Websites with a Cause

January 6, 2008

Back in June of 2007, I wrote about

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the extraordinary concept of Now I came across an interview with Bill Clinton that explains the mission very accurately…as well as this film by PBS.

Another great site is by Vancouver-based Tom Williams.
Tom started his career in Product Marketing at Apple Computer when he was just 14 years old. In his own words:

My dream for GiveMeaning is that we inspire people to take action. I believe that most every
person cares deeply about something, but I’m equally

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sure that many of us find ourselves doing
little for the causes that matter most to us — not because of a lack of desire, but a lack
of confidence. My plan is for GiveMeaning to change all this by being able to take any cause or issue and
identify a small, but tangible, piece of the problem to fix. I once heard a story where the moral
was: “if you want to move mountains, buy a shovel.” Giving Groups are like online shovels that
make small steps towards addressing big issues. This is my hope for GiveMeaning; people connecting with friends, and strangers, united by a desire to achieve a common

TripIt launches

September 18, 2007

New online travel start-up TripIt has received quite some buzz over the past few weeks, and officially launched at the TechCrunch40 event in San Francisco (40 invited start-ups present their ventures).

How does it work? Well, TripIt is an intelligent travel organizer that helps do-it-yourself travelers manage their travel plans so that their trips go more smoothly. Travelers simply forward their purchase confirmation emails to TripIt and TripIt automatically creates master itineraries with travel plans and other critical information like weather, maps and driving directions, and destination information.
TripIt makes it easy for travelers to print or access their trip plans from anywhere including online, in print and on their web-enabled mobile devices. They can also share itineraries and travel calendars and collaborate on planning trips with friends in their TripIt network. Have a look at a sample itinerary or view the demo.

Tim O’Reilly wrote on his blog:
“There’s a kind of magic to forwarding on a travel confirmation from an airline or a hotel reservation and having them aggregated into an itinerary, along with automagically-added maps of the destination, local weather, and other useful information. I’ll often put together a packet like this for a trip I’m taking, but that’s

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a manual process.”

Some great backing, and a distinguished management team with the co-founder of Hotwire. I received beta testing access some time back, and of course played around with

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it. I think it is a great platform and neat technology execution…but then I ask myself: Is this it? Is this enough to create a sustainable B2C business model? Maybe I am missing something, but I see this as a great plug-in for other travel sites, or even travel suppliers (hotels, airlines, car rental), or even corporate travel planners. Maybe that is their plan, but I couldn’t find any evidence. So when I was contacted by TripIt to write about the launch (like so many other bloggers probably as well), I thought, why not ask the question: “Is this it?”

Here is what came back:

Sure, there’s lots more to it than itineraries… it automatically gives weather, directions, destination information, maps… and we also say it has a “social twist” in that it allows you to share your trips with friends and let them see your calendar, or have them collaborate on trips with you.”

You judge for yourself if this

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model can exist as a stand-alone business. Maybe it can, but I think the true opportunity is partnering with other organizations. Maybe call the guys at Kayak or Tripadvisor…

But definately a cool technology. Some of the key capabilities include its Calendar Integration. If you use Google Calendar, Outlook 2007 or any calendar that supports the iCalendar standard, you can now automatically sync your personal calendar with your TripIt travel plans.

Feel free to read the entire press release below.

Toronto’s Virtual City Guide

September 3, 2007

I just came across a new City Guide for Toronto, called STREETS.TO.


The innovative website, billed

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as the world’s “first and only patent-pending virtual cityscape,” is best described as a tourist-friendly version of Google Earth. You begin your visit to the site by hailing a virtual taxi (Beck, a popular Toronto company), which then “drives” you around to various restaurants, nightclubs and attractions. The cab stops in front of an accurate depiction of each hot spot. Click on the picture and you’ll get interior shots, menus and contact info. So before you waste your money on a real cab, you’ll know if it’s for you. The site just launched a few months ago, so destination choices are limited. But it’s a cool concept and worth a look.

New Hotel Website Startup –

March 28, 2007

I was approached by Adam Healey, the co-founder of to be one of the beta testers for his new start-up. VibeAgent is supposed to be a combination of TripAdvisor + Kayak + eHarmony on top of a mini-Facebook. So of course I got a little interested, and asked to do a quick interview with Adam to find out more, since there are already so many hotel websites on the market. I was interested how his new venture is different and how he intends to get the consumers attention. The site is not live yet, but Adam send me a few screenshots that will give “Tourism Internet Marketing Blog” readers a sneak preview. Below you can read what he had to say.



