Friday, 31 October 2008

Dopplr: Joining the Social Network for Travellers

MySQL powers many of the social networks of Web 2.0. While it's great that we constitute one of the tools of Web 2.0, we should also ourselves utilise the tools Web 2.0 provides for social networking. Comparing myself to colleagues, I feel like a slow follower in this discipline. "Everybody else" is already on Twitter, has hundreds and hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn, Xing and Facebook, puts their pics on Picasa and Flickr, bookmarks their pages on, and has fancy blogs that are registered everywhere. Myself, I have been half-heartedly entering contacts into LinkedIn, I have mismanaged my Xing account, I uploaded a tiny amount of pictures on Flickr two years ago, and have now taken my first steps trying out Twitter and Picasa. I'm not even registered on Facebook or

And therefore I thought I would take a look at how to improve my online manners.

So what I'll do over the next two months or so is to take a look at both the websites I've been mismanaging, and the new ones others have invited me to. I'll do my best to fit in, but I'll also come with some subjective commentary on what I experienced.

First in line is Dopplr, the social network for travellers.

Dopplr Logo for Kaj mid October 2008

I got invited to Dopplr by David Axmark in September 2007. I didn't do anything with the invitation, as there were "other more important things to do". In December 2007, I got invited by Giuseppe Maxia. One would think that these two invitations would have triggered me to do something about it, but no. I waited until I had to fix a complex set of travel involving David replacing myself in Japan so that I could go to South Africa. At the same time, I was asking Giuseppe about his travel plans and felt silly I had to ask and re-ask Giuseppe only because finding the relevant, freshest email was too cumbersome. That was the trigger that made me accept Giuseppe's Dopplr invitation.

So I entered my basic data, which didn't take many minutes. I could then see David's and Giuseppe's travel profiles, conveniently available under traveller/DavidAxmark and respectively. Looking at the right hand side on David's data from today, it's easy to see when he is where. I don't need to ask him, nor does anyone else.

Next, I entered my travel plans for the rest of the year. Then, from my own itinerary, I noted something I hadn't thought of. On the way back from Buenos Aires, I have a stopover in Frankfurt, which happens to coincide with when Giuseppe is there for a meeting. If the stopover is long enough, or Giuseppe has extra time to come to the airport, we might meet just because we happen to be in the same place at the same time. And that's what Doppler is a lot about: Facilitating serendipitous meetings with people you know.

Next, I saw all the cool stats that Giuseppe and David had, based on having joined Dopplr a lot earlier. So I entered my 2008 travel, which took quite a while as I've travelled a lot and emitted carbon in a most horrible way. But it didn't help -- Dopplr still said I had travelled "0 km so far". All that data entry in vain! Too bad.

But luckily, the stats were calculated for me overnight, in some kind of a batch job. I now have a nice timeline, telling me that I've been more on the road than at home in 2008:
Kaj's 2008 Dopplr timeline
Kaj the squirrel
I also have learnt that I'm as fast as a squirrel, with an average speed of 22,93 km/h.

Coolest of all is The Dopplr Raumzeitgeist, which tells me where I've been for the time period for which I've entered data into Dopplr:
Kaj's Raumzeitgeist

If I had a cool web page to which I aggregate blogs and other stuff, such as Colin Charles does, I could paste the nice badge Dopplr provides me onto it. Either the small format (the first pic on this blog), or a big one, like this:

And this brings me to my first frustration with Dopplr. It tells me I've frequently been to "Nauvo". No, no, no! I most certainly refer to the place I've been to as "Nagu", not "Nauvo". It's a place with two names, of which in this case, I happen to use the same name as the majority of people living there. In the case of the second-most frequently visited place, I personally use "Helsingfors" (the Swedish name), but I can understand most people would use "Helsinki" (Finnish). And again, on fourth place, I've got one more place with multiple names. With most people I've discussed that trip, I've used the name "Wolkenstein", which Dopplr expands to a long dual name, "Selva di Val Gardena - Wolkenstein in Groeden". Better than just Selva, but still, not what I would pick myself.

Which brings me to my summary:

Positive experiences: Many, and significant

+ Great to instantly see where friends and colleagues travel
+ Great not to have disturb them with questions on "when are you where"
+ Great to get alerted to serendipitous presence in the same location, for my own planned trips
+ Cool to get all kinds of travel stat
+ Cool to see pics from Flickr automatically associated with trips
Negative experiences: Few, and all related to Dopplr Big-Brother-changing place names

- Very irritating that Dopplr converted names like "Mariehamn" and "Nagu" to "Maarianhamina" and "Nauvo", which are used only by a small minority of their respective inhabitants
- Irritating that Dopplr converted "Helsingfors" (which is how I refer to my birth town) to "Helsinki"
- Irritating that Dopplr converted "Wolkenstein" to the very long "Selva di Val Gardena - Wolkenstein in Groeden"
My own confusion -- no fault of the social network itself 

I was first disappointed that Dopplr didn't calculate my past travel stats, but happy again the following morning when they had been done
My bad conscience for my carbon footprint didn't exactly diminish
It isn't 100% clear to me whether it's in my interest to allow the data to be visible for everyone, or just my approved co-travellers
Remaining questions from my side

Will I have any real benefit from entering past data from years before 2008?
Will there be an easy way to enter many past trips in batch, e.g. over email?
When will fellow travellers allow me to see their travel plans?
Should I enter "travel tips"?
Will I find some benefit from using the data entry from my mobile phone or Twitter?

All in all, Dopplr was a very positive experience, and I do expect to manage my travel in it, and get lots of good vibes from it going forward.



  1. Hey Kaj; if you reckon you still have a "carbon footprint" with that travel schedule of yours, you must have humongous feet ;-)

  2. [...] Dopplr: Joining the Social Network for Travellers [...]

  3. Some of us use TripIt ( as a Web 2.0 social travel network, you might want to check it out and compare. It's great for organizing your own trips, at least, as it reads and understands E-mail booking confirmations from lots of web sites, travel agents, etc. I have found it very useful so far.

  4. [...] Dopplr: Joining the Social Network for Travellers Archives Select Month November 2008  (14) October 2008  (19) September 2008  (7) August 2008  (2) July 2008  (6) June 2008  (11) May 2008  (3) April 2008  (20) March 2008  (14) February 2008  (5) January 2008  (20) December 2007  (9) November 2007  (2) October 2007  (6) September 2007  (3) August 2007  (2) July 2007  (6) June 2007  (4) May 2007  (4) April 2007  (5) March 2007  (18) February 2007  (1) January 2007  (4) December 2006  (4) November 2006  (4) October 2006  (9) September 2006  (1) August 2006  (1) July 2006  (5) June 2006  (2) May 2006  (1) April 2006  (1) March 2006  (4) February 2006  (1) January 2006  (6) December 2005  (2) November 2005  (7) October 2005  (13) September 2005  (11) Blogroll [...]

  5. [...] social networking websites, many of which are powered by MySQL.”. So far, I’ve done Dopplr, Picasa Web and Facebook. More to come, with [...]

  6. [...] zu verbessern, teile”. Bisher habe ich drei Berichte geschrieben, über Dopplr, Picasa Web und Facebook. Mit der Zeit kommen noch [...]

  7. [...] eager runner, and a fairly frequent flyer. Thanks to Dopplr (a traveller’s social website that I evaluated last year), I know that I’ve travelled 283 659 km since the first trip I’ve entered into Dopplr [...]