Hi all. I promised to keep everyone in the loop on the implementation of the booking tool, and now there may be an early opportunity for input. I've tried to think about what the best implementation would act like, but I have not been able to predict what may work best from a community perspective.
Essentially, after a user inputs travel info (say, airport codes to & from) and hits "FIND" or "SEND" or whatever the button will say, a new page will open. This page will most likely be branded with the booking partner's logo, but may also just say something like "Wikitravel booking engine" or something along those lines. In addition, there will be on-call travel advisors at an 800 number who can assist with booking and changes; they can answer the phone in many different ways, including "[name of booking partner]," or "Wikitravel booking...".
My question is, how does the community feel this ought to be handled, ideally? Once the booking button is clicked, should the Wikitravel brand be preserved throughout the process or part of the process, or would it be better to then see/hear only the partner's brand? Obviously this revolves around WT not explicitly endorsing any particular companies, but this is a type of consideration we have not yet had to deal with as far as I know.
I am meeting with our proposed partner soon; any input would be appreciated.--IBobi 20:32, 9 September 2011 (EDT)
The less this advertising is associated with Wikitravel the better, in my opinion. I think it's fair to say that all regular contributors would rather not see this feature added to the site, but since it's going to happen then please make it as clear as possible that it is not in any way associated with the content in the travel guides. -- Ryan 23:15, 12 September 2011 (EDT)
I agree with Ryan. I'd prefer to see as little of this booking tool as possible, and for it to bear no endorsement by or icon from Wikitravel.texugo 03:05, 13 September 2011 (EDT)
I agree. It's bad enough to associate our site with a particular booking agent; worse would be appearing as if that association is more than just an advertising expedient. LtPowers 10:22, 13 September 2011 (EDT)
OK, so I think what we're going to be looking at is a very stripped-down version of the page, then. Maybe pulling off the upper and left navigation boxes? Preserving WT logo but taking *all actual WT content* off the page -- all you will see in the center column will be the search results (air and/or hotel). I'll try to get a mockup up here soon. And we will clearly label the results "powered by [booking partner name & logo]". There will be no question that the results are *not content*.--IBobi 18:33, 13 September 2011 (EDT)
IS this envisioned as opening up a new page or tab in the browser? If not, I'd like to see a link back to the Wikitravel article somewhere. LtPowers 11:53, 17 September 2011 (EDT)
That's a good question -- I asked the same thing, and my understanding is we can do whatever we want; my preference is for a new tab so that the actual WT page never leaves. Thoughts on this? New tab vs. new page vs link back?--IBobi 19:50, 21 September 2011 (EDT)
It should probably go without saying that I oppose the introduction of this tool. The more our site looks like a cynical tool for revenue, the less people will be enthusiastic about volunteering their own time and effort towards improving the site, and the less savvy readers will be inclined to trust our information as impartial and sincere.
IB has plenty of different websites under its umbrella—why not simply make a separate hotel booking website and link to it from the right adbar? I really hate seeing the Wikitravel icon affixed to an unabashed booking site. That's just not Wikitravel—Wikitravel is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable worldwide travel guide. This muddies our purpose in a way that actively harms our site's development. --PeterTalk 14:29, 19 September 2011 (EDT)
I agree. I would not like to see the WT logo anywhere on the page at all because it's not part of Wikitravel, but rather some grotesque money-grabbing appendage that IB is forcefully grafting on. It circumvents the whole point of our objectively selecting and recommending lodging from the reader's point of view, defying the whole definition of "wiki" in the first place.texugo 18:00, 19 September 2011 (EDT)
Really, looking at it again, it's so blatantly commercial that not only do I not want the Wikitravel logo on it, I'd really like to see a disclaimer at the top stating that booking engine search results do not necessarily correspond to the recommendations of Wikitravel.texugo 01:20, 20 September 2011 (EDT)
By way of adding some perspective, this results page will only be seen when a narrow set of criteria are met:
1. A user has elected not to turn off advertising, which is optional and free without purchasing or indicating any sort of subscription or premium service;
2. A user has viewed a destination page, seen the booking tool display, and desires to book or research airfares & accommodations for their trip;
3. A user has plugged his/her travel information (to/from city, dates of travel, etc.) into the booking tool and clicked SEARCH, bringing him/her to a new page containing search results, with the original WT content page still open in his/her browser.
