Archive for May, 2011

Companies House Should be Free

Maybe it’s just one of my oddities, but I quite enjoy stumbling across a business and wondering about its financial health.

Companies House can answer such questions; providing access to annual returns for any incorporated business in the UK, at around ~£1 a shot. As well as satisfying curiosities, it can importantly help inspring entrepreneurs understand the viability of incumbent players in a market. Existing businesses can also analyse their competitors and analyse the financial success of their execution.

The charge isn’t much, but it’s enough to put you off from downloading a report on a casual whim. New business generation and increased competition resulting from free downloads would surely offset the meager revenue that the £1 transactions must generate?

 Tags: Business   Published: 20th May '11

User Generated Tour Guide Platform

I’ve had an idea recently and a few friends have suggested that it wasn’t half bad.

The ever popular weekend/short city break can be tough to plan. Time is short and you want to experience as much as possible. There’s so much information on the web that curation has become a necessary lifeline. Facebook is busy with people sharing recommendations. Quora can help you with personal suggestions from other humans. TripAdvisor gives you the aggregated opinion of thousands, and WikiTravel gives a condensed list edited by a select few.

Not bad. But whilst you may appreciate the recommendations of your friends or the collective wisdom of many, these opinions still represent the suggestions people not entirely like you. On the other end of the spectrum, Lonely Planet or an editorial provides the opinion of just one person. That’s perfect if your needs resonate with those of the author. Such guides also lack social validation and are quickly outdated.

I envisage that there’s still a need for a middle ground; a platform that provides access to a mass number of searchable, social validated, and highly-curated city guides.

Paint the picture. You arrive on the site and see a world map with markings for all the cities offering guides. Select your city, and you’ll see a list of guides created for that city. Some are for those on a 48-hour weekend stint, some are child friendly, others for foodies, revellers, and so on.

Delving into a guide, you’ll be presented with a detailed map, annotated with the recommended attractions, restaurants and so on. Maybe it even marks out the suggested route and provides supplementary information on the cost and time you can anticipate the trip to consume. Read reviews, closing times other pertinent information for each location. Hit print and get a handy document to accompany your trip.

Not wholly satisfied with the guide? Tag it, leave a review, merge it with another guide, remove some attractions, swap a restaurant and there you go. You could then share your newly created iteration with others on the site. All this feedback can be used to help users find the guide suitable for them; imagine going to Paris listing, selecting the ‘foodie’ filter and seeing the top 5 rated guides come up.

The online travel industry is a tough nut to crack, but there’s plenty of money flowing, making advertising and affiliate commissions the obvious monetisation route. Another option is to charge for the guides or solicit gratuities (taking a cut before it’s passed onto the original author) -but they’re always tricky options to pull off.

Some sites like the beautifully presented and curated allow you to build and share a tour, but it’s not a core feature of the site and lacks depth.

I’m surprised this doesn’t exist, unless I’m mistaken?

Update: TripWorlf allows you to build a multi-location trip and then compile it as a PDF with map, location addresses and descriptions. pretty much does everything I had in mind and has been going since 2009.

 Tags: Business, Ideas   Published: 12th May '11

Web Peeve #03: UK Nationality

It’s notoriously difficult to understand what is and isn’t the UK , but it’s usually a given that when we’re asked to select our nationality online, we’d scroll down the list looking for the United Kindgom. Frustratingly, some sites insist that we should be selecting England, Britain, or Great Britain. Neglecting which is more correct, the web would be more pleasant if sites were just more consistent.

Today’s guilty site was my University’s accommodation booking form. Even more shameful given that it’s British, or is that English? Confusing!

 Tags: Web Peeve   Published: 9th May '11

Web Peeve #02: Deactivated Accoutns

As a former employee, I’m somewhat partial of Commission Junction. But I get annoyed when companies decide to clean up their database by pruning inactive accounts.

Let’s be real; there’s no real cost of dormant accounts (data storage, administrative overhead, or otherwise) but it does cause a real pain for users. The risk is that I’ve lost all my historic data and can no longer use my main email address.

 Tags: Web Peeve   Published: 3rd May '11

Web Peeve #01: Unnecessary Captchas

As a webmaster, I understand spam is a real bugger. But sometimes the use of a CAPTCHA seems quite unnecessary.

eBay’s crime is that even through I’ve logged in with my password, have a solid reputation on the site and sent hundreds of clean messages, they still want me to sign a CAPTCHA on every outbound message.

Perhaps I’m being naive, but I’m pretty sure Gmail would be crap if you had to sign a CAPTCHA every time you sent an email – so I’m confident there are other solutions to their spam woes.

 Tags: Web Peeve   Published: 1st May '11