All posts in Features

Virgin Money Giving Integration is back!

When I was first asked to integrate Virgin Money Giving with Social Hiking to match the existing JustGiving integration (quite a few years ago now) I hit a fairly major stumbling block. Virgin Money Giving, a fairly new site at the time, did not have an official API (Application Programming Interface – the magic that allows sites to integrate with each other). Instead I had to use an unofficial setup someone had knocked together which created the data I needed from the actual web pages on Virgin Money Giving. Roll forward a few years and this ‘bodge’ broke horribly with subsequent updates to Virgin’s website. The good news however is that they have also released an official API… so…. after a surprising amount of development time…. Virgin Money Giving integration is back!

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Updates to peak bagging feature: notifications, more peaks, manually add missed peaks or remove bagged peaks

Screenshot of manage bagged peaks page

Automatic peak bagging is one of the most popular features of Social Hiking. Originally based on a concept from Steven Horner (@stevenhorner), the basic idea is simple – as you share your position (either live or from a gpx file upload), Social Hiking compares each location to a database of peaks (mountains and hills) to see if you were on the top, and rewards you accordingly with a special icon and the kudos of having bagged the peak.

Over the years, especially the last year, there have been quite a few improvements to automatic peak bagging –

  • support for other geographical  features, especially passes (often more relevant than mountains to hikers in places like The Alps for example) was added
  • a peaks page was added to let you browse all the peaks in the database on a map and view league tables of the most popular peaks and the top peak baggers (by country and type of peak)
  • each peak has it’s own page, so you can browse routes to a specific peak and get in touch with the people who have bagged it the most
  • you can browse a list of peaks bagged by a specific user in chronological order [if the user is a supporter]
  • if you are logged in, peaks you have bagged are marked in red throughout the site

Over the last month, a further set of updates have been rolled out……

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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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Inspiring and connecting people by making things shared more discoverable

At it’s core, Social Hiking is about three things:

Sharing: helping people share their outdoor adventures, whether those adventures are an epic cycle across the globe, a weekend spent wild camping on a mountain or a wander through a local park.

Connecting: helping people connect with others, whether that’s people to walk with, people happy to share their knowledge and expertise, or just making new friends.

Inspiring: helping people find inspiration from the outdoor adventures of others, whether that’s inspiration to go on the first walk in years, discovering a new route or area to hike or planning an epic adventure of their own.

Updates to Social Hiking – push notifications, more Adventure Bot commands, notifications centre and other bits and pieces

Over the last few weeks we (the royal we – I mean me) rolled out another update (to if you are counting) – here are the main changes, improvements and tweaks. You can view the full list of changes at

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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’)

Google Authorship – link yourself as the author of your maps

Google has been piloting a new system which displays author information in Google search results – in the form of a profile picture and a link to the authors’ Google Plus profile. At Social Hiking, we help you to curate the media and locations you share as permanent ‘web objects’  – permanent individual web pages for each of your adventures. As these pages can be discovered through Google searches, it makes sense if you, the user, were credited as the author!

Example of Google authorship on Social Hiking

In the screenshot of a Google search results page above, you can see that both Dean and Chris are credited as the author of their respective maps – with their profile pictures and link to their Google+ profile appearing next to their maps in the results.

To setup authorship on your maps:

  • You need a Google+ profile (Google also requires a profile picture  that has a good recognisable headshot)
  • Log in to Social Hiking, and click ‘settings’ – under ‘profile’ there is now a new field for ‘Link to Google+ profile’ – enter the url for your Google+ profile (e.g.
  • Edit your Google+ profile and under ‘contributor to’, add ‘’ (this verifies that you want your profile linked to Social Hiking).

That’s it! Over time you should start to see your profile appearing in search results (please note though that Google do not guarantee it will ever appear – you can test you have setup everything correctly by visiting and entering the url for one of your maps.)

If you have a Google+ page which you want to use instead for your maps, just enter the page profile url into Social Hiking instead.

