TravelFilter Pony Request January 30, 2006 1:44 PM   Subscribe

TravelFilter? A Modest Proposal.
posted by TunnelArmr to Feature Requests at 1:44 PM (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I've noticed that a lot of AskMeFi questions tend to center around travel recommendations for what to see, where to stay, etc. for a particular place. I know that there is a "travel" category, but it makes for an unwieldy search, especially given how inconsistent people are with tags. Also, there's no way for eager people to post suggestions without someone asking a question about the place first.

It's probably more trouble than it's worth, but what do you think about having a travel subsection of AskMeFi with a hierarchical tree of places with pre-cooked tags for lodging, museums, etc.? That way, people could find info on the place they were interested in at the appropriate level of localness, and people could share information proactively. Any truly uncategorizable questions could go on the green.

Let the snarking begin!
posted by TunnelArmr at 1:44 PM on January 30, 2006

Oh wow, sorry for snarking ahead of your MI. Didn't see that one coming. I'm for it, but it would need some momentum for it to work, wouldn't it?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:48 PM on January 30, 2006

Geography is one case where proper levels of categories are more effective than tags.
posted by smackfu at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2006

This has come up before as an idea, but I'm kind of foggy about how it could be organized. Like imagine the index page of TravelFilter. Is it a map of the world? A list of recent reviews? A list of cities to visit? A list of types of activities?

If I could get a clear picture in my mind as to what a TravelFilter could be, I could get behind this and start working on it. If you have any ideas, feel free to post them here in whatever form (idea, quick ascii mockup, quick photoshop mockup, whatever).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:03 PM on January 30, 2006

I'd love to see something that was like

"Are you looking for info for a Country/City?"
"Do you want to browse alphabetically or by keyword"
"Do you want to click the goddamned map?"

Then have people who are entering travelfilter questions have an extra field to fill in with a checkbox stating: "This question is about a specific location"

Then they get CITY/STATE for USians, CITY/PROVINCE for Canadians, or CITY/COUNTRY for non-USians.

Those entires become tags automagically, then the travelfilter picks up anything in the travel category with that box checked and searches normally. Then you have a tagging and box checking party to do back-tags on older things in the travel category. C'mon it's winter, it's a good time for such projects.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:08 PM on January 30, 2006

The index page in my head would just be a hierarchical list, maybe with the most popular subheadings of each one listed in parentheses or underneath it in smaller font. An example would be something like:

North America
South America
Middle East
Australia/New Zealand
General Travel Tips

Then Europe would decompress to its own tree of:

and Germany would decompress to:

General Tips would be the place for ideas about how to convert currency, what kind of camera to bring, what to pack, how to book things, new types of travel people might not have thought of, whatever.

You could do it with visual navigation but I think an old fashioned tree like Amazon et al. have for product categories could work. Maybe have the nav bar on the left, and the main part of the page on the right be a running feed of the most recent tips and maybe also have a panel for the most popular cities by number of reviews posted, or the reviews that have been read the most times.

When I get home from work I'll try to mock something up!
posted by TunnelArmr at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2006

If you have any ideas, feel free to post them here in whatever form (idea, quick ascii mockup, quick photoshop mockup, whatever).

Use the Google Earth API to set up placemarks containing various DIVs linking to various types of AskMe-based travel information: lodging, food, sightseeing, etc. People can search Google Earth by geographical location or TravelFilter by tags or other keywords.
posted by Rothko at 2:18 PM on January 30, 2006

This is a great idea ! I guess the first step would be to establish some sort ot catargorical hierarchy like Continent> Country >Region > County > City , and a similar formula for Needs; Housing > Activities > Dining.... etc etc. Maybe a brainstorming session is in order. I'm no pro, but I would gladly do some free graphics for such a project
posted by lobstah at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2006

I like jessamyn's ideas too. Using the existing tagging system is the easiest way to put something together, but the key is having a tagging scheme that is orderly in spite of people's best efforts not to cooperate. So, have the tags applied automatically based on what they enter as the country and/or city, and have another list for type of information requested (lodging, food, recreation, transportation, other). Then just have the hierarchical stuff done after the fact based on the tags. The reasons I think this would be really awesome are:

-People who have cool info to share about a place can share it at will, not only when someone asks about it.
-People who live somewhere or travel there a lot could subscribe to its feed and then answer specific questions as they come up, and people who are going to be traveling somewhere could subscribe to its feed to keep getting more info leading up to their trip.

