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Seems Like Bivouac Could Use a Facelift! #1446
Back To Discussion List Written: 2006.02.13 by: Justin Brown

HELLOOOoooo... is there anybody out there? Has it really been this slow in the outside world or could people actually be loosing interest in this site? Rick Collier and a few others being the exceptions of course. It is apparent to me that the site seems a little stale and is losing some popularity. What are your thoughts on the current state and the future of Are there any suggestions on changes that could be made to make things a little livlier?


#664 - 2006.03.14 Robin Tivy - Clarification of Value mechanism
Drew's description of the value mechanism is not correct. A photo of a high prominence peak is not necessarily worth more than a low prominence peak. The way the value calculation works is it divides the number of photos by the "value" of the peak, so if you put in the 10th photo of Brunswick, it is not going to get that much value, as opposed to the only photo of a lower prominence peak like East Lion. The number of recommendations is the single most important thing. The things that are important are all published.

To be helpful, I would like to point out the following documents: Photo Value Calculation or Auto Value Algorithm. There is also a report on every author's menu at Photo Value breakdown Report.

#659 - 2006.03.10 Robert Wilson - lets keep this positive
robin has done an amazing job over the years getting this site together but without support from all members especially the ones who are or were big contributers it will no doubt get stale.this is what concerns me.robin obviosly has huge ideas and passion for bivouac but it has to be easier and maybe more emphasis on enjoyment rather than every little detail(prominece,vantage pts etc)i've had to convince a friend to resubscribe for some of these reasons.we feel that the rating system should be as it once was and if ther seems to be way to much data on a certain peak then dump the lowest recomended photos or reports as it fills up.obscure peaks will still be submitted i'm sure.lets all take a hit from the bong(literally or not however you wish)and sit back and chill,lets work together to make this site as good as it can be and as enjoyable as it once was.theres lots of us out in the mts lets get some fresh trips and photos,bivouac is a great tool for many of us lets keep it that way

#654 - 2006.03.09 Doug Brown - Play Nice
While I believe this to be a good discussion that needed to happen, things are getting a bit heated. I don't think there is any excuse for getting personal or being nasty.

Before being too critical of Robin, who here would have been prepared to fund the development of this thing and work full time for free for 10 years?

#653 - 2006.03.09 Sandra McGuinness - Trip reports and photo essays on Bivouac far exceed quality on other sites
Re Drew's comment that there are just as good, if better trip reports on other sites such as CT or Cascade Climbers. I can't comment on the latter, but the former really is not much use if you want to repeat a route or get information about a route. Seems half the time the poster of the trip report isn't even sure which ridge they went up and trying to search to find some minor tidbit of information that you thought might prove useful is like the proverbial search for the needle in the haystack. Plus, there are just way too many junk photos to scroll through to read a simple trip report.

I also can't count the number of times that information from Bivouac is copied from this site over to other sites (including at least one of the above) - isn't this called plagarism?

#652 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - General Lack of time and depressing lack of input
I carefully read through all the suggestions, and the most I can do is to try and respond to some of them. But please sympathize with me, and try and help me. Don't just come up with all sorts of charges of incompetence and lists of what we are doing wrong. Many of the points made have already been debated endlessly, yet there is no reference to these previous arguments when the points are once again brought forward. (Eg: Prominence).

I can't seem to keep up with the daily work of just answering the dozens of emails I get every day talking about specific problems with what we are already doing. I just spent most of today trying to help the authors posting the photos to fill in missing fields, and the vantage point of the photo. I'm not getting much help these days checking the incoming stuff, and helping new authors. Sad, how much this argument disturbs me - would be more encouraging if I flipped to "What's new" under "Infrastructure", and saw the same names beside a bunch of new route records. But alas, I see none of the names, I guess it takes a lot of time for everybody to work on their arguments - certainly taking a lot of my time. depressing.

#651 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - Route and Access Info on Mountain pages
Don Funk suggests that there should be more route info on the mountain pages. I agree completely! This has been one of my top 5 goals for the past 6 months. I've spent dozens of hours on it, putting in route descriptions, and linking them to roads, trails and huts. I soon found out that to be practical, you have to organize the info in a hierarchy. For example, look at Mount Matier. Notice that there are two "access" records, followed by 4 climbing routes. The access descriptions link you directly to Keith's Hut, which then has an access field of its own, which tells you how to get to Keith's hut. That points you to "Cerise Creek Trail". And that has a link to the feature called "Cerise Creek parking Lot", which has brief description of how to drive from Pemberton and find the lot. Once this "access chain" is established, then the other nearby peaks like Joffre peak can simply refer to Mount Matier. (Have a look at Joffre Peak).

