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infkassim
03-06-2013, 15:06
Hello Whiteblazers!

I am a maker of web applications looking to give back to the Appalachian Trail community and start a fun open source software hobby project.

Here's what I have in mind. I want to create a framework for websites where a hiking community can come together to create a trail guidebook, such as the ones published by ALDHA or Wingfoot, that any hiker can contribute to.

I'm talking about something like a Wikipedia of trail guidebooks - something you could print out and use on your hikes for free.

I want to know what you think. I am particularly interested in your response to any of these questions:

1) Would you consider using a community-created guidebook on your next AT adventure?

2) What features would you find useful in a website for planning your next AT trip? (An interactive map? An offline phone app? Shelter ratings?)

3) Would you help edit the guide or write an article?

4) Are you, or do you know, a software developer who would volunteer some of their time to work on this project?

If there is enough interest for us to make something good together, I will start planning the website right away. Thank you for your interest and have a wonderful day!

Sly
03-06-2013, 16:15
Without trying to sounding totally altruistic, the Thru-Hikers Companion which is owned by ALDHA is published by the ATC. If I'm not mistaken, it's their best selling guide, so if your project takes sales from the Companion, you'll be taking money from the Trail.

chief
03-06-2013, 17:41
Competition is good, the trail will survive.

Rasty
03-06-2013, 18:41
Great idea! :D

Magic_Rat
03-06-2013, 18:47
Somebody over on reddit.com/r/appalachiantrail posted about a project they are working on that sounds very similar to this. Their website is wikitrail.org

Chaco Taco
03-06-2013, 18:55
no offense but do we really need another trailguide for the AT? I mean there are whiteblazes every 50 feet. The Companion is pretty much a community based book as it is from info gathered from folks up and down the AT. I think AWOL's book is the same but it primarily comes from AWOL. Then you have the data book, then you have the Guidebooks and maps for each section. My opinion is that another guidebook would be overkill for the AT. Might as well pave it. Why not put together a blue/ yellow blaze guide to trails connected to the AT? There are some great one's that are actually better than parts of the AT

rocketsocks
03-06-2013, 19:02
Why not put together a blue/ yellow blaze guide to trails connected to the AT? There are some great one's that are actually better than parts of the ATI like this idea, could be very handy on a APP, or in print.

leaftye
03-06-2013, 19:05
The biggest problem is the threat that someone, you, could claim ownership of all the name/content/website/contacts and make all the volunteer work for naught. Been there, done that.

infkassim
03-06-2013, 19:28
Without trying to sounding totally altruistic, the Thru-Hikers Companion which is owned by ALDHA is published by the ATC. If I'm not mistaken, it's their best selling guide, so if your project takes sales from the Companion, you'll be taking money from the Trail.

On the contrary, it's me who is being the altruistic one.

My motive in considering a project like this is to bring an awareness to scenic trails and the preservation of the wilderness by freely displaying their beauty and showing the character of the communities who appreciate them. As long as there is a strong, outspoken interest in scenic trails, they will be publicly protected along with the organizations that promote them. I think the value of ALDHA is the extent to which they support and organize a community of long distance hikers. They have a lot to gain from anything that makes the trail more accessible and enjoyable to hikers. I think it's for that reason that not so long ago, they gave the guide away for free.

I'm interested in this project because I think the technical difficulty of communication between hikers means that a lot of interesting stories are being lost that we should be trying to preserve, the end of a lot of blue blaze trails are remaining mysterious that should be revealed, and a lot of secret camping spots maybe are being kept a little bit too secret.

Chaco Taco
03-06-2013, 19:32
the AT doesnt need help being more accessible.
In terms of technical difficulty of stories....have you seen how many books are written by hikers about their hikes? and movies? Again, overkill



On the contrary, it's me who is being the altruistic one.

My motive in considering a project like this is to bring an awareness to scenic trails and the preservation of the wilderness by freely displaying their beauty and showing the character of the communities who appreciate them. As long as there is a strong, outspoken interest in scenic trails, they will be publicly protected along with the organizations that promote them. I think the value of ALDHA is the extent to which they support and organize a community of long distance hikers. They have a lot to gain from anything that makes the trail more accessible and enjoyable to hikers. I think it's for that reason that not so long ago, they gave the guide away for free.

I'm interested in this project because I think the technical difficulty of communication between hikers means that a lot of interesting stories are being lost that we should be trying to preserve, the end of a lot of blue blaze trails are remaining mysterious that should be revealed, and a lot of secret camping spots maybe are being kept a little bit too secret.

