Monday, August 3, 2015

Human Travel Agents

They're baaaaack!

For the past several months I've been using an app called Native to book leisure travel. For the past several months I have NOT had to...

  • deal with busted hotel, airline, restaurant, and other travel websites
  • deal with constantly changing workflows of said websites. "Look at us, we've upgraded our website! It's better now!" No... it's not.
  • deal with busted payment processes with said websites
  • deal with login credentials with said websites
  • call hotels or restaurants to get questions answered
  • try to orchestrate last minute travel changes by hand
  • have awareness of hours of operation of places I have questions for prior to arrival
Instead, now I send a few texts to Native (human agents) and it's over. Here's one I sent the other day.

"NYC please. Personal card. Two ppl (myself and daughter). Depart DEN to LGA in the morning on X date, return LGA to DEN on Y date mid-late afternoon (enough time to grab lunch in Brooklyn on way to airport)."

Native knows my airline, seat preferences, the hotel I stay at in NY, and ground transport needs.

A few texts later I've confirmed details, and it's over. A trip that would've taken at least an hour to pull together (flights, hotel, cars, events, reservations), takes minutes now.

Totally impressed. Happy the modern travel agent is back.

Travel Guides

I've been doing a fair amount of leisure travel recently and have come across an amazing set of travel guides. They're called CitiX60 guides, and are published by Viction Workshop; .

They are awesome!

  • Each one is a compilation of recommendations by local creatives (not advertisers paying for placement).
  • Each one's cover is a cool wrap that unfolds into an artists' beautiful rendition of the city map itself.
  • They're small and softcover and fit into daypacks easily.
  • Each recommendation has a QR code you can quickly scan if you want to dive in further.
I've been to a few cities with these guides now and have to say that I've enjoyed more experiences through them than I have in a lifetime of other guidebooks. Nearly all hits, and no misses, and they're gorgeous little books to keep around too boot.

Curation... it's the future.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Read More Faster; Instapaper

I've radically changed my content discovery approach and sites/services I consume for information and news. As a result, my new method leverages a broad array of curated content sources using a disparate set of presentation formats (web sites, feeds, emails, posts, etc) that I either consume via Flipboard (because it natively supports said service) or via Instapaper because it's not in Flipboard.

I've had an Instapaper account for quite some time, but hadn't used it until recently due to this change in my reading behavior. I was overjoyed to see Instapaper supporting Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)! I've never been able to effectively adopt "skimming" or proximity based "speed reading" techniques; my brain has to consume _everything_ in order for it to work (for better or worse). A year or so ago my neighbor introduced me to RSVP during a project he was working on, and my mind blew! He was (and is about to release) a RSVP viewer for a wearable device; brilliant!

Anyway, I'm stoked to finally have a cross platform RSVP reader baked into a content source aggregator (Instapaper) for the "read later" use case. I'd encourage you to try the technique out using a tool like or Instapaper.

So... fast.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Editing" Hardware

Yesterday I found myself "modding" one of my 12-yr old son's Nerf guns. One of his buddies had done it, and now he wanted to. We grabbed a bunch of tools/gear and sat down to hack away. I've built physical things from the ground up plenty of times. Following instruction manuals, or not, to constitute some sort of hardware (models (custom and pre-defined), PCs, bikes, skateboards, furniture, etc...), but I'd never really "mod'ed" anything.

My boy was using the word in a way we didn't as kids. It was weird. We sat there pressing play/pause/rewinding some other kids' YouTube video on how to modify this particular model gun to do some new cool things. The mods were really all about removing limitations put in place by the manufacturer for undoubted liability reasons. It was a ton of fun!

And they my son said something that broke my brain a little. He picked up one of the foam Nerf darts and postulated out loud: "I wonder if we can edit this dart." I'd only ever used that word in the context of code or content. I'd never even heard it used in the context of something physical. He sat there pivoting the foam in his hand, looking at it; wondering. Wondering how he could tweak this physical thing and "edit" it to do something else.

He's growing up in a world of 3D printers and prolific "mod" instructional tutorials online. He's starting to think about the physical world the way I thought about software.

Such a trip.

What's next?