Friday, November 18, 2011

New Brew Release is Live

For the past month, some of us have been gathered here just outside of Phoenix pecking away at keyboards listening to a loud bird squawk for attention and a giant dog roam around nudging us with the occasional drool deposit, all in the name of Trip Hopping, it's been awesome!

We called it our Brew, a gathering of folks interested in inspiring free and spontaneous travel, this website is our outlet (and we also brewed some beer, of course!).

Trip Hopping aims to show people all possible ways of getting to where they want to go, searching many rideshare sites, buses, trains and hitchhiking sites and more. Built around this are other tools that similarly aggregate the best places to stay, things going on and gives you a better spatial idea of your friends travels.

Here at the end of the Brew we've released one our biggest updates, the site is vastly improved on all levels. We'll go into greater detail of some of the coolest new features in some later posts along with some videos, but here's what's new in a nutshell:

Your friends are your friends, so it shouldn't matter what service you've "friended" them on, you shouldn't have to start from scratch when you find a new tool online you like to use. That's why we've added the ability to import your Facebook and CouchSurfing friends and plan to add more services in the future. The coolest part of this is seeing them on the map or show up in searches for places when you wouldn't have thought to check for them. Kasper said it best when he started realizing how many people he knew were in California because of this feature, "This is cool!".

More ways to get places
We've added more rideshare sites and more transportation to our search results, as well as more hitchhiking spots and information from, you can even find a hitchhiking partner by searching or posting yourself. This makes it even easier to find the cheapest or fastest or most adventurous way of getting to where you want to go. We'll always be adding more too, that's kind of the whole point of the site!

More places to stay
We've tapped into more sources of hospitality and accommodation. When you search a place you can see hostels, hotels, couchsurfers, campgrounds and some alternative methods you may not have thought of. It's useful to see this on the map as well, many people will love the feature of seeing all the towns with couchsurfers along a route, perfect for scouting out where to stay on your next road trip.

See who's around and what's going on
You can now post on the new Community page, about whatever you want - a meetup, thoughts on a place, questions, travel advice, anything. You can tag your post with a location, say Phoenix, and people nearby in Scottsdale will see it as well. In addition you'll see public posts form CouchSurfing if there's a nearby group, places of interest (libraries, bars, anything you can type in a search box) and you'll see who's nearby, which includes your friends.

You can now add any kind of trip, not just rideshare. This means you can note that you hitchhiked from Berlin to Amsterdam and other people can check it out and comment on that. It's also just a click away to share your trips or ride posts on Twitter or Facebook, or just grab some embed code you can post on any site that accepts HTML posting.

You'll notice some other little features here and there too, we're loving it. Things are more stable as well and our code base is cleaner and much more collaboration friendly, I'm looking forward to encountering some more coder types interested in jumping in on the project and moving it along even further.

A big thanks goes out to Larry, Kasper and Laura who've played the biggest roles in the Brew the past month, and also to our friend David who made the labels for our beer and helped with other artwork as well. It's exciting seeing so much interest and energy being put into this, I hope everyone enjoys this travel toy as much as we do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hopping to Zend

When I met up with Walter Heck in 2009 at, we had a little brainstorm about a freer way to do rideshares. He also told me about Kenny and Triphopping. It took until Summer this year to actually meet Kenny, when he stayed quite few days at my place, I hooked him up with git and I started fixing some security issues on Triphopping.

My history with "free and spontaneous travel"... After some failed attempts I gave hitchhiking another chance back in 2003, quite successfully. In 2004 I found out about hospitality club, the year after about couchsurfing. In 2006 I started volunteering for couchsurfing, even spent quite a bit of time at collectives. In 2005 I bumped into a small unmaintained wiki with 20 articles about hitchhiking which we turned into Hitchwiki, now the ultimate world-wide guide to hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking is not for everyone - yet. So even though I've only successfully used a ride share website once in my life, I think there's a lot of potential. The main problem is that it's all over the place. If you're trying to find a ride in Europe you'll have to know which sites to check... Not so easy. Here's where triphopping comes in perfectly - you can use it as a search engine for rides from lots of different sites, craigslist, couchsurfing, several European sites and we'll keep on adding more.

I love spaghetti but not when it's in code. Or well, it's fun actually to try to see some structure and make that easier for others, just like I did with couchsurfing code. So I figured triphopping needed a framework. We researched a couple of options and decided to go with Zend Framework. Not for any particular reason but that it's widely spread, that Drupal would be a hard beast to tame for this, and that we can gradually move towards using Zend.

Now after a couple of weeks coding and geeking in a more consistent way we have a more solid deployment system, a slightly cleaner code base and tons of new functionality. I personally focused on the first things of this. Kenny worked on lots of goodness in terms of new features...

Showing your Triphopping, Facebook and CouchSurfing friends on the map

The next day and a half we'll be perfecting the last bits... let me end this with Walter's words about the version that'll be up tonight:

I must say that everything looks and feels a lot more solid and smooth and it seems this might finally give TH the kick in the ass it needed so much :)