I'm happy to help make this happen any way I can, I think it would be a really cool resource.
posted by TunnelArmr at 2:23 PM on January 30, 2006

Well, I see how slow on the draw I was ...

I think a nice "mini wiki" type entry for any particular spot could be provided by MeFites that live there.
posted by lobstah at 2:24 PM on January 30, 2006

On preview, I guess the first step is the brainstorming lobstah is talking about. We could open a thread or a wiki and try to come up with the definitive tree of places and topics.
posted by TunnelArmr at 2:25 PM on January 30, 2006

It sounds like a lot of different directions directions here back-end wise. It's definitely no small task to catergorize the world essentially, and then make it easy to find information in every nook of it.

How about this -- think slightly more bigger picture than actual heirarchies and APIs. Would you go there when you were going to travel somewhere with a city in mind? Would you go there thinking "I have $x to spend and y days off, where could I go?" Would you go there to just drop tips about your hometown for prospective visitors?

Can you name a successful travel site you've used in the past? How did they organize stuff? How could a mefi-related one be organized.

And keep in mind, it doesn't have to just be part of Ask MeFi or funneling questions off there -- it could be anything really related to travel to other destinations.

I still haven't seen a clear picture of what a site about travel could be, so I'm completely open to the possibilities at this point, I just don't want to get too specific too quickly.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:25 PM on January 30, 2006

why wiki? why not discuss it here in the current form?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2006

If you're going to use tags to formally organize information by location, it might be a good idea to create their own namespace... like does with the "for:" tags.

Actually, the prompts that AskMe questions provide are really helpful; I'd imagine that the content produced by a system in which people simply contribute of their own volition, without prompting, would be as interesting or as valuable. One interesting way to organize travel information would be to simply create a map-based interface to travel-related AskMe questions. If users could be convinced to tag such questions in a structured way, you could simply display a world map with markers for the cities that have questions about them.

On preview: yeah, this is similar to what jessamyn is suggestion. This is why I think the whole concept of tagging is the absolute shizznitch. Its a stupendous powerful way of organizing information (especially when you add namespaces :).
posted by gsteff at 2:26 PM on January 30, 2006

wouldn't be as interesting or valuable

jessamyn is suggesting

Christ, I need to start actually using preview.
posted by gsteff at 2:28 PM on January 30, 2006

How about this -- think slightly more bigger picture than actual heirarchies and APIs. Would you go there when you were going to travel somewhere with a city in mind? Would you go there thinking "I have $x to spend and y days off, where could I go?" Would you go there to just drop tips about your hometown for prospective visitors?

It would be a site for when you're heading somewhere and want to make the most of your time there. You go to TraFi to find out what the must-see sights are, how to get around, how to really experience the local culture, and how to stretch your dollar/euro/pound/dinar/yen the farthest.

Now, it can still provide general recommendations for someone in search of a destination ("Where's a fun place to go in the continental U.S. that I wouldn't normally think to go? Why is it cooler than I think?") if people post travel stories and reviews of overall places ("this is why you should come to Barcelona, my hometown, even if you don't realize it", or "this is why I loved my trip to London").

Check out BootsnAll. It's broken down into a region, which is then broken down into a subregion, which is then broken down into a subsubregion. At each level, people can post stories, and there is a thread for questions. It would be something like this, only the threads would be listed under a few different headers by type. And the site would make much better use of the screen real estate...
posted by TunnelArmr at 2:42 PM on January 30, 2006

Perhaps it could be posted as a project with a call for info from all members. Start with some rudimentary categories ( similar to what TunnelArmr is talking about) . Then sit back and see what is contributed. From there, you might get some ideas on how to implement it.
posted by lobstah at 2:54 PM on January 30, 2006

Another point of comparison: Chowhound, with its regional message boards (scroll down on linked page to see map and regional links).
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on January 30, 2006

Can we have the enhanced Fantastic flag pages for Blue and Green first?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:23 PM on January 30, 2006