If you don't have a hierarchy, then you'd have to combine the whole sequence of instructions and repeat them on every Mountain page.

Now when I started on this relatively minor sounding project, I realized it was useful to have a separate "access" field in the feature record, because otherwise you have to hunt through a huge description to even see if there IS an access description. And once I put in the separate field, I discovered that most of the previous descriptions did NOT have access information. Having the extra field really made it obvious.

So this is a case study of where an extra field was added, which has been much criticized. Anyway, I wish that some of you would join me, and help make this one suggestion a reality. Just email me and tell me you'd like to work on it.

#650 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - RE: Typing in subject mountain name rather than Id
Don Funk's suggestion #3 is Ability to type the mountain name rather than the Id... That is exactly the way the system worked at first. But the problem was that when there were duplicate names, and peaks with no names, (or the name changed) it didn't work. The Id scheme allows the author to know exactly what is going on, and to use the full power of the search system to look up the correct mountain, and then put in its Id. And then the link works permanently, no matter if the name of the mountain is corrected or changed.

#649 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - RE: Comment Mechanism for Trip Reports
Several people have suggested that trip reports and photos should have a mechanism whereby people can add their own comments. This is done by some other websites. Fred and I have discussed this. But our fear is that you'd just get a bunch of stuff like "Great trip, what was the snow like", etc. So we didn't give it the highest possible priority. People reading the reports can recommend them, and can send email to the authors with corrections, additional info, etc. but I don't see the need to maintain a clutter of comments on each trip report for the next 30 years.

#648 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - Re: Drew Brayshaw's comments
Drew has put a tremendous amount of stuff into the website in the past, some of varying quality. A lot of his suggestions are useful, but I've had difficulty getting support for various cleanups from him. For example, many of his photos don't have the correct vantage point. However, I can comment on each of his points:

(1) Concept of value: He says that the concept of assigning values to peaks is a "stupid" idea. The way the value calculation works is it divides the number of photos by the "value" of the peak, so if you put in the 10th photo of Brunswick, it is not going to get that much value, as opposed to the only photo of a lower prominence peak like East Lion. The number of recommendations is the single most important thing. Simply basing rankings of photos and trips on recommendations alone doesn't work, because what used to happen was that recommendations were to a large degree just a function of how many friends the author had, and what area was being reported. Some repeat trip in the lower mainland would get 3 dozen recommendations, and meanwhile a great shot of some really big and obscure peak somewhere else would get 1 recommendation. So I changed to a mixed system, giving a certain amount of value based on the subject as well as people's recommendations. It could still be improved, I'm thinking of a system where quality and quantity both count.

(Point 2): The reason for prominence is that without it, you can't have a peak lister, and various other reasons documented on the website.

(Point 3): The reason we distinguish between "peak" and "ridge" is that many of the "ridge" features were in fact small mountain ranges, and so we designate the highest point as a ridge. A number of Drew's entries caused considerable confusion, people put in trouble tickets. If you look up "Naming Policy" and then document under "test cases" you'll see numerous cases like "Rune Ridges" which Drew had attached to a single peak, and then somewhere else declared that Rune Ridges was an entire range, including an officially named higher peak. To ensure consistant quality, if you want to name a peak, you have to email me. This "centralization" is what Drew is complaining about. See Mountain Naming Policy.

Point 4: I'd like to have a better Biv Dollars mechanism, but haven't been able to figure out a simple enough one. It would have to be more complex than what Drew is suggesting. The minute you said "3 trip reports", you'd get all sorts of junk.

(Point 5) The primary objective of Bivouac is to assemble the information into a useful reference, and unfortunately this means lat-longs and takes time.

#647 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - User Driven Development priority system
Re: Doug Brown's suggestion of a "user driven development priority system". (and Don Funk mentioned the same thing). Main problem is time. I don't have time to do the simple things just to keep the site running. My time is almost entirely taken up just answering emails and fixing all the problems people are reporting. So the way that developments get undertaken right now is via people personally emailing me, and seeing what we could do. The best projects are ones that are relatively self-contained, and don't take a lot of co-ordination time. An example is Vida's project to have weekly "photo of the month" stuff.

The thing that would help me most would be people volunteering to help check and correct existing data, to bring it up to existing specs, rather than new projects.

