Cookisto: Airbnb For Home Cooking?

Home cooking
Flickr, Sean Ganann

We’ve seen collaborative consumption work with everything from car rentals like ZipCar, to vacation rentals like Airbnb. But would you pay to eat someone else’s home cooking?

Cookisto, a social network that connects home cooks with hungry “foodies,” started in Athens and will soon come to London. Cooks make their own dishes, upload the details onto the site including number of portions and cost, and share their menus over social media. Eaters can arrange for delivery or pick up, depending on what’s on offer.

Quality control is all on the honor system, with users providing ratings on their experiences. The program has been successful so far in Greece, where the economic crisis has made residents look for creative ways to put food on the table. Cookisto meals generally cost a few euro, far less than you’d pay in a restaurant, but enough to earn the cooks a bit of extra money. The community has attracted both professional and amateur chefs, competing for good ratings and repeat orders built on trust and reputation.

Would you pay to eat someone else’s home cooking? What would you cook for a stranger?

Collect And Share Travel Experiences With AFAR

share travel on Afar.comPinterest became the hottest social network this year, with millions using the site to collect and search for recipes, design ideas and inspirational quotes. Many travelers have used Pinterest for planning and sharing trips, tips and destinations (you can find Gadling here). Now Afar.com, the website and community behind AFAR magazine, has introduced a new feature to curate travel experiences, chronicle favorite destinations and discover new places in a way that’s Pinterest-like in ease of use and appealing interface but designed just for travelers.

“Wanderlists” are part of AFAR’s collaborative travel guide, comprised of a collection of travel “Highlights,” similar to an inspiration board. Users can create a Highlight incorporating a photo and description of a place or experience, adding contact information and location tags to make it easier for other travelers to find. A Highlight might be a moment in a field of Irish wildflowers, a favorite breakfast spot in Istanbul, or a Victorian town in New Zealand. Highlights are integrated with Google Maps for easy reference, and can be shared over Twitter, Facebook, or email (you can even pin to Pinterest too). If you feel more like gathering ideas than sharing your own, you can search for any destination or topic like food or surfing.

Currently, Highlights and Wanderlists are all user-generated, but will soon include magazine content as well. You can get inspired by collections from the AFAR team like American road trip pit stops, markets around the world, or favorite spots in Cairo.

Create your own Wanderlists and search for Highlights at Afar.com.

Get flight info and airport reviews with RouteHappy

flight infoWhen it comes to booking hotels, travelers have plenty of options for finding information, recommendations, and tips with TripAdvisor, booking engine reviews, and other user-generated sites, in addition to guidebooks and other traditional media. But as air travel gets more restrictive and less comfortable, how can you choose the easiest flights, or at least be prepared for the inconveniences? RouteHappy is a new user-generated social network for flight info, reviews and tips for airlines, airports, and routes. The site is populated with comprehensive global flight schedules, Wi-Fi availability by route, and on-time history. Users can enter their tips and experiences from getting to the airport, check-in, airport amenities, and boarding to in-flight comfort, arrival immigration and transportation options.

From searching on RouteHappy, I decided it was worth the extra money for JetBlue’s Even More amenity program for a shorter security line (plus more legroom and other perks), and discovered a much easier connection from Frankfurt to Austin through Denver instead of the much busier (and often delayed) Chicago. I’ve also left tips on the site for navigating airports in Istanbul, London, and Budapest with a baby. You can follow “Route Experts” for hidden gems and “flyer bewares” on frequently-flown routes, and learn about which airport shops are worth a stop, which airlines make your coach experience feel like an upgrade, or where you should be prepared for long immigration lines.
flight infoRouteHappy gets better with every review added, so be sure to add your advice while searching for info. You can also link to your TripIt/LinkedIn account to automatically remind you to review flights and pre-populate flight info. Currently in invite-only “alpha” mode, the site has over 1,000 members in 45 countries and counting with more than 7,500 comments and tips.

Gadling readers can try out the site before it goes into public beta mode soon by using the code GadlingFliesBetter. The RouteHappy team is incredibly responsive to users and active on social media, so be sure to follow along as they share their best tips on Facebook, tweet travel news on Twitter, or just send them a message at tellus@routehappy.com.

Postcards – the original social travel network

Before Twitter, before FourSquare and even before email – people used postcards to “check in to” their location. The postcard lived in easier times – in an era when we’d arrive at our destination and spend a week actually visiting things and relaxing instead of scrambling to find a Wi-Fi signal to get our email.

