This week on TravelSort.com: When to Buy an Upgrade, Bump Compensation and More

Check out my weekly column over at TravelSort.com. This week I answer some of the most frequently asked questions from Frequent Traveler University a few weeks ago. TravelSort is trying something new, so in order to view this week’s post you need to log-in.

Comments

  1. This was a *totally stupid* move by TravelSort. They have no right to require access to a Facebook account.

  2. What a hassle to sign up, request permissions, complete profile, etc. Sorry but I won’t be pursuing this any further.

  3. I didn’t read it — It’s one thing to require registration to comment on it, but an entirely different thing to require registration to read it.

    Not worth it IMHO. Sorry.

  4. Please just copy the text here, i wasn’t able to get to read it, even though i made a profile.

  5. Quite disappointing. I enjoy your travelsort column but refuse to provide unknown sites with so much personal information from my facebook profile.

    Could you please cross post articles to the blog as well.

  6. Ben,

    Really enjoyed your columns at Travelsort, but I have no intention of giving them my facebook info just to read a column. Perhaps you could pass on to them that they are alienating a lot of potential readers.

  7. Ben, I too would have read it, but I will not register with Travelsort.com to read it. They are stupid to require registration. They are going to get far less traffic on their site and thus less readers.

  8. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to cross-post, though I’ll certainly pass on a link to the comments.

  9. Ben – I echo what other people are saying —

    Really enjoyed your columns at Travelsort, but I have no intention of giving them my facebook info just to read a column.
    They / you just lost a reader ….

  10. Epic fail. I’ll no longer be reading your TravelSort. You need to pick better business partners.

  11. I agree with everyone else. No way am I going through all their crazy steps to sign up. Loved your TravelSort articles, but I won’t be reading any more if I have to go through all that.

  12. Thanks for the comments. As you know we do normally make all of our posts accessible without registration. Together with Ben I decided to make this particular post available only to TravelSort members due to one of the questions covered, which we didn’t want indexed by the search engines, as it’s a sensitive topic. Feel free to browse any of Ben’s past posts or our many travel destination guides, TravelSort answers, etc. none of which require registration.

  13. I understand that banning cross-posting drives extra traffic to travelsort, but it would be great if they could create a different way to log-in. Like a lot of people, facebook is banned at my workplace, which means that your column will remain unread. Sorry, because they are usually great.

  14. No way am I going to register this way. Very shortsighted and guaranteed to driver away customers. A lot of us have had their fill with Facebook.

  15. Hi Iain, we hear you; realize that this is a problem at many workplaces where FB is banned. The problem we found previously with these other ways of registering was that there was a greater incidence of spam (since fewer spammers tend to authenticate with Facebook) and legitimate members would forget which way they used to log in, and would end up creating duplicate profiles, wondering why their previously complete profile was now incomplete, etc. Please stay tuned for Ben’s future columns, as the vast majority won’t include a sensitive question that we don’t want indexed.

  16. “Together with Ben I decided to make this particular post available only to TravelSort members due to one of the questions covered, which we didn’t want indexed by the search engines, as it’s a sensitive topic.”

    Hey Hilary from Travelsort.com, they do censorship in Iran and China also! This is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

  17. NOT ONLY do you need a Facebook account , you need to have a COMPLETE profile.

    I have used my current profile for over a year, and this is the first time I’m being asked to fill in additional fields.

    No thanks!

  18. Buy a clue Hilary. A sensitive question. Ha, come on. Terrible business decision Ben & people don’t forget…

  19. In Fact, they are not asking me to complete my Facebook profile but to complete one for Travelsort.

    So this is necessary for the super secret sensitive information that Ben just blogged about? Hmmmm….

  20. @Hilary: There are lots more ways to avoid indexing. Robots.txt has been around forever, as has nofollow.

    I won’t ever join facebook as I don’t care to be in Zuck’s inventory nor deal with the terrible “security” settings.

  21. Hilary I’ll give you a one way award ticket to Iran, if you promise not to ever come back. I’m sure you would do good work for the Iranian gov’t censorship department.

  22. Ed, please let me know your profile URL if you’re still having trouble accessing the article. We do not require a complete profile to view it, only registration.

  23. Fair enough, Hilary – it’s your business, and if that is the best way that you’ve found to secure your interests, I can’t really complain.

