April 23, 2008
Social Networking and Travel
Posted by Gordon Smith

Today on my walk home from work I finished listening to "Social Networking 3.0," a podcast over at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. Several young social networking executives talked about the future of social networking (a term they all seemed to dislike), and I was struck by this point of view: social networking can enhance any website.

This was striking to me because I find most online social networking (besides blogging, to the extent that this constitutes "social networking") so clunky and burdensome and unrewarding. I have tried MySpace, Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, etc. but none of those services has attracted a critical mass of my family and friends. So while I can imagine how online social networking would become meaningful to someone, at the moment the thought of making social networking a pervasive part of the online experience is not appealing to me.

Then again, maybe I just have the wrong attitude about social networking. I am looking for something to enhance my existing relationships, rather than something to find new relationships. This point comes home to me as I read about TripSay, a new travel site out of Finland, which promotes itself by stating: "Tripsay is a community of travelers, where you are presented with tips and ratings based on similarities to other users' profiles." On the one hand, I like the idea of getting tips and ratings from people like me, but I don't want to actually interact with any of those people. Unless I already know them. In short, I don't go to travel sites to meet new people.

So I probably will be avoiding WAYN ("Where Are You Now"), which also emphasizes new relationships. The front page of the site screams, "Make New Friends!" and "Meet people who will be in the same place as you!" Yikes!

Dopplr, "an online tool for frequent business travellers," sounds like a site that is more aligned with my perspective because it is designed primarily as a tool for enhancing existing relationships. As the site states, it works best when "you've already created some trips and have some trusted friends and colleagues with whom you're sharing some trips, and vice versa."

But my new favorite travel site may be the blandest of the bunch. TripIt, a "personal travel assistant that automatically organizes all your travel plans," emphasizes the function of the site as a place to store all of your travel information. The social piece ("Share your trips and see where you overlap with friends and colleagues") seems like an afterthought. With a summer full of travel ahead of me, TripIt seems like just the thing.

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