A test of social media (and WiFi hotspots).
I'm going to Mobile World Congress 2011 in Barcelona. That is happening. After February 14th, I'll know what it's like to drink at an open bar in Spain. And you'll all have a chance to oggle the latest gadgets from CES (like the Xoom) in a more finished state. If we're very lucky, Palm may even have some new tablets to show us.
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Manfred, my editor, was awesome enough to cover my airfare, and I elected not to stay in a hotel. I've spent most of my other cons- E3, CES, MeeGo, Pax- in decent accomodations. But hotels with good internet tend to lock you away from the life of a city.
Which lead me to CouchSurfing.org. These guys. A loose affiliation of wanderers and friendly hosts from across the world, offering up their couches and spare beds and breakfast nooks to weary travel-worn souls. I had a little experience with the site: last Christmas, I hosted a nice man from Central Mexico (by way of New York) on his stopover in Dallas.
But that was a far step from flying halfway (a quarter way?) across the world and living with real people and not in a hotel room. Thankfully, CouchSurfing.org has a verification process. You donate to the site, and they send you a postcard with a verification code that you then enter.
But what really lets you weed out the creeps is the extensive social dimension. CouchSurfing is all about reputation. When you host someone, they leave comments on your hospitality. And you can comment on what kind of guest they were. People with pages and pages of other verified accounts singing their praises are either insanely extensive frauds, or the real deal.
I've sent out three messages today to different active users with the appearance of legitimacy. My goal is to couchsurf my way through all of MWC 2011. I'll update you in a day or two when my housing plans (whatever they be) get settled.
Social media may not work for activism, but it seems like a pretty damn good tool for getting a meaningful (and affordable) look at another country that doesn't come filtered through a hotel window.