WritingTravellers: User Generated Guidebooks; Open Guidebooks Project Rediscovers the Planet
The travel business changed tremendously because of the Internet and the travel guide business will follow the same path. WritingTravellers is a new initiative that combines techniques and technologies from the so called Web 2.0 to support the whole process of making guidebooks: from writing them to printing and distributing them. A new phenomena is born: user generated guides.
Aspiring guidebook writers
WritingTravellers offers anyone a chance to be the co-author of parts of a travel guide that actually gets printed. The wiki always shows who wrote an item, and who edited the item. In printed versions of guidebooks the names of the co-authors are clearly mentioned in the book. Authors get full credits for what they wrote.
The project has been on-line since August 2007. On the website writingtravellers.com writers can add and edit items about destinations all over the world, like in a wiki. They can add photos too. The community of writers has been growing steadily since the launch of the website. At the moment several hundreds of writing travellers are working on the content for the first travel guides. Amsterdam and New Delhi are already at an advanced stage.
The members of the international network of writers voluntarily describe their favourite destinations. Not only do they write about places they travelled to, they also write about the places they live in. The writers keep contact with each other through e-mail, the WritingTravellers website and through networking sites like Facebook or photo sites like Flickr. They help each other to improve the content of the guides. Everyone that likes to share his or her experiences, or likes to practice travel writing, can join in.
To recruit more writing talent WritingTravellers started a partnership with Hostelling International, the world wide federation of more than 4,500 hostels. All hostels have been added to the WritingTravellers database. They are popular meeting points for young travellers and a place where they exchange experiences and travel tips. "At those hot-spots of highly up-to-date and valuable travel information we want WritingTravellers to be present. We want it to be used to store and exchange knowledge about new interesting places." Says Bart van Slobbe, one of the founders.
Build your own guidebook
Since the end of June 2008 the project's website offers the option to build a personal guide. Each of those printed guides will be tailor-made for the one who ordered it. The guides will be printed at the moment they are ordered and therefore they will be as up to date as possible. A few days later a brand new travel guide will be delivered by mail.
The project is still in beta and therefore the result of the building process is at the moment still a printable pdf-file. It contains the contents of a complete guidebook, including table of content, cross references and indices for keywords and writers. As soon as the content for the first destinations will be complete enough, it will be possible to order guidebooks that will be printed on demand.
To build a guide, one uses a wizard. It asks for the destinations you want to visit, what means of transportation you will use, what your budget is and what sort of activities you are interested in. Based on this profile, you can make the guidebook as elaborate as you want. You do not have to carry a big heavy guidebook any more, just take the information that you need.
WritingTravellers is a non-profit foundation based in Amsterdam. Its aim is to make guidebook information freely available through its wiki. The foundation supports the community that gathers and maintains the content and takes care of continuous improvement of the community, the database and the wiki.
Sample guide of Amsterdam in pdf, a high resolution picture of one of the first printed guidebooks and quotes by community members are available on request.
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