Lonely Planet Writer

Feedback: Thorn Tree profile

One of the major changes we've made with the relaunched website relates to our user profiles. This is just the latest in a series of changes to our forums.

We started the process in November 2007 when we moved Thorn Tree to the Jive platform. We had no choice. The old technology was creaking under the weight of an active community.

The next step was to consolidate the various logins required to use Lonely Planet online. My patience snapped when I was asked to create three different logins to contribute to Thorn Tree, .TV videos and our hotel ratings. Bonkers. So we rationalised that about two months ago when we moved everyone into the same system.

Two things have been driving these changes.

The first relates to Lonely Planet's goal which has remained unchanged for several years. We want to inspire and enable travellers to connect with the world and each other. That desire was what drove Lonely Planet to create Thorn Tree in the first place.

I decided when I first arrived in Melbourne that instead of accepting Thorn Tree as a significant but semi-detached part of our online offer, we should move this activity centre stage. And build on it. That means, in the age of You Tube and Flickr, we should encourage those who choose to engage and express through videos and photos as well as through words. [I don't believe everyone will want to do that, but we need to make the choice available.] It also means making it easier for people to engage with Lonely Planet. That is why we have adopted OpenSocialID, which you will be hearing more about just after Christmas. It is also why we have started designing all our digital services with both web and wireless in mind. Again, there's more about latest new service next week.

The second driver was cost. If we are realise these ambitions we need to make sure we are investing sensibly. That meant reducing the cost of maintaining the various systems. As a result of the changes, we were able to increase the size of the community team. I am really pleased with our new Melbourne and Oakland team. As you will know from reading their comments they are, shall I say, a 'spirited' bunch.

I know we have got a way to go yet in this space:

  • as I write this, the Thorn Tree links have not been restored to the Destination pages
  • we've yet to integrate within Destinations all those great films on lonelyplanet.tv
  • I know there are dozens and dozens of enhancements required on Thorn Tree - we did not address those in this relaunched website.

This November 2008 site relaunch designed to put the new digital Lonely Planet on a new footing. In the coming months you'll see a number of further releases - they will be every fortnight or so - designed to improve the service. Some will be small, some significant. Some will relate to Thorn Tree, your profile, some will not. There is a release due next week. I'll update you then.