Travelfish turns 9 today

It probably strikes some as a bit odd that Travelfish’s “birthday” is the same as mine, but given it sometimes feels like an extra appendage, it seems appropriate — and it does save me one date to remember.

Another day, another year, soon another decade… But what has the last year brought us? Well first and foremost it has seen our slowly growing membership continue to work to make the site the great resource it is. Thank you — every single one of you — even those who drive me a little mad.

Separately, we’ve seen a dramatic deepening of our content in some areas, while others remain badly out of date. It’s a perennial juggling game, but with 18 excellent writers in the region we’re very well placed to address the out-of-date issue and we are working on it. Really.

We’re on a seemingly more solid financial footing — with 17 paid correspondents filing once or twice a week, one full-time writer based in Bangkok, plus, in the last few months (FINALLY) a programmer to assist me with the site’s tech needs — and Sam and I on the case pretty much around the clock, we seem to be just about there. It’s only taken almost a decade — but we’ve an excellent rounded team we are proud of. Travelfish writers, take a bow.

The site is still growing, both in membership and traffic, although both seem to be levelling off somewhat. We’ve never had a hockey-stick style growth — rather slow and more or less steady. Now, with a programming assistant on board, we’ll be adding a lot of new features to the site — some have been popped on already — that we hope will help our already dedicated readers become even more so. It should also help some drive-by visitors slow down a little more to take a good look at us.

So what’s on the cards?

As regulars will already know, we commenced research on Burma at the start of the year. Content will start to come online in the coming weeks. We also continue to expand our Indonesia and Malaysia coverage, and there’ll be a lot happening with some of our now quite dated Vietnam coverage in the coming year.

We’ve renamed our blogs to “wires” and they too are growing in readership — they do have a way to go before they start really earning their keep, but they’re certainly moving in the right direction.

We released our first iBook a month or so back, for Flores in Indonesia, and we’ve got a few more in the pipeline. We’ve phased out our well regarded iPhone apps in favour of iBooks, as we feel the latter are a superior planning tool. In a step that sets Travelfish aside from most in the travel publishing industry, there’s no DRM involved in our guides and they are 100% free.

This coming year is also going to see wholesale changes to our mapping system as we drop Google Maps in favour of MapBox and, in a step back to our humble beginnings, printable PDF maps. We believe both will prove to be considerably more useful than our existing offerings.

One of our first features with MapBox has been our “Where I’ve been map” that allows Travelfish members to mark where they have been in the region. This is the first step in a bit of a stroll we have planned.

We’ll also be shortly implementing a system to better reward Travelfish regulars for the contributions to the site — more on that soon — we just need a few more rainy days to finish it off.

Talking about the weather, our entire weather section is about to be relaunched with a complete reworking from the ground up. You’ll love it. Really.

We’ve also worked to make the forum a more useful platform for Travelfish members. We’ve improved the PM system and added more countries, for example, and have more planned for the coming months. For many Travelfish regulars, the forum is the core part of their site experience, and we want to help them get as much out of it they can.

Lastly, we’ll be reworking our entire transportation system so it will be easier for readers to compare different ways of getting from A to B, so they can choose what works best for them. We had something like this years ago but it fell over because we couldn’t get it to work properly — that is no longer the case and we hope to have it up and running before the end of Q3.

Well, that’s a bit of a wrap! Hopefully we’ll be able to pull most of the above off and we’ll recap a year from now — when we turn 10.

Thanks for reading!

Stuart & Sam