    I can’t be the only one, however, that is more than a little intrigued about the “sensitive topic”. Is Lucky about to reveal his favorite Cheetah Girl song? That would set the heather alight…

  24. Hi, Hilary and Ben –

    Like many here, I’m not wild about having to log in with my FB account to read Ben’s excellent columns. That said, I completely understand Hilary’s reasoning on why to use Facebook sign-on (I’ve done the same on sites I manage) – that all seems quite reasonable. I think that the comparisons to Iranian censorship are hyperbolic in the extreme – TravelSort is a for-profit business, and if you don’t want to “pay the price of admission,” to read something there, that’s your choice.

    What I found odd was the permissions that TravelSort was requesting for my Facebook sign-in. Why do you need “Access my data any time”,”Access my profile info” and “Access my family and relationships”? Part of this is a failure on FB’s part – they should really ask content providers to put this info in the request.

    If you could provide some answers on this, I think a lot of Ben’s readers would really appreciate it.

    Thanks!

  25. I’m appalled at this move by TravelSort to require registration. Restricting access to this information is ridiculous, especially when the “block” doesn’t do what TravelSort claims it does. The “block until registering” is done via client-side Javascript, which means 2 things:

    1) It’s not blocking search engines. The text is returned as regular HTML the same as all the other posts, even without registering.
    2) To get past the block, you can just turn off Javascript in your browser.

    So let’s see… ineffectual blocking which doesn’t stop “unauthorized” users but does cause a giant hassle and privacy invasion for “authorized” users. Adds no value for anyone except the publisher, who now has access to Facebook profiles for every reader.

    I’m disgusted. Although I value Ben’s posts, I won’t be returning if this is the new norm.

  26. Hi Iain, Sorry to disappoint you, no fave Cheetah Girl song I’m afraid 🙂
    While it may not seem sensitive to FlyerTalk veterans, when I first asked Ben to write about the topic he explained there had been quite a backlash on FT when it was discussed plainly. Hence, it seemed like a good compromise to have him simply cover the basics but require login to read it. The alternative would have been to leave the question out, and I thought it better to include it and let people make their own decision about whether to login or not.

  27. Sure, the FB requirement sucks, but they’re not being especially tricky about it. Just view the HTML source.

  28. Ben – Can you post the article here? I won’t be registering for the content, free or not.

    Feel free to post an update when the face-wall is taken down, I’d like to read the conent, but not at this “cost”.

    Ronald Reagan (June 12, 1987): “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

  29. The article is hidden behind the popup and the black layer. This has two drawbacks:

    1) It doesn’t work. You can very easily remove the popup/black layer in browsers like Chrome and Firefox, and read the article.

    2) It doesn’t prevent search engines from indexing your page. The article is loaded – the content is on the page. Ordinary users can’t see it because of the black layer, but search engines simply read the code of the page, and they’ll be reading everything.

    So this kind of protection is useless.

    Now how to read the article in Google Chrome:

    1) right click on the black layer, and select ‘inspect element’, a new window will open

    2) in this new window, right click on a div element that looks like div id=”dialog1234567890… and select ‘delete node’ (it’s just above the highlighted element)

    3) done! The article is now visible.

    As you can see, the article is always loaded, and WILL be indexed by search engines once they visit the page!

  30. Wouter and peeved, thanks for the alert, we are working on fixing it so it is not indexed by search engines, as this was the intent.

  31. If registration had been on your own site and not via facebook I would probably have signed up. However I won’t be as you are using Facebook.

  32. Read the content (thanks View Source button) – a few questions:

    1. What was the controversial content? Nothing covered there was new information not available elsewhere.

    2. If there is content you don’t want to be found (gasp!) it should not be on the Internet, or a computer, on on paper – best yet, wear some tinfoil on your head to be sure the satellites don’t find you thinking that information.

    3. If I understand the business model here, you (travelsort) dervive revenue from advertisements and clicks on ads. So forgive me from missing something that is probably obious to the Internet Millionaires with JD’s, MBA’s, and BA’s from schools all over that run travelsort, but if you restrict people from seeing your ads, don’t you get fewer dollars? I know we’ve tried this with bus-stop advertising, have the sign face away from the street, but that totally backfired and now ads are shared to those driving and taking the bus to improve advertisement penetration.

    4. I’m confused about the Travelsort mission, I understand and use Netflix, but I don’t see any DVD’s coming in my mail related to travel – am I missing something? Do I need to sign up with Facebook to get the benefits of Netflix + Travel that Travelsort is (About Us Page: “TravelSort is the Netflix of travel…”)

  33. jbm, thanks for your comment; and I would like to reiterate that this was done only for this particular post.

