2013-10-08 TravelTech News Review

Special Feature: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

  1. Why are there Still So Few Women in Science?
    The article presents evidence that often-subconscious stereotypes and biases are limiting the number of women choosing to pursue STEM careers. A key factor holding women back appears to be the lack of encouragement from people in mentoring roles, such as professors. Surprisingly, women in mentoring roles tend to exhibit the same biased behaviors as their male counterparts. That these biases persist seems to be linked to sociocultural stereotypes. This article and another article on why women aren’t interested in computer science both mention the popular TV show “The Big Bang Theory” as evidence of our cultural stereotypes. The character Penny, presented as feminine and attractive, has little aptitude or interest in science. On the other hand, the character Amy, who holds a PhD, is presented as frumpy. What girl aspires to be frumpy? Growing up I was saddened as each year, fewer girls continued in our advanced math cohort. When I studied computer science years ago there were more women enrolled than there are now. The best way I can think to change these invisible stereotypes is to fight them overtly, to mentor girls and  women and to show them that women in STEM fields are appreciated and are in reality anything but frumpy. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some impressive women over the course of my career and the experience has been very rewarding.

Online Travel Industry

  1. Options Away allows Travelers to hold Airline Reservations
    The innovative flight booking website OptionsAway.com brings the concept of stock call options–purchasing the right to buy shares at a given price in the future–to airline tickets. If the price goes up, you can buy the ticket at the option price. If it goes down, you buy it at the new lower price. The price of the options is very reasonable, ranging from around $5 to $50. Given the volatility of airfares, I had previously conjectured that such a service would be viable. It’s good to see that someone has gone ahead and done it. Options Away recently won the Eye for Travel Innovation Award. Unfortunately, it initially seems to be available for only a limited number of city pairs. For example, you can buy an option to fly TO Seattle but not FROM Seattle.
  2. How A Little-Known Travel Website Transformed Online Booking – Skift
    BookingBuddy was the first site to buy Google keywords to drive searchers to its landing page and then sell referral clicks to advertisers such as Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline. BookingBuddy originally might pay Google 10 cents and charge advertisers 35 cents. If users clicked through to multiple sites, BookingBuddy might generate a $1.40 in referral revenue.
  3. Big Travel Brands and Their Current Moment of Identity Crisis – Skift
    • TripAdvisor completed the rollout of its hotel metasearch offering on mobile and its global websites several months ago, and the results so far haven’t lived up to expectations.”
    • “Dara Khosrowshahi…says Hotwire will need to pivot, emphasizing last-minute deals on mobile devices.”
    • “…there are signs that the pay-per-booking model isn’t receiving the traction that HomeAway and its shareholders expected, and that growth in HomeAway’s subscription business has slowed.”
    • “Massive staff cuts are in the works at Travelocity, which will turn itself into a relatively small marketing organization…”
  4. Booking.com to power hotel reservations for San Francisco website – Travel Weekly
    Another high-profile agreement for Booking, which won a similar deal with New York City the week before. I have heard that the terms of the deal are not very attractive from a revenue standpoint, so it looks like Priceline/Booking are being very aggressive about gaining market share regardless of the returns.
  5. NYC Rules Airbnb Rentals Legal if at Least One Tenant Present – Skift
    “…the appeal board now agrees – that under New York law as long as a permanent occupant is present during a stay, the stay does not violate New York’s short term rental laws.”
  6. Airbnb celebrates New York victory, vows to fight on
    “[Airbnb CEO Brian] Chesky says for the first time that Airbnb thinks its reasonable for its hosts to pay tax. (Incidentally, city’s occupancy tax is $2 per day plus 5.875 percent of the total rent for rooms that cost more than $40 a day.)”
  7. Airbnb Is Not off the Hook in New York City, Says Chief Legislative Critic – Skift
    [Editorial]: If New York City really wants to build a tech innovation environment to rival Silicon Valley, it needs to reduce its resistance to business model innovations. Too often, bureaucrats and politicians hold back innovation in deference to incumbant business, labor, and residential interest groups. Such behavior has the appearance if not always the substance of venality.
  8. TripAdvisor Launches Its First National Ad Campaign Touting Its Hotel Reviews – Skift
    The ads are not bad but may be a bit subtle; I missed the rating bubble increase the first time I watched the first ad. Interestingly, I think the ads have some appeal for hoteliers as they suggest that TripAdvisor reviewers look beyond average attributes of a property and consider its unique advantages when formulating their overall rating.

