Dopplr and Tripit: Closeness In Space And Time

I travel a lot, so I have more that an academic interest in trying to find out who is going to be around when I land in Barcelona, or NYC, or London.

I have been using two services – Dopplr and Tripit – as two complementary sides of the travel equation:

  • I have been using Dopplr to keep track of where I am going to be with a focus on the social side: who else will be there. Recently, Dopplr added the capability to let me send a message to those folks that are in town, so now I can invite people to have dinner, or the like.
  • I have been using Tripit to keep track of the logistics side of travel, based on Tripit’s ability to parse the travel info from the various emails I get from airlines, hotels, and travel services.

The downside of this situation – using both Dopplr and Tripit – is having redundant information in my iCal. Since I subscribe to two calendar feeds, one from Dopplr and one from TripIt, I have the information about being in New York twice. I guess I could just drop importing the Dopplr feed, since all it offers is the city information, while Tripit provides that plus all the flight, hotel, and other travel logistics.

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iCal, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

The two companies are in an arms’ race, and one place that they are competing aggressively is in the area of closeness in time and space. One dimension of closeness is time – if I am going to miss Tina by one day in Barcelona, I would still like to know, to try to persuade her to stay a day. Another dimension is spacial closeness – if someone is visiting Palo Alto or Berkeley while I am in SF, I would like to know. (Actually, it’s more subtle than that: if someone who lives far, far away, like London, is visiting anywhere on the West Coast, I would like to know: there should be some two-sided function of distance working here. When the distance between the other’s home city and mine is great, then the closeness/sloppage zone of any near misses on trips should be large, so I will be informed about a Japanese friend visiting Rome when I am in Milan. But I would not be so informed if it was a SF friend visiting Rome, since in general, we are very close together.)

Dopplr is certainly farther along this path than Tripit. They have had the ‘ships passing in the night’ feature from the outset, and have recently been experimenting with closeness in both time and space. Matt Biddulph recently gave me access to a new closeness/near miss feature they are experimenting with, which works in both time and space:

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DOPPLR: a trip to San Francisco in January for Stowe Boyd, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

In the screenshot above, you see both kinds of near misses displayed.

Meanwhile, Tripit is trying to move into the social side of travel. Their initial offering allowed sharing of trip information (yawn) with friends, but now they are clearly targeting Dopplr. They are soon to release new features to compete directly against Dopplr’s social capabilities, as shown here.

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tripit closeness, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

Dopplr seems to be focusing on the traveler advice end of things, with the explosion of people offering travel tips. Personally, while I am interested in getting tips from folks I know, I think that is less of a critical area than the logistical stuff that Tripit is doing for me, on a calendar basis. I already have ways of getting recommendations for restaurants, for example, and services like Tablets Hotels do a better job of recommending hotels than friends – in general – do.

The angle for Dopplr should be more deep into the social: what are all the other things I would like to do with friends that are in town for the weekend? Yes, I might be interested in tips (or more likely, they are interested in mine) but what I want to do is to figure where to eat, and invite people to join me there. I want to get down to the neighborhood level – where are they staying in London? Its a big town. It still seems like a service for the serious traveler, but the range of things that I would like to do has not be satisfied with what they have presented. Nor has Tripit.

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