#646 - 2006.03.09 Robin Tivy - Response to Contours for Javamaps
Re: Contours for javamaps: (suggested by Don Funk, and comment by Paul Kubik) Paul and I worked for months and months on the original Javamap, and painfully hammered out how it should work. It took hundreds of hours from both of us. There is no doubt that any further efforts would take a huge amount of time as well. In the past year or two Paul hasn't had as much time to spend on this stuff, and so I'm somewhat surprised at his outlining such an ambitious undertaking as to talk about contour maps. Basically, Fred and I work every day just trying to fix the basic stuff on the website, and we can't keep up. Even if Paul did have a huge amount of time, I feel that on-line contour maps are beyond the scope of what we could accomplish.

#645 - 2006.03.06 Lee Shepherd - Joining in..
Allright! Debate and discussion.. nothing irks me more on this site than the construct of "value" and its calculation.. you know, I just can't see the value in this approach to posting and reward, some artificial contruct of recommendations, remoteness, adherence to report rules etc.. a case could be made that there is more "value" in a trip report to Welch Peak for example, regardless of how many previous reports there are, or how close to a Starbucks outlet it is, simply because more Bivouac members are likely to actually hike and climb there.. Bivouac$$'s?? donate them to your local food bank or something.. and of course the thorny issue of trip reports.. I more or less gave up after having a 2 hour report on an Adamants climbing trip rejected for upload because of an error in the waypoints field that I couldn't seem to fix.. close, gone, no save location?? I can barely use a compass, much less GPS, much less fuss with waypoints.. but sometimes I can tell a story.. surely this report section can be simplified to encourage new users who then won't be forced to anxiously watch how their report fares in the points race for "value" or how they crawl up the author's list.. and as this site expands the database across North America I would suggest clickable links to target areas.. like picking "english" or "french" on a site, could we not click for "canada" and "usa" or "mexico".. the alphabetical mountain search bar, with it's cryptic state and province initialling, scroll, scroll, click, wow I didn't know there was a Thunder Mountain in Kansas.. back button.. after a certain point you really have to drop your favourites into different folders yeah?.. I don't even understand the "prominence project" and glaze over.. Overall? I have always felt most comfortable with websites, regardless of content, that allow access by the lowest common denomiator, ie. me, to the most amount of information, in the least amount of time, in the easiest interface fashion.. on another note, keep up the great work Bivouac, I love this site.. it's a daily read, and if 'what's new' isn't happening then it's off to the reports archive for old adventures.. just don't count on me for a 'new recommendation' hit..

#644 - 2006.03.04 Drew Brayshaw - Changes Are Needed
I have a number of comments which I will try to group under common themes.

1) The whole concept of "value" is functioning in the opposite manner to that for which it was intended. This is best exemplified by comparing two nearby peaks - East Lion and Mt Brunswick. Brunswick has a "value" of 15 while the East Lion, a more difficult peak to climb with far fewer trip reports, has a "value" of 4. If the intent of value for mountains is to attract trip reports for those areas in need of representation then it fails for this pair. The whole concept of ranking the peaks with a "value" based on prominence and height is a stupid idea.

With respect to "value" for trip reports and photo essays and 'Bivouac Dollars' the system is also functioning in the reverse of the manner in which it was stated it was intended to function. Put simply the Bivouac Dollar system rewards quantity over quality. If someone uploads 100 poor quality out of focus photo essays, even if they garner no recommendations, then it is almost guaranteed that person will become "Author of the Month". Then, if someone uploads the aforementioned 100 poor photos on the first day of the month, anyone can see that that person has "author of the month" sewn up so there is no incentive for anyone else to upload a photo. So the system actually serves to discourage photo and trip uploads. I found with trip reports, if I wrote one a month I would not win anything whereas if I saved them up and wrote four in one month I won. It seems though, that it would be better if people wrote up trips as they did them so others can enjoy them? Finally, it seems duplicitous to me that Robin refuses to discuss the algorithm used to calculate photo and trip value, while ensuring that all his trip reports and photos are formatted to have a high value, so that they show up in large numbers in the "Top Photos" and "Top Trips" sections.

If the value system is to continue, the way peaks are valued must change radically. The awarding of Bivouac Dollars should be made on the basis of recommendations recieved, with the top photo and top trip of each month rewarded. This will ensure a level playing field and encourage new people, maybe with only one or two good photos or trip reports, to contribute them, instead of the current system which discourages such contributors.

2) The whole prominence idea is useless. It is not a recognized geographic concept and is mostly used by a subset of American mountaineers primarily concerned with peak bagging and one-upping each others' accomplishments. Its use in Bivouac was a mistake which has wasted a lot of time for no appreciable purpose and has turned off far more contributors than it has benefited.

