MasterNewMedia
Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi
 


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Crowdsourcing Italy's Tourism Portal: Italian Independents Get Together To Rethink Italy's Institutional Web Site - RItalia

""Crowdsourcing" is a neologism for a business model in which a company or institution takes a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsources it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call over the Internet. ...In almost every case crowdsourcing relies on amateurs or volunteers working in their spare time to create content, solve problems, or even do corporate R&D."

ritalia_log-500o.gif
pugliese_ritalia-500.jpg

The scoop: One month ago tomorrow, Italy's government launched a new tourism web portal for which huge resources and a budget of 45 million euros had been allocated. The site came online under a barrage of heavy fire from many technologists, independents, bloggers and professionals as the site failed to meet some of the most fundamental accessibility and usability principles, while leaving lots to be desired in terms of its overall communication strategy.

In a matter of days a fast-moving and highly vocal community of passionate individuals aggregated online and decided to give life to a counter-initiative called RItalia.

In essence, the RItalia group is made up of all those people who, following the announcement of the new Italia.it tourism portal and not feeling satisfied and represented from a project that should be our country online business card - have decided to spontaneously aggregate with the will to understand and discuss how such a tourism web portal should have been architected and designed.

RItalia is made up of professionals, students, university professors, tourism and marketing experts, IT people and geeks from Italy an from other countries as well. More than 200 people have already signed up to join in this unique live event taking place next week in Milan.

The initiative, unique in his genre, showcases how effective the power of aggregation and free sharing of ideas can actually be. Whether or not the RItalia initiative will be able to design and create an alternative solution to the newly launched Italian tourism portal is all to be seen, but the sudden wave of interest and ideas that this spontaneous group of individuals is already giving life to is a living proof of the new opportunities that such spontaneous self-organizing action-oriented communities can generate.

As RItalia supporters include some of the best independent thinkers, writers, designers and technologists that we have around, it would not be to arduous to imagine that the project could indeed give life to a web tourism portal that is highly innovative, user-centered, standards-compliant, usable, fast, engaging and very cost-effective.

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www.Italia.it and the RItalia movement - The Story

In the Italian blogosphere it seems there is no better to talk about right now: the new tourism web portal Italia.it.

With a Hollywood-like budget of 45 million euros (almost 60 million dollars) the new institutional web site announced over a year ago launched less than 30-days ago among an ocean of negative reactions.

italia_en_logo.gif

Italia.it, whose logo has been designed by the historical international communication agency Landor Associates, delivered at launch a web site that wasn't accessible with Firefox, had navigation and accessibility issues, utilized old-fashioned tables to format the content in place of DIV layers, showcased an exaggeration of very glamorous Flash-based content and video, and had a number of technical issues including being very slow to access and remaining off-line for an unusual number of hours during his rather short existence.

Other problems include lack of content, sections that are navigable only with German language menus, pages awaiting a final layout, and an overall sense of slowness.

For now, accessibility compliance is guaranteed by using a parallel web site and dedicated sections that serve as reference for access by handicapped users.

The overall architecture of Italia.it is quite interesting: an attempt to provide a multi-faceted access to the most interesting places, events and things to do for a person wanting to visit Italy. But as you can imagine, events, places, exhibitions... the list is huge and only with a tight and efficient virtual collaboration with all the regional tourism offices Italia.it can hope to pull off a service that is both timely and informative.

For now, the new Italia.it tourism portal cab be seen as being divided in five main sections:

  1. Visit Italy
    visit_italy_menu.gif

    This is an interactive map of the Italian peninsula from which the visitor can access specific predefined locations and obtain more information about them as well as road information to create her own tourist itinerary.


  2. What To Do
    what_to_do_menu.gif

    Art, culture, culinary arts, wines, religion, sport, and more are the signpost driving visitors of this section to find selected events, places and activities across the whole country.


  3. Itineraries
    itineraries_menu.gif

    Multiple itineraries are proposed based on specific themes. The Palladian Villas in the Veneto region rather than the primitive Nuraghi in the Sardinia island, and so on. The site visitor can actually build her own customised itinerary over an interactive map which automatically suggests relevant events not to be missed.


  4. Events
    events_menu.gif

    This section is reserved to Italian events large and small happening anywhere from the big cities to the small ones. Fairs, local markets, religious and folkloristic events are all part of this strategic section.


  5. Plan Your Trip
    plan_your_trip_menu.gif

    How to arrive in Italy and how to travel inside our country whether you are want to go by car, train, or airplane.



Criticism

As you can imagine, the Italian blogosphere reaction at the sight of this new, tax-paid monster was both immediate and fierce. Tens of posts on small and large blogs as well as articles on mainstream media gave the stage to an open discussion that is growing and ongoing to this very day.

Even the Italian Congress complained in his session n. 121 by saying: ''The web portal, for which are forecasted investments which total 45 million euros, is characterized by many technical problems which defeat all general usability principles. ...The portal does not abide to the requirements set out by the Legge Stanca which favours facilitated access to those less-than-able users by requiring full compliance with the international accessibility standards set out by the W3C international consortium."

Italian techno-geek blogger Marco Pugliese went as far as rebuilding the whole Italia.it site while using all of the standards and technical approaches that the official web portal shoukd have utilized.

Marco Pugliese wrote in his blog:

"...I have realized a layout version of the Italia.it site done completely in XHTML and CSS, to demonstrate to the world, and especially to the content architects and programmers of the present official site, that doing this was not only well within their reach but it could have been done in just half a day of work without spending 45 million euros and without relying on big names such as
IBM Italia S.P.A, ITS S.p.A and Tiscover AG to achieve some good results. ...
"

On the historical and political fronts it is to be noted that the Italia.it site had been planned and budgeted for during the previous Italian government headed by Silvio Berlusconi and had been closely followed by former ministries Giuliano Urbani-Lucio Stanca.