In a nutshell, VibeAgent is a combination between Tripadvisor, Kayak, and eHarmony on top of a mini Facebook. VibeAgent is a Travel 2.0 site, focused on providing people with personalized hotel recommendation they can trust, at prices they can’t beat. We are an international site, which at launch in April or May will have 90,000 hotels in its database – more than Expedia.


We provide our users with personalized hotel recommendations written by people who

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share similar tastes and preferences. We’ve created a simple experiential search tool to help users describe their ideal hotel experience, and a neat little social search algorithm that prioritizes and matches the reviews of community members with similar preferences and whose reviews have been deemed trustworthy.

Once the user has found the perfect hotel, VibeAgent finds the best available rate by comparing quotes from many different transaction partners, both hotels and other travel e-commerce sites.

We also provide users with a simple user interface and a personalized social networking platform so they can invite their friends and colleagues to share reviews and recommendations. Users can even create and join groups of similar-minded people to share experiences and receive good advice, or read reviews written by experts on the target destination.
Read more

Never pack and carry a Suitcase again?

March 9, 2007

Now, here is an interesting concept…flying luggage-free! A great deal for lazy, busy, rich, or any combination of those frequent flyers. Flylite is providing this new service to US frequent travelers.

Here’s how it works: You sign up online, and FlyLite sends you a suitcase to fill with your usual travel kit (jeans, shampoo, golf clubs). They clean, store, and catalog everything (in a virtual closet that you can arrange to your liking). Before your next trip, select what you want online, and let FlyLite know where and when you’ll need it. Your stuff will be there when you arrive.

The downside: So far

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the service is available only in the United States. And it costs $100-$200 per trip. This might sound quite expensive, but when you add up everything from your time, dry-cleaning cost, the optional insurance to guarantee that you see your luggage when you arrive at your destination, and not to forget the

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wear and tear of your luggage by commercial airlines…may not such a bad deal after all. If they ever come to Canada, I might try…or might this be a business idea worth considering??

What about the competition? Here is a list of other Luggage Shipping services, in case you are wondering. In any event…a smart move by an innovative entrepreneur from Virginia. – New Business Travel Start-up

February 17, 2007

Pairup is a new company that wants to assist you in connection people when you travel — For now, anyone

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You can pull in your Outlook contacts. Then, if you tell Pairup that you’re headed to say, Chicago, Pairup pulls out the names of people in Chicago you may want to contact. It also lets you share your travel plans with others. Here’s how it works.
PairUp is about empowering the business traveler to reinvent his/her business trip by introducing the concept of connected travel, allowing businesspeople for the first time to easily

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share travel plans and instantly search for potential business connections at their next trip destination or industry event – across companies and across booking engines.

Esteban Sardera, the CEO and founder of the San Francisco start-up, is a one-man show. He used outsourced development (Russia), graphic designers he’d never met in person and Skype to communicate with these folks. No VC funding. Right now, clearly more

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Great use of Flash!

January 29, 2007

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Here is Franz, who I created:

The Rise of Web 3.0 – the “Semantic Web”

November 15, 2006

“The Future Has Arrived But It’s Not Evenly Distributed”

Currently, Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0) researchers are working out the technology and human resource issues and folks like Tim Berners-Lee, the Noble prize recipient and father of the Web, are battling critics and enlightening minds about the coming human-machine revolution.

The Semantic Web (aka Web 3.0) has already arrived, and Inference Engines are working with prototypical ontologies,

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one, which is why I was suggesting that its most likely enabler will be a social, collaborative movement such as Wikipedia, which has the human resources (in the form of the thousands of knowledgeable volunteers) to help create the ontologies (most likely as informal ontologies based on semantic annotations) that, when combined with inference rules for each domain of knowledge and the query structures for the particular schema, enable deductive reasoning at the machine level.

Read the New York Times article about Web 3.0, which introduces the holy grail of the web – bringing meaning to the web.


Published: November 12, 2006

From the billions of documents that form the World Wide Web and the links that weave them together, computer scientists and a growing collection of start-up companies are finding new ways to mine human intelligence.