The Jamboree Party!

Last night we had our Jamboree Party and it was good fun!

I spent a good part of the afternoon walking around on the Jemaa el-Fnaa asking travelers to join us for our party to share their ideas of what the ideal travel guides should be like. Even though I sometimes felt like I was a Moroccan tout trying to lure people to come and eat at my restaurant, it was actually very interesting. Just talking to these travelers, explaining what we were doing and asking what they used as a guide book was like a mini field research.

Each and every one of them had bought books (Lonely Planet, Guide du Routard were the most popular). Most of the them had not considered the option of downloading a travel guide to their phone because they were not aware that there were guides for places like Morocco. "I know there are guides for London, but I didn't know they would exist for Morocco," one person said. When I showed what our app was like and what they could do with it, everybody said it would be useful for their trip (but maybe they were just being polite). They mentioned offline maps, restaurant reviews and price indications for transport as things they particularly liked in a travel app. One person had searched for offline maps in the App store but had not been able to find one for Morocco.
And yes, yes, yes, one traveler had actually used Triposo for her trip (and liked it!)

Then finally we had our party!

The Triposo team at the start of the party

Even though it had started to rain and the restaurant was a bit of a walk from the square, some of the travelers we had invited actually showed up. So we did a little travel quiz and gave away Triposo t-shirts to the winners as well as the losers.

The contestants in round one of the quiz

Jamboree Party

We're throwing a little party in Marrakech to celebrate the fact that we're having such a good time here.
If you happen to be in the neighborhood, drop by. The party starts Thursday at 20:00 hours and we'll keep you posted on where it is.

First launch from Marrakech

It's official: the first Triposo product launched from a rooftop terrace in Marrakech is here. Just watch us launching it - Jon, the second from the left, is pressing the launch-button.

Just minutes ago we published the website where you can see all the places where you checked in with our app from the rooftop of the Riad. You can see the checkins I did here:

Even though the website is working, you need the new version of our App which isn't available to the public yet for your checkins to show up on the site. Luckily, we set it up in a way so that it will work automatically once you update to the new app - even the links from Facebook that now land on a place holder page will be working automatically.

Our office

During the Jamboree our office is located in Riad Linda, an old Riad in the Medina of Marrakech. To get there you go into the souks from the Cafe the France follow the Dabachi street until you pass the mosque. There you take a turn right and end up in a very narrow street. When you smell a lot of cat pee you take another left and end the very end of an alley that's so narrow we need to walk in line there is a small door.

As an office, it's about as cool as they get. We sit around a large table in the patio, which is completely filled with cables, laptops.

There's one draw back, however...

Yup, that's a bird shit on a Mac Book Air

First night in Marrakech

Marrakech is famous for many things. The daily spectacle of the main square. The beautiful backdrop with the snowcapped Atlas mountains. The hard haggling salesmen of the medina. But not for its bars. And last night we happened to be looking for one to have a few beers, so with our Triposo apps in our hands we hit the town.
Attribution Some rights reserved by Wrote
Our guides lists only a handful places to have a drink in Marrakech. So we decided to go for the Maimounia, the famous hotel where Winston Churchill used to down his highball. Off course Winston wasn't wearing tennis shoes and we didn't know about the dress code of not wearing tennis shoes... On our way to the next place we stumbled upon Marmara (not in our guide) - we went down to the basement to have a beer. The Karaoke fun had just started. We're sorry to report that we took part in the singing: Douwe and Richard did their own personal version of Jaques Brel's classic Le Port d'Amsterdam.

The last place we went to was Narwama. It's certainly a nice place, with a sort of a fire fountain in the middle, but the beer is on the expensive side there (our guide did warn us here though, but the adjective slightly wasn't totally justified we feel). So we headed back to our Riad, where luckily we had a whole tray of beer waiting for us.

Our take away from our first night out is that adding places (bars) to our guide would be cool functionality to build during this Jamboree. We'll be scouring the streets of Marrakech for better places to have a beer at night and if we find any that are not in our guide (like the Karaoke place) and that deserve to be in (unlike the Karaoke place).

Ducks and pigs and chickens call: Jamboree!

... and the Jamboree is taking us to Marrakesh!

We'll be brainstorming, mocking stuff up, designing and coding long hours in this amazing city, just a few blocks away from the main square, where the bears dance, story tellers of all stripes whisper their ghost stories and orange juice sellers make fresh juice for just a dime or two. Just imagine us on the rooftop terrace of our Riad, laptops on our lap, where they belong), a cup of sweet Moroccan mint tee at arms' length. If this doesn't inspire us to build great stuff, than what will?

Facebook Places and their coordinates

To make our travel guides we crawl a number of sources for travel information. The next step is to match the points of interest from these different sources on each other. This is quite complicated. OpenStreetMap may call the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art "SF MOMA" and wikitravel may call it "SFMOMA" - our job is to find out if they are talking about the same thing. We do this both for open content sources as well as copyrighted sources, such as Lonely Planet - but for these last sources we don't use the actual content of course, we just use them for reference.

