Posts Tagged ‘social media’

One Fun Earth Day: Denver Ultra Dash

Searching for Earth Day events in Denver, I came across something awesome. I stumbled upon Denver Ultra Dash, a first annual Earth Day citywide scavenger hunt.

the mean green fiascos

The Mean Green Fiascos made some great tutus

I like to consider myself somewhat knowledgeable on the the topic of citywide scavenger hunts. Ever since I organized one in Palma de Mallorca and then wrote an article about how to organize a citywide scavenger hunt, I’ve been approached by several people online looking for advice. A new fantasy profession was born: scavenger hunt planner/consultant.

As it turns out, there really are people who plan these events for a living. The non-profit organization Green Up Denver teamed up with Kaz Productions to organize this Earth Day fundraiser event. Green Up Denver works with festivals and events in Denver to lower their environmental impact, and Kaz Productions plans events for non-profits. Together they orchestrated Denver Ultra Dash.

bag ladies

Diana and I were "The Bag Ladies"

I started looking for a team to compete in the hunt. With a $600 prize for the first place hunt winners and a $300 prize for the costume contest winners, I saw it as a lottery ticket of sorts. I recruited my sister Diana. We figured that we have more of a flair for costume design than an athletic advantage for the hunt, so we went all out on our “bag lady” costumes. We came up with plastic bag tutus and reusable bag corsets. Hot, but not quite hot enough to beat the “It’s Easy Being Green” trio.

The scavenger hunt itself was a two-hour relay around Downtown Denver. Teams of two or more people were given 15 clues to scout out. Once we solved each clue and found the spot, we had to complete a digital media task such as taking a photo or shooting a video on location.

flip cup at matchbox

The first clue challenged us to a game of Flip Cup at Matchbox in RiNo

One design aspect of the hunt that I liked was the awareness raising. As teams of green-clad hunters shooting videos with total strangers on 16th Street pedestrian mall about Earth Day, we all heard a lot of “today is Earth Day?” That was great. Also, contestants with bicycles had an advantage over those on foot.

Another aspect I liked was the digital overlay. Smart phones were a must, and some clues required us to upload photos on the spot, which made for a real-time online coverage. Check out the Denver Ultra Dash on Facebook to see some of the results.

The Green Police

Watch out for The Green Police

There are a few aspects I would have changed about the rules, such as team size in order to curb some of the dividing and conquering that went on. I also would have spent a little time on “bag lady” headpieces so that we could have taken first place on costumes. But these are all things to keep in mind for Denver Ultra Dash 2013, which I definitely hope to attend.

Here are a few of the clues from this year’s hunt:

“Take a picture of your team ‘Where the future takes root’.”

“This local brewery and restaurant was named after the first sheriff that governor of the territory, James Denver appointed.  (Hint: Ned) Find out what sustainability efforts they are making.”

Denver B-Cycle Station

One clue's answer was Denver B-Cycle, the bicycle sharing system

“This local nonprofit provides a work program for people who are homeless and low-income to learn skills and create Earth-friendly products that sustain people and the planet.  Find this awesome nonprofit and take a picture of their garden.  Hint: Crema Coffee House.”

“Name three ways you can reduce your carbon foot print and make a quick 1-minute video showcasing this throughout the city.”

“On average one car with a local green taxi company drives how many miles per year? Find one of these taxis and take a picture of your entire team with it while each of you holds up the first number with your fingers.”


04 2012

Responsible Tourism Week 2011: An Unconference

Responsible Tourism Week 2011“Why is this event not available via live streaming on the Web?” This was a comment by Ron Mader on my post on the World Responsible Tourism Programme at the World Travel Market last November.  Ron makes a good point.  For anybody working toward a more responsible and sustainable tourism, the heavy emissions of flight travel are a central concern.

“Tourism events should be leading the way in offering free wi-fi and live streaming,” Ron continued in his comment. “Do we need to make the long haul flight to tourism conferences to discuss the impacts of climate change?”

Ron Mader is the founder of, a “global journal of practical ecotourism” with a track record of using web2.0 technology to promote responsible tourism dialogue and participation.

One of his annual online events is Responsible Tourism Week.  Ron calls it an “unconference,” an ongoing online event that encourages new global-level connections and local-level events. There’s no agenda, and no need for long haul flights or conference entrance fees.  Just connect on various web2.0 platforms to contribute and follow.

The 2011 Responsible Tourism Week is from February 14-18.  How to participate?

  • Check out the Flickr photos
  • use the wiki
  • introductions and posts on the event’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages
  • tag relevant pages and tweets with the hashtag #rtweek2011
  • think of examples of positive, constructive tourism and showcase them online
  • think about conference and meeting travel, and how it can be reduced given the web technology available today

Thanks,, for leading the way toward greener conferencing and travel.


02 2011

On Travel and Tagging in Facebook Photos

“…tagged a photo of you on Facebook.”  After three years of Facebook usage, I still get a little buzz from this email notification, every time.  Click-through is guaranteed, usually on the spot. Sometimes being tagged isn’t so fun.  Double chins and awkward angles, they happen. But usually, especially with travel photos, getting tagged is like receiving a gift.

