down2night

Screenshot of a listing on down2night

Earlier in the week I received an E-mail, (through this website), asking me to review a service called down2night, so here goes.

With the tagline “What’s Going Down 2 Night?” down2night.com seems at like a pretty cool service. Users sign up, provide a cellphone number, and on certain nights of the week, (chosen by the users), they get text messages telling them what’s “going down” that night at their favourite places. While there are only three cities covered by the service right now, (San Francisco, Seattle, and the Tri-Cities area, in Washington), they are expanding, (Los Angeles is next and Las Vegas is coming).

What I like:

I like the design of the website, it looks slick. If you follow one of the obvious navigation paths it’s easy to get around. You can browse venues and events in cities as well as leave comments about those venues. There are also reviews provided by Yelp.com. You can see who else subscribes to each venue and what they like, something that is handy if you want to find similar places to that great watering hole you were at last night. The interface is all AJAX-y and cool as well.

The best feature of the site is the SMS messaging. Once you’re set up you don’t have to think to use the service. When your favourite party night, or nights, roll around a text message will be sent to your phone telling you what’s going down at your favourite destinations. Simple and easy, and you don’t have to be near a computer or an internet connection for it to work.

There are a couple of really great things I noticed. When selecting your wireless provider I was pleased to see that the major Canadian providers were on the list, (although it doesn’t look like the service will be covering Canadian cities anytime soon). Also, the site seems to work in Opera with no problems at all. Since Firefox 2 came out I’ve been using Opera more and more and it’s nice to not have to switch browsers to do some testing.

What I don’t like:

Despite all the good things they’ve got going on there a few things that down2night could be doing better. I took a quick look at the HTML source of a couple of the pages and it is real XHTML. However an inline style attribute for a background image seemed out of place and I would really like to see down2night make use of microformats. This is a perfect application for the hCard, hCalendar, and hReview microformats and they didn’t take the opportunity. Hopefully they will as the service and website develop.

From a trust standpoint I was not able to find any physical contact information. Not even a post office box. This is something I would like to see before handing over any private data, such as my cell phone number. Also, I wasn’t able to sign up for the service without entering my cell phone number. Since my wireless provider charges me for receiving messages originating from web services, (and I wasn’t really sure who I was giving my number to), I didn’t sign up. Had the phone number been optional I would have completed the sign-up, looked around, and caused some more advertising impressions. An E-mail notification option that can be used either instead of, or in addition to, the SMS notifications would make sense.

I am concerned about their ability to make money. There are very few advertisements on the website and no subscription-based revenue model. I think if they offer an E-mail notification option that drives traffic back to the website it will help with advertising revenues. Also, there are opportunities to charge for premium placement of venues and events.

The final thing I noticed is an apostrophe error. On the about page they wrote “your” when they meant “you’re.” This is a little ironic since someone from their team had to actually come to my site, which contains an article on the correct usage of the apostrophe, to send me the the request to review down2night.

In the end:

down2night looks like a great service that is expanding. They seem to be working at improving and promoting their service, and hopefully as the service improves it will reach its full potential. If only they would put some sort of physical address on their website I think people will be more comfortable signing up for an account. Oh, and one more thing: proofread.

No Internet Explorer 7 for FAA and DOT

Well at least not for now.

InformationWeek is reporting that the FAA in the U.S. has “placed a moratorium” on upgrades to Windows Vista, Office 2007, and Internet Explorer 7. This comes hot on the heels of InformationWeek reporting last week that the DOT placed a similar ban on Microsoft products.

The reason for the temporary ban is to examine the feasibility of using Linux-based systems with Google Apps, a big victory for Google, and I think a great idea. There would be some huge cost savings not having to buy Windows or MS MS Office. However, there are a few disadvantages as well: first, since the FAA deals with air travel one might assume that their employees fly a fair bit, (I’m not sure how true this is), and right now there is very little internet access on airplanes, and second, this is the FAA, they deal with pretty important information that should be kept safe. Can they trust Google to do that? Or, can they at least trust Google to keep the data as safe as it was before?

There is one thing I don’t agree with in this ban on Microsoft products. Why ban upgrading to IE7? It’s free and it’s way better than IE6. I know that there will be some issues with upgrades that will require some technicians’ time but really, I think it’s worth the effort. IE7 is being adopted very quickly and if the FAA forces all their 45,000 users to stick with IE6, just because in a 18 months, (or whenever), they’ll be using Linux those users will suffer. Really, everyone should be upgrading to IE7, or something else, as soon as possible. Forcing your workforce to stick with out-of-date software that can’t do its job properly is not the way to go about this.

That said, I think it is a good plan to go for Linux. Tax-paying Americans will benefit, as will the flying public in general.

Ice Hotel Québec

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Ice Hotel Québec-Canada. I had heard that the ice hotel was amazing but wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The things they have done up by Québec with ice and show are incredible.

Now I’m going to let the pictures do the talking.

the Chapel