To No One’s Surprise, Boston’s Streets Are A Nightmare

Cal Berkeley graduate student Geoff Boeing conducted a fascinating analysis of the street layout of major cities in the US and Internationally.  Meaning, how is a city’s street layout oriented relative to a traditional compass – how true is the layout to a North/South/East/West layout?  Across most major US cities, the orientation follows that of a compass.  However, to no one’s great surprise, Boston fails spectacularly in this analysis (as does Charlotte, NC for some reason).

Although [Boston] features a grid in some neighborhoods like the Back Bay and South Boston, these grids tend to not be aligned with one another, resulting in a mish-mash of competing orientations. Furthermore, these grids are not ubiquitous and Boston’s other streets wind in many directions. If you’re going north and then take a right turn, you might know that you are immediately heading east, but it’s hard to know where you’re eventually really heading in the long run.
This makes it harder for unfamiliar visitors to navigate Boston than many other US cities. It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places, not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.

Geoff Boeing
Image Credit: Geoff Boeing

When you look at how the International cities trend from the lens of this analysis – old, European and Asian cities that have been around forever and basically just evolved and expanded with no set ‘urban plan’ from their ancient origins – it makes sense that some of the older US cities follow the same ‘organized chaos’. 

So next time you’re driving around Boston, you can take some solace in knowing that driving around there is not for the faint of heart. 

Let The Force Guide You

TomTom, the company that makes in car GPS systems, has Star Wars voices available for their devices. So now you can have C-3PO, Yoda, Han Solo or Darth Vader guide you to your destination. They have some pretty amusing video clips on their site of the “recording sessions” with Darth Vader and Yoda. Only issue I see is that GPS navigation systems are now getting baked into smartphones, so how long will it be before Google Navigation develops an API to enable anyone to create voices to download to your smartphone?

Updated Mini Slide Navigation

UPDATE: I have ‘retired’ the Minislide Navigation from the site. The code was old and antiquated. And there are more modern and elegant navigation solutions available out there that have the same basic functionality and UX. The Minislide navigation had a good run but it was time to move on.

So I’ve finally gotten around to “officially” updating the Mini Slide Navigation mashup that I did two and a half years ago. When I created the mash up back then, I was just hacking around and was completely un-prepared for the attention and positive accolades that this idea received. What was really cool was that two people – Rob Glazebrook and Brian McAllister – built on the work I did and made the navigation even better by making the page locator “snap back” to the page you are currently on.

So this time, I’ve taken what Rob and Brian did, and built on top of that. With my new version, I’ve incorporated some PHP into the mix, to enable the navigation be an used as a “virtual include” on your site, so you to centrally manage the navigation and have one change/addition cascade throughout the whole site. Through PHP, I’ve also enabled the navigation to indicate the proper area of the site two directories deep, and realistically, it could handle more if needed.

So go on over to the demo page and check it out. One note: I’m still learning PHP, so if the method that I used is way too novice or considered a pseudo-hack, please be gentle with me.

Mini Slide Update – Page Indicator

I updated the Mini Slide Navigation so that there is now an active page indicator, informing the user as to where they are within the navigation/site. This was a known omission in the original version of the navigation and it was also astutely called out in a comment on my original post.

I used the “decendant selectors” method in creating the active tab, where I gave both the page’s <body> tag and each navigation item their own unique id, so I could style specific elements of the page based on the relationship to the parent element.

As usual, I have only tested this out on Firefox 1.5 and IE 6.0. I only changed the CSS and made no changes to the SlayerOffice JS. For some reason, I am seeing the “tab slider” move slightly on the initial page load. I am not exactly sure why I am seeing this, and will investigate further. I think it may have something to do with the “z-index” element I am using in the CSS, but I am just not sure (and its very late when I am posting this and I am tired). If anyone has any insight into why this may be happening, please feel free to post it in the comments area of this post, or my original post.

My Mini Slide Navigation mash up was discovered and posted up on this weekend. By Sunday 1/8/06, it had made it to the #2 slot on the ranking (see photo).

As of Monday 1/9/06 Thursday, 1/12/06, its been tagged by over 400 750+ people. Not bad for a small “mash up” I whipped up late one evening.

I had to make some last minute edits to the page and directory. It’s been on my site for a while, but I still needed to put the files in a more accurate directory, so I was admittedly a little unprepared for the traffic and attention. obviously accelerated this! :) I even got a small nod of approval from Dan Cederholm of Simplebits himself.

Update – I updated the directory for the Mini Slide Navigation so the files reside in a directory of the same name as the navigation (/sandbox/minislide/). I have a redirect in place on the old page.

Mini Slide Navigation

So I was recently playing around with a couple of navigation treatments that I’ve seen – Simplebits’ MiniTabs and SlayerOffice’s Focus Slide. And I came up with a navigation “mash-up” of the two. I’m calling it the Mini-Slide Navigation (click to see demo page). I’m not sure this is any great innovation here, and I’m not claiming it to be.

Update – I updated the directory for the Mini Slide Navigation so the files reside in a directory of the same name as the navigation (/sandbox/minislide/). I have a redirect in place on the old page.

I essentially applied the small Javascript used by Steve Chipman at Slayeroffice for his neat Focus Slide navigation to the equally neat Mini Tab navigation treatment created by Dan Cederholm @ Simplebits, with a few CSS tweaks. So instead of having the bottom indicators “appear” when you hover over the navigation link, the indicator slides between the navigation choices. So if you are a CSS purist, you can go with Dan’s creation. Or you can add Steve’s little Javascript (so Web two point oh-ish) and give the navigation a little bit of life.

This has been tested on IE 5 and Firefox 1.5, however I made no material changes to the Slayeroffice JS so the testing done there should be valid for this. Enjoy!

Related Posts:
Mini Slide Update: Page Indicator
Smart Mini Slide
Animated MiniTabs