3) One of the things that attracted me to Bivouac in the early days was the collaborative aspect of editing and adding information. This aspect of the site has been entirely lost. An open editing system for mountains, trails, roads, areas etc. in the fashion of Wikipedia would encourage many more contributors, encourage the sharing of information, and be an effective deterrent to errors. Many of the current errors in bivouac are the result of Robin Tivy centralizing editorial control in a few persons and in making a series of bizarre decisions - such as claiming that "Ridge" is not a permissible name for a summit, and renaming summits like the familiar Panorama Ridge, named by Neal Carter himself, into "Panorama Peak". I can't help but feel that bizarre decisions such as this significantly diminish Bivouac's claim to be the best source of information on Canadian Mountains.

4) I have no problem with the decision to charge a membership fee but the claim that this fee is similar to what one would pay on a yearly basis for a journal or guidebook is patently not true. Journals and guidebooks reward contributors with complimentary copies (I have a stack on my desk as I write this) but Bivouac does not reward contributors similarly. I would suggest scrapping the current membership charge for anyone who contributes more than two or three trip reports or a dozen or so photo essays over the course of a year.

5) One of the major problems with Bivouac is that it is difficult, and continually made more difficult, to upload new photos and trip reports, and existing trip reports and photos are subject to constant calls for revision whenever a round of trivial changes are made. This is fine when one only has a few photo essays and one trip report but when one is constantly emailed with requests to add new fields or change existing fields for several hundred photos and trip reports it becomes an increasingly onerous chore, especially when you can't see any real need for the change to have been made.

Basdically, what it comes down to for me is that I haven't had much occasion to use Bivouac recently. If I go on a trip I can write a trip report for or in a third of the time it takes for Bivouac, and it will be read by more people on those sites and probably appreciated more. Likewise, if I want to find out what others are doing, I can look on one of those sites. On a recent weekend I compared the two - CC had 15 new trip reports from the weekend for areas I was interested in, CT had 30, and Bivouac had one. Need I mention that both those sites are free? It is easy to comment or ask questions about others trips, and to organize trips, using those sites but well-nigh impossible on Bivouac. Finally, if I want to see great mountain photos, Flickr offers free photo upload, no file size limit, thousands of excellent shots, and a community feel that Bivouac had at one time but has lost.

What I would like to see from Bivouac is a system that combines the best features of the other sites with its strong database-based system for locating peaks and mountains. But unless it changes radically, that won't happen. Bivouac seems to be embarked on a course that has it losing out in fun, ease of use, content and interest to other sites. It will be rendered irrelevant within another few years if the trend continues. So I think change and improvement is not only desirable but mandatory, and I thank Justin for starting the discussion. Three years ago I paid to use Bivouac because at that time it seemed superior to the other sites. They have now surpassed it and I find that I use Bivouac less and less, to the point where I don't feel I'm getting value for money. When my subscription expires in May, even though I have Bivouac dollars in my account, I doubt I will use them if things continue they way they are now.

#643 - 2006.03.04 Doug Brown - Organize the development requests

There are lots of good ideas of how to improve If we want to move forward with a user-driven development process, I think the first enhancement should be:

An "enhancement request" area where users could request changes/additions to bivouac. Other users could comment on the requests and help with their design, and Robin could respond with the difficulty and effort required to implement them. Hopefully we could come up with a system whereby the bivouac community could prioritize all the development requests so the stuff that is most important to the bivi users gets done first, and the stuff the community doesn't want, doesn't get done at all.

I know this suggestion may make me sound like some rigid process freak, and I believe Robin fears doing such a thing would bog down the creative process and bring the ehancement of to a halt. I however, think it would strengthen the community, create buy-in for changes, and make the developement smarter, if a little slower. As this thing we call grows ever bigger and more complicated, I feel adding some structure and process to the development is a necessity.

