Technology

Are the Travel Twitterati fooling ourselves?

I like Twitter – mainly because it allows me to take part in social media without all the hassle of Facebook. I don’t have to sit around for hours on end updating my status, sorting through all the latest messages, walls and pokes and uploading my latest private photos so they can be seen by all my work contacts.

There’s a host of people like myself who work in the UK travel industry as either scribes, PRs, travel editors or tour operators on Twitter too and, in the main, most of us follow each other.

What I do wonder though, is how much of what we all say is ever noticed by other people in cyberspace or whether we are keeping the social media equivalent of a closed shop.

How things tend to work is one of the many active Travel Twitterati, say @101holidays or @matthewteller, puts something out there and, because the travel fraternity is quite small, we all for different reasons re-tweet their tweet.

Further down the line, as we are by and large a nice bunch, the favour is returned when they RT links to stories and blogs by the rest of us who Tweet. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the people involved in PR and sales will also RT, possibly because… well it’s a good PR move to let a journo know you respect what they write.

The really canny Tweeters will also send thank yous for all the RTs out there, mentioning all the kind people who did so and usually with the link from the original tweet attached… just in case anyone missed it the first time or they didn’t read all the RTs that have been pinging around.

In the process of this circular backslapping, we might pick up the odd follower from our colleagues’ followers, making our common sphere of influence increasingly the same but with little outreach beyond that…

I’m not a canny enough social media expert yet to know whether this can be changed, or even if it needs to be… after all, a little mutual tummy tickling is nothing to get too riled about. But I do wonder if the Travel Twitterati aren’t fooling ourselves a little in the new world of Twitter that we are all trying to explore.

A sneak peek at CNN's new travel site

beta.cnngo.comThe Lovers Rock temple and marriage guidance center, the Japanese Invasion tour, Museum of Medical Sciences, the boundary with China at Chung Ying Street in Sha Tau Kok and the the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works…

Before you think I’ve gone crazy, these all come as suggestions for alternative sights in Hong Kong in a piece called ‘Shove over Star Ferry’ by Ed Peters on CNNgo (cnngo.com)– a new travel website from Ted Turner’s mob.

The site launches in two days and features six Asian cities: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo with more promised soon. What it claims to do is offer an in depth insight into every city thanks to both CNN’s army of local contributors and editors but also through user based content. They also claim they pay their own way for everything.

At first glance, it’s an interesting and comprehensive site with tonnes of details that can only get better when it goes live.

Access to the beta site for the next two days is restricted to invite only but if you want an early snoop around:

  • the beta site is on the picture above
  • username: name of the site (from paragraph two above) without the .com
  • password: username2009 (where username is as above)

World's most expensive hotel wi-fi?

It’s been a tough time searching – and Lord knows I’ve done enough of it – but I think I have actually found the world’s most expensive hotel wi-fi.

Anyone who knows me will be aware of the fact that paying for wi-fi access when you are already receiving a service from someone is one of my pet bug bears, whether that be a coffee shop (yes, I’m talking you, Starbucks with your ridiculously steep BT Openzone prices) or a hotel.

It’s almost 2010 and most of us are permanently attached to some electronic gizmo or other and need to have easy, fast and, preferably, free access to the internet when we are out and about.

I know some hotels are finally waking up to the fact and absorbing internet charges into their room rates, but there are still hundreds out there that think charging more for 24 hours of snail’s pace internet than I pay a month for super speedy broadband at home is acceptable.

Well it’s not, it’s rubbish and my discovery last night is a whole skip’s worth.

Anyone who read yesterday’s post knows it was my intention to blog, phlog and Tweet from the TTG Awards. (For those who are not in the travel industry, TTG is a trade magazine and their awards are kind of like an Oscars for tour operators and travel agents)

And, given I’d been very kindly invited to the bash by BMI (up for a gong for best airline), I thought it would have been nice to break the winners on Twitter and fill you in on some of the goss like the fact co-host Austin Healey took great joy in teasing the normally immaculate TTG editor Lucy Huxley for having her outfits sponsored by Bicester Village Outlets.

