Minnesota’s revamped camping reservations website: meh

Once the reservations website was back up on March 22 I was able to create a profile and make a reservation for Whitewater State Park for mid-April. Was the wait and all the drama since the botched initial launch on March 1 worth it?

Meh. This whole saga reminds me of the much-ballyhooed introduction of multi-space, credit card-accepting parking meters in Minneapolis in late 2011. More on that later.

Mpls parking meterSince I was on a mission to book a site for a specific weekend — one that fell in the “first wave” of allowable reservation dates with the re-launched website — I didn’t spend much time poking around. The interface seemed fine, and the pop-up info that is available for each campsite is a nice step forward. I found that the pop-up functionality wasn’t very intuitive, however, and you had to hover your mouse over the campsite for a bit before the pop-up appeared. If you didn’t know that functionality was available there’s a good chance you’d miss it entirely.

I also had a small problem when creating the password for my profile. I’m pretty sure the prompt text said passwords could be 6-20 characters long, and mine was well within that limit. The site appeared to accept the password I created, but when I went to reserve a campsite it wouldn’t accept my password.

After some double-checking and frustration I figured out that the site only accepts passwords up to 10 characters long. Well, okay then.

I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve had a chance to go in and make additional reservations later this week, but this initial experience suggests that MN is simply playing catch-up to states like South Dakota that have had a similar online reservation system for some time now.

It makes me think of Mayor R.T. Ryback talking about the new “smart” parking meters in Minneapolis like they were some sort of technological marvel and a first for the entire planet. That struck me as particularly hilarious since I had seen the same system being used in Paris — 20 years ago.

Has Minnesota become the me-too state in everything?

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