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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Endangered Species: Travel Blogger – About Getting Death Threats – What would you do?

Justice Denied IPI

This morning I received an e-mail from a fellow travel blogger. The mail contained a comment of a reader who is not amused by the author’s posts, to say the least.

The comment reads [off course I have edited out the foul language]:

Youguys have nothing but trying s**ttiest to pick on someone else’s business website and whatever youguys are doing is such a bad idea.
I will find out who the f**k youguys are and hire some sort of vietnamese gangs to f**k anyone whoever are female in your f**king
family.
then I would love to see your f**kin’ head chopped off and have all kinds of s**t down in your f**kin’ neck, alright?
Don’t go around and do things like that and if I ever get to see this kind of s**t once more then since I know who the f**k you are and you better be careful…
Thanks for the co-operation…

Sic! This is not funny. What to do? Erase it as spam? My first reaction is “A big no! Lodge a complaint with the provider through which the comment was posted and the provider used as “e-mail” adress.”…but it is very easy to impersonate somebody so there is no guaranty the perpetrator will be found. Furthermore I would lodge a complaint with the local police.

So most likely it won’t help. However further than that you couldn’t go if you’re an average blogger on a small budget (smaller at least than the Landlord of my prior post who can afford to sue first and talk later). Maybe it helps getting it out of your system.

If you look up death threats in various search engines you get all sorts of results. At least you’ll see it happens more. Austrian based I.P.I. International Press Institute from which I borrowed the picture, watches over Free Speach. But further than noticing that journalists are threatened and even murdered and offering public concern. They offer no handbook how to handle threats…

The incident kept in the back of my mind and I decided to post about it. Recently another befriended travel blogger got a threat of a civil law suit and took a sabattical week to get it out of his system. I hope this helps my friend getting it out of his system. I also hope the community of travel bloggers offers some thoughts here.

What would you do?

Twitter and the Lawsuit Happy Landlord

Lawyer in Court
Among today’s Twitter trendy topics I want to share this little story with you:

An ex tenant in Chicago twitters about a bad experience she had with a Chicago based Landlord. The landlord sues her seeking $ 50,000 in damages.

The Chicago Sun Times came with the news. Mashable picked it up.

The sheep in Twitterville are deeply upset about the Landlord who allegedly commented “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization,”

Now, again according to Mashable, the Landlord comes with a press release:

For Immediate Release
July 28, 2009
The following statement can be attributed to Company X [name deleted ed.]

The response to our libel lawsuit has been tremendous. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify some confusion concerning the circumstances surrounding our lawsuit against Mrs B [name changed ed.]
I would first like to take this opportunity to apologize for tongue in cheek comments that were made previously regarding our approach to litigation. This statement is not in line with our philosophy towards property management and was taken out of context.

I need to set the record straight on a number of issues.

The facts that gave rise to this Twitter lawsuit were discovered in the course of due diligence relating to a class·action lawsuit first filed by Ms. B. [ed.] relating to alleged Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RL TO) violations. It is our position that this lawsuit is completely baseless and was waged merely as a pretext to address an underlying disagreement that Ms. B. had with regards to her apartment. This is a classic example of tenants trying to manipulate the controversial RL TO for their benefit.

No mold was ever found but her unit was one of several that experienced an overnight leak during roof repairs in late March 2009 caused by an error made by an external contractor. At that time. we immediately contacted all affected tenants to assess and resolve any reported water damage that occurred during these repairs. Ultimately, all tenant grievances were quickly and amicably resolved, except Ms. B.[ed.]

She moved out of her unit on her own volition June 30, 2009 at which time there was no evidence of mold in her apartment.

On June 24th, much to our surprise given her previous silence. Mrs B sued X, and we are currently defending this claim which. again, we believe has no merit. In conducting our due diligence into this matter, we identified B.’s [ed.] public Tweet regarding mold and acted to protect our reputation just as we would for any other related comment made in a public forum.

As you can imagine, allegations of mold are taken very seriously by our organization . We are proud of the fact that Company X [ed.] is recognized as one of Chicago’s premiere apartment leasing and management companies because we understand the importance of quality customer service and a well·maintained living environment.