    Ad 1: “The Vacationer”

    Ad 2: Room Service

  9. What travelers do after a trip? They apparently search for more trips [INFOGRAPHIC]
    ““While the inclination may be to target travelers prior to major holiday periods it’s essential that marketers are aware that travelers also seek more travel opportunities immediately after returning from holiday.” — Joachim Holte, chief marketing officer of metasearch engine Wego.
  10. Why Mr and Mrs Smith insourced its booking platform: Case study – Tnooz
    I would never advise a company to go this route. Mr and Mrs Smith co-founder Tamara Heber-Percy, a self-taught programmer, created the boutique hotel guide’s new booking system from scratch. The company has about 900 properties in inventory and reports £30 million in bookings a year. If I were doing due-diligence on the company I would ask questions like these:

    • Is the software documented and maintainable? Can someone else take over if Ms. Heber-Percy is incapacitated for any reason?
    • Is the system scalable?
    • Is the system robust? What failover provisions are there if there are server or datacenter outages? (In their situation I would probably use a cloud infrastructure, such as Amazon’s)


  1. Qunar files for $125 million public listing in the US – Tnooz
    This has the potential to be a successful IPO. Chinese search engine Baidu owns a majority stake in Qunar, which is growing fast and has China’s most popular mobile travel app. Qunar is the biggest metasearch engine in China.
  2. Chinese Travel Booking Service Qunar Files For $125 Million IPO in U.S. – Skift
  3. LoungeBuddy carves out a comfortable niche in airline lounges
    LoungeBuddy, which has only been available since the launch of iOS7, allows travelers to search, rate and share information about lounges around the world. The app has had an extremely successful launch, with tens of thousands of download every day.
  4. Liftopia Raises $5 Million to Bring Better Booking to Ski Operations – Skift
    Not just another travel-related startup, “Liftopia…brings hotel-revenue management techniques to ski operations and allows users to book and pay for lift tickets at home or on mobile devices.”
  5. Liftopia carves out another $5 million in latest funding round – Tnooz
    Tnooz notes that Liftopia’s resort management technology helped its business customers triple revenue in the 2012-2013 ski season.
  6. TripScanner’s open booking tool tracks unmanaged business travel – Tnooz
    “[Tripscanner allows] companies to control their travel expenses, while allowing employees the freedom to book on any travel website and get the best deal for their company.”


  1. Bill Gates acquires Four Seasons Houston – Travel Weekly
    No, Bill is not taking a break from global philanthropy to manage a hotel. This is just an investment made by managers at a company he controls.
  2. Online review research finds noise is biggest hotel complaint – Travolution.co.uk
    • “[Online guest reviews] for 5,683 hotels [reported] that noise gained more negative mentions than other complaints in all but one city (Cape Town).”
    • “[Elevators] were the second-largest source of complaints, followed by negative mentions about “smells” and negative references to air conditioning and heating systems.”
    • “For positive mentions, “modern” is featured in the top five for all 20 cities, closely followed by “location” (17) and “speed of service” (13).”
  3. Free Breakfast Is A Big Selling Point for Budget Hotel Chains – Skift
    Free breakfast has become a defacto requirement for budget hotel chains. Breakfasts range from the truly insipid (cardboard pastries anyone?) to the inspired. The best I’ve had is at the small Ayres Hotel chain in southern California. A chef cooks hot breakfasts to order every morning. And if you enjoy happy hour, Ayres has complementary beer, wine, juices and cookies in the evenings. What’s your favorite free breakfast?
  4. How Towel Art Adds a Personal Touch to Hotel Rooms – Skift
    My question is: How did this trend get started in the first place? It’s cute but despite the sentiment expressed in the article I doubt it makes much difference–I have yet to see a hotel review that mentions towel art. (Starting countdown for someone to email me a counter-example in 3-2-1…)
  5. Choice Hotels Leads Bidders for Blackstone’s La Quinta Chain – Skift
    Blackstone is cashing out of more hotel holdings now that the market is good.