    In terms of the specific permissions we request via FB, we ask for basic profile data and family and relationships data to help us personalize content and traveler recommendations and soon, hotel recommendations for you. We also ask to be able to access data at any time in order to allow you to search for friends when they are offline and vice versa, so that you can follow them. Hope that helps, we appreciate the question.

  34. fEcebook sux! why are we required to have an account there to read every single piece of s**t is beyond me.

  35. That all makes sense, Hilary – thanks for clarifying!

    For everyone else: this sort of thing is going to become much more popular in the next few years – and that’s largely good for us consumers. Personalized content (inc ads) beat generic any day (that’s why Google can offer so much for free). And not having to remember every u/p you’ve ever used will make things more convenient, not to mention safer – if Gawker had been using Facebook comments instead of their own DB, thousands of people wouldn’t be changing passwords all over the internet after they were hacked.

    That being said, it’ll only be consumer-friendly if we push back against elements that are too one-sided, like businesses that vacuum up your personal data without a good reason. So keep commenting if you dislike a particular element, but try to keep it civil and constructive so we can get a framework that keeps great content (like Ben’s blog) convenient, safe and free.

  36. Wow…just wow! udustats uses google or yahoo for authentication. Seems to work and doesn’t involve the travelsort getting a list of all my friends and family. Does travelsort think it is the NY Times? That the content is so valuable that people are willing to give up all privacy just to READ it? Fat chance.

    Do I really want all of my information given to an organization that is so incompetent that I could still read the blocked article (ctrl-u)? I’m sure my personal information is in good hands.

    We need facebook authentication so the article doesn’t get indexed by search engines! They have this new thing called “robots.txt” that let’s you tell search engines to skip over/ignore content. It was just invented in 1994 so maybe travelsort is not familiar with cutting edge technology.

    I can only assume this article is “sensitive” because Ben mentions the very concept of fuel dumps. Or maybe the discussion about how much is an upgrade worth will get UA people flaming about upgrades on CO being too cheap? Or maybe this was a horrible experiment to see what kind of suckers you could get to “pay” for an article with personal data?

    I assume the web team will find a way to actually block the article in the future. FB authentication means poor Ben will be writing for [almost] no audience. I assure you I will not be reading an FB protected articles. This is a lose-lose situation. I miss out on travel tips that may benefit me, and travelsort makes 0 ad revenue off of me.

    Ciao

  37. Benifer,
    To respond to your questions:
    1./2. I was respecting Ben’s wishes regarding one of the questions. As I mentioned above, yes, many FT readers would be familiar with the topic, but not everyone reading the articles is on FT. We were also taking a cue from Gary Leff, who noted that as soon as this topic was broadly discussed in the mainstream media things might well change.

    3. Actually we don’t currently don’t derive any revenue from advertising and that is not our focus. Our business model is based on markup of hotel deals.

    4. Perhaps Netflix is confusing in this context–that was our shorthand way of expressing that our mission is to personalize travel planning for members. In the context of hotels, we help members with the basic question of “Where should I stay?” taking into account all their preferences and specific travel taste.

    Hope this helps.

  38. So now I have to authenticate to read your Travelsort column as if it’s some sort of premium content? This one won’t be read.

    Do you understand anything about someone wanting to maintain their privacy? Perhaps, everyone doesn’t want to expose their life on the web to read some random article.

    Hillary, could you cut the BS. Of the articles I’ve read from your website it seems like half of them has some post from you stating the usefulness of the content. Really, if it was so useful why would you have to post a comment stating that or is it you just like posting nonsense. Time for your little business experiment to go bankrupt.

    I think I’m not the only one here that says that travelsort.com is generally garbage reading and after this whole Facebook login, that’s the last time I access your content.

    Ben, if I were associated with Travelsort.com, I would be embarrassed. So much for being a quiet mileage runner without posting it all over the place. I used to enjoy reading your blog for useful content and trip reports. I’m sorry it has turned into a blog of about 60% worthlessness I could care less about. Seriously, do I care how you didn’t have the common sense to not wear pajamas out of an airplane? No

  39. I agree with others here regarding Travelsort.
    While I’ll give Ben/Lucky a hard time regarding lack of time on the ground visiting places (hopefully in a good spirited way) I enjoy his articles. I certainly wouldn’t register with Travelsort and don’t even get me started with the Facebook/Twitter stuff.

  40. He posts info about fuel dumping. BFD. Fortunately TravelSort’s web developers are so incompetent you can get around the Facebook linking by disabling javascript in your browser.

    Hilary, you can’t start out saying the FB linking is necessary due to a sensitive question and then having to admit you really wanted personal data for pushing hotel bookings after you were cornered on permissions. You blew any credibility you had.

    Interesting that Ben has disappeared from this thread since Hilary showed up… not willing to speak for himself?

  41. Kinda surprised Ben would sell out his readers’ privacy like this, always thought that privacy and what not was a big deal to him. When there’s a buck to be made…

  42. I honestly don’t care about requiring registration, as we really don’t need mainstream awareness of fuel dumping and using CO to get around *net blocking (though I don’t think this was part of the rationale behind limiting access). Ben obviously has this separate blog to get some sort of ancillary revenue, which I fully support. I for one feel okay being advertised to by someone who gives me such good content. Remember, this is part of his job.

  43. I’m willing to give Ben the benefit of the doubt, as fuel dumping is a sensitive topic in the frequent flyer community. I don’t think Ben was “selling out”, as others have said.

    However an Open ID solution coupled with a Google or Yahoo! login would seem to provide Hilary with a way to secure the page while still providing content valuable to users.

  44. I actually wouldn’t have minded signing up for a separate TravelSort.com account if such a thing existed. I’ve liked most of what I’ve read on the site (mostly Ben’s articles, but some other stuff, too), and wouldn’t mind receiving occasional emails from them to let me know about recent content.

    However, I’m pretty wary of using Facebook Connect and granting TravelSort access to my profile info. I do enjoy many of the articles on TravelSort, but it’s not a company I know much about, it isn’t particularly well-known or well-established, and I’ve never done business with them. I’ve had my Facebook account for nearly seven years now and there’s way more information about me stored in that site than I’m willing to share with a startup web company.

  45. Ben,
    My feels are the same as others. Sorry but I too refuse to sign-up for TravelSort. Guess it’s adios for me too ——

    P.S. Is Hilary your travel companion?

  46. Don’t know what the fuss is all about. Just sign up for a dummy facebook account and use that for this type of stuff. Setup with a fake identity and with an email just for junk mail. Problem solved. Great article lucky. Keep up the good work.

  47. cramer, thanks for the comment. We did actually have an OpenID solution initially, but the problem was that users ended up creating a number of duplicate profiles because of not remembering which way they initially registered. It’s not as simple as simply comparing email addresses, as many users seem to use a different one for email/pw registration vs. FB. We are certainly considering how best to allow multiple login channels while still avoiding the duplicate profile and spam issues we experienced previously.

  48. Brian, thanks, glad you enjoyed Ben’s article; we do try to provide as helpful advice as possible, and always welcome questions for future Q&A posts.

  49. Hilary, You asked me to report to you if the site was still asking me to provide complete profile (answering travelsort questions). Well, when I tried to logon again, this time it let me through but then gave me a full black screen. 🙁

  50. This thing about fuel dumps being an extremely an sensative topic and why we need to log in using Facebook is total nonsense and b.s. This topic was already written about last yr on BoardingArea.com both by Ben and Gary. Further it has been written extensively on FlyerTalk.com. The real reason Travelsort wants you to login using Facebook is that they want all sorts of personal information about you (see comment 41). This thing about search engines pulling up that article is total b.s.

    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2010/03/29/well-there-go-the-fuel-dumps/

    http://boardingarea.com/viewfromthewing/2010/03/30/airfare-pricing-trick-to-drop-fuel-surcharges-from-international-tickets-is-no-more/

  51. Ditto to many above. I am willing to register at a site, but there is no way I am going to do so through Facebook.

    Guess that’s one less website I have to bother checking then.

    Ben, love your stuff but this is really stupid.

  52. Confirmed that as of 11:16pm EDT, simply deleting the DIV with ID dialog05174202556999234 in either FireBug or IE developer tools (F12) removes the requirement to login.

    Any competent web developer already knows that they can prevent search indexing with a robots.txt file, and that hiding information with black boxes doesn’t work. (Just ask the Pentagon staffers who redacted classified documents with black boxes in PDF a couple years ago).

    Ben’s lack of comment on this subject has been nothing short of inexcusable. If this was indeed to prevent indexing due to a sensitive topic, he should have explained that in his initial post rather than passing the buck to TravelSort.

    Ben — you’ve built up quite the readership. You can’t alienate them on a whim and expect no fallout.