An important element in the matching process, is the location. Different sources give different locations for the same pont of interest, of course, but they shouldn't be radically different if they're really talking about the same place.

If we look at how far the coordinates from a sources for its points of interest are from the coordinates of OpenStreetMap we get the following overview:

SourceAverage distance to OSM
TripAdvisor65.8 meters
Facebook43.8 meters
Lonely Planet51.6 meters
Frommer's75.7 meters

As we see the distance is smallest for Facebook - which means the coordinates of Facebook places are more like the ones found in the OpenStreetMap than in any of the other sources. So we thought let's have a look how many points of interest have a distance that's under 1 meter. In other words: which percentages of all points of interest have the same coordinates. We don't need a table for this. The answer is 15% of all Facebook points of interest have almost exactly the same coordinates as the OpenStreetMap. For other sources this is under 1%. Wow. You can hardly call this a coincidence.

Foto CC by Roger and Renate Rossing

For a moment there we thought that Facebook was copying OpenStreetMap coordinates (which is allowed) without crediting the OpenStreetMap (which is not allowed). But before making any (wild) accusations we dug a bit deeper. We looked at how much the coordinates matched in different countries. And it seemed that most of the difference we saw between Facebook and the others was explained by one country: the United States. In the US alone a whopping 37% of the coordinates of Facebook were exactly the same as the ones found on the OpenStreetMap.

If Facebook had really been using OpenStreetMap to seed their Places database with good coordinates, why had they only done it for the US? There had to be a better explanation. And there is. Unlike any of the other sources OpenStreetMap actually shows where coordinates come from (they don't make them up either). We checked some ten points of interest that had exactly the same coordinates and found all of them had one single source: GNIS So both OpenStreetMap and Facebook use GNIS for their location database.

And GNIS is free to use, for all, without the need to mention where it's from. It also explains why every single church in the US is on Facebook Places - it's not just because Americans like to check in every Sunday morning.

Tripgeist 2012

Wouldn't you like to know which destinations were trending in 2011? What are the new places to visit?
We've got a nice clever algorithm that helps us find out.

Wikipedia publishes its logfiles, so anyone who's interested can see exactly how often a specific wikipedia page has been viewed. I'm not sure how many people use this possibility, but we sure love it. It's a rich source of data. One of the things that we can do with it is compare this year's results with last year's and find out what's trending. We call it Travel Zeitgeist.

The set up of Travel Zeitgeist is simple enough: for each location in our database we divide the number of pageviews of the Wikipedia article this year by the last year's number. If a location has significantly more visitors this year, it's trending.The results of this simple approach shows that places like Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Tunisia, Fukushima Prefecture have all received abou 10 times more visitors on their wikipedia article than last year. But in each of these cases this was due to events that took place in 2011, and not a trend.

So what we do is filter out the top three months. This means that a sudden spike in interest due to a natural disaster, a popular uprising or a brave rescue operation doesn't impact our data. This gets us the following list over trending travel destinations for 2011.


1. Budva (+764%)

Some rights reserved by OliBac "Happy New Year!"

Budva is our champion. This little known beach resort in little known Montenegro has everything it takes to be a top travel destination: an old walled town with Venetian monuments dating back to the 9th centruy, sandy beaches and a great climate. How come we never heard about it before?

2. Dunbar (+434%)
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Dunbar, John Muir's place of birth, has got a nice crumbling castle, a picturesque harbor and
Of course we're not in the Mediterranean but in Scotland. Even though it's the part of Scotland that has more sunshine and sees less rain than any other part of Scotland.

3. Fire Island (+311%)

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Fire Island, just south of Long Island, has been popular with Broadway actors since the 1920s, the gay and lesbian community since the 1970s - but the islands popularity doesn't stop there. Maybe it's the crisis that more and more New Yorkers take the ferry in stead of the plane to find amazing beaches.

4. Huangshan (+301%)
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Over 1000 classical Chinese poems have been written about the mountain scenery of beautiful Huangshan and just one Wikipedia article. With the Chinese tourist industry booming like all of China, you have to hurry here if you want to get here before the crowds.

5. Kochi (+ 295%)
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It's not just China that's booming. India is doing quite okay as well. And Kochi is a favorite travel destination of Indians and international travelers alike. A rich cultural heritage, with a mixture of Portuguese, Dutch, English, Chinese, Jewish and Indian influences and some of the best beaches of Kerala make Kochi a great place to hang out.

That's our top 5 of the 2011 Travel Zeitgeist. We'll compile a new list next year.

Happy new year!

What better way to start the New Year than with a fresh experiment in our Labs section: A year in pictures. In this experiment we made a movie that shows how many pictures are taken on a specific day in specific locations. It's fun because by looking at it you can deduce what's the best time to visit destinations - especially if you like to celebrate National Holidays with the locals. We suggest you start with celebrating Orthodox Christmas in Russia, then do a stop in India or Australia on the 26th of january and end the month in China celebrating the spring festival.