Friday, February 28, 2014

Answer: How do I tell where I want to go?

Reading through the comments, it seems most people didn't have a hard time with Wednesday's Challenge.  That's excellent!  Sometimes Challenges should just be fun, a chance to practice finding something that doesn't take a million hours, but leads to something unexpected and interesting.    

The challenge was... assuming I'm at the JNB airport...  

1.  I want to take a taxi to Orange Farm.  What special things do I have to do to hail a taxi there from JNB airport?  
2.  Can you find a statue that tells you how to get to the Central Business District using this unorthodox language?  

To start, what's JNB?  We know it's an airport, so the quick search:  

     [ JNB ] 

 reveals that this is O. R. Tambo International Airport, the airport near the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.  

Ah. I know South Africa has 11 different major languages (Afrikaans, English, Zulu Language, Xhosa, Swati, Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Northern Sotho, Southern Ndebele), so I have to be prepared for a non-English search.  But I'm going to start in EN, assuming that I'll have good luck here.  

I also know that the English word "hail" is often used in conjunction with getting a taxi, so I start with the query: 

    [ hail taxi Johannesburg ] 

Sure, enough, the first result is a YouTube video about the "Quirky Ways of Calling Taxis in Johannesburg."  That video clued me into the idea that there was a hand-sign way to specify your destination.  Interesting.  

So when I read the 4th result on the SERP, I was tuned into looking for the word "hand" and almost immediately spotted the PDF "A Guide the Hand Signals used to Hail Taxis"  (To tell the truth, I CMD-clicked to open all top 5 results in other tabs, and then just switched between the tabs quickly, and I spotted it within about 30 seconds.)  

On that PDF I found this intriguing hand signal in the center of the chart: 

The chart is pretty convincing, but as usual, I wanted another resource.  So I did a search for 

     [ Johannesburg taxi hand signal "Orange Farm" ] 

and discovered this image: 

This image is from the South African paper, "Mail & Guardian."  Link.  Although the article
is about a health on health topics, the image and its caption answer our question.  

While reading through the SERP, I also saw a reference to "The art of taxi hand signals," an art work by Susan Woolf.  A quick search for: 

     [ the art of taxi hand signals ] 

leads me to another Mail & Guardian article about her work that points out 
...The upraised index finger indicating you are headed to town. The hand turned palm up, the fingers grasping an invisible fruit signify your destination is Orange Farm. These gestures are the framework for a complex system of transport routes...
 Ah ha.  The cupped palm is someone picking an orange.  Got it. 

Now, how about that statue with a hand signal for the Central Business District? 

The obvious search: 

     [ Johannesburg taxi hand signals statue ] 

has a row of images in the first position, one of which is clearly a set of taxi hand signals. 

Clicking through to Images, then clicking through to visit the page takes us to an article in The City Fix about the recent installation of a hand signal statue at Vilakazi Street.  

Referring back to our very first hit (the PDF of all the hand signals), it's easy to see that the hand signal for the Central Business District is there.  Marvelous! 

Search lessons:  First off, we didn't actually need to know Zulu or Afrikaans to answer this question.  Luckily, but also not entirely unexpectedly.  (The number of EN web documents in the ZA domain is much larger than the number of ZU or AF.)  

Otherwise, this Challenge was fairly straightforward.  It was really just a matter of scanning the articles you find looking for key phrases (e.g., "hand signal") and then switching back and forth between regular web search and image search.  Sometimes you'll find things in the most remarkable places. 

As an example of this, I did a search for: 

     [ Susan Woolf the art of taxi hand signals ] 

and discovered her most excellent TED talk on YouTube.  If this topic is at all interesting to you, it's worth the 14 minutes to watch.   

(Caution, teachers, the first couple of minutes include a hand sign that you might not want to show your kids. Up to you.  It's a fascinating talk, and the reason it's there is interesting.)  

Search on! 

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