So, a page like the one displayed above will appear only if it is very specifically desired by the user (and in all likelihood never seen by anyone involved in this discussion).
As to the logo, I am not certain whether we could remove that from a WT page. I’m also unsure if there’s a way to implement texugo’s “disclaimer” idea in a way that would please everyone, though I understand where the desire for that kind of distinction comes from. As we continue to discuss implementation I’m sure we can come up with a reasonable way to accomplish the same effect, if the "Orbitz" branding, separate results page, etc. does not already accomplish that. I'll look into it.--IBobi 19:50, 21 September 2011 (EDT)
It's your site, I don't see what could stop you from removing your own logo or putting a disclaimer. That "narrow set of criteria" is really not so narrow at all -- all they have to do is be looking for a hotel : 1. a first-time user has advertising turned on by default; it's not some conscious decision unless you've dug into the preferences settings, 2. how could they not see it if you guys are going to smack it at the top of every page, 3. that's the search they'll likely try first, since it's 10 times bigger than our WT content search box. I don't think it even close to reasonable to assume that new users are going to automatically recognize that hotels listed on a WT content page are those recommended by wiki-travellers while those on the booking search results page are basically advertisements. It needs to be made plainly clear somehow. texugo 21:06, 21 September 2011 (EDT)
One could argue long and hard about the effects of /any/ content related adds on the independence and objectiveness of this website. I'm certain it damages the objective image of Wikitravel, but I've concluded it is (so far) to an acceptable degree, considering the obvious need to make money. However, if a purely commercial booking tool like this will operate under the Wikitravel logo, that will be the end of Wikitravel's reputation of objectivity and volunteer base. Surely it will take enthusiasm away for many users now (it would for me), and it will not encourage many new ones to spend a lot of time editing. In time, Wikitravel would lose the huge advantage it has over other websites with booking options and is likely to produce less instead of more income.
I'm convinced that the prospects of any booking tool or other commercial side-effects of this website simply depend on the quality and thus usefulness of the content. The better Wikitravel is, the more people will use it and the more will click on to commercial adds. Damaging its image just seems... unwise, from a community ánd a commercial perspective. Justme2 07:51, 22 September 2011 (EDT)
Also keep in mind, as we discussed previously, the booking tool box on the destination page will be prominently labeled with the booking partner's logo (as on the results page above), and will not look like content. It might be more productive to view the implementation of the tool as a whole, once we have it in beta, to get a clear idea of just how obviously "not content" and traveler-friendly it really is.
Incidentally, texugo, I completely agree with you on the size of the WT search box -- I've always found it to be too small, too indistinct-looking, and not prominently placed for such a huge content portal. Let's work on that too!
You're correct, Justme2: the better WT's content is, the better any advertising on this site will perform. By the same token, the better the advertising performs, the better we are able to provide resources with which to address future site improvements. I'm sure the community has a ton of great ideas of how to make WT better, even far beyond the bug fixes and tech requests that we have been addressing; this is how we get there.
