Monday, July 9, 2012

Free to a good home: a big idea!

Thrifty folks with database and coding skills, take note!  I finally came up with a really good idea that's probably worth money.  It may well already exist out there, but I haven't found it yet, and because I do not have the necessary skills, and am entirely too clueless and lazy to track down people who do and make it happen, I am offering this brilliant idea up to anybody who might be clever enough to implement it, free of charge!  How's that for a bargain?  All I ask is, if you make it happen, let me know?  I wanna see it So Bad!

 So here's the idea, somewhat inspired by sites like Pandora and Netflix and others that use algorithms to "learn" your tastes and recommend things that you would like.   But this one is for my favorite thing:  Road trips!
Essentially, you start with a map.  With sites like Netflix, the more items a user rates, the more the site learns about the user's tastes, and the better it gets at recommending content, but the actual items being rated are a part of a pre-existing database.  In this case my thought is that users create the content, to a large extent.  A basic database of obvious places would exist to start, like museums and hotels and restaurants and major tourist attractions, music venues, hiking trails, architectural marvels, amusement parks and the like.  Users would start with areas they know well and start tagging, rating and reviewing places in the various categories.  But they could also add places within categories that the system doesn't already know about, and add categories too, which would grow the database further if something they want to tag doesn't fit an existing category.  As users in various places tag their maps, the system learns about the sites they tag, growing it's knowledge base and learning what each individual user likes and why.  Then, when you're ready for a road trip, you can check your destination on the map and get suggestions not only for where you might like to stay and eat and what you might like to see and do there, but also what route would take you near other things you would enjoy along the way, complete with descriptions and reviews by people who have similar tastes to you.  And if you were feeling adventurous and didn't have a specific destination in mind, you could even ask the site to suggest, based on your tastes, a customized road trip just for you!  How brilliant is that??  Not to mention it could help you skip places that would not appeal to you, so you save some money!
I admit that I'm not sure I'd use the site, if it existed, because I like the surprise of the random road trip.  Stumbling across things I didn't know existed gives me such a rush of discovery; I'd hate to lose that.  But I could totally see myself tagging, rating and reviewing places.  It would be a fun way to commemorate your road trips and share your discoveries with other people.  And I could definitely see myself poring over far-away places that I may never get to visit, experiencing them vicariously through other people's reviews.  
Oh, and just for fun, I've got suggestions for what to name the site, because that's the only part I actually could do myself!  How about Meander?  Or Wanderlike?  Or, inspired by the late great Yogi Berra, something like this?:
Cute, right?  See a fork in da road?  Take it!

And now all I can think about is wandering off down the road to see what I can see!  Wanna go?

My good friend Hank HeadRoom (the Chevy HHR)  on my most recent wander.

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