August 2010



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Travel. That single word sparks thoughts of exotic beaches, hidden towns, memories, and enjoyment. Techlife has covered unique mapping toolsmaking your own mapsfinding the perfect place to stay and more. Our diverse readership, You; often comment how much travel is a part of your life.

Meet Travelista (Techlife slang for Travel Expert) Anne Hornyak, who holds a Masters in Music; loves photography and travel; and has a day job advising Travel and Convention Bureau’s. We asked her to help Techlife readers with an education in what travel means in today’s super connected world of mobile sharing, bite size ideas, and off the path finds.

Techlife: How did you get started in the Travel and Tourism industry?
Anne Hornyak: I began my tourism career with Chicago Plus, a regional tourism office for Chicagoland. As a staff of one, I mostly managed marketing projects for the 17 Chicagoland Convention & Visitors Bureaus but also handled everything from finance to social media.

TL: What do you do today for the industry?
AH: I work mostly as a Social Media Strategist for tourism clients. I’m a cofounder of #tourismchat, a biweekly twitter chat focusing on social media in the tourism industry, and frequently tweet and blog about the same topic.

TL: Why is online travel and tourism so big? And how big is it?
AH: People love to travel and share their experiences with others. Social networks, especially Facebook, are perfect for this type of sharing. Many are also planning their trips, searching for the best discounts and then booking these trips, all online. Everything from Frommer’s to Budget Travel, Expedia to Priceline, Flickr to YouTube and travel blogs to a simple Facebook update about a friend’s recent trip…it’s all online. The travel industry is massive. Over 7.4 million U.S. jobs are directly related to it.

TL: How do you disconnect from the digital realm?
AH: I used to joke about needing a “social media detox” every once in a while but it has become rather habitual lately. Whether hiking in a state park or photographing lighthouses along Lake Michigan’s coast, I have to make time “off the grid.”

TL: What digital tips do you have for a traveler pre-trip?
AH: Research! Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers for recommendations and tips. Take advantage of CVBs (Convention & Visitors Bureaus) in your preferred social networks. Many of them are on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and have blogs and interactive websites that can help you plan your trip. Find them on your network and connect before you travel.

TL: In-trip?
AH: Have fun! If you have a smartphone, send photos and updates to your friends on Facebook and Twitter but be sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your experience. If you’re on Flickr, upload your photos regularly so you can add descriptions and geotag them accurately.

TL: Post trip?
AH: Talk about it! Create photo albums on Facebook, upload Flickr photos and YouTube videos, write a special blog post and add write reviews to TripAdvisor. Share your experience with others who are in the research stage.

TL: As of this question being written you had 3,673 Followers on Twitter who have seen 16,406 updates via your username “WhosYourAnnie“. What’s one thing you never talk about? Why?
AH: Tweets about my family and personal life are usually kept pretty vague. The internet is public and safety is the primary concern. I’ve received a few google alerts for random things I’ve tweeted about my dogs. I don’t need to give stalkers extra information.

TL: What percent of your followers and updates are related to your career?
AH: I would say that 65-75% of my followers are somehow related to the travel industry, either as travel bloggers, CVBs, or people who just like to travel and talk about it. Probably 50% of my updates are conversational replies, most of which are to friends within the tourism industry, leaving around 30% as content tweets directly related to my career.

TL: Is Twitter your main channel?
AH: Most definitely! To me, twitter is all about connecting and having conversations. It’s a little surreal but some of my closest friends, a few I have yet to meet in real life, started as twitter followers.

TL: Last question, Who’s Your Annie?
AH: I’m your Annie.


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Tell me, how I can help?

As a rule, the idea of calling or emailing a support service for help with a toaster, a lawnmower or your 1982 Emerson Lilac Purple boombox is akin to having a conversation with a bear at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  You know the metaphor, right? It takes a long time to get down to the bottom of a big endless hole.  Once there the conversation is pretty scary with you pleading that they understand.  More than likely you are left with growling.

Or there’s our way.

In a March 2010 Techlife column, we celebrated with you the reader how RDRR Labs was named a Top Android Developer by Google.  A few notes on this; RDRR Labs is a two person team including myself and a friend. Google’s definition of “top” was more than 3.5 stars and at least 5,000 downloads.  Nice qualifications.  But to us that was not “top” yet. At that time our most popular app, Timeriffic had just under a 4.5 rating and near 10,000 downloads and was available in a few languages.

We made an effort to improve. We added more languages, today we have eleven. We have added features and listened to our users and today have more than 50,000 downloads. Best of all we have increased our app’s rating to 4.56 stars and rising. And lastly we have gone on a customer service campaign and this is where the real magic has happened.

Our app is free.  We don’t need to listen to anyone. We want too. To listen even  better, we have a developed an easy error reporting tool to help us answer our users questions. And that’s where things get interesting.

A user reported our app was broken and would not work on his new Droid X. I should add his tone was more like we had stormed into his home, taken his Droid X and crushed it under our foot. In other words; he was mad. We tried a few calm replies suggesting various options to him. 20 emails later, the app was still not working. Now admittedly we didn’t have a Droid X. Could it be this one phone actually didn’t like our app? It was worth finding out.

Techlife reader to the rescue!  I sent a quick message to a loyal reader who had just been bragging about her new Droid X. She was happy to see if the app worked. She installed it and reported back it was great. I thanked her and now was really stumped. How could our app be showing errors so different from what was expected? I took another crack, with a long email detailing the steps our loyal reader had taken and how the app worked great. The email I got back was the key to the whole mystery.

Our efforts are exactly what you can do when getting or giving help. Stay calm. Look carefully at the problem from the user’s side and above all don’t give up. The email we got back detailed the issue and talked about a specific feature. A feature we didn’t offer! It was then I realized he wasn’t using our app at all! A quick exchange  and he replied how happy he was we had solved his problem. Case closed.


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