Ben Jordan-Trip Tailor DIGC302 Critique

This is a critical reflection on Ben Jordan’s ‘Trip Tailor’ application which was his idea for a digital artefact for DIGC302. I was particularly attracted to this artefact as I have just returned from a 6-week trip around America and can relate 100% to the difficulties that come with choosing a place of accommodation that is just right for you. Not only accommodation, but also hidden secrets of certain locations, as well as good food. I was very interested in seeing where this project would go, and I was not disappointed.

Aim:

According to the apps Facebook page, the aim for the ‘Trip Tailor’ project is to create an application that helps you to “Avoid getting buried in endless reviews, find information relevant to you, and allow us to tailor your trip.” Essentially then, the aim of this application is to learn your travel browsing patterns, and tailor a search experience that fits your interests. This includes accommodation costs, exciting destinations and places to eat. The app also aims to link through social media so that the user can see the ratings and experiences of other Facebook/Twitter users as well as their friends. I think the aim of this project is excellent, especially when considering the time that Ben estimates it will save when planning a stay in a city. He estimated that it took roughly 4 hours to plan accommodation and site seeing for a city using various other apps and websites currently available. However when using Trip Tailor, this estimated time would be cut down to 1 hour. Fantastic aim.

Trajectory:

The trajectory of Bens project was probably one of the best I saw in the class. I feel like this was helped significantly through his two co-designers in America who have been able to pay various visits to Silicon Valley in San Francisco. I like how Ben actually improved his app in between the first draft and the beta presentation. I was also impressed on how he had future goals in mind, such as the promotion aspect of the Facebook page once it had reached 100 likes. The only thing I would have to criticise in the trajectory was the apparent lack of funding that the project had received thus far. While Trip Tailor plans to take advantage of targeted advertising in order to make its revenue, I couldn’t see any evidence of the team contacting advertisers and offering them a look at the product so far.

Concepts:

The main concept of the project that I picked up on was that it used ‘Machine learning algorithms’ in order to learn an understand a users interests and hence tailor their searches accordingly. This is definitely the way that applications are heading, and even most websites are starting to use techniques such as this. (Think the content displayed in your Facebook newsfeed, or the ‘recommended for you’ section of YouTube.) Being a complex process I can completely understand why there is not actually a hard copy of the app available for the Beta test. The only qualm that I have with this algorithm system is that users may miss out on seeing things in a search that they could be interested in, despite what the app thinks. (Demonstrated by the loss of culture slide in the BETA presentation). Aside from the ‘off the beaten track’ solution the team came up with, a possible suggestion I had would be to have a setting that turns on and off the tailoring option, giving the users even more opportunity to find things that suit them. Not sure if this is an option or not, but it was the only criticism I had in this area.

Methodology:

I have to commend Ben on the methodology that has gone into this project. The extensive market research done by himself and the rest of his team is a commendable effort. He has also taken advantage of various forms of advertising, through Facebook, and Twitter with the aim of promoting his product. It is widely acknowledged that promoting online through the use of social media is incredibly effective. The only suggestion I would have now is to try and get the short 1:18 BETA video onto YouTube and have it play at the start of various videos. I have no idea how much that would cost but once the project gets some funding it would be a viable avenue to consider.

Project Beta Demonstration:

Bens Project BETA demonstration was fantastic. It was quickly evident that he had done a lot of the market research into this app, as he had all the major bases covered early on in the presentation. The important information into the market share of Trip Advisor is an important step as they will be the main competitor when it comes to gaining a foothold in the industry. I think that it is important that in all advertising the team makes it clear how much time will be saved when booking accommodation or looking up travel destinations on their app, as this is definitely one of the main drawcards in my opinion.
There is really no more advice I can give on the project as I genuinely think that the team has everything covered.

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Internet of Things.

Of all the topics covered in DIGC202, this is the one in which I had never had any previous experience. The concept of an Internet of THings a fascinating one. The idea that everything in our lives can and will be interconnected in a web like space is revolutionary. Trends in technology have slowly been headed in this direction for a while now, but with the integration of wi-fi and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), there is potential for this technology to be taken so much further than ever believed possible.

The Internet of Things will come into its own in the region of saving humans time with menial tasks, such as boiling kettles, checking the fridge for food and other home based tasks. A video I found on youtube shows the potential for power saving, as well as social integration in the product called a Wi-Fi light. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRaPQDzkJcQ&feature=player_embedded

This light has the ability to sync with ones phone and notify them of messages, it can change colour with the click of a button, and all the lights in ones house can be controlled via the use of an app on a smartphone. The time and power saving potential of this invention are endless, however it does bring into question the worrying aspect of a loss of Wi-Fi. If the wireless connection is lost within ones house, then the lights are virtually useless. This in itself is just a small piece of the puzzle in regards to wifi as a whole, especially with so much emphasis and reliance placed on it, if it was to fail then the consequences could be catastrophic.

Apple vs. Android

Apple vs. Android. Perhaps the biggest date on the circuit of modern technology since Nintendo and Playstation or Playstation 2 and the Xbox, but with a far larger market. There are strong arguments for both sides of this debate, and as each product has its own advantages and disadvantages, it is a hotly contested topic.

Here are some of the arguments supporting the Android operating system:

1. The android operating system allows for a user to customise their ‘desktop’, and place apps and widgets on the home screen. These widgets can be anything from a live news feed to weather, to stock prices. While the IOS operating system allows elements of this, it is not present in the same capacity as the Android. i.e, one cannot choose the widgets that are seen in the pull down menu.