#642 - 2006.03.04 Paul Kubik - Contours on ZoomMap - Canada and continental USA
In response to one of Don's suggestions for the future direction of the Bivouac site: The ZoomMap already has the ability to superimpose UTM grid, lat-lon grid, roads, trails, rivers, lakes and mountains on contour topographic maps in Canada and the United States. I've completed a couple of research projects using the ZoomMap technology that I developed successfully integrating ZoomMap with topographic maps provided by Toporama (a Canadian map server run by Natural Resources Canada) and TerraServer (a conterminus USA map server, which is a collaborative project between the US Geological Survey and Microsoft). The Toporama maps are a bit weird-looking because the normally square 1km grid is flattened into a rectangle that is wider than it is high. They also have a different cultural appearance than the regular topographic maps. The maps are published at 1:50K, 1:250K The USA TerraServer maps however are an exact facsimile of the USGS maps and are available in a variety of scales- 1:62K, 1:100K, 1:250K etc. I use both the Canadian and US maps for digitizing highly accurate road and trail waypoints which I then cut and paste into the Bivouac system. The Manning Park and Pasayten roads, rivers and trails and many other areas have been digitized and edited using these technologies. At one point about five years ago I deployed a bunch of the Canadian maps with the ZoomMap interface onto Bivouac but they seem to have disappeared some time ago without anyone ever being aware of them. I don't think Robin enabled them for the wider audience. It is a relatively simple technology to deploy and already proven to work on Bivouac. I would have pursued the deployment of the TerraServer map technology and the ZoomMap with Robin but he has a resistance to incorporate modern technology on the assumption that it is too complicated and no one understands it. TerraServer uses a well-known Internet technology for sharing data, which is called Web Services. Web Services allows an information provider such as Microsoft to supply on-demand data such as maps to the entire Internet audience. It is a free service. Over the four or five years I have used it I have found the TerraServer to be comprehensive and available 24x7. (It also has a regular browser-based interface but that doesn't tie in with ZoomMap.) I think Don's suggestion would be something supported by Bivouac members. Let's incorporate contour maps with the ZoomMap. Step up to Web Services. The map servers are free, Web Services is free, they work. I should add that both the Canadian and USA map servers cover the entire North American continent except Mexico and Alaska.

#641 - 2006.03.03 Don Funk - This is a great site with plenty of potential...
I agree with Doug's previous comment that Robin (and all the other contributors) should be congratulated with the huge effort put forth in producing this site. It is extremely well organized and contains a wealth of information about the mountains of Canada and beyond. I find the site very useful for finding route or mountain information prior to planning a trip into an unfamiliar area. I just think that everyone needs to be heading (more or less) in the same direction as to how this site is being shaped. And I agree that by having open discussions about changes, then perhaps this issue could be alleviated. I have had recent discussions with Fred Touche (who assists at the site) and here are a few of the ideas we came up with. Whether any or all will become implemented remains to be seen and are just ideas at this stage. 1) Gradually make topo maps (with contour intervals) available on the site and layer them with the java maps. If this could be done, then the java map would only be a supplement to the topo map, and would only need to contain routes and clickable links, etc... The map could be selectable in different sizes, so as to not necessarily bog down the site or take to long for someone without high speed internet access. And perhaps a larger printable version could be downloaded, and likely making it unnecessary for someone to have to purchase a map for a one time trip to a certain specific location. I personally think that making topo maps available on bivouac would add significant value to the site, and this may already be in the works? 2) Have the ability to comment on any photo essay, trip report, etc... And also have a selection for making the comments visible or not visible, for those that may not want to see them. 3) Ability to type in the mountain name (instead of the mountain id #) in Photo Essays where the subject is input. This would do a search for that mountain (and if more than one came up a box would show up allowing you to select the right one). This would help making it easier to come up with the subject lat long. We both agreed that the vantage point lat long is not needed in a photo essay. This search system could be used in a number of applications to simply entering data, making the site more user friendly. Also, if topo maps were implemented, it would be possible to select waypoints on the map on your screen, simplifying the waypoint entry for trip reports. 4) Have more comprehensive route and other info all visible on the mountain pages (where applicable) There currently is route info on the mountain, but would be better to implement the appropriate road and and trail access (perhaps using clickable links?), along with any other info pertaining to the mountain. A good way of understanding this is to look at how the mountain pages are organized on, but without all the repetition. Or look at how Fairleys guide organizes the road and trail info and is used as a reference for each particular mountain. This may require a huge amount of work by editors, but I think that it may be worth the effort? (I am aware of the proximity search which already exists, but think that this would be an improvement) 5) To have open discussions about any major changes to be made with this site. This would be great for seeing what the overall feedback is for a certain idea or change and perhaps a great place to make suggestions.
  These are just a few ideas perhaps worthy of consideration. What do you think and/or what ideas do you have???

#639 - 2006.03.03 Doug Brown - My 2 cents
A few thoughts of my own, but first I'll say I think bivi is an amazing site and an amazing collaboration. Robin should be congratulated for his incredible effort, dedication, and perseverance.

1. I would say, as a generalization, those who have issues with the bivi usability are heavy contributors, while those think it is fine, tend to be lighter contributors. That is consistent with my experiences: searching for stuff is good, adding new stuff is moderately painful and redundant and changes frequently.

2. Yes, the prominence thing annoyed many people. It seems to me to have shifted the site from a climber focused site to a more geographer focused site. The value of contributed photos (and reports?) is heavily based on prominence and in my mind, that can be a very poor measure of the value of a photo. For example, a photo of a slag heap in the US that you could mountain bike up, but has 1500 m prominence, gets a huge score, while a great shot of Snowpatch Spire, with 284 m of prominence, is greatly discourged by the current system.

