Haven’t blogged about this yet, what with one thing and another, but last week we pushed out the beta of a new service, called Been there. Essentially, it’s a platform for people to recommend things they like to do in places they love, and for other people to say if they agree with them.
It’s very much in beta at the moment, and there’s a host of features we’d still like to add, but with a project like this we just felt it was important to get it out in the wild as soon as possible so we start learning from it. The main trick we’ve tried to pull off is the combination of “travel journalism” with massive user input.
It works like this: someone writes a profile of a “place” (for now, we’re taking cities as our taxonomy, but this could change or expand – Guardian people are pretty city-based, though), and then people start adding tips for things to do in that place. The city profiles are fairly “journalistic”, in that we’re careful about the places that get written about and what gets written about them – in the first instance, we commissioned writers to put these profiles together, but from here on in anyone can write a profile, although it will be edited before it appears on the site.
The user input part comes through in the tips part of the site, where people recommend things to do in a particular city. And, for the first time anywhere on GU, we’re adding tags to the tips. You can add tips with any tags you want.
Finally, the feedback loop: every tip has a “do you agree” button next to it. In some ways, this was the most controversial part of the system. We wanted to ensure that a real howler of a tip, or a tip that had become out of date, was somehow exposed to user feedback, but we also didn’t want a forum for massive rows about whether this restaurant really was the best on the Upper West Side. So this is the compromise. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s starting to work.
So, all pretty exciting. But here’s the real Big Media exciting thing (bloggers look away now) – once a week, we’ll be running a section in the Travel section of the newspaper about a particular city, with users’ tips a big part of it. So, citizen media storms the Big Media gates once more. Should be fun.