AMITIAE - Monday 6 October 2014
Tourist Buddy TH: Strike 2 - Attention to Detail Falling Short
By Graham K. Rogers
With much negative comment about the tourism industry and safety being aired in newspapers and social networking media, it was interesting to see the re-release of an app that comes from the Thai Tourism Police: Tourist Buddy TH.
The Tourist Police are a branch of the National Police intended to help travellers to the shores. There are mixed opinions as to the effectiveness of these officers, especially in the areas where they are most often called on. The government and the police are sensitive to criticism and this may be part of an attempt at mending fences.
The logo is unchanged. I described it in that earlier review as a "juvenile cartoon representation of a smiling Thai Tourist policeman" and I my opinion is unchanged: it does not convey professionalism; and it sends the wrong message. When tourists want help, they want to be treated seriously.
I was unable to find this again in the app but the Location services may be reactivated in Settings where there is an icon for the app. It is useful when using certain of the features; and for those on vacation, will give some reassurance.
Cautions - which should be Warnings or Advice - is a text-based information section: more on this below. Tourist Police Station opens a map panel (standard, satellite, hybrid) with pins showing the locations of the offices. The map can be moved and enlarged (pinch). Tapping on a pin reveals basic information which can be opened into a half-screen panel with phone number, address and a button that will make a call to the specific station. This is useful.
The Email panel opens a message in Mail with details of the recipient already entered and some basic text (Hi Tourist Buddy!!). The final button is a red Emergency panel that allows the user to send the location in the event of a problem. As I turned Locations off, it did not work for me, but once I had turned it on again, it provided location information for the police (had I sent it) within a few hundred metres. It took the information from the map, not from me and could not be edited.
The order of these panels needs to be changed. While these basics were what one would expect, the Emergency and Cautions buttons would be better if their positions were exchanged, particularly with the nature of Cautions.
However, this section is badly in need of editing. I don't know what it is about Thai organisations, but time and time again documents, advertisements, apps and other media are marred by the poorly edited English. While a committee meeting will have the participants agonising for hours over word choice in Thai, the dismissive way in which English is just slapped down with an "It will do" attitude shows an arrogance or contempt for the user.
It is not as if there are no native speakers of English available: we are crawling out of the woodwork in places. It takes me 10 nanoseconds to find errors in text, but someone has to ask first (many professionals do ask, so it is not a universal problem). A simple example will do
- Do not believe any jewelry ships which refer that they are government-owned jewelry shop because Thai government do not own any jewelry shop.
I see at least 4 errors there. But the whole app is riddled with this type of poorly edited text that has no place in software of this nature aimed - as it is - at tourists.
The final item is for those using the app to enter full details that may be used by the police in emergency, including name, ID/Passport, phone, email and a photo. There was an occasional nag screen to remind me I had not completed this section. For the police to have access to these (especially the photo) in a timely manner could be useful. Also on the Settings panel was a greyed out Language Setting icon, but tapping this told me that the feature was not yet available.
A number of the sections were useful, with Tourist Attractions opening another map, this time with green pins. Important Call gave access to some 20 airports, bus terminals, taxi numbers and other useful numbers. Each could be dialled directly with one tap of the relevant panel. Not all sections were so useful, with the Promotion page having a Thai-only advertisement.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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