Sifry stuff: Offbeat Guides hits private beta

So Dave Sifry announced the private beta of his new personalized and printed travel guide service, offbeat guides, last night. Back when I was still casting about for the next good thing, I spent some time with old friend Dave and heard about the ideas and the prototype.  I was excited then, and still am, and here’s why:

  • Picking through the comments by friends on TripAdvisor and on blogs to compile what people really think about places, lodgings and attractions for a destination is time-consuming, unwieldly and un-efficient.
  • Even if you do this work, finding a place to save/store it can be a pain. And there’s no good way to do the wisdom of crowds and find others’ compliations (or annotations).
  • When you’re on the street in Rome, unless you have a smarter phone than many people do (I don’t think most people today have a BlackBerry, iphone, smart phone, etc.–though they will–)paper really matters. And guidebooks just don’t always have what you want. Or have too much. And tear out pages is ugly.

So, there’s something great about being about to print a custom travel guide, focused on what you want to know, for a place you are headed. Having both a digital copy and a printed copy is cool, useful, disruptive–it diminishes the importance of the airline aggregator and the publishing business as middlemen, as well.

And finally, I think it’s neat that someone who built something very distinctive in search back in 2003 is tackling a totally different set of problems here in 2008–and this time, it seems like Dave’s been able to build some initial business models right in.

More in the breaking TechCrunch story, here.