“We connected, here’s a memory.”

Being tagged by other travelers is nice, but my favorite is being tagged in travel photos by people who actually live there.  To me, that’s one of the best mementos possible.  It demonstrates a kind of personal connection with a place.  Plus, It’s also an interesting glimpse of social network usage and trends all over the world.

An Internet/Facebook Cafe in Berat, Albania

An Internet/Facebook Cafe in Berat, Albania

Facebook is growing like crazy outside the U.S.  70% of Facebook accounts are now non-American. In some places, it seems ‘Facebook’ is another word for ‘Internet.’ On my most recent trip, the question “Do you have Facebook?” was right up there with “What’s your name?” as basic smalltalk. How are different cultures adapting and using this ubiquitous network that defines our times?  That’s what I love to find out.

‘Friending’ and ‘unfriending’ has become a topic of endless speculation and even research.  In my case, I ‘friend’ people readily, especially while traveling.  Maybe it’s in hopes of that one little gesture, that token — the photo tag. To me, tags outweigh wall posts and ‘likes’. They’re a wordless way of saying, “we connected, here’s a memory.” At least that’s my message when I’m doing the tagging.

Three Types of Tags

As I look through my tagged photos, I love seeing all the different places that my taggers are from, and the different kinds of tagging they’ve done.  I’ve come up with three categories of tagging.

Type I: Standard face tagging

This is basic tagging that even your grandma or other newcomers to Facebook can figure out.  You identify a person’s face in photo and you tag it with their name.  By far the most common kind of tagging I’ve seen.  My favorite travel photo that used standard face tagging was this jump shot of the Polar Bear club in Mallorca.  This one even made it into the local newspaper. Thanks to Pol Petitpierre for the tag!

standard face tagging

standard face tagging

Type II: Object-as-you tagging

Requiring a little bit more creativity, I would consider this to be more advanced tagging.  It involves tagging someone as an object related to them.  For example, I’ve been tagged as macaroni and cheese, as a cucharita (little spoon), a calculus equation, a card of my favorite card game, and words written in the sand, to name a few.  These all have their little stories, proving the taggers know me a little better than just a standard face tag.

At first I thought this was an American thing, but then I noticed that people from everywhere were object tagging.  My favorite in this category was being tagged as the butterfly I’m holding on a hike in northern Albania.  Nice work, Aleks Marku.

object-as-you tagging

object-as-you tagging

Type III: The greeting card tagging

This is perhaps my least favorite kind of tag.  As a form of greeting, some people create graphic designs or find some image that they like, then they tag everyone they know in the photo.  A little bit impersonal I’d say, but the graphic design aspect gets creative sometimes.

The first few times I was tagged in one of these greeting cards, it was by tech savvy friends in Latin America.  Then I realized it was a little more widespread when it happened about three more times this holiday season, twice by friends from Eastern Europe.  Do Americans do this too?

greeting card tagging

greeting card tagging

Are Facebook photos tagged from abroad a strange souvenir collection? I like to think of them as 21st century postcards.


01 2011

Green with website envy: the feisty redhead from

Some people have a thing for redheads.  I have a thing for redheaded website  Suzy Guese and I went to to the same Catholic grade school in Denver, CO with the unfortunate name Most Precious Blood.  Our oversized families are friends.

Suzy Guese
Suzy was a few grades younger than me at MPB, so I didn’t know her personally then. As we both started traveling Mediterranean Europe, I came across her website and felt a little starstruck.  Suzy’s brother Joe is a pro rock guitarist and her sister Laura is a studio artist.  Are the Gueses for real? How do they do it? At first glance of her website, Suzy seems to be floating on the ether of Old Europe.

As I read through some of Suzy’s posts, I got to know her better.  I learned that she is a very real combination of talent as a writer and hard work as a traveler.  She resonates with other longer-term travelers like myself who just keep going even when the initial thrill is gone.  I loved her articles about travel loneliness, travel crankiness, and finally returning home.  Why does she do it?  I think she wants to reach people and convince them to travel deeply. Based on the number of retweets on her posts, it’s working.

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a real travel writer

I am a human, among many others, who thinks Suzy’s website is great.  But what do the search engines think?  In their mysterious algorithmic ways, search engines send “spiders” to crawl the Internet and look for good stuff to index.  The engines assign importance to indexed websites based on a huge blend of variables.

I put Suzy’s site through a site grader and turned even greener with envy.  The site is only 10 months and one week old, yet it has already been indexed enough to score a Google PageRank of 4. Well done!  How many links to Suzy’s site appear on the web?  According to my grader, there are an impressive 171 inbound links out there.  That’s a lot of what search engines consider to be “votes” for

Wisely, Suzy has harnessed social media to ramp up her web presence and populate her site.  She is an avid stumbler-upon, tweeter, and even has a fan page on facebook that 166 people (myself included) “like”.  RSS feed? Check. I’m subscribed.

