An Interview with Twitter Tripper Benji Lanyado

Just back from his TwiTrip to Paris, a trip based entirely on live tweeted tips and suggestions, we interviewed Benji Lanyado:

@BrilliantTips: Did you find yourself waiting around for replies after tweeting your requests?

@benjilanyado: At first, a bit, yes. For about 20 minutes I was waiting for suggestions outside the Gare du Nord, chatting to a bloke called Tim from Cologne, but then had 7 tips in the next 10 minutes. However, after realising the slight lag, I made my requests in advance, so by them time I actually wanted to enact them…I had plenty.

Was it noisy? Did you find it difficult to sift through all the suggestions?

Yes it was. But I generally went for the ones that were closest to where I had specified, and in some cases waited until two separate people had suggested the same thing. Filtering was made 23% harder by cold fingers.

Do you have any idea what type of people responded?

I think it was roughly a 50/50 split of Travel industry people like you lot and regular Joes. But at the time I couldn’t look at everyone’s profiles, so didn’t have much of an idea.

What was the biggest surprise along the way?

That the bar you guys recommended was next door to my Hotel! I hadn’t even looked at the specific address of my hotel until then, I just knew it was near the Place de Clichy. Minimal stumbling distance. Nice.

What did you learn from this experiment?

That Twitter is another superb resource for travellers. I don’t think it is the best (local tips are still the holy grail), but it is certainly the quickest, especially if you are at a loose end, or need a recommendation quick. You are instantly connected to oodles of people who are, at worst, closer to Google than you are, and, at best, know about this great little place that you should check out. I also learnt that the staff at the Chartier restaurant on Rue de Fauberg are rude enough to pickle an onion just by disdainfully staring at it.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about taking a twitrip?

Announce your specific plans more than 5 minutes before you do them. And make your requests as specific as possible. And work on your calve muscles.

Would you do it again?

Mos def.

What role do you see twitter playing in travel throughout 2009?

Twitter’s growth will be exponential, comparable to Facebook. As it is an excellent resource for Travel, it will inevitably become a major tool, and is the natural next step from Guide book to blog to microblog. It’s only
fallback is the pith… there is strong argument that you should never do what anyone says if they have said it in under 140 characters. I don’t think it can become the BEST travel resource there is, I just think it will become ANOTHER resource. What I wanted to do is show how it can be a superb live tip resource, however, I think its best use will be to get tips prior to a trip, to allow for some proper cogitation and link-clicking beforehand. That said, doing it live is very exciting, a bit like winning a prize every time a tip comes through, and makes you realise just how very modern we have become.

Did you ask the cabbie with the mullet if you could take his picture before you snapped it?

No I didn’t, but I took his “hmph” after I took the photo as tacit permission for me to display it to hundreds of people all over the world. I tipped him €1.50, so I reckon the image rights issue is dealt with.

ALSO SEE: Twit Trip to Paris, Travel Tweets – Looking for Somewhere Good to Eat Near the Gare du Nord in Paris, & Travel Tweets – A Night Out in Paris


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