We look forward to presenting our side of this matter before the court and putting the unfounded accusations of a single, former tenant behind us so we can focus on continuing to serve our more than 1,500 existing tenants throughout the Chicagoland area . ~

So there is more than just a claim for one tweet…. However it is once more a warning sign:

Be always careful what and how you communicate on the world wide web: The lady in question will shed some tears as well as the Landlord who made the “tongue in cheek” comment…. same counts for hotel reviews… I’ve read already about a case in Florida about a hotel suing a reviewer because he had insinuated the hotel was gaining from improper guest behavior (Unfortunately I forgot to jot down the corresponding links)….

Latest edit July 30, 2009:

Originally I had embedded a scribd version of the press release as provided by Mashable. However in checking my code at W3 org I noticed the scribd embedding code created a lot of errors while I have enough eroors to cope with already…. Now I copied and pasted the original scribd file.

Top 150 General Travel Blogs according to Invesp – The ultimate Ranking ?

Invesp Consulting managed to put together a ranking list of 150 General Travel Blogs without my (and Gary’s) help.

I’m excited. Ever since I saw Happy Hotelier listed on one of them ranking lists, starting with the T-List, I got interested in lists. For some time I’ve tried to keep up with lists of travel bloggers according to their technorati ranking. I’ve tried to combine same with Alexa ranking, but as I did it by hand it took a lot (actually too much) of time and effort.

In May I found myself number one on the Invesp Hotel Blogs ranking. I really hoped that they soon would come with a travel blog ranking and offered them help to speed it up. Then I could stop the tally work by hand. On the other hand the ranking and listing posts get a lot of interest. If you look at my side bar: My last year’s Happy Haloween post is my most commented ever…

We have seen other lists and comments as well: Many are of the opinion that a panel and/or public voting doesn’t reflect true reach of a travel blog. Let alone the mere technorati ranking or the mere Alexa ranking that I posted about recently….

In an update to this post I will analyze the list more in depth. In the meantime I decided to put my bragging badge in my sidebar.

Some Obeservations, updating this post from time to time:

  1. Khalid who seems responsible for the project blogs about it in How Does Blog Rank calculate the ultimate rank? and explains that they use 20+ parameters which they mix together with a different weight. Here I saw that Gary was also offering him help.
  2. In view of the already over 1,000 members of the TBex community, I have a feeling that 150 blogs is a meager number. Also obviously no foreign language blog while I know there is a huge Spanish language travel blog community spread over several continents
  3. I’m missing various blogs – Uptake – Velvet Escape – Lonely Planet – Gadling – Gridskipper – Hotelchatter – My Marrakech to name a few …and I will come up with more…
  4. With 150 on the list it is very hard to sort and sift through it
  5. All in all on first sight I have a slight feeling this list cannot put aside my tedious handwork…

What Benefits for Small Hotels, Inns or B&B’s offer Tripadvisor Guest Reviews?

TripAdvisor
The sheer numbers
I’ve not paid a lot attention to my own hotel’s guest reviews until recently.

First of all not many guests write in the good old paper guest book. Maybe 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 8 is my guess. Less guests are inclined to put their findings on an internet site. So by nature the small hotel / B&B has a disadvantage.

Would lovers of small hotels and B&B’s turn to large sites for reviews?
Although I am not hesitant to chalk my findings in a blog, I do not often file guest reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, Booking or similar sites. I do understand that many people are naturally reluctant to become personal on the world wide web. So although Tripadvisor has collected many reviews over the years, such reviews are far from complete. Especially for the small hotels and B&B’s who fail to get many reviews by the low number of their guests.

It is my feeling that even if you are inclined to look up guest reviews, the frequent visitors and fans of small hotels and B&B’s are not so likely to use Tripadvisor, as they know the small hotels and B&B’s are not easily findable on mega sites like Tripadvisor.