It has been 18 years since I last sent anyone a postcard, and I clearly remember buying a stack of cards and stamps from a souvenir shop in Blackpool, UK and copying down the addresses from my PDA. Yes – even 18 years ago, I relied on technology to keep track of my life.

The fun thing about postcards is that they lack everything current technology gives us. In most cases, the postcard wouldn’t show up till weeks after you arrived back from your destination, and they all had one thing in common – cheesy photos of cheesy tourist destinations.

Still – there was something comforting about letting your closest friends know that you were “having a great time”, even though “wish you were here” was usually a lie. In those days, your social circle was limited to ten or twenty people – not the 500 we add to Facebook nowadays.

For those that were on the road a lot (and had more to report), there was the aerogramme. Check out Don George on his aerogramme memories.

postcards

We asked some of the Gadling team members whether they still enjoy writing postcards:

Annie Scott:

This will sound shallow, but it’s fun: my friend Debbie and I always find one with a horrible-looking dude on it and send it with something to the effect of “I’m in Holland and I found your boyfriend” on the back. It cracks us up.

I once sent five postcards to the same person because I couldn’t *quite* remember her address and wasn’t sure I got it right any of the five times. She didn’t get one. Oops.

I totally write on the edges. I always worry about where they’re going to put those tracking stickers and cover up my words.

Chris Owen:

I remember going to the post office with my mother as a little boy to get the special post card stamps it took. No one dared put a “regular” stamp on a postcard. She bought them for my father who was a traveling salesman and would send home cards “from the road”. If my parents would go out of town and I stayed behind, my mother would “kiss” one (blot her ruby red lipstick) for me and send it along. When my brother flew off to conquer the world he would send cards from all over the planet. I don’t know that I have ever sent one. I have horrible handwriting, how many “I’m on the ship” cards can you send anyway and no way I would stand in line at the post office.

I did think once think of starting a company that made post card machines. The plan was to position them by icon shots of places around the world, somebody stands in front of them with the mountain, ocean, cool thing in the background, then the machine prints it and spits it out, postage stamped for the buyer to write on and mail. Cell phones screwed up that idea.

Darren Murph:

The last postcards we sent were last year — snagged a few from a hotel in Northern California, and wrote on them as we traveled up the 101.

Stopped off in a tiny, tiny town with a post office around the size of a shoebox and sent ’em in hopes of getting a pretty random town stamp when they passed through processing. Particularly to grandmothers, sending postcards with gorgeous scenes on them are real treats to receive.

Don George

Postcards! I always used to send postcards — to friends and family but also to myself. In some really out of the way places, it would take so long to reach me that months later I would be happily surprised to receive a postcard that would immediately transport me to the sea-scented, palm-shaded table where I’d had written it.

I’d cover every square milli-inch of the surface.

I especially remember the iconic ones like Notre Dame, the Acropolis and the quintessential palm-leaning-over-sunny-beach shot….

The last postcard I remember writing and mailing was in 2002 at the wonderful “post barrel” on Floreana Island in the Galapagos….

Elizabeth Seward:

I send them frequently.

My nephew and I have had a postcard routine going strong for a few years now: I send him postcards, he tacks them onto his bedroom wall. He’s 12. It’s adorable. And I always find myself writing quite a bit, around the edges, telling him cool things about the place I’m visiting.

Heather Poole:

Post cards remind me of Camp, which reminds me of Possum Kingdom Lake, which reminds me of a week’s worth of begging – Dear Mom, Come get me NOW!

When I take a long trip I use postcards as a way to divide the scrapbook into different city sections.

Laurel Miller:

My friends and I do the same “here’s your boyfriend” cards. I used to religiously send detailed cards to friends and family but then I discovered email. But I still collect weird/cool/beautiful cards as souvenirs.

Melanie Nayer:

My Grama gets a postcard from me from any destination. Her favorite was from The Vatican (which I find somewhat odd since we’re Jewish). She still talks about it, because the stamp says “The Vatican.”

Mike Barish:

I still send them and decide who the recipients will be based on what I see and who I’m reminded of. Always try to find silly postcards and include inside jokes with friends. Yes, grandmas love postcards from far away lands. I do that too.

Sean McLachlan:

My son and I collect postcards together. He likes having a bunch of them on his walls and keeps the rest in Mom’s old lunchbox.

Yesterday, on my first day in Ethiopia I wrote three–one to my wife and son, and the other two to friends. I also like buying old postcards (50 to 100 years old) of places I’ve been. It’s cool tosee how a place like Damascus or Delhi has changed.