  53. Hilary,
    Are you Ben’s mother? He isn’t answering any of the questions addressed to him but you are. I’m quite confused. Ben are you out there? Can you hear me now? —–

  54. Folks, sorry for my lack of comment. I’ve been dealing with a bigger issue this afternoon (trust me on that one), which I’ll be blogging about this evening. I’m also going to Paris tomorrow after just getting back from a two week trip a couple of days ago (awful planning on my part, I know), so I’ve been stretched very, very thin over the past couple of days.

    Anyway, here’s my honest, unfiltered (I haven’t spoken to anyone at TravelSort since this discussion began, other than sending along a link to the discussion in this post) perspective.

    First of all, as I hope all (most?) of you know, I’m no “sell out,” which I’ve hopefully demonstrated over the past several years.

    I was asked if I would be willing to write about fuel dumps, since it was a topic that came up quite a bit at Frequent Traveler University (which Hilary also attended). I mentioned it was something I wasn’t comfortable with given that it’s a bit of a taboo subject, which TravelSort completely understood. TravelSort respected that and mentioned they’d be happy to make it accessible to logged in members only, though it’s still not something I’m comfortable with, though I was happy to write about what they are (as opposed to how to actually do a “fuel dump”).

    That ended up being one of the questions in the FAQ post and TravelSort password protected the post. Whether the motive was to protect the content or to build membership, frankly I don’t have an issue with it either way. I get paid by TravelSort to write a weekly column about travel, and in my opinion it’s up to them what they do with it. They have to do what they think works best for their business plan, and if password protecting that specific post is part of it, then so be it.

    Ultimately it’s free content, and while I’d rather see it open to everyone, that’s entirely their decision and I can see their motive in trying to increase membership (though I can see how it would at the same time isolate traffic to the website).

    In retrospect I shouldn’t have mentioned this week’s post on my blog, and instead just let the “regulars” that are members and would stumble upon it anyway read the post. For that I apologize. In the future I’ll only link open content here on the blog.

    Fair?

  55. Yes fair Ben.

    As for TravelSort,

    Did this to gain access to your Facebook information.

  56. Carlos and others, simply not true. We were respecting Ben’s and other flyer talkers’ desire to not have fuel dumps covered in the mainstream media, which is more likely now that Boarding Area posts are syndicated to USA Today. We currently only use FB Connect for registration, so restricting access to members meant using our existing login/registration. Completely up to readers whether or not to register to read this particular article, and we understand and respect the wishes of those that chose not to.

  57. Coins,

    Please find another provider. TravelSort is NOT the way to go. As you can see by all the comments, people are upset. I signed up; but on second thought, I’m going to unlist myself.

    So not worth the trouble.

  58. Ben, I think it would be called fair to call getting paid to write an article on “Fuel Dumps” for a website selling out. What else would you call being paid for this content that is kept rather hidden?

    I’d suggest maybe you rethink career plans of getting paid for content that will be syndicated that in the end screws over the entire flyertalk community. Basically, selling out their hobby for your financial gain.

    Hilary, when are you going to shut down travelsort.com? Just do us all a favor and go away.

    I used to consider the frequent flyer community one of sharing tricks for free, but when one starts to get paid for content it ruins it. I find it just as repulsive that a DO has become a money generating exercise, such as the Chicago DO in October that costs $75 to attend because lunch is included compared to it costing $25 last year.

  59. @ bschaff1 — Did you read the article? I DON’T explain how to do fuel dumps. I explain what they are. If you read it I’m sure you’ll agree that it isn’t screwing anyone over if you actually read it.

  60. Finally got around to looking at the post and was surprised about the Facebook post as well. Sorry Lucky-I’m done with that site. Its one thing to require a login and another to access all the facebook info. You can do better than this…..

  61. Dangit, I hate to be late to the party! I guess that’s what I get for being busy this week.

    So the protected content is really all about FDs? I pity the poor sap who thinks, ‘wow, I wanted a piece of that action’ and ends up in the Master thread on the FT forum! LOL. WWE will have a field day with the rookies.

  62. Just to add — telling somebody WHAT FDing is, without telling them specifically HOW to FD, is pretty worthless. I’ve FDed some in the past before that thread became more cryptic than the DaVinci Code and can’t imagine starting from scratch today.

  63. Ben, together with many, many of your other readers I will not sign up with TravelSort to read your current article or any other content on that web site. I sincerely hope you will join us by resigning from your position with them until they change their modus operandi. I hope you also were hit in the face by this surprise or if not & you knew it was coming I am seriously disappointed that you didn’t say anything to us. How disappointed am I – I was about to recommend you to a friend for an award booking but will not now do so!

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