Nov 3 2009
At any time and at all hours, each and every one of us carries multiple lists in our minds: lists of really cool, out-of-the-way places that we’ve encountered in our travels. It may be the coolest dive bar in all of Oklahoma. Or the best taco truck West of the Mississippi. Or this quaint little sushi place run by an elderly woman in her basement. But the lists are unorganized, illegible, crumpled up, strewn all over. Worse yet, there are lists of lists!
In fact, it’s only when inspired or compelled that we are actually able to access the lists to make a constructive recommendation (e.g. “You’re going to Cincinnati? I know a place with killer burritos and an even more killer jukebox!”) Otherwise it’s a total mess.
What if there was one single place were we could deposit all this useful information? (And let’s face it, finding a good burrito in Ohio is critically useful information) Thank your lucky stars for ResidentVisitor.
ResidentVisitor is a user-generated site compiling recommendations of – you guessed it – residents and visitors of specific cities. So, if you do find yourself holed up in Boston, itching for world class clam chowder, you know where to turn. And, from my vantage point, there’s a stronger-than-usual incentive to contribute. In other words, it is in my interests to post a picture or review of the best burrito joint in Cincinnati, because someday I’ll be the one breathlessly hankering for clam chowder. Call it “traveler’s karma.”
The first thing you’re prompted to do at ResidentVisitor is Search by city or Join to share places you know (it’s free.)
Let’s search by city, shall we?
- Currently, there are nine countries to choose from. (Technically speaking, therefore, the home page could say “Search by country” since the following page is by country, not city. If one were to get technical.) And if you’d like to add a country, you can simply e-mail them.
- Upon choosing the US, there were seven cities to choose from (sorry, Cincinnati; always the bridesmaid, never the bride); I chose San Francisco, and the one Place was The Fillmore. You can also filter by Category (e.g. Entertainment, Recreation.)
- The initial lack of content notwithstanding – and I’m sure that will change; in fact, I’d implore ResidentVisitor to start cranking out the content immediately – the process of getting to the Places themselves was intuitive and easy. This bodes well for the future when the content will be richer.
- That said, at the bottom of the Fillmore page, I noticed a flag: “Member Reviews are currently closed for this place.” This may mean I couldn’t write a review if I wanted to? If so, they will want to open that up.
OK, so back to the home page. I decided to join because I feel like I have some very nice things to share to the world (have I mentioned the burritos?)
The “Add a New Place” is also very intuitive. Name the place, city, address, and say if you are a local or a visitor. You then assign the place a Category – the list is very robust – its Website address, phone number, and any photos you wish to upload. Then you’re done. Nice and clean and efficient.
Some other thoughts:
- The Resources page, currently empty, may not be necessary. The value of the site comes from the reviews themselves; additional resources may distract from that value.
- The Blog page is also currently sparse, but nothing is holding ResidentVisitor back from adding content here, whether its traveling tips, how much to tip in foreign countries, and how to impress English girls with your Take That knowledge.
- The thumbnail shots of the places are a nice touch. However, as the content increases, ResidentVisitor may want to either shrink the size of the thumbnails or revert to text, especially since some places will not have pictures.
The Wisdom of the Locals
Now, you may ask, “How is ResidentVisitor any different than, say, those traveling guides?” Funny, I wondered the same thing. We really do have a lot in common. For this guy, the answer is localism. It’s simply impossible for a book to be up to speed with the new, cool places in any given city. For example, I used to live in DC, and a visiting friend whipped out her guidebook and highlighted all the wonderful places she was going to visit. I was appalled. I even threw up a little in my mouth. The Lincoln Memorial? The Smithsonian? Pullleaze. So I tossed her book aside and scribbled my suggestions on a napkin in a frenzied manner. (I mean, who needs the Smithsonian when the Dumbarton House, with its Adamesque architecture and Federal period decorative arts, is at your doorstep? That’s gold, baby!)
In addition, by spending time on the Community page, you can build a rapport with individuals who have similar interests, and in turn, more applicable recommendations. Currently, we only see the member’s name, location, and number of places they reviewed. By clicking on the member’s (Terry) name, I see thumbnails of the places they reviewed, although from what I can tell, I cannot sort by Category. I thought, perhaps, I could do this by Browsing by Tags (“Coffee”) on the same page (to the right), but instead of seeing Terry’s Coffee places, I saw the totality of all coffee places of all members.
It would also be cool to sort members’ “areas of expertise,” if you will. One way to do this would be to add a field in the “Edit Profile” portion of the “My Account” area. Basically, something like, “Favorite Types of Places,” or “Places of Expertise.” Could you imagine how cool it would be to find your “Burrito Shack Expert” soulmate? Heck, if that were the case, ResidentVisitor could double as a dating site.
All in all, ResidentVisitor knows there the action is: in our disheveled collective minds, where lists of cool stuff lay scattered everywhere among half-filled coffee cups, mismatched socks, crumbled up jeans, and CDs long separated from their cases. It’s a treasure trove of user-generation just waiting to be tapped. ResidentVisitor’s intuitive, user-friendly platform is in place; just a little more content and a little more tools for personalization can transform the site into an indispensable resource for travelers and residents alike.