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Setting up Social Hiking for the TGO Challenge 2013

Last year, for the second year, Social Hiking had a group map running for users on the TGO Challenge (view the TGO Challenge 2012 group map). The map displayed the progress of @lynseypooler, @locomountaineer, @bryanwaddington and @volpi live as they made their way from the west to east coast of Scotland.

I know there are several users who are on the challenge this year so, ‘back by popular demand’, there is a TGO Challenge 2013 group map. If you are new to Social Hiking but what to share your 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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Top maps, peak baggers, track sharers and route uploaders of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, I would like to thank everyone for supporting Social Hiking and for sharing their adventures, big and small, with the world on Social Hiking. It has been a great year, with over 100,000 km of hikes shared, and 2013 promises to be even better. I would like to wish everyone a happy new year!

As an end of year treat, here are the details of the top maps, peak baggers, track sharers and route uploaders of 2012 (using the publicly accessible stats on user profiles – private maps are excluded unless the user has chosen to include them).

[If you want to share your stats for the year, there is a twitter icon next to the stats on your user profile – please note the stats for the year get reset at 00:00 on 1st January 2013 – UK time!]

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Informal Social Hiking Meet: 18 – 20th May

As many of you know, the planned Webtogs / Social Hiking meet on Jurassic Coast has unfortunately had to be cancelled. As I know a few of you had already kept the weekend free and were looking forward to it, I have decided instead to arrange an informal Social Hiking meet for the same weekend.

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“Mobile Apps, The Outdoors and Social Media” at Innov-Ex 2012

Earlier this week I was at the Innovations for Extremes conference held at Lancaster University. The conference was fantastic – the talks were interesting and thought provoking, and it was a great opportunity to meet and chat with a range of people from the outdoor industry. I will do a more in depth blog post over the next few days, but I thought I would do this quick post to share the slides from my talk – “mobile apps, the outdoors and social media”. It was a great pleasure to be asked to do a talk, and I hope it was interesting and useful to those who attended (or who were watching the live web stream).

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Social Hiking – the next step… (and how you can help)

For those of you who may not know, Social Hiking started life as a personal project – I was walking Offa’s Dyke (a 177 mile path weaving between the English and Welsh border) to raise money for MS Society back in April 2010 and I wanted a way of sharing the experience with others. Thanks to a rapid deployment of an API from ViewRanger, the first ever proof of concept of Social Hiking was on 20th February 2010. Using it on Offa’s Dyke was a fantastic success, and thanks to the enthusiasm of the very early adopters, I was encouraged to take what I had created and open it up for others to use.

Social Hiking is all about you: our users and supporters – I cannot tell you how amazed I have been by your enthusiasm and support,  the initiative ways you are using the site (pushing the boundaries of what it can do), and how you are creating a community around it. You are all awesome!

Until now, the features on the site have grown organically based on some amazing suggestions and feedback (like the peak bagging feature, combi maps, better media support, improved map loading speeds and showing planned routes on live tracks) and selfishly for my own use (like @advbot). This organic growth has meant that some features are still a bit rough around the edges and there is still no user guide – so apologies for the learning curve required to get to grips with the site and some of the features (and thank you to everyone who has been providing adhoc support).

Over the last few months I have been watching how you have been using the site, reading your suggestions and mulling over the future direction for Social Hiking and putting together a short and long term development road map for changes and new features. This plan will not be published, but it includes features suggested by users and a few of my own including some innovative features I know you are going to love!

The aims of Social Hiking remains the same:

  • To help you share your adventure, big or small, with your online world and beyond
  • To make it as easy for you as possible to share out in the field
  • To respect your media content
  • To support the software and services you already use
  • To help foster an online community
  • To help inspire people to head outdoors on their own adventures

Social Hiking is a project I work on in my free time. Other than a case of beer 🙂 and some generous donations from users for a charity walk last year, there is no funding supporting the site. Costs are still relatively low (it costs around £50-£75 per month to keep the site running) but the biggest limiting factor is time – juggling paid-work, my own outdoor adventures and a home life means there is precious little time available for updates and support. As such the road map does include several means for future revenue to allow me to commit more time to it – however I want to reassure you though that I am completely committed to ensuring that the vast majority of features (both existing and new) are available to individuals free of charge and that any revenue source is not at odds with the aims of Social Hiking.

