Wouter Blog

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." - Confucius
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Want to be really independent? Join #Startupbootcamp and be your own boss by the next #4thofJuly JOIN NOW http://thndr.it/1sqVF9K

Yahoo Aviate: The Intelligent Homescreen that Simplifies Your Phone

yahooaviate:

By Mark Daiss, Product Manager

We created Aviate to connect you with the information you need at the moment it’s useful. Since joining Yahoo in January, we’ve learned a lot from our beta user community about how to deliver a simple, intelligent mobile experience. Today, we’re psyched to launch…

Finally Aviate is available for everyone! Been a happy user for a year now. Great interface, useful apps there whenever you need them based on location and time. Check it out!

Nest Protect: Another Unloved Appliance, Reborn

pogueman:

Tony Fadell! You’ve just spent 18 years at Apple, designed the iPod, and changed the world! What are you going to do now?

The answer, evidently, was “reinvent the thermostat.” Fadell founded Nest, created the Nest Internet-connected thermostat—the one that sets itself by observing the patterns…

I wish I could buy the Nest thermostat in the Netherlands. Instead I now have Toon, from energy co. Eneco. It’s not as smart as Nest but shows me the bleeders nevertheless.

Now the former Apple designer comes with Protect, a very cool fire alarm I will definitely buy next time I’m in the US!

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”

So you want to know what it’s like with 4?

Usually you will find stuff about travel and online on my blog, with some exceptions. Not that the other stuff in my live isn’t blogfähig, I just chose to keep it professional. As many friend, family and colleagues ask me what live is like with 4 kids, I thought let’s write about an average day. So let me know if this post amuses you might see more of it. :)

Once every two weeks my better half Anneloes leaves for her work and returns 3-5 days later. As you might have guessed, her employer is KLM and she’s a flight attendant. Her routes are intercontinental as she works in business class only (KLM doesn’t have business class in EU anymore). In the before-children era (BC) the arrival of her schedule meant  a choice for me to join her either on a weekend partying in Hong Kong, 3 days wine tasting in Cape Town or a week of diving on Bonaire. After the Daltons (AD) it meant: is it in the weekend yes/no? In case of no: is it on our regular kindergarten days, is a babysitter or grandpa/ma available? In case all above are no, I take the day off.

This weekend was one of those single daddy weekends, which I absolutely love! Because you’re left to your own devices to do the job of caretaker, I am there for them 100%. Normally you find some unguarded moment to tweet, post or mail because the partner will probably keep an eye out, this weekend I’m at their full disposal. The key for me is to do a lot of stuff with them. Staying at home usually implies me having to play judge Dredd all day. So we cycle a lot, we have one of those all Dutch ‘bakfietsen’ which fits all four. Touring the vicinity visiting windmills and eating pancakes or wentelteefjes in child friendly places easily takes until naptime. Another one of our favorites is Artis the Zoo in Amsterdam, we’re a member and can go as often as we like.