Chaco Taco
03-06-2013, 19:33
AND by trying to reveal secret camping spots you put the train in danger. Its already overused and over hiked



On the contrary, it's me who is being the altruistic one.

My motive in considering a project like this is to bring an awareness to scenic trails and the preservation of the wilderness by freely displaying their beauty and showing the character of the communities who appreciate them. As long as there is a strong, outspoken interest in scenic trails, they will be publicly protected along with the organizations that promote them. I think the value of ALDHA is the extent to which they support and organize a community of long distance hikers. They have a lot to gain from anything that makes the trail more accessible and enjoyable to hikers. I think it's for that reason that not so long ago, they gave the guide away for free.

I'm interested in this project because I think the technical difficulty of communication between hikers means that a lot of interesting stories are being lost that we should be trying to preserve, the end of a lot of blue blaze trails are remaining mysterious that should be revealed, and a lot of secret camping spots maybe are being kept a little bit too secret.

Rasty
03-06-2013, 19:39
A partnership Phone app with ALDHA or AWOL and Postholer maps and Whiteblaze would be a worthwhile concept. Develop a first paid app with proceeds being split. Maybe add weather by mile marker.

infkassim
03-06-2013, 19:43
Somebody over on reddit.com/r/appalachiantrail posted about a project they are working on that sounds very similar to this. Their website is wikitrail.org

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. This is similar to what I'm trying to do, but there are some important differences in what I'm trying to accomplish.

Let me make it clear that I'm not trying to become the founder of a new trail website. I'm trying to make an open source web framework, much like Wikipedia, which other people can use (maybe owners of existing sites) to keep a trail-specific wiki about whatever trail they want to promote. I have in mind a framework that would work just as well with the PCT or the Florida trail. It may be that a single trail may support multiple guides for specialty purposes.

Also within the framework, I would like to emphasize the usefulness of the software, or print copies, on the trail itself.

leaftye
03-06-2013, 19:44
And how do you plan to protect this resource from you?

infkassim
03-06-2013, 19:52
The biggest problem is the threat that someone, you, could claim ownership of all the name/content/website/contacts and make all the volunteer work for naught. Been there, done that.

This problem has been solved in a very clever way by what is known as a "copyleft" or "open source" license.

The code will be protected under the GNU General Public License (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnu_general_public_license) and I will encourage people who use the framework to protect their users content under a Creative Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons) license. These licenses stipulate that the work must not be distributed for a fee, there can be no restriction on what the work is used for, and that any derivative work must be distributed under the same license.

leaftye
03-06-2013, 19:55
This problem has been solved in a very clever way by what is known as a "copyleft" or "open source" license.

The code will be protected under the GNU General Public License (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnu_general_public_license) and I will encourage people who use the framework to protect their users content under a Creative Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons) license. These licenses stipulate that the work must not be distributed for a fee, there can be no restriction on what the work is used for, and that any derivative work must be distributed under the same license.

And the domain name? Once it gains momentum, what's to stop you from replacing it with pay content, or requiring members to pay to access and offload their contributions, or just holding the domain name hostage?

infkassim
03-06-2013, 20:10
And the domain name? Once it gains momentum, what's to stop you from replacing it with pay content, or requiring members to pay to access and offload their contributions, or just holding the domain name hostage?

I should make a correction in that quote. I meant to say that under the GNU Public License (GPL), when the work is distributed, there can be no restrictions on the conditions of the distributions. Notably, the work can be distributed for free by anyone as long as it is distributed with the source code. Once the source code is out there, there is nothing I can do to bring it back under my control.

Under an appropriate Creative Commons license, some of those things you mentioned would be against the terms of the license, and the others would be mitigated by the fact that the content would be freely distributable. However, I could hold the domain name hostage. Trademarks are not affected by open source licenses.

Jeff
03-07-2013, 07:19
One aspect missing from all the trail guides (purposely I am sure) is opinions of the overall quality of a hiker service business.

Testimonials about the good and bad service provided gives a clue as to what you might expect. The original Philosophers Guide from the early 1990's did indeed offer up hiker comments about restaurants, motels, outfitters.