Air Travel

  1. Dynamic bundling of ancillaries could be future of airline sales – Travel Weekly
    • “The next big thing for airline ancillary services could be the dynamic bundle, a package of extra features and add-ons that airlines are beginning to create for particular types of clients at particular times.”
    • Delta leads in this trend and has been talking to travel agents on how they sell bundles.
  2. JetBlue unveils pricing for Mint, its new premium seating – Travel Weekly
    The premium seats will sell for a minimum of $1198 round trip. Making a quick trip to JetBlue.com, I found I can buy a round trip regular seat from SFO to JFK for $344.80. At that differential, I’ll stick to the cheap seats. Another writeup: JetBlue’s New ‘Mint’ Class Promises Premium Seats for Less – Skift
  3. Interview: JetBlue CEO Hopes He’s Found a Balance Between Coach and Premium – Skift
    I wrote above that I won’t be flying Mint class because the price is still too dear for my budget. Happily, JetBlue hasn’t forgotten cheapskates like me. The same planes that feature the new Mint seats will feature an all-new coach section:

    • “Seatbacks in coach will feature 10.1-inch TV screens with up to 100 channels of DirecTV, up from the current 36, as well as the existing 100-plus channels of Sirius XM radio. There will be drink holders at each seat, as well as power outlets, and JetBlue’s souped up Ka-band Wi-Fi, which officials kept insisting brings more bandwidth to each seat than competitors’ Ku-band Wi-Fi delivers to their entire planes.”
  4. Why Can’t Airlines Just Add Extra Room? | AirlineReporter.com
    Passenger space on planes is tight because a roomier design, (e.g., making the plane wider) would add so much weight that operating the aircraft would be prohibitively expensive.
  5. Touring the New Interior of Singapore Airlines | AirlineReporter.com
    Working within the space constraints discussed in the previous article, Singapore Air delivers an impressively comfortable interior.
  6. Southwest Airlines fires captain involved in hard NYC landing – CBS News
  7. Nine in 10 airline passengers want reclining seats banned, poll shows | Fox News
    • “There’s the ‘altruistic soul’, who is considerate of others, and the ‘selfish ego’, who will look to increase their own comfort at the expense of others.”
    • How come the second one always sits directly in front of me? And they don’t ease the seat back either. It’s depress the button, then launch body violently against the seat back to overcome impediments such as the knees and laptop of the person seated behind them, thus achieving maximum reclining angle.
  8. Snake on a plane delays Qantas flight | News | Wanderlust
    This is not a dupe–this is the second time this year that a snake has delayed a Qantas flight.
  9. Airlines promise a return to civility, for a fee – Yahoo Finance
    “Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning. Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office.”
  10. The TSA Is Definitely Not Wasting Money on Fancy Videos – Skift
    The videography and editing of these home-grown spots is okay, but the dialog and acting are cringe-worthy.
  11. What’s the cost of equipping a plane with wifi?
    Between $200,000 and $300,000.
  12. American Airlines Announces Plan to Hire 1,500 Pilots Over Five Years – Skift
    With several airlines announcing hiring plans recently, the supply of pilots is sure to become scarce and salaries should begin to rise from their current abysmally low levels.
  13. Iran President Initiates Study to Start Direct Flights Between Iran and the U.S. – Skift
    Not only can you not book a direct flight between Iran the U.S., but due to sanctions, Iranian planes are not allowed to pay or refuel at European airports. The Iranians are pitching this as a service to ease trips for Iranian expatriates in the U.S. who want to visit their homeland.
  14. Delta to equip 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets – eTurboNews.com
    The CIO of Delta must like Microsoft. First Delta equipped it’s flight attendants with Nokia phones and now it’s giving pilots Surface 2 tablets.
  15. Delta to Replace Pilots’ Flight Bags with Microsoft Tablets – Skift
    “Starting with Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 aircraft, pilots on 700 planes will leave behind their 35-lbs. flight kit in favor of the second-generation of Microsoft’s tablet product.”
  16. Shutdown 2013: FAA Will Furlough 3,000 Aviation Safety Inspectors With Govt Shutdown – Skift
    It’s surprising that safety inspectors were deemed non-critical to public safety and furloughed.
  17. What the airline industry needs to know about social loyalty
    Nice summary of frequent flyer program basics

    • Mileage versus revenue based
      • Revenue-based programs are less generous, but reward usage is, to date, unrestricted.
    • Many modern frequent flyers value the attaining of elite status as much or more than free flights. Elite status confers privileges such as skipping long lines, boarding first, lounge access, checking bags at no cost and having a larger choice of seats.
  18. Texas Drops Out of American Airlines Merger Lawsuit – Skift


  1. 6 Billionaires See Space Tourism as Their Next Big Plaything – Skift
    Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, Larry Paige and Eric Schmidt are all involved with space related business. The difficulties of space businesses are much greater than for the entrepreneurs’ previous endeavors, so don’t expect all of them to repeat previous successes.