3. I think Robin's approach of monitoring site traffic is better than trying to guage the number of new trip reports. As the site matures, there is a higher and higher probability that the great trip you just did is already well covered in bivi, so you won't add a new report (or photo) where you would have a few years ago. But that doesn't mean the site isn't super useful and well used.

4. I would like to see bivi become more of a community. I feel the current "benevolent dictator" management style inhibits that and generates whining because people put so much energy into the site but have no input into where it is going, and find that work they have done needs to be redone again and again when things change.

#635 - 2006.02.27 Robert Wilson - more user friendly
first off i do find this site very useful with loads of timesaving data for approaches and mt routes.there is also the inspiration facture of a good photo which does inspire me to seek out other areas to climb and hike in.i suspect that there are other members like myself who are not computer propeller heads and who would insert more trip reports and photos with route descriptions if it wernt so time consuming and needs to be a little more user friendly.i do like that this site isnt all flashy like some and is to the point, that for one i'm sure will keep it useful for mountaineers for years but maybe wont attract the fly by nite,passing fad type people but thats ok.that is why i will support this site as opposed to any others.

#634 - 2006.02.26 Ade Miller - Some thoughts.
I stumbled on this discussion by accident. Couple of points...

Is this discussion open to non-paying members? If not then it would be interesting to get feedback from people who haven't paid to find out why not.

The content on the site is fantastic! I think what's there is great and, thanks to an enormous amount of effort by numerous unsung individuals, it represents a real resource which is in a form that can be built on in the future.

I suspect in some cases "slickness" and usability are being used interchangably. I agree that content is king but in some areas the site is hard to navigate and this is off putting and doesn't maximize the usability of the fantastic underlying content.

If you want to attract new "customers" then I'm afraid some more slickness is inevitable. I'm not suggesting a millions of hours on an overhaul and graphics everywhere at the expense of developing more content but I can't help feeling a more consistent UI with a metaphor that users find familiar might help boost usage.

#633 - 2006.02.26 Robin Tivy - What is the problem, and what can we do?
Fred and I read and discussed all the comments today. I'm really impressed with the answers that people have already written. Greg Jones, Don Funk, Shelly Wales, Chris N, Ramsey Dyer have to say. I can't say it better myself.

First of all, there is an assumption that there is some sort of problem that requires radical change of course, facelifts, more of a slick appearance. People are perhaps assuming that because in January the number of things in What's New drops that this is proof something is wrong.

Look up "mountaineering" in Google. Bivouac is number one on the planet. Where is trailpeak? Look at the readership stats on the front page. Steady increase, month after month. New members are coming in steadily as always. Remember, January is always slow. Members are becoming increasingly more widespread. In the past week, we've had new paid members from France, from Austria, Quebec and the Maritimes.

So there is no proof that a radically new approach or facelift is necessary. We've just got to keep improving what we are doing. Improve quality.

The second theory is that the site is too complex, and that the complexity is what is discouraging input. To insert a new article is certainly time consuming. I am always shocked as to how much work it is. Especially if you properly put in all the associated road bulletins, photos, and fix up associated infrastructure. But is that the problem? One thing pointed out by Greg Jones and others is that Road Bulletins are incredibly simple to put in. So if complexity is a problem, concentrate on road bulletins. They are incredibly valuable, and incredibly simple.

I realize that much of what is being done on the site is invisible. Nobody notices when some far away peak gets updated. It really DOES take a lot of time to upgrade old photos and trip reports. 25000 mountains is a BIG number. And 5000 articles is a lot of articles, considering every one of them is a lot of work to write in the first place. But what makes that work worthwhile for authors is that it is permanent, and properly indexed so people can keep coming back to it for years.

The site is 10 years old now, and you can still look at articles from 10 years ago and see constant readership, month after month. "What's New" is not the whole site. What is needed is more QUALITY, not necessarily more quantity and flash. The articles by themselves aren't everything - they gain their value by becoming part of the fabric of the whole encyclopedia. "Part of the fabric" means cross referenced, and indexed and organized, and well written so they are a useful PART of something bigger."

I'd rather have 5000 photos each of which had a good description and were clearly identified where it was taken from than 500,000 unindexed photos. Even now there is SO much stuff coming in that it is not being properly checked. And imagine the fixup problems if you had 1000 photos instead of just 100. Many people have not fixed up their 100 photos yet.