Of course, there may be a liability issue when someone slams a business. But how do travel guides get away with ranking four star hotels and the like? I know there are a few motels who I would recommend against ever using...but hikers have to find out for themselves every year.

max patch
03-07-2013, 09:07
Ever read threads on WB? That Guide would end up as big as a phone book.

max patch
03-07-2013, 09:15
How did wikitrail.org get the mileage info? Unless someone used a wheel, I'm guessing they stole it from the Data Book.

infkassim
03-07-2013, 09:34
Ever read threads on WB? That Guide would end up as big as a phone book.

That's a good point. I can see a few possible ways around this.

We could make the program smart enough to omit articles or sections of articles whenever the wiki would be compiled into the actual guidebook. Then many compilations would be possible from the same wiki. It would be up to the community to define their own standards for compiling a guidebook.

Since the framework would be open, I think this problem would encourage specialist guides, such as the blue/yellow blaze guide mentioned in an earlier post. This is a good result.


How did wikitrail.org get the mileage info? Unless someone used a wheel, I'm guessing they stole it from the Data Book.

In the United States, information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected under copyright. See Feist v. Rural (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural).

As far as I know, all of the wikis would be legally allowed to use trail path information, public gis data, and the information content of the Data Book freely for their projects.

Sly
03-07-2013, 09:48
This was your first post on Whiteblaze. Not for nothing, who are you, do you have any experience hiking, with the Appalachian Trail community, or is your forte copy and paste?

max patch
03-07-2013, 10:20
In the United States, information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected under copyright. See Feist v. Rural (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_v._Rural).

As far as I know, all of the wikis would be legally allowed to use trail path information, public gis data, and the information content of the Data Book freely for their projects.

I didn't know that. How about the written content of the Companion. We both know that initially people are going to open up their Companion and rewrite in their own words the info that is there. That certainly isn't legal.

infkassim
03-07-2013, 10:45
... who are you

I've hiked under a few trail names but none has ever stuck. Right now I am a professional developer investigating the market for niche IT services for hikers, hiking clubs, and hiker services along the AT. I've posted on Whiteblaze before but I lost my account so I made a new one.


... do you have any experience hiking, with the Appalachian Trail community, or is your forte copy and paste?

I have done three long-distance hikes covering ~700 miles. My Appalachian Trail community hilights include playing the Didgeridoo in a drum circle at Trail Days, having a beer with Pirate in Damascus, and attending a birthday party for Baltimore Jack at Ms. Janet's.


We both know that initially people are going to open up their Companion and rewrite in their own words the info that is there. That certainly isn't legal.

I think the wikis will end up being noncommercial, educational organizations. I believe a court would apply fair use (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use) liberally enough to avoid legal troubles. However, facts belong to everyone.

Sly
03-07-2013, 10:56
Hello Whiteblazers!

I am a maker of web applications looking to give back to the Appalachian Trail community and start a fun open source software hobby project.



How is this giving back to the AT community? (aren't there enough web resources?)

Intentional or not, it seems to me you'll be picking the ATC's pocket two ways. Like them or not (I don't know why anyone wouldn't) there would be no trail without them. If you want to give back and volunteer your talents, why not make a trip to Harpers Ferry?

Chaco Taco
03-07-2013, 11:15
I think the idea of doing something like this would be destructive to the trail especially with your idea of "secret" camp spots being revealed. Many of those camp spots do not follow low impact camping and LNT. The numbers of people on the AT increases every year. Why would you want to put yet another resource out there that will increase the amount of dips***s that destroy, erode and really have no respect for the woods? How do you plan on tackling that problem in your little resource? You have not even addressed the idea of overuse.

infkassim
03-07-2013, 11:52
How is this giving back to the AT community? (aren't there enough web resources?)

Yes, I would agree with what you are saying when you say there are generally enough web resources. The guidebook wikis would give back to the AT community by organizing existing resources in a smarter way. I think a goal of this project should be to make resources easier to search and decentralized to encourage organic improvement.


... why not make a trip to Harpers Ferry?

I would be happy to consider doing volunteer work for the ATC, ALDHA, or other hiking clubs. Ask around for the need for work on specific projects and I'll see what I can do. We can exchange proper contact information in a private message.


You have not even addressed the idea of overuse.

I think the current procedures in place to mitigate the impact of overuse are fine.

Consider that someone could use these resources to identify and avoid overused areas.

Chaco Taco
03-07-2013, 11:54
Consider that someone could use these resources to identify and avoid overused areas.
and start a new area of overuse

WingedMonkey
03-07-2013, 12:20
In 1994 some members of the ALDHA decided to publish a guide to compete with Wingfoot's Thru- Hikers Handbook. which more or less was a continuation of the Philosopher's Guide to the A.T.