  1. Venice cruise ships delayed by swimming protesters | News | Wanderlust
    Check out the photo in this article from The Telegraph to get an appreciation of the scale of a gigantic cruise ship compared to a historic Venice neighborhood.

General Travel News

  1. Could a European joint rail initiative finally be on track?
    This can’t come soon enough. It is harder than it should be to plan and book rail trips across Europe.
  2. Skift Trends: 6 Characteristics of Independent Chinese Travelers – Skift
    A few interesting tidbits in what is essentially an ad for a Skift paid report. As a sector, Chinese outbound travel is shifting from group tours and the next generation of travelers is younger, richer, more educated, more connected and more demanding.
  3. State Department Works with Twitter to Get Travelers Information Faster – Skift
    “Travelers can now sign up via [a new Twitter Alerts feature] to receive texts and push notifications as soon as they are announced.”
  4. Australia’s Latest Tourism Video May Be One of the Most Inspiring Travels Ads of 2013 – Skift
    This brought back great memories of my eight years residence in the land downunder. Everyone would benefit from a stretch of time in Oz.
  5. Shutdown 2013: Washington, D.C.’s Favorite Attractions Are Closed – Skift
  6. Shutdown 2013: Furloughed Workers Signing Up As Tourists Guides, Sans Pay – Skift
    Kudos to the workers and their unions for demonstrating a lot more generosity than certain members of congress.

Travel Media

  1. Time Inc.’s Purchase of American Express Publishing Is Complete – Skift
    The portfolio include Travel + Leisure, Departures and Executive Travel.
  2. 8 Questions for the New Bosses at Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler – Skift
    Big changes at two of the top consumer travel magazines raise some interesting questions. The two most salient being

    1. How to compete with TripAdvisor
    2. Will the long-form travel feature survive?

Social Media

  1. Beware Fluff “Professions” Of Tomorrow
    The writer holds up social media as an example of a “fluff” skill.

    • “By itself social is not a skill, merely a meta layer for expression and collaboration talented individuals have used organically since the web existed.”
    • “In a world where programming is the new literacy, fluff skills simply aren’t valuable. Everyone has them. They’re not difficult or meaty problems to solve (as opposed to something like being a software engineer). You need to carve out a skill set not easily duplicated by software or one that involves more creativity than just common sense.”
  2. University of Florida offers Social Media Masters Degree
    “Does the University offer email marketing classes? What about SEM? Those industries have larger direct economic impact to businesses than social…”
  3. If You Look Good on Twitter, VCs May Take Notice
    Venture capitalists have begun taking startups’ social media management and followers into account as part of their due diligence.
  4. Marriott Australia Turns to Local Teens to Run Social Concierge Campaign – Skift
    • “Marriott Australia is putting a social media campaign in the hands of six teenage girls.”
    • They’re between 14 and 19 years old…
  5. How destinations should think about social media beyond the noise [INFOGRAPHIC]
    Trite but true metaphor: Social media and tourism go together like peanut butter and jelly. This is one of the biggest infographics I’ve seen lately and it has lots of useful information.

