Yesterday I started building a holiday light map. I was putting up Christmas lights and thinking about how my family and I enjoy driving around in the evenings to see other people’s decor. It occurred to me that it might be nice to have a map marking the particularly good light displays. My brain, always eager for a little coding side project, immediately went to work, considering the possible features and narrowing in on a minimal, easy to build set of capabilities.

Later that afternoon, I couldn’t help myself and got to work. I used a JavaScript library to make a webpage with a map on it. I made it possible to add markers, each indicating whether there was yard decor or music or the Grinch (my favorite) and so on. I spent a while figuring out how to get the map to jump to my phone’s current location and follow me as I moved. Time ran out before I got to building the backend server; I figured I’d finish it up sometime this week.

But this morning, as I was thinking more about the project, I began to wonder if I’d designed it right. Would it be easy enough to add a new marker while driving slowly through a neighborhood? Would all the little checkboxes be too much to handle on the go? Would I be able to plot a decent course from marker to marker just by looking at the map?

Eventually I started asking myself if I would really use the map. I realized that adding markers for each house would distract me from actually looking at them. What’s more, a big part of what I enjoy about Christmas light driving is the unknown, meandering process. I’m never sure where I’ll find an amazingly decorated house, and seeing one well-lit house is so much sweeter after seeing several with no decor at all. Having a map would make the process too direct, too predictable. The inefficiency is part of the fun.

So, I’m not building a holiday light map anymore. Sometimes no tech is better.

  • The Low-tech Magazine is full of interesting articles about making life better with less technology. As it says, “technological progress is – more often than not – aimed at solving problems caused by earlier technical inventions.”
  • Leaflet.js is the JavaScript library that I was using to build the map. I was impressed by its ease of use and good documentation.