You can also add Social Hiking on Google+ : and join the fantastic (and active) Social Hiking community: (you need to request to join to keep the spammers away!)

(and if you want you can also find me on Google+ –

Mobile-friendly Ordnance Survey maps on Social Hiking

Since the very beginning of Social Hiking, the site has supported Ordnance Survey maps for UK based hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts using OS OpenSpace – a service provided by Ordnance Survey. The service used is free but limited – there is no 1:25k mapping data (and the 1:10k scale maps have reduced information), and there is a limit to the number of map tiles that can be loaded during a 24 hour period (thankfully the site remains below this limit, but your maps will automatically switch to use Google Maps if the limit has been reached).

One of the big problems with OS OpenSpace however was that it did not work well on mobile devices – whilst you could pan and zoom using Google Maps (although it can be better – but more on that below), OS maps stubbornly refused to move from the default view on mobile devices. I actually attended an OS Open Data masterclass last year, where I demoed Social Hiking to some staff from Ordnance Survey on a tablet, which highlighted the limitations.

Well the good news is that Ordnance Survey has just released version 4 of OS OpenSpace which now supports touch devices – OS maps can now be viewed and panned on tablets and other mobile devices, and includes features like ‘pinch to zoom’  which really enhances user experience. The new version is available now on Social Hiking, and I would like to say a big thanks to the Ordnance Survey team for pushing out this update.

Screenshot of OS OpenSpace on Galaxy S3

I mentioned Google Maps – Social Hiking is currently using an old (and long depreciated) version of Google Maps to display tracks and routes. It worked well enough on mobile devices (albeit far from perfect) to spend any limited development time to replace. However, those of you who have played with the peaks map will have seen the latest version of Google Maps in action (which as you would expect is much more mobile friendly), and the good news is that all maps will be moved over to the latest version in the future (it is being built into the big upgrade I am working on).

Screenshot of peaks map

Whilst I am talking about big upgrades and mobiles, it is probably worth noting that the upgrade will also address the (valid) criticism that the current Social Hiking website is not optimised for mobile devices!

Giving your media context as part of your adventure

The aim of Social Hiking has always been to help you share your adventure with your existing online (and offline) networks, to collate the media you share to form a complete picture of your adventure, and to help you find new people to interact with – all as easy as possible so you can concentrate on enjoying your adventure!

Adventure Bot (@advbot on Twitter) was the solution to the problem of how to make tweets relevant as part of the context of a whole trip. Twitter is very instantaneous, and tweets individually quickly lose relevance. For example a tweet saying “Darkness drawing in – time to find somewhere to camp” has little context to your followers – adding geotags give a bit more context, but it is still a snapshot of a larger experience. Adventure Bot takes a message you want to tweet and automatically adds a link to the location the tweet relates to on your Social Hiking map – giving it context as part of your whole adventure!

But what about other media?

During a discussion with Chris (@PilgrimChris) yesterday, it occurred to me that the same issue applies to any media you share. Take for example an Audioboo – someone from your Audioboo network listening to your audio will not know that the audioboo is part of a larger adventure (unless of course you explicitly mention it). Would it not be useful to have information about the map which that audioboo is linked to on Audioboo itself?

So Adventure Bot now has a new feature – the ability to automatically comment on your media with the map title and link to the location on your map related to that media item.

Adventure Bot auto comments on media

Adventure Bot auto comments on media (in this case an Instagram photo)

The feature currently only works with Instagram, but it will be rolled out for any media service that supports API comments (unfortunately not Audioboo at this time!). To enable the feature, go to ‘Your Settings’ – ‘Social Settings’, and tick the option “Let Adventure Bot comment on linked media?” (you also need Adventure Bot enabled).

Comments will only be left on media that has been linked to a public Social Hiking map.

The feature is currently only available to supporters as a thank you for their ongoing support, but it will eventually be available to everyone.

You can find out more about becoming a supporter and helping the development of Social Hiking at

More information about Adventure Bot and using it with Twitter and SPOT can be found at

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 🙂