Destinations and Experiences

  1. Angel Falls Venezuela – World’s Tallest Waterfall | traveling epic!
    I have followed my friend Joel Oleson’s blog entries as he has traveled all over the world. This destination is incredible–definitely one to add to your bucket list.
  2. You don’t have to be a climber to be inspired by what this 90-year-old man can still do | Matador Network
    Incredible and inspiring.
  3. Traveling by numbers: How our obsession with lists is ruining travel writing | Matador Network
    This is so true. Every time I browse through my NewsBlur travel feed list, I several articles with numbers in the titles. Look at today’s compilation. I selected around 100  articles and depending on how you count it, 12-13 have numbers in their titles.
  4. Mountain biking Peru: 3 rides in and around Cuzco | Matador Network
    Looks like fun. Advice from the article on making sure rental bikes are in good condition rings true. We rented mountain bikes from our hotel in China and besides being at least twice as heavy as my bike at home they were in terrible shape. I don’t think they get any maintenance until something breaks. My brother’s pedal fell off when we were miles from the main road. Luckily, a man in a nearby tiny village lent us a hex key of the right size to put it back on.
  5. What traveling from Alaska to the tip of Argentina on a motorbike looks like | Matador Network
    Even if you’re not into motorcycles, you’ll get thrills and chills watching this.
  6. Creepy clown terrorizing English city breaks silence, says he ‘just wanted to amuse people’ | Fox News
    Anecdotal evidence suggests the creepy clown may be attracting visitors to the area. Could he be associated with the local tourist bureau?
  7. Shark fin officially off the menu in Hong Kong | News | Wanderlust
  8. Galapagos Islands have the Google Street View treatment | News | Wanderlust
    Check out the Street View camera backpack assembly at 1:23 in the embedded video. It looks like a prop from a science fiction movie.
  9. Update on Elephant cyanide poisoning in Zimbabwe – eTurboNews.com
    Elephants and the scavengers that feed on their carcasses.

Travel Photography

  1. 10 tips to shoot better photos on your phone | Matador Network
    • These are pretty simple tips, formulated principally for pre-5s iPhones. His advice not to use the flash may not always be applicable to the iPhone 5s, with its much-improved dual LED flash.
    • One of the best parts of the article are the author’s own iPhone photos, which show just what compelling images the 8 Megapixel iPhone can produce in the hands of a gifted professional photographer.
    • Quote from the article: “…these pocket cameras are always with us, which frequently makes them the most important camera; you wouldn’t leave a hotel room without your phone, but you might leave without your bulky DSLR.”
      • This is definitely the case for me. I drag my DSLR on trips only to leave it in my room and take most of my pictures with my phone. That’s why I recently upgraded my smartphone to a Nokia Lumia 1020, which has arguably the best camera of any phone. Its large 41 Megapixel sensor and Zeiss lens produce images with a quality on par with many good point and shoot cameras.

Denise’s Picks:

Denise Jone’s travel savvy, often quirky links…

  1. Starter Kit to Vietnam | Fodor’s
    People ask me what my favorite trip has been. Vietnam was one of the best, but very few people think to go there. You should! Here’s a starter kit. 🙂
  2. One in three pilots wake to find their co-pilot also asleep – Telegraph
    Today in “News to scare the crap out of you.”
  3. For Rick Steves, an opened mind is the best souvenir
    Local guy Rick Steves on opening your mind to travel.
  4. Tread Lightly on This Breaking Bad Road Trip | Roadtrippers
    I love Breaking Bad. If you’re mourning the show like I am, here’s a road trip to relive Heisenberg’s greatest moments.
  5. World’s 15 Best Brewery Visits | Fodors
    Autumn? Beer? Why yes! Note: Carlsberg is on my itinerary for next month’s trip to Denmark…
  6. 12 Must-Try Street Foods Around the World | Fodor’s
    I love street food. And, my #1 favorite is listed here…Malaysian laksa. Mmmmm.
  7. What’s Your Pick for ‘Germiest’ Tourist Trap? || Jaunted
    I’m kind of a germaphobe when I travel, because nothing ruins a trip like getting sick. I never leave home without antibacterial wipes. That said…I refused to kiss the Blarney Stone, and the Gum Wall skeeves me out.
  8. Frommers
    How does the government shutdown affect travelers? I hope you don’t need that new passport anytime soon…
  9. QUIZ: Test Your Memory Of Europe’s Famous Landmarks
    Fun quiz! Test your knowledge of European landmarks.
  10. Sagrada Familia Video Reveals The Final Design For Spain’s Beloved Monument
    Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona is amazing…if they ever finish it (they’ve been at it for nearly 100 years). And if it’s ever finished, it will be the largest basilica in the world. It’s pretty cool now regardless, but here’s a video of how it WILL look IF THEY EVER FINISH THE DAMN THING.
    [Note from Thomas: Coincidentally, my peripatetic friend Joel Oleson was just there yesterday.]
  11. Train Runs Over Couple Having Sex On Railroad Tracks In Ukraine
    And for this week’s weirdest travel death….

