All posts in Concepts

An example of using Social Hiking whilst on a hike

Setting up Social Hiking can, for some people, be a frustrating experience – there are quite a few steps to allow Social Hiking to be able to talk to the plethora of media and location services supported before you get going (some easier than others!) – but what happens once everything is all set up and you have successfully shared your first map?

As a lot of my focus is on helping guide new users through the set up process, ‘graduates’ of that process are left to discover, thankfully with the help of the wonderful Social Hiking community (who are amazing at welcoming new users and sharing their knowledge), some of the more advanced ‘power’ features and to work out how best to share their adventures.

What I thought might be useful to these ‘graduates’ is an insight into how other people use Social Hiking, not just the final map, but the process of creating the map. So, on a recent hike with Rich (@FlintyRich), I recorded a series of mini-podcasts (they are only a few minutes each) describing how I use Social Hiking during, and after, a hike. This is not THE way, just MY way – the site can be used in many different ways depending on your personal preference. It would be brilliant if other users would be willing to share with the community how they use Social Hiking for their outdoor adventures (it does not have to be in audio form!)

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Social Hiking – perfect for sharing your treasure hunting adventures

At Social Hiking, we like to keep up with the very latest trends in social media, outdoor sharing and online mapping, so we can give you the very latest and best tools for sharing (and following) adventures.

So it is with some excitement that we have been following the story of the discovery of the century – the treasure map belonging to infamous pirate found by the Google Maps Street View team during a deep water dive in the Indian Ocean.

This video explains the find in more detail:

Google have lovingly digitalised the treasure maps and made them available through their their mapping API, and as we know many users of Social Hiking are budding treasure hunters, we have added support for the treasure maps to the site.

Jilly's adventure in treasure map mode - does she remind anyone else of Lara Croft?

Jilly’s adventure in treasure map mode – does she remind anyone else of Lara Croft?

You can view any map in treasure map by selecting ‘Treasure Map’ from the list of available map formats. If you so wish you can even change the default map format of any of your historic maps (or if you really want to, your default map format for any new maps) to treasure map.

You can view any map in treasure map by selecting 'Treasure Map' from the list of available map formats

You can view any map in treasure map by selecting ‘Treasure Map’ from the list of available map formats

Social Hiking – share you treasure hunting adventures 🙂

(thanks to Google Maps Mania for pointing out how to implement treasure mode…. treasureMode: ‘aye’)

The case of the reappearing location data (or delete vs suppress)

On Social Hiking, you have the ability to delete locations on your maps – either individually (using the id number that appears in the relevant info window on your map*) or by a date range. Both options are available under the ‘Delete Beacons’ tab in the location sources section (accessible when you log in).

[* yeah I know this is quite clunky – this is being addressed in the big update I am working on!]

If you have used this function already, you will have noticed there are two types of delete available – ‘delete’ and ‘suppress’.

Delete – this deletes the beacon(s) from the database, and updates any related maps.

Suppress – this keeps the beacon(s) in the database, but removes it(them) from any related maps.

So what is the difference?

The difference relates to how Social Hiking handles new locations. Each new location shared via any of your location sources is checked to see if it is a duplicate of any existing locations in the database – this check is fairly complicated, but is something like  “do I already know that this user was at this location (without moving away and then coming back) in the last hour?” (this is where your tolerance setting comes in by the way, but that is probably a topic for another post!).

As a suppressed beacon is still in the database it stops ‘duplicate’ beacons from being added to your map. As a deleted beacon is removed from the database, it has no affect on new location data received.

This subtle difference is important when you take into account how Social Hiking has to check for new location data:

– for SPOT and YellowBrick, the location data arrives as a feed of your last x positions (20 I think) – all these positions have to be processed as new location data.

– for ViewRanger,  Social Hiking can request all new location data since the last position was received. This is however made more complicated by the way the ViewRanger app uploads data: BuddyBeacons are cached on your phone when you are out of signal, when signal returns the beacons are uploaded latest first. If signal interrupts this upload, it is possible that Social Hiking can receive the latest locations and then miss older ones – you would be surprised how often this happens! To overcome this feature/bug, Social Hiking always processes all your beacons since 8 hours before the last beacon was received (up to a day before).

In both cases – the duplication check stops repeat locations being added…. unless you have deleted some or all of those locations in the meantime…. in which case they will reappear! 

So if you want to remove locations permanently then choose the ‘suppress’ option!

If you only want to remove locations, but plan to replace them with data from another source (a gpx upload for example), then choose ‘delete’ .

