Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reviews You Can Trust

or so the tag line reads at the bottom of every major entry (hotels, rentals, restaurants, things to do) at tripadvisor, a Newton, MA based web travel site, boasting 36 million monthly visitors. Reviews you can trust. And, er, perhaps, I do.

Someone's Making Money but...

that is, there are commercial tie-ins up the wazoo (links to Booking Buddy, Cruise Critic, Family Vacation Critic, Seat Guru, Flip Key, and on and on and on and on) on the site, and therefore you can in many ways consider this a travel portal (aggregator, linker); however--big however--they do seem to offer authentic traveler reviews about everything you can imagine that is even remotely associated with trips and tripping (no, not that kind). Among them:
On to Where the Land Runs Out

As some of you know, I'll be heading to Chile (according to the Chilean national consular site: "where the land runs out") for my sabbatical, on February 1, 2010. And so, as you can imagine, I've had to research the whole kit and caboodle. Enter: Trip Advisor.

While it would take me a month of Sundays to begin to describe the site, allow me to say here, dear Writing for New Media friendos, that I found a place to lodge based on reviews such as these:

Whether or not these or others like them were penned by shills, I cannot say. I can say, however, that it seemed tonally and substantively appropriate, and so I believe it. And, believing is all.

Polyglottal (sic?) Panorama

Reading it in many languages seems to help. And reading about the IT from those who are as far-flung as you can imagine helps, too. (True, I give more credence/put more stock/am willing to hear what anyone other than U.S. and A Americans have to say. My U.S. and A anti-bias flops out....). That is, it is not uncommon to find reviews penned in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese--from people based in countries around the globe. And I do love and respect anyone who ain't from around here...

Have an Expert, Will Travel

In addition to "User" reviews, I also found Destination Experts, who, according to the site:

...are the backbone of the TripAdvisor community. They are regular contributors who exemplify the best of our forums, giving helpful, friendly advice and welcoming new members. They are passionate about the destinations they represent. Whether resident locals or frequent visitors, they have up-to-date knowledge of what's going on in their destinations.

PS - Destination experts are volunteers, so don't be afraid to say "thanks" when they've provided you with helpful advice!

I've been hearing from one who lives in Valparaiso, the town I chose as my destination. He's willing to answer any questions and even to engage in some research. Can't say I take his advice without a grain or two of salt, though. Perhaps he is on the up and up. More likely, there's a little taste for him somewhere along the line. That's part and parcel of this, I think. Everyone's got to earn. Or, perhaps my cynicism takes center stage.

I'll let you know (in the form of a Trip Advisor review, of course) when I return.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Library Thing

As an English Professor, my reading list should be riddled with profound and transcendent titles, the stuff I'm supposed to pass on to my intellectually hungry sons or lurking students. Well, it turns out that those days are gone. My reading these days is typically, in a word, transactional (the anti-profound). Truth be told, like many others of my ilk, I spend most of my reading time reading (evaluating?) evolving student work.

When I do have a moment to read anything other than student work these days, I either read a Spanish language newspaper (part of my continuing, but painstakingly slow Jeff-hungers-for-a-meaningful-second-language project), a police procedural, or, if a new one has dropped from the James Lee Burke tree, a Dave Robicheaux mystery.

Unfortunately, I do tire of Spanish language news (not for the Spanish, but for the news), and prolific as he is, Burke's output isn't nearly enough to take care of even my part-time reading needs. So, I find myself asking: who next?

Who Next?

Sure, my wife is a voracious reader, and my department is full of colleagues who have the kind of life in which books rise to the top of their own honey-do lists. But, frankly, if I've found nothing else out over the years, I've found that my tastes are... just that. Mine. Mis propios sabores.

Still, I've thought there must be some Web 2.0 answer to scratching my who next itch.

The Social Book List

Enter Library Thing--a Web 2.0 social networking site that "with over 800,000 users and 40 million books" that "allows one to find some 'eerily similar' libraries and a Zeitgeist full of random information."

While you can take a tour on your own, allow me to offer a couple of highlights here.


Like many social networking sights, your profile facilitates your connection to those who share similar interests:


Knowing who you are and behind whom and what you stand is, of course, insufficient--and certainly not why I checked out and joined Library Thing. Groups are the reason. And, groups they've got, hundreds:

For now, you can find me trying to decide whether I'm more a Sofa Reads, a 75 Books Challenge for 2009, or a Build the Open Shelves kinda groupie.

More--if I can ever make my way from the front page of this Library Thing to its last--anon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's Wrong with Cave Life?

Anyone who knows me in any way knows that I spend more time on the web than I should. ("On the web"... sounded like quite a gramps there, huh.) Online. Better. Online. But what am I doing out there?

Belly Up, Lest You...
This and next and perhaps the week after, we are and will be dealing with the subject of "social networking" in my Writing for New Media class. Such got me to thinking about how I spend my time online. It got me to wondering if I could characterize my time online as social.

Yes, I have a Facebook account, and a Diigo account, and a Twitter account, and likely many other social networking accounts that I've forgotten about. But those were taster's choices. Given my line of work (love that expression... couldn't find a good link to explain its origin... but did find an interesting site during my search...), I feel compelled to belly up to the smorgasbord of the web with great frequency and appetite. But I am rarely there to do more than taste. I'm certainly not out there to establish or extend my community.

Groucho Marx and the Green Eyed Squirrel
Having spent my time at social networking sites (as I've already owned up to), and having been tracked down by more than one friend I never wanted to have in the first place, and having had to gaze rheumy-eyed at umpteen family trip albums to Albany and Albania, I can certainly conclude that as for social networking, I'm really a Groucho Marx ("I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members") and Foamy the Squirrel kind of guy:

(Skip this one, if you are mild of heart, ear, or eye; my Mother would consider it triple x....)

Wow, that sorta says it all. Thanks, Foamy. In addition to speaking my mind on social networking, you've filled the acute rodent gap I've felt since Rocky J left me in the cartoon lurch: