Spotting Spotlight

Report Lionfish

 

 

Environment Day today is a time for everyone to reflect on what they can do to help the environment. The good news is that help might be as simple as many folks’ favourite activity – posting pix on social media.

According to an NBC piece “Social Media Could Help Save Species on the Verge of Extinction”…

While an untold number of butt selfies and pictures of food are posted on social networks daily, people are also snapping images of birds, flowers, and other creatures that can help researchers who keep a close eye on flora and fauna at the tipping point.”

The stream of data helps scientists map where the world's endangered species are and where they need to be conserved, said Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and the lead author of a new paper on the decline of global biodiversity.

Maldives Complete’s Snorkel Spotter was always envisioned as a sort of social app for sharing snorkel experiences. Sort of a “FourSquare for Fish”. But I always speculated if it might be a tool for marine biologists. As it happens, an increasing number of environmentalists are using similar apps for conservation initiatives.

Florida in the USA is actually facing an invasion of a fish that are one of the more colourful sightings in the Maldives – lion fish. Unfortunatey, they are not native there are have no know predators meaning they are seriously throwing the marine ecosystem out of balance. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have developed a “Report Lionfish” app (or people without smartphones or tablets can report on their website).

So if you see something really unusual (meaning it might be a relatively rare species), do try to post it up on Snorkel Spotter with the time and house reef location and maybe it will help the resort’s marine biologist in their understanding of the marine life around them.

Migration Migraines

website renovations

Resorts aren’t the only ones with refurb disruptions.

You might have noticed a few website difficulties in the past week. After half a decade with hoster Aquest Solutions, they have decided to close their doors. When the announcement came through to me the end of last month, my heart sunk. Aquest have been instrumental in building MaldiveComplete over the past decade. Their technical support has been excellent and they patiently helped when I too often got in over my head with some of my technical ambitions.

I started MaldivesComplete while at Microsoft and one of my motivations in the undertaking was to get my hands dirty with technology again. I started my career on the technical and development side, but in recent years moved more to sales and marketing. I missed working on the inards of computer systems to get them to do wacky and clever things and the new web technologies were too fascinating to not have a play with. I got a chance to work hands-on with a range of new things in the Microsoft stable such as Visual Studio, Silverlight, Community Server, ASP.net, DeepZoom, Bing maps, and Expression.

Unfortunately, Microsoft technology hasn’t risen to the same prominence on the Internet as it has on the desktop. And platform choices I made (eg. Silverlight, Community Server, DeepZoom) have not taken off making it a bit challenging to support at this point.

Fortunately, DotNetPark has comes to our rescue. They offer comprehensive applications hosting services with all of the technology platforms and expertise I needed. When I first found out about the impending migration, I did a fair amount of research first, and they were by far the most comprehensive and prompt in their assistance. Thanks to their professionalism and help, the whole site has more or less moved over just this week. You might have encountered a few error messages and even possible bounced email, but they should have been minimal.

Normal service is not yet fully resumed. We are still troubleshooting a bug which is keeping pictures from rendering in new posts (which I discovered on my first post on the new platform). Also, the Snorkel Spotter is not yet working properly). Hopefully, these will be sorted out very quickly.

As a result of all of the work invested in March on the migration, new posts and profile updates have been limited. Hopefully, once these final niggles will be sorted out this week normal service can resume.

Thank you for your patience.

Seth-urday Buffet

Maldives Buffet

 

 

My other popular blog (I have 4) has a semi-regular piece called “Seth-urday” featuring material from Seth Godin who I have referenced here on a number of occasions as a bit of an inspiration to the whole “Best of the Maldives” section. This week, Seth published a post “The buffet problem keeps getting worse” which illustrated another perspective for my obsession with resort esoterica…

“Here's the thinking that leads just about every all-you-can-eat buffet to trend to mediocrity. ‘Oh, don't worry about how fresh the mashed potatoes are, after all, they're free.’ Indeed, as far as the kitchen is concerned, each individual item on the buffet is 'free' in the sense that the customer didn't spend anything extra to get that item. The problem is obvious, of course. Once you start thinking that way, then every single item on the buffet gets pretty lousy, and the next thing you know, the customers you seek don't come…Successful organizations often beat the competition by turning the buffet problem upside down. ‘Let's make these the best mashed potatoes in town–who knows, next time, that guy out front will bring his friends.’ The mashed potatoes aren't free, the mashed potatoes, the wifi and everything else you do are an opportunity. The cheapest and most effective marketing you'll do all year.”

While it is an illustrative metaphor, Maldives resort are literally dominated by buffets for much of their food service. A number of my “Best of the Maldives” pieces have indeed been buffet items picked out from obscurity for their distinction. I guess I am now on the hunt for the best mashed potatoes in the Maldives!

Complete Update

Best Of list hover tooltip

 

 

The number one objective for Maldives Complete has always been “completeness”, but the number two has always been ease of use. Providing the easiest route to the information people need has been the design point which is why I have shunned advertisements, sponsorship and other non-essential dross that clutters so many resort and travel pages. In recent days, I’ve finally finished off the bulk of enhancements that have been on my wish list since my summer tour.

My Maldives tours not only inspire ‘Best Of’ pieces and help complete the profiles with data and pictures, but they also percolate ideas for new features and enhancements to the site. I meet with lots of site fans and industry folks and they provide lots of great ideas of how I might be able to improve it further. Of course, digesting all of the research as well as doing my day job means that these ideas don’t get done over night, but over the past few months, I have implemented a good number of changes that germinated about of Tour 4…

  • Best Of – 2 new pages with added drop down menu…
    • Activity – eg. Sport, Kids, Culture
    • Infrastructure – eg. Lodging, Pool, Decoration
    • Service – eg. Dining, Drink, Greeting
    • Ambience – eg. Nationality, Spa, Ocean
    • Commercial – eg. Pricing, Shopping, Online
  • ·Room Type – A flurry of research to update and complete more of the field
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Still people struggle to find the site and so I am spending a bit more time making the site search engine friendly (if you are a fan of the site, the one thing you can do to help – and others – is to provide a link to the site from any websites you have…thanks).
    • Better descriptions
    • Better titles
    • Better metatags
  • Profile – I’ve added a couple more pieces to each profile
  • Best Ofs – changed list to “Tooltip” popup to accommodate some of the extra long lists
  • Activities
    • Surfing
    • Marine Biologist
    • Hotelier Group
    • Walkway Rating – ie.  Soft, Hard, Paved

More Why I Do It

Scott Adams - aquiring skills

One of my most frequent questions abourt Maldives Complete is still “Why do it do it?” In my previous post in response, I cited Scott Adams’ own answer to the question of the “non-zero chance” for some big serendipity. Scott recently published a new book titled “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” that delves more deeply into his personal life philosophy. As a part of the release, he has been doing the book promo circuit and his interview with Forbes really hit home for me as another reason behind my compulsive researching and posting…

For years people have been asking me why I blog. At one point, blogging was taking about half of my work time while providing only 5% of my income. My wife and my friends asked ‘What is your goal in blogging?’ I don’t do goals. I do systems. (That’s a theme of the book.) In this case, my system involved publicly experimenting with a variety of writing styles and topics and closely monitoring the reactions of readers. I was honing my writing skills and my understanding of the reading public. I didn’t have a specific goal. I was aiming for ‘better.’ I reasoned that my system would generate good opportunities for me in ways I couldn’t predict with any precision. That’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was simply improving my odds that something good would happen. I just didn’t know when it might happen or in what form it would come. Blogging also charges me up. I like the interaction, the angry villagers with torches and pitchforks, and the possibility of saying something useful. It is one part of my overall system for keeping my personal energy high. It also keeps my mind sharp. Several years into my system, it seems to be working.”

Webmastering Maldives Complete is part of my own “system” to keep learning, make new friends and relationships, understand new technologies (eg. Deepzoom, Silverlight), grapple with new media (eg. social media like Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor), and to constantly hone my ability to research, distil and share insights.

Maldives Complete-ly by the Numbers 2

2013 Anniversary numbers

 

Maldives Complete’s semidecennial. 5 years on and more complete than ever.

I am again marking the milestone in true business review fashion with a look at a Harpers Index sampling of stats which tell its progress…

  • Resort Numbers – The array of options steadily climbs with another 4 more resorts announced, but a full 12 additional resort newly operational.
  • Room Types – Being a new feature last year, this area has grown the most (363 new profile photos and 6.2% gain in completion rate).
  • Best of the Maldives – Resort with most Best Of’s Published – LUX Maldives 30 (2012 = W Retreat 21). Resort with most Best Of’s Drafted – One & Only Reethi Rah 55 (2012 = LUX Maldives 31).
  • Visitors – More of the top search terms are specific names of resorts (“Kuramathi” and “Bathala” top the list) pushing down last year’s top terms – “maldives water temperature” and “whale shark”. But the latter remained them most popular post – “Whale Sharks – LUX* Maldives” being the first Maldives Complete post to top 100,000 views.

Failure in Paradise

404 page

 

 

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my first blog which sort of started it all. On the topics of “Leadership and Management” and “Embracing Failure” (both linked by the shared theme of risk attitudes), it pre-dated my Maldives Complete launch by just over 3 years and helped me to get a handle on the medium before immersing it with Maldives material.

One of the messages to “Embracing Failure” is about not avoiding problems, but looking at them as opportunities. One example that I have written about it creative twists on “404 Pages”, aka error pages on websites. Usually, one gets a pedestrian message like this – “The URL contains a typographical error. A custom filter or module, such as URLScan, restricts access to the file. Things you can try: Create the content on the Web server, etc…”).

But website owners are able to set an alternative default page to display when errors are hit. I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase yet another Sakis master shot and provide a bit more of an topical if not tropical message.

I hope I can keep Maldives Complete running so smoothly that you never hit the 404 page, so I thought I would share it here (also, wait a second with the speakers on).

Expensive Hobby

Gapingvoid Expensive Hobby

 

I still get asked ‘Why do I do it?’ And even with my 9 answers enumerated previously, this trip made me realise even more…

  • Adventure – I realised that my trip was more of an ‘Adventure holiday’ of discovery than an idyllic holiday of chilling out (which is a bit counter intuitive given the Maldives’ fame for ultimate in relaxation). Asking why I do it is similar to asking why a mountain biker spends his holiday toiling over rugged terrain, or why a camper sleeps on cold hard ground or why an athlete goes to a boot camp. To many, the work and effort seems less vacation-like. To me, it’s part of the allure.
  • Digital Vision – I’ve been focused on the Internet and its technology since the 90s when Microsoft “turned on a dime” to embrace it. It is a central part of my professional career, interests and expertise. I have my own interpretations and vision of the trajectories and issues in the still emerging digital world. And Maldives Complete is both my expression and experimentation in that domain. One dimension of a dynamic that intrigues me is the cataloguing of information. The conventional wisdom is that brute-force search engines are the end-all and be-al of information access, but I think the Internet world supports and calls for more models than this as the Google Search has a huge number of shortcomings and gaps. Search is not a Filter. It is a perspective touched on by Internet maven Seth Godin in his post “Sort & Search”…
    • “Search is powerful, essential and lucrative. Google demonstrated just how much value can be created when you let people easily find what they want. Sort, on the other hand, is easily overlooked and something that most of us can can work with. For example, the way a restaurant sorts the wines on the wine list at will have a dramatic impact on what people order. If you list the cheap wines first, people will probably end up spending less. And when your wine list migrates to an iPad and you let the diner sort by price, popularity and other indicators, consumption patterns will instantly change. Hotels.com, Zagats, Kayak and hundreds of other sites let you sort by quality, ranking and price. Not only does this change the way we choose, it also changes the behavior of the those being ranked!”
  • Fun. Earlier this year, my friend and prominent Internet artist Hugh MacLeod published this piece (see above) and it captured another reason. Working on Maldives Complete is fun. It might be an ‘expensive hobby’…but the alternative is even more expensive.