This all becomes a massive nightmare when you merge gpx locations with live shared locations and discover that the time stamps are slightly out of sync (this has the effect of creating a spiky altitude graph, and massively inflating distance and altitude gain). If this happens do not panic – just ‘delete’ the locations, wait up to half an hour for Social Hiking to reload any data from your live sources, ‘suppress’ the locations, then upload your gpx file (or you can always get in touch, and I can remove the dodgy data from the database direct).

Locations created from media are not currently affected with the same issues – the media item is only ever imported once, so if the location is deleted or suppressed it will not reappear.

Peak bagging (and hills and passes) – an initial upgrade

One of the most popular features of Social Hiking is the automatic peak bagging. The idea is simple (and one I am indebted to Steven Horner for) – the location of peaks is fixed, and as you share your location with Social Hiking (whether live or by uploading a gpx file), the site can identify when you ‘bag’ a peak (giving you a different icon on your map, and adding it to a list of peaks you have bagged).

The data source for the UK is the excellent Database of British Hills, which contains the details of all the notable hills. We later added peaks, this time from the Geonames database, for other parts of Europe (France, Germany and the alpine regions) however, whereas the UK had a nice mix of hills across the country, the Geonames data was primarily bigger (and in a lot of cases inaccessible) peaks.

Peak Bagging in Yorkshire

Peak Bagging in Yorkshire by @InSearchOfCloud

Adventure is a relative term – for some an adventure is the kind of trip Jilly Sherlock is on – cycling across the globe, but for more of us, it is simple just climbing a hill or getting outdoors (a micro adventure – a term I first heard from Alastair Humphreys). I want to encourage and reward anyone who heads outdoors to share their adventures! As such, I have begun the process of expanding what Social Hiking classes as a ‘peak’ – this means including anything Geonames classes as a hill, a peak or a mountain. We have rolled this out for Germany (now 21449 peaks), France (now 3481 peaks), Italy, Norway, Austria and Switzerland – and gradually across the rest of Europe and the World. Also, as Andy Bryant pointed out, there is another issue – for some areas, particularly in the Alps, the peaks are inaccessible to non mountaineers – what is more relevant is pass bagging, so such we have also included anything Geonames classes as a pass!

Pass bagging in Alps by WildTraveller

Pass bagging in Alps by WildTraveller

As each country is rolled out, this new data is checked against all existing maps and your bagged peaks list has been updated accordingly. For now, peaks, hills and passes are treated identically, but this will change in the future (and for the purists among you, there are some more features in development that you are going to like). If you want a particular country prioritised – just let me know!

As part of this new feature, we have added a long missing and requested feature – the ability to browse the peaks (and hills) on a map. On the site, there is now a ‘peaks’ menu option. When this first loads (and depending on your browser and device), the page will request your location and show the peaks where you are. There is also a search option – type a location, and the map will attempt to zoom you to that location (it is a worldwide search, so it is worth specifying the country!). The map, which automatically updates as you zoom or pan the map, will display the 1000 highest peaks, hills, mountains and passes visible on the map (there is also a list on the right hand side of the peaks being displayed).

Browse Social Hiking's peaks, hills, mountains and passes on a map

Browse Social Hiking’s peaks, hills, mountains and passes on a map

This is an initial upgrade – there were a lot of new things behind the scenes required to get this far, which also open up the site for a lot of new features, both related to peak bagging and some other new ideas, so watch this space.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, both related to peak bagging or other features on the site, please just let me know 🙂 

Setting up Social Hiking for the TGO Challenge

Several users have asked me for a guide to help them setup Social Hiking for use on TGO Challenge – this post covers how to register, setup your location sources, link media accounts and create your map ready for your challenge. Although specifically for TGO Challengers, other users may find some of the sections useful.

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Seriously improved update times

Originally, Social Hiking was set to update all user beacons and media every 10 minutes – this was mostly ok, but also sometimes frustrating. The updates were also all done as one long list, and as the number of users has grown, this list was becoming a bit sluggish. Fortunately the new Flickr support has meant that the method Social Hiking has updated has improved dramatically!

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The case of the missing beacons!

Several of us have noticed over the last few weeks that in certain conditions beacons from ViewRanger seem to not appear on Social Hiking (usually these missing beacons are visible on the BuddyBeacon Portal, but not always). I have done a bit of digging and found the problem (and implemented a temporary fudge on Social Hiking to fix it)

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ViewRanger buddybeacon and Media Geo-tagging

Social Hiking currently only uses the ViewRanger’s buddybeacon feature to create your route and link media. Since the public “launch” (it was more like a switch on than a launch!) a number of people have asked whether the site could also use geo-tagged media.

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