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Potted plants and the mobile web

Published by Martin Kleppmann on 12 Jan 2008.

I just got back from a garden centre, where I had ventured on the exciting mission of getting some indoor potted plants to make our office nicer. So there I was, amidst a cloud of greenery, not having the foggiest clue what plants may be suitable for our office space (with good artifical light but not much natural light, and more importantly, with somebody taking care of them whose track record with plants hasn’t exactly been glamorous).

I couldn’t spot any shop assistants nearby whom I could quiz. There were little labels on the pots which detailed the required conditions, but I wasn’t sure I could believe them – they looked very generic, most were very similar, and sometimes two pots with plants of the same species had different labels, contradicting each other. They looked very much as though they had just been distributed willy-nilly without any regard for the actual needs of the plant.

Enter the mobile web. Fortunately many of the plants were labelled with the name of their species (except for those which were helpfully labelled “foliage plant”), and I had my phone with me. Casting those names into Wikipedia on my mobile quickly gave me a good idea which plants were likely to survive my “care”. Now the mobile web is happy because it has solved somebody’s problem; the garden centre is happy because they were able to sell me plants without even needing to employ a shop assistant; and I’m happy because Ept Computing is now a nicer place to work. We’ve even got, believe it or not, a corporate watering can. (Somehow this reminds me of Douglas Adams and towels.)

It’s nice to practise what you preach and show that mobile web access really is useful in everyday life.