Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Understanding Your Own Limitations - Compete or Collaborate with 3rd Party Services?

Today I had an interesting exchange with the interactive manager of a large tourism bureau about maps. It was interesting in that they were releasing a new service called GoSeePortland and they wanted to know how they could work that service in collaboration with the SideStreet service.

The GSP service uses Google Mapping technology to, first of all, instantly access a huge standard database (but the last 3 recommendations I've made were new additions to that database. Interesting...). Using this technology, users can create on the fly tours that are instantly mapped out. Pretty cool stuff, and I will be the first to admit it.

However, that is not what SideStreet was designed for. SideStreet's basic assumption is that an organization has a custom map that, short of investing a lot into Flash development, they would like as an interactive part of their web site. By interactive I don't mean a "download" and I don't mean "indexed" (clicking on the map scrolls down to a specific section of the web site). By interactive I mean a dynamic information portal that enables me to discover and to explore and to find more than what I was originally looking for.

This is my first time in Portland so, please, someone, just tell me what the Top 10 can't miss attractions, to-dos, restaurants, etc. are in this fabulous town. I want the experts to guide me and then (this is important), then I want third-party validation from my peers (i.e. GSP).

But I digressed. The basic point was that SideStreet will take the custom map and turn it into the interactive "widget" that webmasters everywhere are looking for. Numbers are coming in from the first round of implementations and I may have to start using the word "uber-sticky" when talking about SideStreet's enabling technology.

And how is this relevant to GSP? We can actually build that content directly into the custom map. Top 10 things to do in Portland? All of which were validated by the tips and opinions of the GSP audience. I feel pretty good about what I'm going to do now (FYI, the Top 10 list involves a number of brewpubs).

This is where it can be really easy to try and take on the Big Kahuna, but, you know what? It ain't worth it. GSP can use Google Maps for all its worth, and you know what, to an extent it just makes sense. But that doesn't mean you can't integrate the content and have a series of social maps interlaced with maps of what the experts recommend. Heck, isn't that what they are being paid to do anyhow?

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