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Today was an Artis day, so I got up with my daily alarm clock: Bram (5yo who likes to wake daddy by plucking his eyebrows, somewhere between 6:00-6:30AM). As he selects his app of choice (Youtube, Angrybirds, Flightcontrol or one of the toddler TV apps) I fix him breakfast, as well as lunch to go for all 4. Thijmen (3yo) shouts, I run upstairs to fetch him in order for the girls not to be woken up. He joins Bram behind the iPad (reluctantly accepting that Bram’s choice is what will be watched) and I make him a bottle of porridge and a sandwich. A moment of peace in which I Flipboard my way through breakfast. I hear the girls are waking up and make their bottles, toss one at Floor (2yo) and feed Lotte (1yo) the other. I get them dressed and the boys downstairs as well (+1 for Bram who can do this himself, if you remind him every minute that is). I put the girls in their high chairs behind the other iPad (not a common thing but sometimes it’s so nice not to have an audience for your morning ritual) as my mom swings by to take Bram to swimming class. Just when I shampooed my hair, Thijmen enters the bathroom to tell me he switched off both iPads and is ready for ‘a #2’. (+1 for Thijmen to be potty trained, -1 for not being able to pull his pants down and mount the porcelain throne) I cut the shower short and help the little fellow out, before shit hits the fan (or boxer short in this case). While he’s sitting comfortably, I rush down to press play again on the iPad to keep the ladies quiet. Finally we’re all dressed and almost good to go. I unleash the girls from the chairs to play until I’m done packing all the diapers, hankies, drinks, sandwiches, Artis passes, etc. Suddenly I lear BOOM. Lotte lies flat under the table and is silent. This frightens me because a normal boom is followed by a 1 min cry. While I pick her up she gasps for air, I check all vital signs, the limbs on movement, eyes on focus. Meanwhile I scan the perimeter for clues what happened. Thijmen is so caught up in his iPad that he couldn’t have been involved or seen a thing.  He wouldn’t  even have noticed if Santa dropped by for presents. I see a pieced of  chewed up apple on the ground and one piece on the table, so probably Lotte mounted the table via her high chair, snatched the apple, tried to descend again, slipped and went flat out spitting the apple out. Her age is a risky one, she does not see any danger, yet has the power to climb all furniture. As I lie Lotte down on the couch, she quickly recuperates so I no emergency room thankfully. Must have been a hell of a fall because this is the first time she stays put on the couch for 5 minutes.
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Whilst I’m done packing the bus (Chrysler Voyager), Bram returns from swim class and we’re off. 10AM at Artis, I’m pretty proud beating the crowd. Two ladies in the stroller, two gents with the rickshaw-alike cart. This is my quiet time, the animals and raskals keep each other pretty busy. As I come here bi-weekly, the most interesting animals to me are the uncontained mammals. I love spying on other parents to confirm I’m not doing that bad of a job, considering I’m outnumbered severely. They spy back at me and challenge their spouse why they’re so busy with 2 kids while that guy can be so relaxed with 4 kids. My kids guide me passed their favorite animals; the Madagascar dancing squad, the smelly penguins, the agile sea lions, the butterflies. We have lunch, they squander off to the playground, I keep counting to 4 in order to keep track of them. My fearless Freggle Floor climbs the highest slides and pulls along her sibling Bram who would have never done it without her example. Thijmen prefers to welcome all the kids at the end of the slide. Lotte keeps dad company with a cold beverage and a snack. We leave in time for Lotte’s nap (which starts in the car and ends in her bed) and head home.

In the car Bram keeps me busy with all kinds of questions (what’s closer home or the zoo? I see 10 windmills, and you? This is where we ran out of gas 4 years ago, right?), continuously. Suddenly the car starts vibrating, a flat tire. On the rim I steer my way to a gas station that is conveniently up ahead and call my parents to keep the kids busy while I change the tire. We continue our way home safely. I love my parents and I love living around the corner from their house. It makes life so much easier that they take the boys while Lotte sleeps. As Floor plays in the treehouse I make use of the quiet moment and start writing this post. The joy was short lived, as my grandmother and her partner (together 183 years) unexpectedly dropped by to say hi and see their great grand children. Between the talks with them I cook dinner, get Lotte out of bed and keep an eye on both girls. My grandma usually can take an hour of the activity in my house and leaves when the boys return for dinner. A meal with the kids will not be consumed with a lot of taste. Most important thing is that you have a full stomach again to run the last few miles until bed time. Meanwhilst I’m feeding Lotte, making sure Floor doesn’t put her dish in her hair, Thijmen actually swallows something and Bram stays put. No matter how well prepared you are for dinner, kids will find for something to ask that’s not on the table.
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The final sprint: divide and conquer. The key to survive the last and most challenging part of the day (as all are exhausted and contrary to one might think, hyperactive) is to put two behind the telly and take the other two upstairs for the evening ritual (bathing, pj’s, bottle, tooth brushing, story). Only when Lotte is in bed I invite the boys up, this way I avoid havoc and  enable myself to run that last mile with a smile. I read a bedtime story with as many weird voices as I can think of and carry them to bed on my back. (no hernia yet, lucky to be a relatively young dad)

My body yearns for bed, I have to fight the urge to hit the sack with them at 8pm. The moment I realize they’re all asleep is one of pure bliss and victory for having exerted them enough. Strangely the freedom that follows lifts the energy level again to stay up until midnight which I regret the following morning at 6am when Bram plucks my brow again.  

