Travel & Tourism

The future trip planning

By William Bakker | 08.09.05 | Comment?

Dave Winer is a developer and one of the founding fathers of the blogging community and creator of the RSS format. The reason why he is successful is because he understands the way the internet works. So when makes comments about planning his trip as part of explaining what OPML is all about, tourism information providers should pay attention because he’s right. It’s not just common sense, it’s a matter of survival.

Consider this map,
showing the route from Billings to Bozeman. That’s quite a leap of
progress. Last year at this time I could have gotten my computer to
show me that kind of route, but I had a choice, either do it offline,
and get something with great visual fidelity (meaning it’s easy for a
human being to grasp instantly, because it’s presented so visually); or
do it online, and get up-to-the-minute-accurate results but not so
visual. So things are getting better. I want them to get better faster.

Now consider this page
page on Yahoo Travel with stuff about Billings, where I am right now,
as I write this. It’s got places to stay (not relevant for me, I
already have a place to stay, and I like it), attractions for kids
(again, not relevant to me, I’m an adult, traveling without children),
everything but the information I want — where is the great scenery,
are there neat places to hike by the Yellowstone River (which runs
adjacent to the town), what do neighboring communities have to offer,
where can I get a healthy meal with local food that’s fresh. Do I know
anyone who’s here right now, if so, who?

Go back to the map. Why isn’t it highlighting the same things I’d like the Yahoo Travel page to highlight?

The answer — it’s only 2005. Give it some time. “;->”

But I’m in a hurry. So how can we get there sooner?

how could my computer know that I’m interested in neat scenic places to
hike, especially hikes that last 1 to 2 hours, aren’t too strenuous,
and have great scenery and aren’t overrun with tourists? Easy — what
do you think I’ve been searching for and how do you think I’ve been
doing the searching. It knows because that’s what I’ve been asking it
for, in my fumbling way.

So it knows what I[‘m looking for
— does it have it? I think it does. People like me who were in
Billings last month and last year and the year before, or who might be
here right now, maybe even in the same hotel. Maybe I’ve been here
before and did these searches and found a perfect place and now would
like to find another. By now you must be thinking there’s nothing
profound about this, we all want that, and know it. That’s right
there’s nothing profound, everyone wants this, just watch Star Trek or
an Apple video from the late 80s or early 90s. “Computer, tell me where
I should go today and what to do, right now, and make it so.” This is
our dream. This is why we’re inventing computer networks, to give us
nothing less than heaven on earth.

So, how? I think the
answer is to put the tools for constructing data formats into the hands
of users. We’ve been going about it all wrong, coming up with
straight-jackets for users, and expecting them to conform to some set
of rules that make no sense about how the characters should be encoded,
when it’s ideas and relationships to other ideas that we want to make
it easy for them to express. In other words, we don’t know how
to capture this data that we want so much, so create a tool for
expressing data that at least some people can use, and let them use it,
and let them make it public, and then see what kind of crawlers people
write, and then learn, and iterate, and try again and again until we’re
closer to having the information we want at our fingertips, to quote
another visionary from another time.

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