This is the seventeenth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we all can learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.
What this wiki is for: We are shifting our focus these next few days to consumer sites, beginning with a collaborative project called Wikitravel. From the home page: "Wikitravel is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. So far we have 8,293 destination guides and other articles written and edited by Wikitravellers from around the globe."
What we like about it: When I was younger -- and far more restless, but far less able financially -- I depended on budget travel guides to help me plan and navigate trips to Europe. My favorite was the Let's Go series, which was written mostly for people generally like me: recent college grads, budget-conscious, and open to a more-than-occasional detour -- a relaxed if superior attitude that viewed traditional travel guides as silly, irrelevant, and, most important, untrustworthy. In short, the Let's Go series played well to a large population of consumers who shared a common ethos -- "smart and adventurous travel ... on a shoestring." The community was very loosely defined, but it was real enough and big enough that it worked.
The world of travel has changed a lot since those days, in large part because the first Let's Go generations have grown up (looking back on old itineraries, many of us are saying "let's not"). But even younger travelers today are a lot more sophisticated. Along comes Wikitravel, a collaborative site that seems well-suited to the needs of any informed traveler, young or old, rich or poor ... provided you accept the new ethos: that the new community of travelers -- Wikitravellers -- can all get smarter by sharing what they know. In a sense, this site does for smart travelers today what Let's Go first did for young travelers a few generations ago -- make the world a little smaller by bringing together like-minded people. It reminds us of the Edelman Trust Barometer -- we tend to trust people who are most like us. In the world of travel guides -- there are so many -- Wikitravel may have found a great way for like-minded people to share info on all sorts of topics, including traveling with families, info on airfare, hotels, itineraries, dining, health, and safety.
What we all can learn from it: This is another example of how a distributed, volunteer online community might do a better job than a publisher in documenting the intricacies of a complex market. But the "trust" factor (discussed above) is another big takeaway. Private and public organizations can learn a lot from this wiki, which demonstrates the role that trusted communities can play in helping consumers make important decisions.
Also worth noting: Can I Crash?, a wiki service that "lets you lend your sofa to travelling bloggers." Talk about trust.