I linked to once upon a time. Apart from the fact that you have to register to start making your own maps, I always thought it would be ideal for TravelFilter purposes.
posted by Gator at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2006

You idiots know nothing about User Interfaces.
This is how you should do it.

posted by seanyboy at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2006

What if it was a list of every town in the world, listed according to population. Then you click on the town you want, and it lists every tourist-level service available (hotels, restaurants, museums...) sorted by price. If you don't want any of the tourist services, and are more interested in things like gas stations and truck stops (say, if you're passing through) then there's a tiny text link at the bottom that says "local flava" which, if you click on it, redirects to wherever goatse is currently being hosted.
posted by shmegegge at 5:41 PM on January 30, 2006

but what does this have to do with eating babies?
posted by shmegegge at 5:43 PM on January 30, 2006

I'm not saying it's good or bad, but are we sorta just describing the MeFi version of Lonely Planet's Thorntree?
posted by JMOZ at 6:07 PM on January 30, 2006

Use the Google Earth API to - Rothko

Please no. Not everyone has Google Earth, and forcing them to get it in order to use a section of Mefi is undesirable.
posted by raedyn at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2006

shmegegge—you beat me to it.
posted by disillusioned at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2006

I think anything is cool, as long as this appears somewhere:

"Do you want to click the goddamned map?"

Because that just made me spit up and stuff.
posted by Slap Incognito at 7:55 PM on January 30, 2006

Please no. Not everyone has Google Earth, and forcing them to get it in order to use a section of Mefi is undesirable.

It's there, it's free, there's a documented API, the interface solves a lot of problems. That's all I'm saying. Sheesh.
posted by Rothko at 1:15 AM on January 31, 2006

Sounds cool, but just a (possibly paranoid) thought no one's mentioned so far: if you allow people to also post suggestions for hotels and resturants etc. directly, rather than just provide them when a question is asked, isn't the potential for spam increased?

I guess it'd be a lot easier, for someone looking to advertise their business for free, to just pop in and drop their "suggestion" in the relevant category, rather than hang around waiting for a relevant question to be asked.

So it could be harder to tell who's giving honest suggestions based on their experience as customers and who's spamming.
posted by funambulist at 1:31 AM on January 31, 2006

I think the best way to set up the site is hierarchically for people who know where they are headed and want suggestions for what to do, where to stay, general tips for the area, etc. If you are planning a vague, general holiday, it would be handy to simply browse.

I think that works best just as an add-on interface for AskMe, for drilling down to existing travel questions. I'm not sure that MetaFilter is particularly well-served for people creating "My guide to city x" pages - a wiki is better for this, as the boom of WikiTravel sites attest. But an interface for finding tips about regions and cities, as answered by MetaFilter, would be really handy. On a recent trip to Norway I found myself having to search different permutations (norwegian, norway, oslo, scandinavia, etc) to find all the relevant threads.

The biggest issue would be the blank page syndrome - I hate travel sites where you can dig down really deep only to discover that the "Medicine Hat" category is empty.

I think a simple list - expanding AJAX style or page-to-page would work best. Divided by continent, then by country, then by region/city (as appropriate). Categories would only be listed if there were any questions inside them. (Or I guess you could have unlinked North America > Canada > Alberta > Medicine Hat [0])

You'd need to find an existing API or whatever (I dunno the right term), so that people writing travel-related questions could then choose the right subcategories from the specified travel-destination boxes. IE, when you write yr question, after choosing the 'travel' category, a new series of boxes appear, which automatically update depending on what you click in the preceding one. (North America > Canada > Alberta > Medicine Hat.) Also, obviously, the chance to enter a new value if it's not present, and a 'general' selection at the top of each category.

It would be cool to also be able to click on a map, but I don't think that's vital (or specific enough).
posted by Marquis at 1:34 AM on January 31, 2006

how would this be different from (or what 43places is designed to be, just with the mefi community vs that community)...
posted by judith at 1:44 AM on January 31, 2006

Talk to Rusty - he has already kind of done this. Unsuccessfully, apparently, or you would all know about it.