Privacy, Security and Fraud

  1. Feds Take Down Online Fraud Bazaar ‘Silk Road’, Arrest Alleged Mastermind — Krebs on Security
    “Silk Road” was an online black market for illicit transactions such as drug sales. The site was only reachable through anonymized proxies and message traffic was supposed to be encrypted. However, the site operator, Ross William Ulbricht, a.k.a “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR), made errors that allowed the FBI to ultimately track down and arrest him. A key error was to send a message promoting the site that included a Gmail address traceable back to Ulbricht himself. Ulbricht reportedly tried to solicit a murder for hire to take out Silk Road users who tried to blackmail him.
  2. Silk Road’s mastermind allegedly paid $80,000 for a hitman. The hitman was a cop.
    “The government says that Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged founder of the Bitcoin drug market Silk Road, tried to pay to have two different people killed in the last year.”


  1. User Expertise Stagnates at Low Levels
    Don’t assume users will discover features. Research shows they only find a limited number of mobile app features.


  1. 95% of air travelers don’t use mobile for check in, booking, or other services – Tnooz
    Finally, a well-done mobile usage survey that’s based on a representative sample of travelers. Although 76% of passengers have a smartphone, fewer than 5% use it for common air travel services. However, mobile is evolving so quickly that a combination of factors including more usable apps, better support infrastructure and increased user awareness could change usage patterns very quickly.
  2. The Mobile Travel Habits of Airline Passengers Worldwide – Skift
    This article is reporting on the same study as the previous one. It is not as useful as the Tnooz article because it doesn’t report on the representativeness of the sample; and without that information, it would be inappropriate to infer any information for business decision making. It does report some details
    Tnooz leaves out, such as the reasons travelers don’t use mobile more: that it won’t work (31%), that it will be incompatible (24%), that there are better options (18%) or that an app is too complicated (13%).
  3. Softbank announces the Arrows A, can fast-charge a day of use in just 10 minutes
    Who wouldn’t want a mobile phone that can be charged in 10 minutes?
  4. AnandTech | They’re (Almost) All Dirty: The State of Cheating in Android Benchmarks
    In July of this year, shortly after the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone was released, tech blog Anandtech published an analysis showing that the phone actually detected when certain benchmarks were running and it would increase the processor frequency and activate all its cores in order to achieve higher benchmark scores. In other words, it cheated. After further research, the writers have concluded the such cheating is widespread in the Android market.
  5. How Samsung cranked out the Galaxy Gear: The inside story | Mobile – CNET News
    It’s not clear that Samsung’s smartwatch will be successful in the market, but the agility with which the company created the new product makes for an interesting case study. When upper management decides on a course of action, the entire behemoth of a company pivots.


  1. Patent troll Lodsys chickens out, folds case rather than face Kaspersky Lab | Ars Technica
    Kaspersky Labs is my new hero. They refused to settle with a patent troll Lodsys and dug up so much prior art evidence that the troll walked away just before the court date.
  2. These charts show Comcast acting more and more like a monopolist
    Comcast is providing lower speeds and service levels than would be expected if it was participating in competitive markets.
  3. Microsoft Shows Surface Tablet “Blade” Accessories: Dedicated Specialty Touch Covers for Applications such as Music Mixing  | The Verge
    This is quite an innovative concept. A second short article describes a reporter’s hands-on experience remixing a Linkin Park track.
  4. Facebook’s Company Town – WSJ.com
    A few large tech companies have dedicated bus fleets to ease their employees’ commutes. Facebook is doing them one better buy building company housing.
  5. Freakonomics | Challenging the Bing-It-On Challenge
    The Freakonomics team tested Microsoft’s claim that users prefer Bing to Google search results in blind tests. The Freakonomics results do not support the Bing claims.
  6. Microsoft scientist says ‘Bing It On’ is no lie; Ayres experiment “wildly uncontrolled”
    I’m not sure I buy everything Microsoft scientist Matt Wallaert says here, but he raises reasonable doubt about the way the Freakonomics study was conducted. Like a couple of other studies I’ve commented on recently, it turns out that the Freakonomics study was potentially affected by selection bias. In this case, the subjects were recruited through Mechanical Turk rather than from the general internet population. It would be nice if someone not associated with Microsoft did a double blind study using a properly representative large sample.
  7. Apple iPad Mini with sharper display faces delay
    “Apple’s supply chain is only now gearing up to make retina displays for the iPad Mini, which means the gadgets could be available in only limited quantities this year, if at all, and the company may miss the chance to cash in on the year-end holiday shopping season”
  8. HBR Also Realizing Voicemail Is Irrelevant
    An acquaintance of mine tweeted this story and I replied that I think desk phones are a waste of money for many workers. I only use mine a few times per year. A quick glance at Amazon suggests that my handset sells for about $250. Assuming I use it 6 times per year and it has a three year depreciation that’s nearly $14 per phone call.