I share your concern over WT's "image" or trustworthiness with regard to the actual content of the site. Without that, there is nothing here. We'll do everything necessary to safeguard that while pursuing this tool's implementation, and welcome community input throughout the process.--IBobi 20:17, 22 September 2011 (EDT)
I wasn't complaining about the size of the WT search box being too small. I don't have a problem with it. I have a problem with the introduction of a gigantic non-WT search box to overshadow it and take up the most prominent prime real estate of every page... texugo 21:34, 22 September 2011 (EDT)
I'm quite aware of the need for income, IBobi, and I'm not objecting to that. Not just because that's the way more funds can be made available to improve the site, but also simply because you guys are a business. I get that. What I'm saying is, that putting a Wikitravel logo over the booking tool would be a mistake, for it would damage the core advantage Wikitravel has over other sites. So my 2 cents of input would be to definitely /not/ put the Wikitravel logo over the booking pop-up. People will get there by clicking a button /on/ Wikitravel, they know it's connected already. Giving the impression that Wikitravel is "owned" by the booking agent would be counter productive, and I believe that's the main thing people will get from that logo. Even if most will understand it's not /content/ as such, it will be obvious that there's a strong commercial interest behind Wikitravel. By the way, I would say a separate pop-up would indeed ensure people don't navigate away from WT unintended. For the record, I'm not kicking and screaming - this is just my honest opinion on the matter :-) Justme2 04:15, 23 September 2011 (EDT)
Given that IB's MO has been to provide tech support only in the months prior to adding new revenue initiatives, I am skeptical that we will see anything different in the future. FWIW, I'm also skeptical that this tool will be a net positive for IB's revenues in the long term, as well as I am skeptical that anyone calling the shots there has a clue what they're doing. --PeterTalk 12:02, 25 September 2011 (EDT)
Other language versions
I feel quite confident that introducing this tool globally will kill off our small contributor base on the few language versions that are still alive (I'm not entirely sure that it won't kill our contributor base on the English language version as well...). I put a huge amount of time and effort into creating the Russian version, and would be pissed as hell to see the excellent contributors we have there chased off because of this. Our non-English language versions have very low web visibility, so it's not like leaving the booking tool off them is going to cost IB short term revenue. --PeterTalk 12:02, 25 September 2011 (EDT)
Would IB please provide an exact date for the introduction of the booking "tool". That way we can adequately prepare for the fallout. --PeterTalk 12:02, 25 September 2011 (EDT)
Implementation, time-frame, and policy
Implementation of the booking tool is slated to begin in March/April of 2012. This will involve a gradual roll-out coinciding with the sitewide Mediawiki upgrade, once that is determined to be stable (and we can begin addressing bugs and feature requests that are not alleviated by the upgrade itself).
My point of view, and that of some who have participated in this lengthy discussion over the past two years, is that the booking tool is not an *ad* in the sense of contextual or display advertising; it is a value-added site feature that is non-editorial content.
1. Under ADS LOCATION, change ”All advertisements are restricted to the right-aligned sidebar, which in turn is reserved exclusively for ads” to “All display advertisements are restricted to the right-aligned sidebar, which in turn is reserved exclusively for ads.”
The first change addresses the distinction between the booking tool and the display ads currently on the site. The second change addresses the fact that should a user choose to use the booking tool, a new browser window will open when they perform a search (this being preferable to leaving the current WT page, as expressed by the community), and this necessarily must be treated differently than popups, etc., which are beyond user control.
As previously discussed, the implementation of the booking tool is very open to input from the community in terms of behavior as well as look & feel. When the initial test rollouts begin, we’ll be taking feedback and will make every endeavor to implement suggestions about integrating the tool as smoothly as possible into the site, while maintaining its usability and clear differentiation from editorial content.
Please let me know if this seems reasonable and if there are any tweaks we should make. Thank you.--IBobi 18:48, 21 February 2012 (EST)
We'll move forward with these two small changes then.--IBobi 14:47, 15 March 2012 (EDT)
I reverted this change, as I do not see any community support for it. Please discuss changes to the advertising policy at Talk:Advertising policy, where they will be more easily found. Talk:Advertising_policy/Archive_2008#Display_ads addresses the fact that it is a community policy, and should not be changed to merely reflect IB's practices. While IB has demonstrated it will ignore community policies when seemingly convenient, that does not mean that the integrity of our policy articles should be compromised. --PeterTalk 22:00, 17 March 2012 (EDT)
Some time ago, at the bottom of Talk:Advertising policy, LtPowers kindly inserted a comment and link to this discussion; if you think it would be more appropriate to simply move/copy this discussion to that location, we can do so.