Some few years ago the owners of this site tried to publish a trail guild and failed.

You are free to try any new method of providing trail information.

You may succeed , you may fail. But you certainly are welcome to try.

Chaco Taco
03-07-2013, 12:53
Some few years ago the owners of this site tried to publish a trail guild and failed.


Actually, AWOL and Troll worked on Pages together. Unless I am wrong, Troll is the "owner" of the site. AWOL went with his own publication so I dont really think of Pages as a failure more of a continuation to the AT Guide

max patch
03-07-2013, 12:59
In 1994 some members of the ALDHA decided to publish a guide to compete with Wingfoot's Thru- Hikers Handbook. which more or less was a continuation of the Philosopher's Guide to the A.T.

Some few years ago the owners of this site tried to publish a trail guild and failed.



A lot more to both those stories.

WalksInDark
03-07-2013, 13:01
Sorry to see so much negativity and naysaying regarding your proposal.
:(

As an "Information Is Power" believer :sun, I welcome new sources of current (or at the very least time stamped) information regarding hiking and backpacking sites and opportunities. Having said that, I believe that the biggest difficulty in many on-line sites of backpacking/hiking info is the inability to do advanced searches...and particularly the inability to have information sorted from most recent info to historic info.


Additionally, I would love to see very detailed and up-to-date data base of trail heads....and trail head parking info.

While there are currently multiple places where trailhead trailhead/parking info is located, most of them lack either good landmark info and/or accurate GPS data. Similarly, much of the information is rarely updated. Pictures showing access routes to trailheads and parking areas would also be very much appreciated!

Yes, I have spent hours trying to find trailheads; other times, I have been forced to follow abandoned or very poorly maintained subsidiary trails...in order to get to main trails.
:eek:
That's my 2 cents.

max patch
03-07-2013, 13:06
25 years after my thru I still use my ATC State Guidebooks for trailhead info.

Chaco Taco
03-07-2013, 13:59
Sorry to see so much negativity and naysaying regarding your proposal.
:(



I havent seen any negativity from myself or Sly. We are simply challenging the idea. Sly is the Editor of the Companion and works his ass off on the book. I say if its done properly, go for it. I just challenging some of the original ideas the OP posted. My concern is for preservation of my own wilderness experience and that of others. Nothing negative there.:D

Sly
03-07-2013, 15:41
In 1994 some members of the ALDHA decided to publish a guide to compete with Wingfoot's Thru- Hikers Handbook. which more or less was a continuation of the Philosopher's Guide to the A.T.

.

Here's the story...


In 1993, when Dan Bruce decided he wanted to publish the Thru-Hiker’s Handbook on his own, the Appalachian Trail Conference cast about for someone to put together a new guidebook for long-distance hikers. The ATC had been publishing such a guide for more than 10 years, beginning with The Philosopher’s Guide, and it saw no reason to discontinue the tradition. Darrell Maret gave up the Philosopher’s Guide, but ATC didn’t stop publishing a guidebook. And when Dan Bruce struck out on his own, ATC again saw no reason to stop its long-held practice of publishing a guide.

Enter ALDHA. Then-coordinator Frank Logue was in touch with the Publications Committee of ATC around the time of the ATC’s biannual meeting in Dahlonega, Georgia, and volunteered the services of ALDHA as authors of this new guidebook. Checking with the steering committee, he found enough support to proceed, and appointed Joe and Monica Cook as the first editors.

The first book appeared the following year, in 1994, continuing ATC’s unbroken streak of publishing a thru-hikers’ handbook for about the 14th year. Joe and Monica served as editors for the ’94 and ’95 editions. Bill O’Brien took over as editor, putting out the ’96 and ’97 books. In 1998, two co-editors shared the task, Bill O’Brien for the North, and Henry Edwards for the South. Henry took on the job solo for the 1999 edition and in 2000 he and Stacy Mikkalsen split the task again in a North/South division.

The book continues to be edited by volunteer members of ALDHA, with recent editors being John O'Mahoney, Cynthia Taylor-Miller and Robert Sylvester.

The initial philosophy behind the Companion was that only the most basic information should be provided to make logistics easier for the average long-distance hiker. Opinions, recommendations and other subjective advice were not necessary. In fact, they tended to diminish the individual experience on the trail, replacing personal preference with peer pressure. That philosophy remains unchanged.