PS: after posting this to Twitter, Ilonka tweeted me this post. A must read for any parent of small children. You are not alone. :)

Sergey is Bruce Wayne, and I’m Lucius Fox.

—Astro Teller, speaking to Brad Stone for his in-depth look into Google [x]. (via parislemon)

Inside the department of moonshots…Bloomberg interviews Astro Teller (named Eric, until college; his spikey haircut resembled artificial grass)

Hitchhiker’s guide to online travel planning

Some say booking a trip online feels like homework. By navigating these sites and apps in the 5 stages of travel, it feels to me like the fun already started. 

Dreaming

Good old Pinterest, Gogobot  and even Quora can start a daydream and make my bucket list grow. Twice Twitter has inspired me so much it made me actually book. I tweeted: “Where to go for a long weekend away with the kids, not too far?” @Ronnieovergoor shared his experiences with the Dutch isle Vlieland and a few weeks later I had a fantastic time (despite the weather) in this place. Later that year I wanted to go diving with a friend, I turned to Twitter again via the question “Who has good experiences with liveaboard dive cruises?” and Neil Gosh of Original Diving replied with great options. We booked a great week of wreck diving through him and had an awesome experience. This year, after some extensive Googling (glamping, small children on specific regions), I booked this place and shared it on twitter. Both a colleague and a Tweep booked it after seeing the tweet.

Planning

The previous twitter examples could not be answered by any website, I would have had to sift through numerous reviews, blogs and providers to come to a decision. This is why the quest for the perfect holiday feels so much like homework, it only becomes easy if you know where you want to go and preferably when. For this I use sites like HotelFinder, Hipmunk, TripAdvisor, Kayak, or online travel agents (OTA) like Booking and Easytobook. (filter by travel type, budget and reviews to create a short list). A site that is actually working on semantic search (“family vacation 2 hour flight from Amsterdam beach”) is Hopper (still in closed beta). I can’t wait to see it live! When you’re going to be visiting multiple destinations, a personalized Google map can be very handy.

Booking

Despite (or perhaps because of) my OTA background, I always check the site of the accommodation itself for early booking discounts or packages. When looking for a flight through an airliner’s site, always be careful the price isn’t raised based on your cookie. Just use anonymous browsing or delete cookies to be sure.

Experiencing

Both attractions and undiscovered gems I find on Gogobot, Dusk, Gidsy (recently acquired by Getyourguide). Also travelblogs, like the one of my former colleagues, who come from all over the world, are a great sourcing ground. For restaurants I mostly use Foursquare (exploratory mode according to your friends is great!) or TripAdvisor. During the trip I use Concur and Tripit for my flight / hotel itinerary / expensing and Foursquare lists of to do’s. On Spotify offline I play my favorite music, I download movies on the ipad to keep the 4 kids quiet in the air. The KLM houses app allows me to check my Delft blue house collection before picking a new one. (Not that I dare to fly business class with my brady bunch…) The Star Walk app is great for those polution free places where you can actually see the milkyway. Booking a taxi to Schiphol airport I use Tinker, best price and nice personal touch. 

Sharing

With Instagram / ​​Snapseed I make my shots just a little nicer and share them on Twitter (public), Facebook (former colleagues, family, friends) and Google+ (limited circles or directly emailed to my relatives that are social media averse). I share my Google Latitude (which is unfortunately soon to be deprecated) location. Foursquare is linked to Gogobot which makes it very easy to update. I create city passports in Gogobot that are ideal to give tips about places I’ve been. Also it’s like a travel memory (What was the name of that nice restaurant again?)