The intent and discussion of these precise proposed changes has been available for review for weeks, with no community comment other than LtPowers' link. This has been a specific attempt by IB (myself) to engage the community on this policy change in advance of the booking tool; seeing no opposition, the change was made. In no way was this an attempt at circumvention of WT policy -- on the contrary, it is an attempt to adhere to it as strictly as possible.--IBobi 15:57, 19 March 2012 (EDT)
I'm not even sure if it's worth noting, but if only for form's sake, I would like to state once more that this booking tool has not garnered the support of the Wikitravel community, and looks to be being introduced over the opposition, smothered by a fine layer of apathy and resignation, of our Wikitravellers. --PeterTalk 22:09, 17 March 2012 (EDT)
This has been an ongoing discussion between IB and the community for approximately two years. I have personally been involved in this discussion since last summer.
Reviewing the discussion, there have been comments in favor of the tool; from those who neither oppose nor support it in principal but see the need for it from a business/site support perspective; and a few members who, despite the notion of the tool as a traveler-friendly application for users of this site, are vehemently opposed to the booking tool - notably yourself, Peter.
As you've made clear, Peter, both publicly and privately, you are simply opposed on principal to IB's ownership of Wikitravel and will do whatever you can to thwart any new initiatives. Your opposition has been noted on many occasions, documented loudly and often, and is understood. Your contributions to WT are not in doubt and have been a boon to many Wikitravelers. If "support of the community" requires your personal assent, clearly nothing is going to happen. If it requires 100% consensus, no changes will ever be made to this site. That's simply an untenable position for Wikitravel, both before IB's ownership and since, and the community has expressed its understanding of this. Please put aside your personal objections and become a constructive voice once again, and work with us, rather than simply beating the drum of opposition for opposition's sake. For you to brand your fellow administrators and editors "apathetic" merely because they do not share your personal agenda is insulting to the very community for which you propose to speak.
Our stewardship of this project since last year has inarguably seen great efforts to improve both our relationship with the community of editors and admins, and the technical aspects of the site. The long-awaited Mediawiki upgrade has been in process, and discussed with this community, for many weeks. Several admins have stepped up and been a part of beta testing the upgrade, and we're very thankful to them for that effort; it has been instrumental in making the upcoming transition to the improved site as seamless as possible. Due to those efforts, the upgrade should be live within days.
Many longstanding technical issues have been addressed, and for the most part those that have not been fixed have largely been because they will be resolved with the Mediawiki update, or cannot be approached until that is complete. Again, the community has been instrumental in reporting initial problems or change requests, and testing the changes we’ve made to ensure the site functioned properly in their wake. When the Mediawiki upgrade goes live, we will again rely on the community to report any issue arising with this improvement.
The booking tool is a win-win-win. IB will likely see some additional revenue, which allows the level of support we’ve been able to provide to continue and even increase, which is a win for IB and for the community at large. And the average user of the site wins too, with the addition of a travel booking tool powered by a respected worldwide online travel partner.
We have stated that we are open to suggestions from the community, as always, on the look & feel as well as the functionality of the booking tool. When the booking tool goes live, we expect feedback and will do our best to implement it. We have already made a number of concessions, as evidenced by the discussions here, and will continue to have our ears open to any who wish to contribute constructively.
With regard to policy, the two small changes (literally two additional words) are an effort to ensure that the spirit of the WT project is not and will not change from its goal to provide the best, free online travel guide available on the internet, and that IB as its stewards conforms to community policy, proposing and implementing small changes as necessary to the running of the site. I believe the community would rather implement these two changes, which allow the booking tool to technically and completely conform to WT advertising policy. These changes may not even be strictly necessary; but they have been made in good faith, with ample opportunity for community review, and ought to stand.--IBobi 15:58, 19 March 2012 (EDT)