Algorithms, Data, Analytics & Search

  1. Stanford researchers to open-source model they say has nailed sentiment analysis
    The new deep learning model accurately classifies sentiment in sentences 85 percent of the time, beating the previous best of 80 percent in a field in which improvements are usually measured in fractions of a percent. (As I’ve noted before, deep learning is just a trendy label for multi-layer neural networks, which have been around for over 30 years.)
  2. Conversion: The Most Important Internet Metric of All (Revisited) | Above the Crowd | By Bill Gurley
    This is valuable reading for anyone involved in the business or technology sides of designing, building and evaluating an ecommerce site. The author goes through an exercise in which he shows what would happen if five leading consumer internet companies, including Priceline, increased conversion by 10% (e.g. from 6% to 6.6%). For Priceline, it would result in an income lift of 21.8% for an ROI of 3984%. A few quotes:

    1. “All companies should prioritize customer optimization [i.e., conversion improvements] ahead of scaling customer acquisition.”
    2. “The best place to focus your efforts to improve conversion are within the product itself. Conversion at its essence is a proxy for usability and convenience.”
    3. “Conversion is also influenced by effective personalization.”
    4. “Conversion is also highly correlated with a site’s speed and performance.”
    5. “…the larger your company, the more you should increase your focus on conversion. With a large customer base, you are able to leverage any improvement against a much broader audience.”
  3. Bye, keyword data… you won’t be missed as much as people think | By Billy Jefferson
    Important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) reminder for website owners : Google hasn’t been doing exact keyword/phrase indexing for some time now and it’s counter-productive to design your content as if it still were.

    1. “By setting a themed focus for each page, and not worrying about single phrases, you allow Google’s algorithms to do their job as they are intended. You will also find yourself ranking for far more relevant phrases than if you just concentrate on one or two exact phrases.”
    2. “…instead of stuffing a webpage with the same keyword phrase numerous times, you write the page naturally, with your theme in mind.”
  4. At Least 25 Percent of Yelp Reviews Are Fake, Never Get Published – Skift
    “Over 42 million reviews across tens of millions of businesses exist on Yelp, yet the company’s algorithms detect about 25 percent of them as bogus and don’t display them to consumers.”
  5. Human touch – Personalization can define future of the travel industry
    New technology will enable personalization that has the potential to benefit travelers and travel companies alike. A good source of data to enable personalization can come from loyalty programs.
  6. Unhappy Truckers and Other Algorithmic Problems – Nautilus
    This article concerns all the issues UPS has to take into account as it develops route optimization algorithms.

    1. Route optimization or “traveling salesman” problems (background) can be very computationally complex. “…solving a 33-city problem by calculating every route individually would require 28 trillion years on the Department of Energy’s 129,000-core supercomputer Roadrunner (which is among the world’s fastest clusters).”
    2. “…the traveling salesman problem grows considerably more complex when you actually have to think about the happiness of the salesman. And, not only do you have to know when he’s unhappy, you have to know if your model might make him unhappy.”

2 thoughts on “2013-10-08 TravelTech News Review

  1. Pingback: 2013-12-06 TravelTech News Review | TravelTekker

  2. Nice review, I can say a lot on both topics. First, women is science, at least in Europe, are not a rare sight, I’d actually say that they are more than 50% of the employees. But again, it’s in Europe and in the Biochemistry field, I’m not sure how the things in the USA are. About fake hotel reviews, I own a site for hotel reservations ( http://new-york.hotelscheap.org/ ) and it’s noticeable that there is a pattern in the comments, especially in the bad ones, but it’s the same in the restaurant business.

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