Numerous people seem to talk about the prominence work as some great misguided evil. But that was 3 years ago. The reason for it was to tie the mountains together in a logical fashion, to show what is part of what, and to facilite sensible lists. And of course such an exercise of following ridges leads you into the USA, because the mountains know no borders. If prominence and which peaks are connected to which land masses is not interesting, it can be ignored. I think the research that went into that stuff has permanent value in addition to trip reports, access information. It gives these places meaning and significance when you are out there, just like height.

#632 - 2006.02.22 Sandra McGuinness - Needs to be more responsive to members
I think Justin may be right that people are losing interest in the site. It seems to me there are a few reasons for this. First, entering a trip, route or photo has become so complicated. Each time I enter a photo essay or trip report, I find two or three more fields than last time that need to be filled in. The result is more complexity and more time required - time a lot of people don't have.

Second, the inevitable changes to how trips and photos are inserted. An example is the recent change to have vantage points separate from subject lat/longs for photos. This results in endless "fixing up" of trip reports and photos. I guess many of these changes make Bivouac better in the long run, but it's a pain in the arse to put things in one way, then a month later have to change them. In fact, I wish I had a Bivouac $ for all the changes I've made over the years.

Third, is the tangents that Bivouac seems to run off in that have no interest to most members - what else could I be talking about but prominence. The prominence project took/takes a huge amount of time and energy and just has no relevance to most people.

I think that it's time Bivouac (Robin T, in other words), started consulting the membership (or at least a representative core of the membership) before making extensive changes or embarking on big projects. Otherwise, contributors start to feel like we are working on a project we have no control over, content loses relevance and we all bugger off to somewhere better.

Oh, and I agree with Glen, some way to have discussion/comments about photos, trip reports etc. would be great. Not a discussion forum like ClubTread (which is basically useless for finding any relevant/useful information about a route, hike or trip) but some way to post relevant comments.

As an aside, I'd be interested in more common trips being recorded as well. Although a day at Diamond Head, a ski up Mount Matier or Mount Seymour may seem commonplace for people on the Coast, for those of us from other parts of the country a write up on these common trips is helpful if we happen to be in the area and are looking for trip ideas.

#630 - 2006.02.21 Paul Kubik - Editing data
My personal area of expertise is in the mapping programs on the site. They can be used for digitizing and editing data points as well the use they are currently put to, which is data display. I'm referring to the JavaMap and the ZoomMap programs. I wrote both of these from scratch. I also developed the UTM conversion algorithms and gave them to Robin and guided him through the programming steps. Robin prefers to keep everything simple so editing using the ZoomMap is only enabled for myself. It's a pity because you can visually edit the data points such as road waypoints, lakes, coastlines, trails etc. Anyone who tries to do it by the other way - cutting and pasting of waypoints will quickly realize the deficiency of the "keep it simple, Steven" (KISS) approach to cleaning up data. By contrast it is much easier to enter data. But there's the rub. There are so many different sources of data input that one person's trailhead does not necessarily intersect another person's road waypoint. I challenge anyone to generate a ZoomMap for the Assiniboine area, for instance, and clean up the intersection points for a 50km radius. What I mean is to ensure that there are no gaps or overshots where rivers intersect other rivers, trailheads intersect on roads or other trails. Another data challenge is to ensure that roads plot on the correct side of rivers and lakes. This is one of the design criteria of the site that is never enforced because no one wants to take on the challenge of cleaning up the data. Any one who tries quickly gives it up. I personally don't care so much about having a slick look to the site. I do care about the data quality for the maps.

#629 - 2006.02.21 Shelley Wales - look is fine
I agree with Chris (and others) the look of the site is a non issue. I am a designer and personally I think it would be a mistake to slick it up. Currently the site has a strong grass roots and community feel that you don't get from sites like trail peak. It is simple, uncluttered and does not feel plastic or cookie cutterish like similar slicked up sites out there do.

Yes sometimes the content is lacking for certain areas but hey that is half the fun... getting out there and exploring. Also Robin and others do a fantastic job encouraging the posting of info with gentle reminders of things like linking road reports to trip reports and trip reports to photo esays and so forth. Lord knows how they find the time between careers and play!

Love the site and it is also the only one I am willing to pay for.

#628 - 2006.02.21 David Campbell - The reason I pay for Bivouac is because of its quality
I have to agree with a few of the comments that Bivouac is the only website I pay for. The reason for that is that I think it serves its purpose very well. If people feel there is a lack of content in one particualr area, that a great excuse to contribute....write a report, or go on a trip to somewhere and tell us about it. Sometimes people might be spending time cranking turns at Elfin Lakes, and maybe they don't want to write about it. If there is a lack of interesting new material to go through, maybe flip through some of the old material (there are plenty of "goodies"). I think there is plenty of content on this site to get people inspired.

