Social Hiking Podcast Episode 1 – The one with Nina Smirnoff

Podcast Episode 1

For the first episode of the Social Hiking podcast, my guest co-host is Nina Smirnoff (@smirnieoutdoors). Topics covered include some of our favourite maps (covering Offa’s Dyke, The Langdales, Ben Nevis and Patagonia, an update on developments coming soon, details of ‘Muddy Boots Welcome’ (the community virtual pub), and Nina talks about her experience of how walking helped her with weight loss and mental wellbeing.

A massive thank you to the sponsors of this podcast: Chocolate Fish Merino – 100% Pure New Zealand-Made Merino Outdoor gear – genuinely & ethically made in New Zealand.

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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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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.

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!

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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Dean Read from on how he got into hiking, discovering Social Hiking and how he use the site now

Following on from Martin’s guest blog post, here is Dean Read (from talking about how he got into hiking, how he discovered, and how he uses the site now.

Social Hiking in the Upper Derwent Valley

Social Hiking in the Upper Derwent Valley

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Martin: How I got into hiking and using Social Hiking

I thought it would be interesting to do a series of (occasional) guest blog posts from users telling their stories on how they got into hiking and how they use Social Hiking to help enhance their experience as they share their adventures.

First up is Martin Free (@InSearchOfCloud on Twitter):

Pen-y-Fan from Fan-y-Big in the Brecon Beacons

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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