Gadling Twitter reader @kirsten_al responded to our question with some great memories:

I still send postcards, I still love receiving postcards. In this era of digital-everything (including digital postcards) it’s comforting to receive a piece of handwritten mail from Peru or Japan. I collect my postcards on a pin board above my workstation & even the NYC postcard I have from a friend in Brooklyn is a vivid reminder of the place I hope to call home one day.

When I lived with my best friend for a few months last year I marveled at the collection of postcards on her fridge. Though I don’t always get to send a postcard to everyone I know on every trip I take, I never fail to send her one. We’ve been friends for 30 years and she keeps all I’ve sent her displayed in the kitchen so every morning she’s reminded of me and smiles knowing I am pursuing my great passion all around the world. I didn’t even realize how many I’d sent her until I stood there drinking my morning coffee … her fridge is like a diary of my travels. Now, I’ll never stop sending postcards!

Here are some other great Twitter replies:

@Gadling obsessively! postcards are my souvenirs for friends/fam. #thrifty #thoughtfulless than a minute ago via web

@Gadling There are few things I love more than postcards! I’m constantly on a mission to gather them for @atlasobscuraless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

@Gadling I still use postcards but just to my 3 year old nephew.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@jettingaround @Gadling I write around 400 a year.less than a minute ago via ÜberSocial


What about you?

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[Photos: Postcard rack: Flickr/tts, Burger Chef: Flickr/bayswater97, Sea Point Pavilion: Flickr/Mallix]

Five chilling facts about Cyber Monday Shopping

cyber mondayOkay, your goal should be NOT to conform to what you see below. The travel industry, riding something of a recovery this year, is set to come out with some solid sales on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year. So, as you click among hotel, airline and online travel agency sites, it will pay for you to be aware of the biggest risks you face.

Despite the many risks associated with online shopping – and the fact that they have been shoved in the public’s face since the early days of internet commercialization – people still roll the dice with their financial security. When you get excited about cheap tickets or a real bargain on the excursion of a lifetime, take a moment to make sure you aren’t getting scammed. Your savviest purchase may be the one you never make.

So, what are the risks? Let’s take a look at five scary facts from web security firm Webroot:1. Don’t trust page one: a high placement in Google search results shouldn’t be a sign of trust. According to Webroot, 59 percent of survey respondents trust the results they get in the first few pages, up from 39 percent last year. Unfortunately, this placement is “a target for malicious links.” Interestingly, the number of people using search engines is falling: “48 percent of online shoppers frequently if not always use search engines to find gifts online, compared to 52 percent in 2009,” Webroot reports.

Solution: Watch brand. If you recognize the company’s brand, you can be more comfortable with the purchase. Also, watch where the link sends you. For an extra layer of protection, enter the company’s address into the browser yourself instead of clicking the link in Google.

2. Risky wifi behavior: 18 percent of shoppers are likely to use public wifi for holiday shopping, Webroot reports, up from 12 percent in 2009. This can be risky, especially with 23 percent of respondents feeling comfortable using free public wifi.

Solution: Do your online shopping at home or at work. Stealing wifi from your neighbor so you can toss your credit card number onto the web is probably pretty stupid.

3. New site, new password: are you planning to jump on a deal from a company you haven’t used before? Well, this is the point of many of the Cyber Monday travel deals you’ll see: companies want to lure you away from your ol’ stand-by sites. Do take advantage of the hot promotions, but be smart. Using the same password everywhere is like hiding a house key under your doormat.

Solution: Use a new password every time you create an account with a travel website. Also, be one of the 72 percent of online shoppers who uses a “complex” password – i.e., a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

4. Social should be personal: 26 percent of respondents to the Webroot survey indicated that someone else had used their social media or email accounts to send friends messages in their names. With travel companies increasingly turning to social media platforms to market their deals and bolster their brands, expect a lot more interaction this year … which brings hefty doses of risk with it.

Solution: Take a look at your sent messages from time to time, and look at your Twitter stream from the perspective of another user. Make sure you recognize everything you’re putting out into the world.

5. Look for safety: 52 percent of Webroot’s respondents don’t check to see if a site uses SSL, and 50 percent don’t look for the padlock in the lower right corner of the web browser. This is like not twisting the doorknob after you lock it.

Solution: pay attention to where you make purchases online. In addition to getting comfortable with the company website, you also want to be aware of the security in place. If something feels off, play it safe: don’t buy. No deal is worth the consequences of risky online purchasing behavior.

[Via Insurance Information Institute, photo by InfoMofo via Flickr]