The Travel Startup Blog

Friday, October 26, 2007

A week with Travature, Fires, and thrown together mashups

Well it certainly has been a crazy week. We were planning on coming in this week to announce a new thing we've been working on. Of course the San Diego wildfire happened instead, and thus all work related stuff got (pardon the pun) put on the back burner.

Instead, all of us spent Monday, at home on lockdown, trying to stay off the roads for emergency personnel, while at the same time monitoring the status of our homes, our friends homes, etc.

Tuesday though is when things got interesting in Travature land, because 1) I was feeling a bit cooped up, unable to go the office. 2) I was checking a million sites to see if I need to evacuate from my own home. 3) I wanted to help out in the crisis. Which, all factors combined pushed me to build the Travature San Diego Fire Mashup.

The truth was in my eyes initially the mashup was hobbled together, and relied on other data, so it wasn't all that impressive. But because the info was coming in so fast from the great sources of KPBS, LATimes, Signonsandiego, NateTwitter, Flickr, and Youtube, the advantage of having it all in one place became amazingly effective. Late that night we posted on some blogs about the creation, and by the next day we were seeing traffic 10 times our normal levels.
People were commenting that it was "the best way to find out what was going on out there". Which obviously made us really happy to help in some small way.

Of course, the worry immediately became, can we handle the load if the traffic continues to explode? Considering I was still stuck on lockdown at my house, if the servers crashed we would have been royally screwed. More than a business being down, the criticality of a service interruptions when people are relying on you for disaster updates, is a whole different level. I can only imagine, the collective gutrench that those in the local news industry must have felt when many of their websites went down, during the initial firestorm on sunday night.

Luckily, we scaled away, and we were able to handle the influx without any hiccups. Even now, 5.5 days later, we are still receiving strong traffic from people checking the fire mashup - but its certainly on the decline. This is obviously a good thing as it means things are winding down. In fact, for the Travature team, today has been the first day any of us have been able to return the office (we even got a smigeon of actual travel work done).

That being said all is not clear. Mainstream media is reporting less and less, but fires continue to burn with ever present danger. Overall though, the shift in mood has become an air of cautious optimism that the worst is now over.

On the tech front though, one of the things that has begun to surface, is how effective new media has been in providing information during this major disaster. Both, as someone who was trying to consume the information and also as someone who was trying to help disseminate it, I can attest to the fact that the often hyped web 2.0 has shown its strengths. From Twittering, to Blogging, to Mapping, - new tools put in the hands of both traditional media and the average joe, has proven effective.

Of course it also brings about new questions, of how do you standardize the information aggregation, so the people, know where to go, and can get access to everything deemed "relevant". This is obviously the hard part, but clearly the future is streamlined, standardized mashups. I know people like Nate Ritter, and others are beginning to think about how to do this on a more general level. And I think its a great challenge to take on, how to determine whats good info, bad info, and relevant info in the time of crisis, while accepting standardized and unstandardized data from traditional media and joe shchmo in the thick of things. No easy problem, but certainly the foundation for something great if it can be solved well. As for us, our concern was clearly trying to help in the middle of our crisis. And I think, in our geeky way, we did, and for that I'm proud.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Diego Wild Fire Mashup (Rice Canyon Fire, Witch Fire, Harris Fire)

As an update to our previous blog about the San Diego Fire, since the office is closed, most of us are now at home glued to the news, wondering if we are are going to get evacuated.

Considering the news (and weather is changing rapidly) we found ourselves constantly looking at multiple source on the Internet to get updated about the status of the fire.

So we decided to help ourselves (and hopefully some others as well) by quickly throwing together a mashup of sorts of data that we were checking.

What we've put together is: a Flickr photo stream of the 100 most recent photos of the fire, two of the local blog news feeds that continue to be the most updated (KPBS and Signonsandiego/San Diego Union Tribune) and also the very useful Google Map of the Fire damage + the evacuation centers + the mandatory and suggested evacuation areas in the county (also made by KPBS).

We hope some other people find what we threw together useful, the situation in San Diego county is certainly dire, with nearly a half million people displaced. Any little bit we can help, we will - take care San Diego.

View the Fire Mashup at: travature.com/fire

P.S. This was thrown together super quickly so please don't blame us too much on the lack of polish, or if it ends up crashing from so much use...

San Diego Fires

The fires around San Diego continue to burn which has forced the closure of the Travature office until at least this Wednesday. While some of our team is have been evacuated everyone is healthy and safe. I want to thank everyone who has contacted us for the kind words of care. Our team will continue to work through the fires remotely.

On a more personal note we would like to express our condolences for all those who have suffered loss at the hands of the fire.

Take good care and stay safe San Diego.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Travel Deal of the Day - OUT. Super Search Tag Cloud - IN.

A bunch of people have noticed that our main page no longer offers a travel deal of the day. Why did we remove it, when our snarky travel writers were famous far and wide? Well, it turns out, much to our surprise, that the travel deal of the day was confusing people. You see Travature whole mantra is to be the most unbiased travel information source for things like trip planning and travel research. We thought, having our editors hand search travel deals everyday to show people the best one would be a useful thing to see. However a bunch of people thought it was just one big ad. It was definitely not (heck, we usually made fun of the deal), but rather than have people come to our main page and immediately think we are trying to sell them something (which is the exact opposite of what Travature is trying to do), we decided to remove it all together.

In it's place we've put a a tag cloud up of some of the most popular search items in our travel super search. Hopefully it does a better job showing new visitors how cool integrating things like flights and travel guides, and restaurants, etc can be.

For those who miss the travel deal of the day, don't worry, we miss it too. However fear not, we have plans to revive the concept of unbiased travel deals, but in a different way. It will be cooler, more community driven, locally specific, and not on our main page to confuse people. Thats a big undertaking so we will unfold more about that as development occurs in the coming months.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Travature National Press

Ok, today was the first day we did a national press release.
It took us an amazing amount of time, writing the stupid thing, because it turns out none of us are very good at creating inflated marketing crap. I suppose thats a good thing for running a company with a consumer mindset, but not so good when you need to do Press Releases. We found a B.S. generator that sounds so true to PR its ridiculous (innovate bleeding edge web readiness), for a good laugh check it out.

Anyways we actually did send it out. We are hoping some big media picks it up.
The original Press Release is here: Prweb (The formatting is pretty cool with an embedded Travature Tour Youtube video)
Its also neat to see us in: Yahoo News

And finally we have a posting about it in Digg. So for anybody reading, please do us a giant favor and vote for us by Digging It

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Travature Tour

So what do you do when you have so many cool features that people can't find them all? You introduce a groovy little Travature tour. Give it a watch, you might learn something new about your favorite little travel site.


Press Release!

We have decided that it is about time that we go for some PR outside of the internet so we have been sending out our Beta News Release to a large number of people in the print media...So don't be surprised if you see us mentioned in your local paper or magazine. More importantly if you do see us, tell us because it is difficult to keep track of all the various print media out there...so drop us a line at: talktous@travature.com
 
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