The possible abuse by hotels
Although Strictly Forbidden, it is clear from various comments over the internet that Tripadvisor reviews are from time to time manipulated by hotels or parties closely relating to hotels. Recently it has become public knowledge that Tripadvisor sometimes puts red flags by reviews that appear too advantageous or disadvantageous to be true.
The Asociated Press had an article on Tripadvisor putting warning signs at guest reviews.

Tripadvisor monitoring of reviews
It does seem that Tripadvisor monitors reviews before they are published. As per my recent attention I had asked a couple of guests if they would like to write a tripadvisor review about my hotel. They did so, but several reported back that apparently they couldn’t get their reviews published despite reclamations to the Tripadvisor helpdesk. Thanks to the kind help via their twitteraccount they were able to dig the reviews up from their servers’ vaults. It turns out that there is a time lag between someone filing a review and Tripadvisor publishing it.

The ownership and alliances of Tripadvisor
Expedia owns Tripadvisor and Tripadvisor collaborates with a number of OTA’s. That’s one of the reasons reviews at Tripadvisor pull people away from your small hotel site and induces them to book your small hotel via one of the OTA’s. But then you face another problem as small hotel/B&B: If you do not have a central repository with your room inventory from which the OTA’s can book you, you’ll be at loss. OTA’s want numbers as well. They induce you to give them as much of your inventory as possible, or refuse you. If you give them each your total availability without a central inventory of available rooms you will find yourself busy the whole day disc jockeying several OTA sites to open and close room availability. An other solution is you minimize the number of rooms you put available to one or another OTA, but then you are not advertising yourself, as most OTA’s don’t show your accommodation if there is no availability. It doesn’t seem to help if you are in the Tripadvisor B&B section, because there are hardly accommodations there. Maybe their experience in the new field of vacation rentals (appartments and villas) will help to cure the problems the small hotel owners are facing.

Mixed Feelings
From the above it follows that I have mixed feelings about Tripadvisor, even if every marketing guru will loudly claim that you have to have guest reviews. In principle it can help to make a small hotel findable. However it also can make a small hotel feel extremely small viz a viz the large chains of hotels.

An afterthought
Oh yes and when the lost reviews were up finally, we rose from position 14 to position 3 in The Hague. That triggers another observation: The Tripadvisor algorithm sees to it that older reviews are less influential than the newer ones. That works to both sides: A new highly acclaimed accommodation can get number one position with just one glorious review. I have had the honor myself in the past. The longer Tripadvisor publishes reviews of your establishment, the heavier your glorious past becomes:-)

You may have seen this post change over time…That is because it happened again: I pressed the publish button too early (-:

Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) becomes Unesco World Heritage Site

Waddenzee

This photo shows a large part of the Dutch Waddenzee (Wadden Sea): a large shallow water areal between a couple of islands in the Norh, the provinces North Holland below left, Friesland to the right and Groningen which is not shown on this photo. Right of Groningen it spans further across to Denmark above between the German North Sea Coast and German’s Wadden Islands. You can see the large dike (Afsluitdijk) connecting the two provinces. The Dutch word wad means a shoal that becomes dry at ebb tide. There are many of them and during ebb you can walk from several places on the mainland to several island. It is a real adventure and can be dangerous if not well planned time wise.

During its 2008 session the Unesco has entered the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) in its register of Unesco World Heritage Sites

Its announcement reads:

The Wadden Sea (Germany / The Netherlands) comprises the Dutch Wadden Sea Conservation Area and the German Wadden Sea National Parks of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. It is a large temperate, relatively flat coastal wetland environment, formed by the intricate interactions between physical and biological factors that have given rise to a multitude of transitional habitats with tidal channels, sandy shoals, sea-grass meadows, mussel beds, sandbars, mudflats, salt marshes, estuaries, beaches and dunes. The inscribed site represents over 66% of the whole Wadden Sea and is home to numerous plant and animal species, including marine mammals such as the harbour seal, grey seal and harbour porpoise. It is also a breeding and wintering area for up to 12 millions birds per annum and it supports more than 10 percent of 29 species. The site is one of the last remaining natural, large-scale, intertidal ecosystems where natural processes continue to function largely undisturbed.

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Herewith The Netherlands counts 8 listed World Heritage Sites.