For Clay Shirky's class Conversation, Cooperation, Collaboration, we have to design a collaborative space online that focuses peer production processes and how users interact with each other and the system at large.
My idea is to create peer-produced city travel guides. These guides would be produced by locals, since I believe they have the best insight regarding their own cities.
Personally, I'm always excited when I have friends traveling to a city that I've lived in. I feel obligated to helping them have a great time in, say, Mexico City, given that I grew up there. For example, I want to tell them the museums they should visit (and avoid) - the same would apply for other cultural/historical landmarks, neighborhoods, restaurants, bars, hotels.
The one aspect I want to focus on is the serendipitous aspect of traveling. I think the best experiences tend to be those that go unplanned. For this features, locals would create 'serendipitous itineraries' that travelers can go on. Travelers wouldn't know the exact details of what these consist of - instead, they would pick a type of itinerary (i.e. culinary, arts & culture, historical & sightseeing, nightlife, nature) and would receive options categorized by neighborhood. They would download the itinerary via a mobile app, which would then take them step-by-step to each of their destinations. However, they won't know where they're going until they arrive at their destination. The app would use geo-location to determine when a traveler has completed a step in the itinerary and is ready to move on to the next one.
The peer production process is important because it determines the itineraries that get surfaced to the top, thus determining the ones that are most likely to be suggested to travelers.After completing itineraries, travelers can rate (upvote/downvote) them based on their experience. The highest rated ones are surfaced to the top, while the rest are buried.
I could see how some locals (for example, a group of people who own restaurants in a city) could use this platform to disingenuously guide travelers to a location/place from where they would reap monetary benefits. The platform is not at all about that, but about providing interesting, intimate cultural experiences for travelers. I think locals would also have a say in the itineraries' ratings. In a similar fashion to Wikipedia, I could envision a small group of highly active self-selected 'editors' in every city that are constantly checking for other locals who are trying to use the platform for their own benefit.
Locals who provide highly-rated itineraries would receive points, which later allow them to flag itineraries/users, and in some cases even edit itineraries. This would help weed out those disingenuous itineraries. The platform would also offer forums for locals to discuss relevant information regarding their cities and neighborhoods, related to new restaurants, museum exhibits, etc.
Here are a few questions we answered as a thought exercise for our design process:
1. What would an invite from the first 10 users to the next 90 users look like? What would they say? What motivates them to ask them to join?
The first 10 users would likely be enthusiastic city locals who want travelers to experience their city from their perspective. They're likely to invite their close friends and family to the site, so they can also contribute itineraries. They're motivated by their drive to make their city an enjoyable place to visit.
2. What is the short-term value of your site? How to bring people back?
The short-term value depends on the user. Travelers are enticed by the potential itineraries of cities they have yet to explore. This could even be useful for people who live in these cities and are looking to experience them in a different way.
Locals want to return because they want to know that their itineraries are being experienced and enjoyed, leading them to create new itineraries in different categories as well.
3. Describe a user's 2nd visit to the site.
A return visitor could perform a variety of activities. If they created an itinerary upon their first visit, they could check to see if their itinerary has been experienced, and if it has any ratings. They could also create a new itinerary, given they've discovered something in their city that they'd like to share with everyone on the platform (this could also be through the forums.
If the person is a traveler, he/she could be searching for itineraries, given they didn't find anything convincing the first time around. On the other hand, they might be searching for a 2nd itinerary if they enjoyed their first one, or perhaps they didn't enjoy their first one.