Did I miss any great apps/sites for travel planning?

 

This article has been posted in Dutch on Travelnext.

AirBnB believes in market place to solve acco quality issues. #travelnext

Airbnb’s @Oleruch is managing director Nordics and Netherlands and spoke at the Travelnext conference today.
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The massively growing peer to peer accommodation site that boasts 210.000+ accommodations in 30.000 cities is becoming more and more popular outside the US. I actually have a colleague that stays at a friend’s place over the weekend to make money renting his place on AirBnB. 
 
Success factors
According to Ole, the shift in consumerism & So-Lo-Mo (for n00bs: Social Local Mobile) are the catalists of the growth.
The shift incorperates:
  • Value: from credit to reputation. The currency is more and more reputation.
  • Trust: from advertising to community (where guest and hosts review each other)
  • Platform: individual ownership to shared access
  • Hyper consumption to collaborative consumption
As an online company, one might wonder why they are opening offices around the globe. It’s actually to keep on learning from the users in the different locales. In the Netherlands, year to date, AirBnB booked 250.000 nights in the Netherlands. In London there are 1200 arrivals on a daily basis. The coverage of Amsterdam does not stay far behind that of San Francisco, which amazes me how fast the amount of hosts have grown. 
AirBnB has been troubled in the past by security, therefore they’ve focused relentlessly on:
  • EUR 700.000 host guarantee for when the apparment might be sacked.
  • Secure payment AirBnB keeps payment 24 hours into stay to allow disputes to be solved between host and guest. 
  • Verified photographers, free for the host! (so if you want to sell your house…)
  • 24/7 customer care. 

The profiles of both hosts and guest (through social FB, Twitter and Linkedin) enable people to look eachother in the eyes and using the new social currency to determine value. Peer2Peer reviews tend not to be negative. Then guests turn to AirBnB which sends the account manager to the host to improve their service.  

Mobile share vs last minute booking
I asked Ole why, with 26% mobile traffic, it takes so long to get a reply from a host. No phone numbers, just direct message. And the response rate per host does not incorperate time to response, which is for me the key to solve the mobile last minute issue. Ole replied that it’s up to the host. AirBnB is working on better solutions like enabling hosts updating availability through the mobile app, and communicating less through email. Prompt hosts to update. Also, you can use the Match product on the site, offering your accommodation needs to the hosts. The response time can be a requirement. 
Screen_shot_2012-11-29_at_1
 
Benefits for local market
An independent research has found that while the guests of AirBnB spend less on their accommodation, they spend more in the local economy. I wonder if they took the the salary of the hotel employees into account, which is spent again in the local economy. Ole will check this. Also, I wonder when AirBnB will tap into the activity market.
The search result page algo
Question from the room: what’s the search result algorithm, what makes me rank #1? Ole did not really comment, saying it’s determined by the filtering. (and prompting to ask James van Thiel from Google ;). The question is of course not about the filters, but the weight of all the variables. I checked it and it’s probably a mix of reviews, social relation to the host (friends of you that know them or have stayed there), response rate, CTR and conversion rate. 
I also asked Ole where these guests booked before. He noted that AirBnB is actually not only eating marketshare from hotels, but is growing the total travel market. Impressive.

Local experience
There are pilots with printed todo-lists in SF and NYC. AirBnB wants the hosts to be the ones that advise the guests, therefore AirBnB has sourced this content with the hosts, and lets them hand this out. They do not step into the ‘revenue trap’ of one size fits all ancillary revenue partnerships.

Culture

All get flown into the mothership in SF to understand the DNA. This is necessary with 500 people, up from 50 a year ago. For country manager they’ve interviewed 2000 candidates for 10 positions. Then they put all 10 country managers in the Berlin office together and flew in the other employees 1 by 1. After this they flew the 10 country managers into SF in order to instil the culture in them. 

Google Hotelfinder expands in the SERPs and functionality

Hotelfinder
Having launched their own metasearcher almost 2 years ago for the US market and US hotels, Google has gradually rolled out to more international properties. There have been numerous tests in the SERPs like this, but nothing more than the regular 1% of total traffic test. The date box and star class links are found on many hotel searches in the UK and seems to have passed the 1% testing status.   