Suzy, if I could afford to meet you for a good glass of wine somewhere in Italy, I would.  I’d also settle for a good microbrew somewhere in Denver.  Until then, I’ll just keep reading and traveling.


11 2010

How to Organize a Citywide Scavenger Hunt

This article first appeared in Matador. To see the original article, click here. November, 2010
It was reposted on To see it, click here.
November, 2010
It was reposted on Worldwide Wanderings. To see it, click here.
November, 2010
It also appeared on Travel Matters. To see it, click here. November, 2010
It also appeared on Jumping Anaconda. To see it, click here. November, 2010

These are innovative times for fun lovers. Web technology and social media mean we can invent hybrid fun that is both participatory and spectator-worthy, spontaneous yet deliberate, intimately social and yet large in scale. Remember the first ever flash mob, which took place in Manhattan in 2003? Or when Jakob Lodwick, founder of Vimeo, coined the term lip dubbing in 2006?

Last summer my best friend came to visit me in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I wanted to pay tribute somehow to the city’s beautiful historical downtown, and to give my friend a tour of the city more memorable than a sight-seeing trip with tour guide headphones. So I organized a citywide scavenger hunt: experiential, real-life fun, that utilized the web to make it happen.

Citywide Scavenger Hunt, Palma de Mallorca 2010

Here’s how you can organize your own:

1. Form a committee

Start hyping the idea amongst your friends and see who gets the most enthused, and form an executive committee of two or three people with good synergy. This will help you generate creative ideas, and you can divide up the planning based on your strengths.

2. Plan ahead

Call an executive meeting and plan ahead. First up, decide when the event will take place. Pick a date at least one month down the road, because nothing citywide is going to happen in ten days time. Keep the event duration between four and six hours; weekends are best.

Then pick a start and end point for your scavenger hunt. Start at a central, well-known public place where people can congregate, such as a park or plaza. End somewhere people can linger and mingle after the event. Perhaps somewhere you can set up a barbecue or bonfire, or your favorite rooftop terrace or bar.

3. Visualize the details

The committee needs to imagine exactly how they want the scavenger hunt to play out. What will be the ideal number of participants? Will there be a list of written clues, a series of photo clues, or a treasure map, and do the clues follow an order? Will teams be self-selected or assigned? What are the rules, and how will you prevent cheating and declare winners? Will there be a prize? If needs be, set up an ethics committee to hammer out the details.

4. Make the clues

This is the most creative part of the event planning, but can also be the most time consuming. Tap into trivia and history about the city to test people’s local knowledge. Play on your city’s landmarks and points of interest as well as its lesser-known underground. Use a multimedia of clues in written, photo, and verbal form.

We made a photo collage of sites around the city. Teams had to identify them, go there, and recreate the picture in as accurate and yet creative a way as possible.

Assume participants will have digital cameras to evidence their findings, and think in images about what they should find. Don’t get carried away: between 10 and 20 clues that can be reached without a car in one afternoon.

5. Milk social media

Use online communities and social networks to publicise the event. Facebook and CouchSurfing are the obvious places to start. Adjust the privacy settings based on how big and how public you want the event to be. I say inclusiveness is a part of 21st century fun, so the more the merrier.

Make administration easier by opening a gmail account for people to officially sign up through, so they can confirm their attendance, and you can anticipate your turnout more accurately. Post a series of quick, informative messages and send a reminder or two as the event draws near.

6. Cover your costs

A good citywide event requires not just an investment of your time, but possibly some money too – especially if you want to offer a prize, advertise the event, and print clue materials. Event planning is a real art, and a profit-minded person could no doubt think of a business model for citywide scavenger hunts, but it will be more enjoyable if you do it just for fun.

That said, there are ways to offset the small costs you may incur. Feature your favorite local business as one of the clues. Tell them in advance you’ll be directing traffic to their place, and ask if they’ll donate a prize in exchange. Or, make it a pool: participants pay an entry fee or place a small bet, which is then pooled as the prize for the winners, minus your admin costs.

7. Have fun and make it a party

Make a scene! Notify the press about the event and try to make local headlines. Add details to the scavenger hunt that will stimulate creativity and spontaneity.

Surprise participants with props and costumes they will need to use. We had clues of different difficulty, and awarded extra points for humor, improvisation and use of props, as well as for precision.

Make sure the event ends with time and a space for debriefing. People will want to share and compare notes about what they just did.

8. Declare some winners and follow up

If your participants submit their clue findings as photos, then you may need to upload them. And if you’ve created an elaborate points system, the judging process may take some time too. Ideally this will happen at the party directly after the event. But, if you’d rather relax and enjoy the gathering, save the task for later and declare the winners online.

Upload each team’s photo findings in an album on Picasa using the gmail account you created for the event, and share the albums in a gallery for everyone who took part. If you haven’t yet judged the results, you could award points in the caption fields.

Go back to the social networks where you publicized the event, and post links to the gallery. People love it, and this link might well be the biggest prize of all – but one shared by everyone!

Seriously – what did people do for fun in the pre-digital age?


11 2010