2. The Android operating system supports user generated content. The notion of a ‘walled garden’ is something that Apple has embraced fully, allowing only approved apps and software to be loaded onto their iPhones. This greatly reduces the potential for customisation within the operating system. The only way around this is to go though a process called ‘jailbreaking’, in which one unlocks their phone to third party producers, but in doing so voids every warranty under the sun. The ability of Android users with any kind of know how to create or install their own content is a major advantage.

 

Here are some arguments supporting the IOS operating system:

1. The iPhone is the essence of simplicity. Everything is so easy to access and use, one can virtually pick up an iPhone for the first time and within 10 minutes know exactly how the layout works.

2. iMessage. Possibly the best thing I have noticed about the iPhone, iMessage allows users to communicate via the use of data instead of through a  text message. Group conversations are made so much easier as all the responses are correlated into the one conversation making it easy to keep track of the conversation.

Social Network Revolutions

Probably my favourite topic from this year, the analysis of a social networking revolution is a fascinating thing. The events taking place in the Middle East from 2010 to the present day are unheard of. Before the Arab Spring, many people, myself included thought that social networking was a bit of a joke, really only a tool used to keep in contact with friends and find pictures of cats. Nevertheless, I was proven wrong, when on the 19th of December 2012, the Arab Spring took off after a shop keeper burned himself to death in protest of authorities confiscating his products. The outrage felt both by civilians in the Middle East as well as the Western World was intense, and the topic became one of the major trending articles on Twitter at the time. While social media wasn’t the cause of the revolutions that took place in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, it was used as a platform for disgruntled citizens to communicate quickly and efficiently, and organise the mass protests that eventually achieved the social action they so desired.

Media platforms also gave rise to the ability for the west to finally understand some of the social issues that were taking place in a world outside their own. Visual mediums such as YouTube allowed for us to see the carnage that was taking place in the Middle East, and further encourage the change.

Online Activism.

Online activism is a huge topic that covers a variety of bases. In order to understand it in its full capacity, it is necessary to look at various incidents of online activism, so that one has an understand of how online activist groups operate, and go about seeking the change they wish to see in the world.

The main group of online activists is a group called Anonymous. This group consists of trolls, hackers and other internet sensations.

An analysis of ‘Project Chanology’ will give a decent overview of how Anonymous, and other groups like them operate.

Project Chanology is an initiative backed by the group Anonymous, aimed at removing the Scientology religion from the Internet. Anonymous began the program when it posted a video to YouTube outlining its wish to expel scientologists from the Internet, and ‘systematically dismantle the church of scientology in its current form.’ Anonymous organised a variety of different forms of protest against the church of Scientology, including physical street protests, as well as online ‘hacks’. These online hacks were the more sophisticated by far. According to The Economist, the group used ‘”distributed denial of service attacks”, (which) typically involve using networks of infected computers to bombard the target’s websites and servers with bogus requests for data, causing them to crash.” (2008) This technique caused the Scientology websites to crash, and become unusable. As well as this, the group also used ridicule, promoting a video of Tom Cruise around YouTube and other social media platforms which showed Scientology in a less than favourable light. This use of social ridicule is a tactic often employed by such hacktivist groups, as it often identifies with a larger audience allowing for the underlying message to be spread further than ever before.

Alternate Media Outlets.

The rise of social media is a topic that I have covered extensively in the last two years at uni. It has become a platform for communication between friends as well as advertisers, politicians, businesses and much more. The idea that traditional media outlets are dying, that they are holding less and less social influence than ever before could not be more true.

The potential for information to be sent a received at such a rapid rate in todays world has pushed many of the smaller news outlets out of the market. While this is not ideal, there are a number of media outlets that have managed to jump on the Twitter and Facebook bandwagons, and potentially save themselves from being shut down. The major newspapers and television stations of the west use twitter and facebook to their advantage, however these social platforms present little if any monetary game, especially in comparison to the selling of a tangible product such as a newspaper.

Twitter in particular has been instrumental in the increase of citizen journalism, and one solid example of this is the Arab Spring, an uprising that took place throughout the Middle East from early 2012 to the present day. This event brought the power of the citizen journalist to the public eye, and it was often called the ‘Twitter Revolution’ in some circles. The public can now respond to media issues that they agree or disagree strongly with, by the use of videos uploaded to YouTube, posts on any kind of social media platform, and even through the use of satire. (Memes play a  particularly large role in this arena).

Into The Cloud

The topic of week 7 is one that I find particularly interesting. Being a cheap uni kid, I pretty much do all of my shopping on the internet, from clothes to music, books, and an assortment of other random things that I don’t really need. This means that I will hardly buy anything from an actual store, and if I do, its because either A. It’s an impulsive purchase, or B. It’s something really expensive that I’d like to see first, before I purchased it.

Keeping this in mind, a lot of online purchases I make are of products that are not available in Dymocks or JB Hi-Fi in the first place, meaning that I am forced into using the internet as a purchasing medium. This then raises the issue of the long tail, and in turn a whole other host of other new age consumer producer issues. It was not long into researching the idea of the long tail in regards to my online purchasing, that I realised the concept is applicable  to the transfer of information as well as the transfer of physical goods.

The 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) is something that has fascinated me since I heard about it in my first year of BCM. The idea that 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes sounds outlandish at first, but when you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. The principal was derived from early 20th century economic theory, and was soon used to describe a whole host of other phenomena. It is particularly applicable in the online realm, both with the reach of certain blogs over a wide range of audiences, as well as the afore metioned ‘long-tail’.