It was linked on MeFi many moons ago, but I am too lazy to search for it. HotelFilter or something like that, if I recall corrctly (which I rarely do).
posted by dg at 2:01 AM on January 31, 2006

Hotelchatter's alive and well, dg. I only remembered the URL 'cause Rusty said a thingy I wrote was his when he linked it from there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:23 AM on January 31, 2006
posted by romakimmy at 2:28 AM on January 31, 2006

Damnit, I shoould know by now not to post before the cappuccino kicks in.

if you allow people to also post suggestions for hotels and resturants etc. directly, rather than just provide them when a question is asked, isn't the potential for spam increased?

You'd be surprised at how easy it can be to spot the spam. Monitoring IP's provides a secondary backup. You might contact the owners of these sites (1, 2, 3*) for more input on how they try to limit spam.

WikiTravel is another site similar to the one I linked above

To keep in mind: once you get down to the city/location/what have you, there are a lot of different travel styles - backpacking, WOOFing, the Fodor's crowd, 5 star super deluxe, adventure travel, etc etc etc.

*guess which sector of the tourism industry I workworked in until today
posted by romakimmy at 2:57 AM on January 31, 2006

Just to repeat the most important point of what I droned on about upthread:

I do not think MetaFilter is best served by trying to compete with all the travel websites out there that have a similar, community/wiki-based recommendation system.

I do think AskMe readers would be very well served by a better interface for finding (existing) answers to travel-related questions, sorted by region.
posted by Marquis at 3:08 AM on January 31, 2006

What Marquis said.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:17 AM on January 31, 2006

Yeah, let's not get carried away here.
posted by smackfu at 6:33 AM on January 31, 2006

What stavros said about what Marquis said.

I agree that this shouldn't be just another travel directory, blog, or wiki - there are many. What would be valuable to me is that this would be advice composed by and for people I know. (Or at least know marginally better than total strangers. ) I think it should grow organically via the usual askme route rather than being something manufactured & researched because then it seems forced, just another directory. I would like to see it continue to evolve as it has been, but perhaps be wrapped in a more usable package. If it were more usable and searchable, I think it would get used more frequently and become robust.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2006

... oh, and meant to thank TunnelArmr for a good idea!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:41 AM on January 31, 2006

I'm with all those that are raising concerns about trying to 're-invent the wheel'. If there was some way to better search or catalouge information already in the AskMe archive, and to keep it accessible in the future, I think this would be most valuable, and (hopefully) easier to implement.
posted by raedyn at 7:54 AM on January 31, 2006

I agree with raedyn. I work in travel, and travel a fair amount, so I use a *lot* of these travel sites.

The feature I use the most on every single one of them is the search bar. I use Rough Guides' site the most, and my biggest complaint is its search engine (which gets tangled up by accent marks). Only when it turns up nothing do I switch to the drop-down menus.

I'm also not sure how much we need to divide up by city. A lot of the travel advice I read on AskMe takes on countries at a time. Unless you want each entry appearing multiple places, it might make sense to keep the categories a bit more broad, at least for now.

And maybe, on this section, we could also link to some other travel guide resources? Pet peeve, but the big general "So, is there anything to do in Paris?" questions annoy me--greatly--and I think people asking them would be better served by other resources.
posted by occhiblu at 8:55 AM on January 31, 2006

Rothko, my issue with Google Earth is A) I love it! but B) I can only love it at work, since I have dial-up at home. So that means limited lovin' time for Google Earth. It would be a shame to make a part of MeFi nonfunctional for those who are unable to play along....
posted by Lynsey at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2006

It would be a shame to make a part of MeFi nonfunctional for those who are unable to play along.... - Lynsey

Yeah, that was all I was tryin to say.
posted by raedyn at 11:26 AM on January 31, 2006

If it is going to be divided by geographic tags/categories, it would be nice to have rss feeds for each of them. That way I could get a notice to help someone who is coming to my area(s).
posted by aburd at 1:57 PM on January 31, 2006

I would add that our user preferences allow us to check off cities/countries we're familiar with. The idea would then by that when loading questions about those cities might be highlighted in some subtle yet effective way, just to make it easier to catch a question for which you might be useful.

Also, is it currently possible to search users by location? Should it be?
posted by duck at 7:53 AM on February 1, 2006

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