The Companion is also different in that it’s not the sole domain of a single individual. That’s why the editorship rotates on roughly 2-year cycles and the work is performed by a host of field editors. If you’d like to volunteer, let us hear from you. We can always use help gathering info from your neck of the woods.



If you have any questions, suggestions, corrections or additions, by all means e-mail them to us at any time. The address iscompanion@aldha.org.



http://www.aldha.org/logue.htm

Sly
03-07-2013, 15:53
Yes, I have spent hours trying to find trailheads;
.

I spent minutes.

Appalachian Trail Parking

http://appalachiantrail.rohland.org/

infkassim
03-07-2013, 16:26
As an "Information Is Power" believer :sun, I welcome new sources of current (or at the very least time stamped) information regarding hiking and backpacking sites and opportunities.

Thank you for your input. I will do my best to include these features in the guide wiki framework for you.

Cookerhiker
03-07-2013, 17:49
...My motive in considering a project like this is to bring an awareness to scenic trails and the preservation of the wilderness by freely displaying their beauty and showing the character of the communities who appreciate them. As long as there is a strong, outspoken interest in scenic trails, they will be publicly protected along with the organizations that promote them. ....

OK - I like this but...


....The guidebook wikis would give back to the AT community by organizing existing resources in a smarter way. I think a goal of this project should be to make resources easier to search and decentralized to encourage organic improvement.....

Help me with my denseness here - I don't understand what unmet need regarding the AT you're seeking to fulfill nor do I understand what "organic improvement" is. When you refer to "community-created guide," my question is "as opposed to what?" Aren't the resources we have - Companion, local trail guides, information on ATC website - all "community-created?" And are they really that difficult to access and widely-scattered?

I perceive that you have some ideas and talents (along with energy) but how about directing them to some project involving other trails collectively? The AT is very well-known compared to a host of other smaller, less-heralded but still scenic trails. In keeping with your admirable objective of "awareness to scenic trails and the preservation of the wilderness," the AT needs this effort less than the Allegheny, Sheltowee, Great Eastern, Pinhoti, Tuscarora, River-to-River ad infinitum. If such other trails across the country received a fraction of the attention and publicity that the AT enjoys, the constituency for long-distance hiking and the attendant land preservation would be greatly strengthened. Suggest you contact the American Hiking Society and bounce your ideas off of them.

Rasty
03-07-2013, 18:04
Agree with Sly that reinventing the wheel on a new trail guide is not necessary.

On the other hand a joint venture could become a worthwhile endeavor combining license agreements with ALDHA or AWOL with updated AT Topo maps like Postholer has done with other useful information would enhance some hikers experience. So many hikers are looking to use smart phones as their sole carried source of information. A license agreement would give each area it's cut of revenue without opening the window to information being stolen. It wouldn't be a cheap app because of the amount of information included. Possibly join into a venture with a website that already has experience with the AT and has a track record of stewardship towards the trail.

Hint! Hint! Whiteblaze!!!

Something like a super membership with access to the guide, maps, etc! Personally I would be comfortable spending $50 per year for a membership like this.

infkassim
03-07-2013, 20:16
When you refer to "community-created guide," my question is "as opposed to what?" Aren't the resources we have - Companion, local trail guides, information on ATC website - all "community-created?"

Let me draw a distinction here between "the community" and "a trail organization" like this. When a trail organization creates a guide, it becomes the property of the organization. When the community creates a guide, it becomes the property of the community. This is possible through a clever legal mechanism called a copyleft (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft).


And are they really that difficult to access and widely-scattered?

This is a matter of opinion. A license for the Companion PDF costs $8. The license restricts your right to make changes and distribute your derivative work. A guide created by the community wouldn't have these restrictions.


I don't understand what unmet need regarding the AT you're seeking to fulfill nor do I understand what "organic improvement" is

A guide like this could be changed by anybody in the community at any time. This enables it to practically include information that is not practical to include in organization-created guides such as water conditions, weather forecasts, and shelter occupancy.

This kind of decentralization in a system is what is normally meant by the term "organic".


the AT needs this effort less than [smaller trails]

The project as I see it now is to create a generalized software framework (itself owned by the community) that can be easily deployed with limited technical knowledge and used to create community-owned guides for any hiking trail.


... Possibly join into a venture with [Whiteblaze]

I will make this software framework available free of cost for anybody to use for any purpose. This includes any of the organizations mentioned so far.