Web Watch

Online Scrapboooks Let Globetrotters Trace Their Travels

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, March 27, 2005

Soon you may be able to search your life history online to recall where you ate that fabulous dinner in New Orleans six years ago or the names of those two dopey dudes you met in Acapulco when you were 21.

TravelPost.com (http://www.travelpost.com/) has launched a free service designed to let people store and share personal travel experiences online, using tools for creating illustrated diaries and itinerary maps. Users are encouraged to rate cities, hotels and restaurants they have visited, information that becomes searchable by other users to help them plan vacations and business trips.

"Scrapbooking is a $2 billion-a-year industry," said Sam Shank, San Francisco-based TravelPost's chief executive. "This puts it all online where you don't have to worry about losing it."

Information that people post to personal areas of TravelPost.com can be kept private or made public. Either way, the info can be tracked on maps, timelines or regular Web pages. Tell TravelPost all the cities you have visited, for example, and it will display your journeys on annotated maps, calculate what percentage of the world's total surface you have covered and tell you how many countries you have yet to visit.

A hotel review database, starting with 150,000 user reviews, will be the next major feature that TravelPost plans to add and is slated to launch this spring, Shank said. It will be sortable by various traits of people who contribute comments -- such as age or gender.

Since launching as a trial in December, TravelPost has drawn only about 30,000 posts, according to Shank. Perhaps that's why it still feels ghost-townish when you troll the site for travel advice.

TravelPost is designed to be supported by advertisers, Shank said, some of which will pay TravelPost referral fees if users click through to book a hotel room or vacation package on their Web sites.


Here's how it works: Artists sign their handiwork anywhere in the world (on walls or on places that won't subject them to arrest, such as postcards) with a special word -- say, "nutcase" -- underlined in blue. They then e-mail a photo, audio or video file to an e-mail address at grafedia.net beginning with that word -- in this example, "nutcase@grafedia.net." Geraci's computer accepts mail sent to any name at that address; it then stores that attached file and will mail a copy of it to anybody who spots that underlined word and, having heard of this whole Grafedia idea, sends a message to the newly made-up Grafedia e-mail address.

At least, that's the idea. In the past, many people have tried similar forms of offline links leading to the Web, but none caught on. Perhaps it's because people get confused by blue links that don't start on the Web. Or maybe they get the concept, but can't understand why anyone would bother chasing down offline hyperlinks for a nebulous reward. Give Geraci credit for creativity.


E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company