I get a number of typical reactions to the these explanations and friend and artist Hugh MacLeod captured some very apropos replies to these reactions (see cartoons above and below). The first reaction I get to my calling Maldives Complete my “hobby” is that “It’s an awfully expensive hobby.” Well, yes, it is expensive…but most hobbies are. Golf, scuba diving, horse riding, restoring old cars, following Springsteen. As Lori says, I am a “Resort Spotter”. Like a “Trainspotter” obsessed with research, finding and seeing every resort and every unique resort feature (and she is much happier being dragged across the Maldives than to obscure railway depots).

A second reaction is that I must be very “talented” to do the coding and writing I do. Quite frankly, the web page coding is not much more sophisticated that one could do after a basic course on HTML and ASP.net. The design is very simple and many have criticized. And the writing is well…more from the heart than from the trained hand. The key to the success of Maldives Complete has been its “completeness”. Keeping all of the data fresh, up-to-date and accurate. That doesn’t take any special skill or talent, just drive to get it right.

 

Gapingvoid Creativity Drive

Help Me Help Others

Maldives Complete - google

 

 

 

I need help. Despite the steadily increasing traffic, the regular fan mail, the positive words from Facebook and TripAdvisor forums, and the resort support, Maldives Complete still does not rank highly in search engine result pages (SERPs). The site has a very credible Page Ranking of ‘3’, more than many pages that seem to come higher in the results.

The issue is that lots of people investigating the Maldives as a destination for the first time often won’t find Maldives Complete unless someone in-the-know tips them off to it. That means that those prospective visitors get lured to crappy commercial sites that just provide a little bit of generic tantalising information and then bombard them with holiday offers.

One of the things that first frustrated me driving me to develop Maldives Complete was the vacuous and shallow commercial websites that always barged to the top of the search engine results when I searched for “Maldives resorts”.  Because Maldives holidays are so expensive, there’s a lot of incentive for operators and website cowboys to produce mediocre websites with a few stock images and then put lots of money into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that will thrust them to the top of the rankings.  Everywhere I go in the Maldives travel industry, most experts and aficionados now know of Maldives Complete and share generous and kind praise the work it is doing. Still it’s a cut-throat world when lots of money is involved. Even the well-done sites that I promote, link to for their quality and get praise from in private, don’t put links to me I guess out of fear that I will draw lucrative traffic away from them.

The praise for Maldives Complete is backed up by the stats.  Its web traffic has grown steadily since its launch with a particular surge in recent months (eg.  20% traffic growth just last month).  Since the outset, an average of over 40% of the daily visitors were ‘Return Visitors’ meaning that people like what they saw and have come back for more. 

But the most telling and also curious statistic is the referrals from search engines.  For most websites, this is one of the most common sources of people finding the site.  But with Maldives Complete, only 27% comes from search engines.  The rest come from (a) ‘No Referrer’ meaning they typed the name straight into the browser, or (b) email sites (eg. mail.yahoo.com) meaning someone emailed them the link).  Despite a very respectable Google Page Rank of ‘3’, MaldivesComplete doesn’t show up in the top 1000 results of a search on ‘Maldives resorts’.  By contrast, Adrian Neville’s authoritative site SevenHolidays has a Page Rank of ‘2’ but still shows up at position 26.

One of the key drivers to search engine position is links backlinks.  Because I don’t make any money out of this site, I haven’t had any resources to go out with PR campaigns and SEO initiatives to buy or market such ‘link juice’ (and the SEO gurus call it).  Since so much of the popularity of MaldivesComplete seems to be driven by word of mouth and regular readers, I thought I would send out an appeal for links.  If you have an appropriate site (eg.  something to do with travel or the Maldives) and you think that MaldivesComplete is useful, then any link you can put on the site to MaldivesComplete will help the search engine bots to value it as highly many of you seem to.  Thanks for any support you can provide.  Hopefully it will help others to find and benefit from this tool to find just the right resort for them.

Best of the Maldives: New Music Tag

Dreaming of Maldives music

 

 

 

Music.  It’s been a while since I’ve added a new category to the ‘Best of the Maldives’ features.  But yesterday’s Tibetan Singing Bowls inspired me to add ‘Music’.  We have several now mostly falling under the ‘Entertainment’ category.  But, for those audiophiles out there, I thought I now had critical mass to merit its own tag. Here are the pieces to date…