How you can help

Your enthusiasm is awesome – seeing you spreading the word about Social Hiking, offering to help out other users, and interacting with each other both on Social Hiking and beyond is really rewarding and helps motivate me to drive the site forward.

Although the road map for the future will be dynamic and will change as time progresses, it would be really helpful to hear your ideas and suggestions. If you visit our Customer Services Community you can flick through some of the ideas other users have had. If you like one please vote for it – the more votes something has the more likely it is to be included into the plan and implemented. Please also add your own ideas and suggestions – no matter how crazy, obvious or ‘out of the box’ you think they might be!

Finally I am also starting to put together a much needed help wiki to explain the features of Social Hiking, how they work and how to make the most of them. I would really appreciate the help of some volunteers to help me with the writing process (and in translation).

You can get in touch on Twitter, Facebook or by email.

Thank you everyone for your support and for sharing your adventures!

I would especially like to take the opportunity to thank: Karen, Sam, Phil, Tim, Chris, Jilly, Richard, Tookie, Gareth, Mike, Dave, Andrew, Martin, Dean, Karen, Colin, Andy, Basti, Jens and Steven for their ongoing support of and passion for Social Hiking (really sorry if there is anyone I have missed!)

Phil
Founder of Social Hiking

Introducing @advbot – Helping you Share Your Adventure

One thing that has always bothered me when out ‘Social Hiking’ is that most of my tweets lack context when published to the world. Whilst anyone viewing your map can see the location of your tweet in the context of your overall route (whether that is a short walk, a multi day hike or an epic global adventure), your tweet seems isolated amongst the general noise of a Twitter stream.

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A chat with Jilly Sherlock on the adventure so far and what’s next!

Feeling the heat in the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan

On Saturday 9th April 2011 at 11.12am Jilly Sherlock set off from Felixstowe on a heavily laden bike ‘heading East’ – on 9th November, 7 months to the day since leaving, she arrived in China having cycled a whopping 9955km with at least 60000m of altitude gain – with every kilometre shared on Social Hiking. Whilst taking a break before the next leg of her journey, I caught up with Jilly for a quick email chat about the adventure so far and what her plans were for the next leg.

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T-shirt Competition

Social Hiking in Peak District (Dean Read)

About a month or so ago I posted out a limited number of Social Hiking t-shirts to a few lucky Social Hikers. At the time I made some mention of a prize for the best photo of a t-shirt wearer, but I have since been reprimanded for not making the competition official (with an official closing date etc.). With that in mind, here are the details:

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Is live blogging important to you?

A Wandering Knight (an occasional Social Hiking user), recently posted on his blog asking readers: “how important is it that you be able to live blog your outdoor adventures”.

Although only 17 people voted, the results are still interesting – about 40% were on the ‘hate too’ end of the scale, with about 24% on the ‘love too’ end, and about 35% sitting on the fence.

Based on the varied ways Social Hiking is used, this seems about right. Some users share all their hikes, other users the occasional walk and some users use the site only for specific challenges. People also have different reasons for sharing their adventures – for some just to keep a personal record of routes walked, whereas others fully utilise the live blogging aspect.

Some people find the idea of interacting with the virtual world incompatible with enjoying the peace and quiet of the great outdoors. Personally though, I find sharing my experiences enhances my enjoyment of hiking and being outdoors (although, with my phone on silent, interaction is on my terms – sometimes you just want to be alone with your thoughts!).

The one thing that surprises me though, is how much enjoyment you can get from following others – quite often whilst working I will load up a window on one of my monitors to follow the progress of someone out and about, and judging from the feedback I have received (not to mention the site stats), I am not the only one!

If you have not already tried live blogging whilst hiking, I would recommend giving it a go, you may be surprised by how much you enjoy it!