I might also have told you that the former rugby and Strictly star was close to dying on stage before slagging off Ryanair to huge cheers or posted some phone blog interviews with the winners.

But I couldn’t get online to do so.

The awards were held in the subterranean depths of the Grosvenor House’s not-so-Great Room and phone signals tend to not be very good when you are two floors underground. Doing the leg work was an option, although it felt rather rude to leave my hosts every couple of minutes for the sake of a Tweet. And so my last option was the dreaded hotel wi-fi, which on enquiry at the front desk would have cost me £50. That’s right £50 – and no, young man on reception, the fact it’s for ’24 hour access’ does not make it any better.

So step forward Grosvenor House and pick up your very own award from last night: the most expensive hotel net access I’ve ever come across.

Does paying for wi-fi in hotels bug you or do you know of hotels that provide it free? Leave a comment.

Begone you pesky tourists!

How annoying is it when you’re travelling and come to one of the great sights in the world, only to have your pictures ruined by the dozens of other tourists milling round the place?

Well you can say goodbye to a host of fat waddlers using the Tourist Remover function on free web-based photo hosting service snapmania that someone told me about yesterday.

It’s simple to operate once you’ve signed up for an account. Just stick the camera on a trip or stable surface, reel off three of four snaps of the same scene, download the pics, apply Tourist Remover and the software does the rest.

I tested it out this morning by waking mrsworldofjames up a bit earlier to photograph her walking across our street. It took about an hour for the results to come in from snapmania, but I’m sure you’ll agree the resulting image that takes her out of the equation is pretty impressive.

The site is snapmania.com if you’re interested, the images are below…

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Tourist removed
Tourist removed

This site was NOT made on a Mac

Clean as an iPhone
Clean as an iPhone

If I ever needed proof of how much I love Macs, it came on Saturday when my other half put my iPhone on a 95 degree wash for two hours. After mild panic at how a budding freelancer would afford a new one (yes, I know about insurance and I know Im stupid for not having it), I looked up some info on the web and found some people had had success with wet iPhones by laying them in a bed of uncooked rice – apparently, the rice draws the water out. Two days later, I plugged the phone in and it worked – and  I got insurance!

When choosing what blogging software to used for worldofjames.com, I had a pretty straight choice: go for a regular blogging website like Blogger or WordPress or create my own blog using Mac’s fancy iWeb software. For anyone who’s not used it, iWeb is meant to be pretty intuitive, you pick a design, you type, you drag and drop pictures and you publish to .mac, Apple’s servers.

As I pay Apple £55 a year to host my email and give me lots of online storage, it seemed a logical choice to try on iWeb. But for the last four days I’ve been pulling my hair out… the Apple templates are not much to write home about so I tried customising. But there’s no easy way to save your new custom template… So every time I created a new page, I had to set new pages widths, designate new fonts and the like. Not too much hassle for web pages that are informational and will not change much at a time, but a nightmare when you have to do it every time you blog a new post.

I searched the web again and came across a company called 11mystics who sell iWeb templates you can download. So I found one I like, downloaded it, put all the info on, copied my old Metro blog posts across to give it some weight and told everyone about it…. only to find out that most PCs don’t have the American typewriter font that was the base of the bought template and that on Internet Explorer it all corrupted meaning all the entries had to be changed manually…. I’m going thin enough as it is, by now, I was ready to pull the remains out.

So this morning, I got up at 5am and switched to WordPress.com. It looks less clever but boy is it easier to use. And it has the added advantage of not needing me to carry my Macbook around everytime I want to update it. If needed, I can just head to an internet cafe, jump on a PC and do it.

So you’ve been warned: Macs, look good and survive washing machines … but absolutely crap for blogging!

[apologies to anyone who RSSed the old site, you will need to refresh the feed from here]