Of the planned 45 million euros only seven millions have already been spent so far. We also know that 25 millions had been planned for the development of the contents of Italia.it alone. Of these 21 would go to the Italian regions tourism offices and four to a supposed national newsroom. But there is no data about who is part of this national newsroom and who will manage it. Some Italian bloggers even wonder whether this money has already been spent. But nobody apparently knows.



Spontaneous Aggregation

But the heavy critiques, complemented by hundreds of comments from Italian readers, have not acted so much as a detractor to the just announced web portal but rather as an aggregation thread for all those involved in communication, online marketing and new media technologies, who had felt having been robbed of their tax-payer money for the creation of a monster they saw with no intrinsic value.

What better opportunity for these angered individuals to take up the very tools they evangelize, market and make a living off every day, to communicate, get together, brainstorm and re-design a new vision for the Italian tourism portal?

And so it is that a group of communication and marketing professionals that connects back to the Milano-Bicocca University has chosen to jump on the opportunity and to self-organize to build an alternative, cost- and communication-effective grassroots version of the official Italian tourism portal Italia.it.

Under the initial creative spark and logistic coordination of Maurizio Goetz, and a few other passionate marketing guerrilleros, RItalia was born.



RItalia

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RItalia is a spontaneous grassroots initiative that came together to define a new proposal for developing (if not altogether building) a better alternative to the recently launched official tourism web portal Italia.it. It is also the aggregation point for all those individuals interested in defining, discussing and reviewing what could be a new set of guidelines to significantly improve www.Italia.it.

RItalia unique strength is in the fact that the great number of people supporting and contributing to it acts out of pure, non-compensated, genuine, voluntary desire to participate and contribute..

In fact, our goal (I am indeed one of them) is not to carve a piece of the Italia.it yet unspent budget but
rather one of showing the tremendous creative power that the many individuals who are joining RItalia.it can bring in without needing any form of upfront material reward.

Those joining the RItalia ranks are a small army of passionate communicators, marketers and web technologists, who perceives Italy's tourism portal to be a communication project they all own in part. They paid for it with their taxes and their skills and know-how gives them the right to feel entitled to contribute into helping their country market itself more (cost-)effectively.

Although hard for many to believe, many people like me are deeply convinced that the vision and "intelligence" of this spontaneous grassroots crowd can absolutely do wonders when placed to compete with the expensive skills and know-how of supposed highly paid "industry experts".

What may come as a challenge to our spontaneous group is a strong need to coordinate, filter and support the creative brainstorming and discussion that will ensue from this initiative. Though I am confident that we may be able to pull this off, just as effectively as we were able to launch it., I expect the upcoming work of distilling and compiling our future direction to be likely the highest challenge we may have had to face so far.



The RItalia Barcamp

Ritalia-barcamp-400.gif

To do this, the RItalia initiative organizers have set a BarCamp-style event March 31st in Milan, Italy, that will bring together more than a few hundred individuals from all parts of the peninsula. BarCamps are grassroots events in which all participants play an active role by either presenting information and ideas or supporting the logistics of the event.

"A BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants."
(Source: Barcamp.org)

The RItaliaCamp participants will in fact work in an uncoordinated way to bring new ideas, tools and proposals on how to rebuild the Italian tourism web portal from the ground up.

The idea is the one that see the outcomes of the event utilized to define the new guidelines for a tourism web portal that is truly representative of our country and which fully leverages the communication, interaction, social and cost-saving opportunities offered to us by the intelligent use of new media technologies.

This unique community of supporters will meet physically in Milan on Saturday the 31st of March at the Bicocca University.

The plan is to create a briefing and specifications document that will be published on the web right after the event. The actual decision of whether to go ahead and actually build an alternative web tourism portal will be taken later on. The key goal for now it is therefore the one of producing a strategic document that well defines the key tech specifications and the defining characteristics for the information architecture and the editorial and content strategies required to build such possible alternative.

The live barcamp-style event of next week will in fact the perfect venue for all this information and ideas to come together through a series of presentations and openly-shared specification documents and proposals now being submitted by the many who wish to participate.





More information:

For more information about RItalia, RItaliaCamp and the www.Italia.it project please see the following resources:

http://www.ritalia.eu

email contact: info@ritalia.eu

RItalia press contacts:
* David Orban, david.orban[at]ritalia.eu, +39 035 6666399
* Elena Casalini, elena.casalini[at]ritalia.eu, +39 335 6262985



References and Other Sources utilized:
Mario Adinolfi
La Repubblica
HTML.it
Informatica Applicata
Last Tuesday - Marco Ottolini
Pugia Blog
Fuoritema.net
Scandalo Italiano



Support the project
http://ritaliacamp.chipin.com/ritaliacamp





Originally written by for Master New Media and first published as:
"Crowdsourcing Italy's Tourism Portal: Italian Independents Get Together To Rethink Italy's Institutional Web Site: RItalia"


Reference: RItaliaCamp [ Read more ]
 
 
 
Readers' Comments    
2007-03-21 11:18:50

Robin Good

Thank you Jacques, much appreciated indeed!



2007-03-21 09:26:15

Old Jacques

There is already a (good) bit of information documenting the history and development of the project directly in English at the other side of ScandaloItaliano: http://italianscandal.wordpress.com/ with more coming as we manage.

There is also some original information and observations by native English speakers, to which we are trying to add contributions from "potential clients/tourists", since increasing tourism from outside Italy seems to have been one of the major goals of the whole shebang, at least from what can be found in some of the earlier documents.



 
posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, March 21 2007, updated on Friday, February 26 2010


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