't specify East or West for the exit, and I was sufficiently on my way to a much longer drive that I thought I was in for. So, I take the exit still thinking that I'm heading the right direction. The next direction was "After Exit 14, I-182 will become US-12". Okay, that's an easy one. After all, I'm on the right road. After Exit 5, the Interstate comes to a complete stop and there are only two directions to go, left or right. This meant that there was absolutely NO way I was every going to reach Exit 14 because it DOESN'T EXIST!!!


The frustrating part to me is that if I was a "normal" end-user, I'm pretty sure there would be no way in heck I would ever use that product again. Sadly, when I was getting ready to come home, I went back to MapQuest. You know what? The directions were wonderful and I got home in great time. Boy, both Microsoft and Google still have a long way to go to catch up to MapQuest in my mind.

Comments (2)
  1. nksingh says:

    Did Google return equally poor directions?  I missed that part of the story.

  2. jolson says:

    nksingh, it depends on what your definition of "equally poor" directions means. Google’s directions were a bit more "clear" but they were far less efficient as mentioned in the article. Basically, in my mind, the best directions I got were from MapQuest, not from Windows Live Local nor Google Maps.

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