Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stick-Pin Tour & Travel Planning Made Easy

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition Graffiti looked at graffiti as a phenomenon of modern urban life. During the exhibition, June 30 - September 3, 2006, we invited the Brooklyn and Flickr communities to share their photographs of existing graffiti and/or murals around the borough of Brooklyn. This photograph of Brooklyn-area graffiti was submitted by a community member. Image Credit: Flickr

Stick-Pin Tour & Travel Planning Made Easy

People love to photograph their travels, especially in this digital age. Increasingly, people are posting their travel photos on photo posting portals like Flickr, SmugMug, & Everytrail … and, what is really cool, adding locater tags along with GPS data to the photos they upload.

What makes this really cool is that it is much easier to plan a tour in a particular travel destination tailored to ones specific interests. It’s easy - just type in a few tags into the Google, Flickr, SmugMug, and etc. search window and behold locations one can plot to create a tour of ones interest.

The planning and search process is pretty simple because the work is done through the meta-data travelers are eager to provide for being able to find and identify the photo they took to share with others they know … the extended benefit is everyone else’s gain.

Excerpts from The New York Times via CNET News.com -

Snapshots that do more than bore friends
How sharing your family vacation photos online can help others discover a place through your travels.
The New York Times - By Michelle Higgins - Published: June 9, 2007, 11:42 AM PDT

Few sentences in the English language are more dreaded than this seemingly innocent offer: "Oh, I must show you the pictures from my vacation." Who wants to see endless shots of a friend lounging by a pool or in front of a monument, or -- worse yet -- their kids doing the very same things?

But, of course, those very same shots can be extremely useful when researching your own trip. How big is that pool? What, exactly, does the room at that five-star hotel you're thinking of booking look like? What's the crowd like at the so-called hot restaurant? It's good to have documented evidence from someone who has been there.
Through a technology called geotagging, users can add GPS data to their pictures, which can then be plotted on a digital map. This not only allows users to see exactly where a photo was taken, but, when uploaded to an Internet map, users can also quickly browse a trove of photos that were taken nearby, providing a kind of scattershot collage of a place.

For example, people planning a trip to Cancun can use Google Earth, a free mapping software, to zoom in on Cancun's crowded hotel zone and click on dozens of candid photographs, from the lounge chairs at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach hotel and the pool at the Omni Hotel & Villas, to snapshots of less crowded beaches and the nearest mall.

Plotting photos on maps also allows trip planners to "see" the terrain before booking a trip. On Everytrail.com -- which lets users upload geocoded photos from their favorite hiking trails, biking routes and sailing trips -- visitors can check out sights along a specific driving route in Namibia, or examine trail conditions on a hilly bike route near Palo Alto, Calif.
“Gowanus” - This photograph of Brooklyn-area graffiti was submitted by a community member. The Brooklyn Museum exhibition - Graffiti. Image Credit: Flickr

For example, fans of graffiti can search the word, "graffiti," and "New York City" at Flickr.com/map, and pull up photos of freshly painted tags, all plotted with pushpins on a clickable Yahoo map. A search for "Dumbo Brooklyn graffiti," for example, finds some 99 photos, including the infamous "Neck Face" tag, spray-painted on a brick warehouse at Jay and Front Streets in Brooklyn. Try finding that in a guidebook.

"Dumbo Brooklyn graffiti" – Photo of screenshot search for tourpoint locations. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (MAXINE)

Geotagging photos brings a whole new level of context to the image, said Andy Williams, general manager of SmugMug.com, a photo-sharing site. "After all," he said, "pictures are flat." But the real reason geotagging is getting so popular, he added, are the bragging rights involved. "We want people to know the cool places we've been," he said. "And this is a cool way to show off."
The steps needed to geotag photos are admittedly somewhat geeky.
To streamline the process, several camera makers have released models that are GPS-ready, with either a built-in device or a special accessory. But they tend to be geared toward professionals and are expensive.
Once your photos are plotted geographically, others can discover a place through your travels.
Web sites are increasingly embracing geotagging as a way to draw users. Last month, Google announced plans to acquire Panoramio.com, a photo-sharing site with more than two million images that allows users to integrate photos into Google Earth. And as photo-sharing continues to evolve, travel Web sites are recognizing how valuable images can be when users essentially act as free contributors and submit their own pictures.

Zoomandgo.com, a travel review site, recently redesigned its site around photos and videos submitted by travelers. A team of four people spent months "geocoding" thousands of hotels and attractions so that user photos can be displayed on digital maps. A new social-networking feature also allows users to create their own travel profiles, connect with like-minded travelers, and swap tips through photos.

"Facebook meets Frommers" is how Jonathan Haldane, the founder of Zoomandgo.com, described it. Before the social-networking feature went up, he said, users spent about eight minutes on the site, mostly reading or posting hotel reviews. Now, he said, users spend an average of 18 to 19 minutes, sending messages to each other and browsing through photos and videos.

But though travel sites are embracing the flood of user-generated photos, the quality can vary. A Flickr search for the W hotel in New York City, for example, turns up a mix of candid room photos and pictures of friends eating pizza
Zoomandgo.com, which pays users a nominal fee for relevant photos, says it vets every submission.
Panoramio, on the other hand, has a devoted online community that tends to self-edit, and post photos only of places rather than people.
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