Also, Google launched the ‘rooms’ tab on the hotel level. This function was already present in most meta’s and Google now gets on par with them on this. It is still being rolled out over all OTA’s, as I only see Expedia (not Hotels.com or their affiliates) and Booking showing up. 
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Another new feature is the ability to filter on amenities and the Zagat scores. Would be cool to be able to filter on the type of traveler as well. (like Tripadvisor has family, friends, business, romantic)

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Lastly I found Kayak is advertising amongst the other OTAs, with their EAN (Expedia Affiliate Network) product. After clicking and landing on the Kayak hotel page, it’s only 1 click to the search results of Kayak, the direct Hotelfinder competition… 

Kayak_in_google
All these developments confirm that there’s a lot of attention for this product. One might wonder if Google will follow Kayak, Hotelscombined and the lot in the book direct functionality. What say you?

 

Kayak paddles into blue Priceline ocean.

White_shark_kayakthomas_p
By now most of you will have read the news about Priceline PLC (Booking.com, Agoda, Active Hotels, TravelJigsaw) acquiring Kayak (including Swoodoo and CheckFelix) for a record amount of $500 million in cash and $1,3 billion in PLCN equity. Just in time to become the word around Philip Wolff’s last campfire at PhoCusWright. The consequences of this OTA-meta-marriage will certainly not go unnoticed. I’m going to let my fantasies run wild and list a few of the synergies that lie ahead for the behemoth.
 

Leveraging sheer market share.

 The two complement each other brilliantly between North America and the European market. Kayak is the household brand for Americans seeking inspiration or comparing travel whether it’s flight, hotel or car. It will be of great aid to Priceline, who’s not dominating Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia like Booking is in Europe.

Screen_shot_2012-11-09_at_12

Kayak has been far less successful building their brand in the quilted continent Europe. The Sidestep acquisition brought Kayak immediate US market dominance, a far cry from their EU position after snagging up German Swoodoo and Austrian CheckFelix. Tripadvisor has the most traffic across Europe, every country is a different race in which Trivago, Skyscanner, Tripadvisor, Kayak and local flavor fights the throne. See the UK numbers below.

Screen_shot_2012-11-09_at_12

Enter Booking, the elephant in the meta porcelain cabinet in Europe. They have a huge power over comparison engines for the simple reason that you’re not comparing if you are not showing their inventory. You bet this advantage is leveraged at the CPC/CPA negotiation tables. Imagine what would happen if Kayak gets the upper hand on that inventory, leaving others with hardly or no remuneration at all? 
 

Competitive intelligence

Surely Priceline was shopping the rates of all major competitors, now they have insight in the rates and availability of all integrated parties, for free! No need to pay rate shoppers anymore. This means they know exactly which hotel is not on par with them. When rate parity sunsets, they’ll know how other OTA’s are yielding the prices in order to act upon this. Asides rate info, imagine what you can do with knowledge on origin and destination level from an early stage channel like Kayak? Steer inventory teams; follow up by marketing efforts ahead of your competition. 
 

Customer intelligence

These guys all have their CRM in good shape, what would happen if they’d open some of it up to the others? The OTA would be able to retarget meta users outside Kayak, non bookers would be seeing Kayak banners to entice them to do another search. Kayak has been really smart with their rate alerts over email. This closed channel could be used to have the negotiator make a deal or Booking to offer a closed environment rate like they do in their proprietary newsletter. When a user leaves Kayak to one of the sister companies, you could parse data like filters used, sorting applied, area searched in order to streamline the experience.
 

Leveraging industry relationships

When talking to airlines and hotels, volume is king. If you can sell more of their products, remuneration goes up. The industry relationships can leverage the air sales through Kayak and Priceline to sweeten the deal. At the same time the hotel sales through Kayak (guess who will fuel the Book with Kayak soon?) and the other labels will mean hoteliers see even more sales coming in from Priceline. 
 

