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TripIt - adding structure, one journey at a time

Image representing TripIt as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

TripIt is one of those web applications upon which I have really come to rely. Like Tungle, it sets about reducing the pain of dealing with the admin behind a boring, repetitive, frustrating yet necessary part of my work.

For Tungle, as I’ve said before, that task is meeting scheduling. For TripIt, it’s organising and tracking the various elements of my travel arrangements. Not only does TripIt reduce the hassle, but it does this in an understated fashion that doesn’t impact adversely upon my workflow; and in the process it adds value so that I end up with less pain, less wasted time… and more valuable information.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak recently with TripIt co-founder and VP of Engineering, Andy Denmark. The result has just been released as one of my podcasts.

Production of this podcast was supported by Talis, and show notes are available on their Nodalities blog.

By simply forwarding all those automated booking confirmation messages from airlines, hotels, rail companies and car rental sites to TripIt, the site builds an itinerary and makes it available for synchronisation to your calendar. It does all that in less time than it would take to enter the details yourself, whilst also storing a copy online, making it available for sharing with your network via LinkedIn, a blog plugin, etc, and automatically adding additional information such as the weather forecast at your destination, directions from the car rental location to your hotel, and more.

A TripIt itinerary displayed on the iPhonePersonally, I find that the biggest advantage is simply building the itinerary and getting it into iCal quickly, accurately and painlessly. It’s also useful to be able to share flight arrival times, hotel phone numbers etc with family, should they ever need them.

TripIt recently introduced a premium service with some additional features, which I have yet to try.

Behind the scenes, TripIt is drawing upon a wealth of structured data scattered across the Web. It is also doing a lot, internally, to add structure to the free text of those booking emails, and sometimes it is more successful at this than others.

With Yahoo! SearchMonkey and recent announcements from Google likely to drive an explosion in more structured data on the Web, TripIt perhaps shows us a small glimpse of what might become commonplace; dedicated vertical apps mining our online presence to enrich, add value, and make our lives easier in small but important ways. I’d argue that building the next generation of these applications will be even easier, as increased public scrutiny leads to cleaner, richer data with which to work, and ever-more APIs from the Web’s Platform companies sees application builders increasingly able to stand, with ease, upon the shoulders of those giants. I look forward to finding out.

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Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database.

He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.