Pete and I have been thinking pretty intensely about what travel looks like through the lens of the social web this week. We have an opportunity to get about two years worth of ideas up and out. That time frame isn’t meant to represent a volume of ideas, but it begins to do some justice to the maturity of them … a lot of big, unwieldy questions seem to be falling into place as our sketches are unfolding.
Meanwhile, we’ve been chewing hard on what might just be the crux of it all: what is the essential socialobject of travel?
The ideas unfolded over an email thread with our director of innovation, with furious sketching, brow furrowing and chin stroking between exchanges.
….the reason a lot of of the successful 2.0 startups have got traction is that they’ve been really clear about what their social object is going to be and lazer focused on it:
Flickr social object = photos (their razor focus on this meant that they did not really get into video and compete with youtube when they could easily have chased that rabbit)
YouTube social object = videos
Twitter = messages
Facebook = friend status updates (initially at least)
I’m wanting to hear from the various thought leaders that are contributing to the concept what they feel the core social object is and really try to narrow that down before we plunge in because we’re guilty of trying to be too many things to too many people but not nailing any of them.
Thought starters: Is it… > destinations? > itineraries? > trips? > advice? (answers to questions) > guides? > travel experiences > travel stories? > etc
You could say it’s experiences, but it feels much more natural to call it destinations, or rather places (regions, countries, cities, POIs). There’s a very strong inter-reliance between the two because experiences are interactions with destinations and other travellers. You can have experiences anywhere, but it’s where we had them that makes travel special. You can have destinations without experiences, but then you end up with dry factoid place-pages. But the crux of it is that the destination is still the pivotal object that travellers gather and create stories around. “Oh man, when I was in <destination> we … blah blah blah blah blah.”
It falls very nicely in line with the vision of helping people ‘get to the heart of a place' too. Socially, LP (a community of travellers) should be where people can get to the heart of a place via other travellers. Sharing places via the experiences we had there, is both an act of creating something beautiful (a memoir – something valuable to myself) and a way of helping others to discover the heart of that place for themselves.
CB wasn’t so sure.
What is it that travellers create? What do they share? What is it we’re compelled to gather around? The verbage is important.
If it’s experiences, I said, it has to be experiences of destinations. If it’s destinations, then we can only know them by the authentic, funny, happy, colourful and tragic experiences we’ve had there. Otherwise where’s the value? Objective facts (make-it-happen-now practicalities aside) are completely commoditized.
the experience is far richer than the destination, but for our users one doesn’t exist without the other.
I think I can happily settle on our S.O. as a travel experience, but if the object is an experience, the destination a required field in the metadata.
So long as it’s emotive and alive – “I met my wife here” / “I danced til 5am with strangers here” / “I almost died but had the time of my life here” absolutely kills the usual vote of “I’ve been here”. You want to be able to look up a sketchy destination to see what kind of crazy adventures people have had there.
I passed CB again on the stairs, on my way back up to the cafe to give some more shape to page ideas with Pete and discovered we’d both been wondering how Tony would call it. What have the books been getting right all this time?