An online search of any major North American city will yield a flood of blogs, advertisements, and diarists' musings. A Google search of "Vancouver" alone yields 87 million hits. Narrow it down to "Vancouver dining" and you still get 8.3 million responses.
To help sort through this wealth of material, a pair of New Yorkers has created Moebii, a Web site that aggregates recent travel journalism and employs a user-rating system to keep its content current and on point.
A search of Vancouver on Moebii at http://www.moebii.com/pages/index.php yields a manageable 35 stories published since 2007, from sources like the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Frommers.com.
Moebii is also a good source for content that lets you get a feel for a place. A search of Varanasi, the sacred Hindu city on the Ganges River, pulls up only 13 entries, but many of them are thoughtful meditations that explore the meaning and the feel of the place. One is a mesmerizing Boston Globe photo essay showing a solar eclipse from Varanasi and other points in Asia last summer. What you're unlikely to find on Moebii: restaurant and hotel reviews, travel directions, weather, and other nuts and bolts of seeing a new place.
"The practical stuff is done, it's out there," said Chris Danielian, a former hedge fund manager who founded Moebii with his business partner Rob Celic this fall. Moebii steers readers to Wikipedia if they want more practical information.
"We're not trying to replace the guidebook," said Danielian. "What we're trying to do is fill in the gaps with hopefully great stories that we find on the site."
To keep Moebii's content on target, stories are tagged so they pop up under the right search. The site's selection of 50 stories about Florence, Italy, includes an article about street food in Saigon, Tuscany, and Marrakesh. The article was tagged to show up in a search for Florence because Florence is in Tuscany.
Staff members are doing the tagging now, but ultimately Moebii will rely on users, said Danielian. He has faith that readers will alert Moebii's managers when something is wrong. "With a community that's engaged, they'll let us know (when) it's a problem," he said.
Ultimately Danielian wants users to be able to create their own trip itineraries through the site, upload photos, write stories, post others' stories, and join in conversations about travel. Moebii will provide e-mail alerts for users when new stories pop up about areas they've recently searched.
For revenue, Moebii's founders would like to link their stories to businesses that could use them — such as outfits providing travel gear or guided trips.
"We can become a clearinghouse between the people who did the story and the people who need the story," Danielian said.