Building brands

All are very conscientious building a brand, in order to increase direct traffic and CTR / conversion rate and become less dependent on paid traffic sources. Sharing knowledge on branding campaigns on- and offline and getting the best group rate for your GRP on TV, cross brand advertising, you name it. 
 

Technical know how

Both Booking and Kayak have the cutting edge mobile and tablet apps in travel. Asides being able to dominate the mobile advertising space, there’s much value in sharing technical information as well. Strengthen bonds with Android, iOS, etc. How do you go about measuring customers across devices, harnessing the full potential of the lifetime value within the Priceline group? A nice challenge for the data crunchers. 
 

Concluding

This move is one that puts enormous power in the PCLN camp. These people are smart and can think of much more synergies than I listed above. It will not make life easier on the other OTA’s. I bet you’ll see them teaming up with ‘the other meta’s’ to counter this move. Trivago and Skyscanner should be happy, seeing their value increase. Pricing will be an important weapon, if other meta’s have better rates from the OTA’s than Kayak, why not use them? On Tnooz reactions are mixed, Dorian from Skoosh questioned if competition authorities would approve it. I’m curious to see how they’ll go about harvesting the synergies; in the current group the labels seem pretty separated outside some industry relations on the hotel side. Who knows this is buying a profitable travel company which might come in handy at a later stage, when the competition makes a move in meta.  

Thanks for reading and would love to hear your thoughts!

Disclaimer: the above article is my view and has no relation to my employer. 

 

Pimp your about us page and hire more good people!

Any growing company is facing the recruitment challenge, Easytobook.com is no exception to this. To entice potential employees it is important to have a great product, have customers/employees/press talk about it in a positive way and have a competitive package. As you are competing with huge companies when it comes to recruiting the best, you have to stand out in your about us page. This is why we asked Delphine Gidoin to go around our office and capture our people in their natural habitat, as well as this great infographic artist (amongst other things) to create an infographic about our diverse and international workforce. Already we got very positive feedback from HR professionals, let me know what you think and if you know people that might be interested in one of our job openings! :) Since we’ve implemented the apply now functionality we see a significant increase in applications, I am sure this will only increase with the recent changes. 
6 thinks you don't know about Easytobook

Some say it’s insane, we think it’s brilliant.This morning at 6:30AM, our kick ass techies gathered to witness a not so ordinary commitment of code to the live environment. The old site of Easytobook.com, with the look and feel that dated back from 2008, was cast aside. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, our new design arose. Some say this is insanity, we think it’s pure brilliance. To have faith in your creativity, your commitment to and interaction with guests to make it work, your pure love for the code. No AB test was used to achieve this, only user interaction through interview, user tests, screencasts and labtests. The result is a very clean and slick site, that let’s users just fly through it as if they’re half way to their destination. From this position we can use this new code to perform MVT on new features and content to move further into becoming the hotel matchmaker for all travelers. 
Check out all the destinations and hotels you might travel one day.
Dutch readers can click to Marketingfacts to read the rest of the story.  Leading travel tech blog Tnooz has published it as guest post. 

Some say it’s insane, we think it’s brilliant.

This morning at 6:30AM, our kick ass techies gathered to witness a not so ordinary commitment of code to the live environment. The old site of Easytobook.com, with the look and feel that dated back from 2008, was cast aside. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, our new design arose. Some say this is insanity, we think it’s pure brilliance. To have faith in your creativity, your commitment to and interaction with guests to make it work, your pure love for the code. No AB test was used to achieve this, only user interaction through interview, user tests, screencasts and labtests. The result is a very clean and slick site, that let’s users just fly through it as if they’re half way to their destination. From this position we can use this new code to perform MVT on new features and content to move further into becoming the hotel matchmaker for all travelers. 

Check out all the destinations and hotels you might travel one day.

Dutch readers can click to Marketingfacts to read the rest of the story.  
Leading travel tech blog Tnooz has published it as guest post.