#627 - 2006.02.18 Don Funk - Changes are needed
I agree with what Glenn is saying in that more quality content is needed, particularly with access and route info. For many people, this is what Bivouac is all about. They may plan a trip to a new area or mountain, and would expect to find valuable access and route info on this site. While posting a picture may seem exciting at the time, it is of far more value to others if it contains access and route info about ones trip. I think everyone (me included) has been guilty at one time or another of posting a picture (or pictures) with minimal information about the mountain or route. This is an encyclopedia, where good factual info is highly valued. I disagree with Glenn on one issue however, and think that expansion to the United States should go ahead full steam. The border between Canada and the US (in my view) is a psychological one, and there are plenty of great mountains and climbing routes in the western US. There is a huge amount of climbing activity going on down there, and having American climbers get on board would be a huge boost to this site, with more activity and greater financial support. Also, by perhaps having more features free on this site, may help to attract greater numbers of people. One way this could be done is to allow commenting on photo essays and trip reports, but in order to make comments or insert anything, you must be a paid member. Also, I really think this site must concentrate more with what's popular or potentially popular. For outsiders visiting the area, this is what they will most likely be interested in. Only a relatively small group of climbers will express interest in a remote peak with difficult access and which sees little activity (even though it may be have high prominence). At the same time, I think that sprucing up the site certainly wouldn't hurt. Take a look at summit post ( Aside from bivouac, I think it's the number one site out there (both interesting and informative) and sees plenty of activity.

#626 - 2006.02.17 Glenn Woodsworth - The "look" is fine; content is needed
I don't think the Bivouc interface is the problem. The interface is clean, simple, and it works (yes, there are some clunky spots). I see two main problems:

First, most people, hate to pay money for web sites, and climbers may be even cheaper than most people. Any site that charges for content is going to have far fewer regular or repeat visitors than one where the access is free, perhaps only 10% as many visitors. How many people do you know with a Hotmail (or equivalent) account? How many do you know who pay for "premium" services?

Second, this is by nature a largely static site. Its core is the peak infrastructure that has been built up close to 25,000 peaks, plus over 5,000 photos. These are far and away the most-read items. This data is structured,and is generally pretty good in quality. Above all, it's searchable. There is no problem finding old trip reports for, say, Sky Pilot. Ever try to find something useful about some specific peak on some of the other web sites? It's not easy to filter out all the dated, irrelevant, and useless chatter (much of which may have been fun when posted, but a year later it's not). Most Bivouac content has a long shelf life: even the Road Bulletings let you gague the overall "health" of a road over a period of years.

Bivouac will live or die by the quality and accuracy of its content. I think the prominence thing went overboard: most people simply aren't interested. I think that too much energy went into listing (and naming, but that's another discussion) minor peaks in out-of-the-way corners. This was probably a side-effect of the prominence project. And I think extension of the infrastructure to wide areas of the United States was probably a mistake.

What to do? One thing that's badly needed is route descriptions - most peaks don't have any. Now that the prominence effort seems to be winding down, how about the major editors systematically combing the existing trip reports and photo essays for route descriptions and inserting them into the infrastructure records? Yes, it'll take time and effort, but much less than was spent on the above not-too-useful (for most members and non-members) projects.

Also needed is a better method of discussion. I don't mean a free-for-all, unstructured ClubTread sort of thing, but some reasonable means of commenting on photo essays, trip reports, and so on. I'd love to be able to comment on some photos: point out names of unlabelled peaks and, yes, point out errors. Same with trip reports. I'm thinking along the lines of the road bulletins, where the comments become a permanent part of the record and would be linked to the appropriate peak or area or whatever. I think people who post material would like to find out what others think of it, other than a simple "reccommendation" and be able to discuss things with them other than by email, sort out routes, that sort of thing. The generall discussion forum, this one, could be kept for general discussion about the site itelf and broader issues.

By the way, Bivouac is the only site I pay for. I don't contribute as many photos as I'd like to this site (lack of time) but I check in every day to see what's new. But I pay for this site because I find the static content useful and because I believe in the overall concept, even while I disagree with some of the approaches.

#625 - 2006.02.17 Chris Nott - Bivouac is worth it.
I build websites for a living. I spend my days hearing phrases like "brand proposition" and "customer experience" and "immersive experience". I've worked on sites that have cost millions of dollars to produce. But no amount of bling is going to draw people if you don't have content. Content is king. Bivouac has content that is available on no other site. And that content is arranged logically with links between related content. Until other sites provide the same content with an organization that rivals Bivouac's, I think Bivouac is safe. And I don't think any other site will try to do so for a number of reasons (I won't bore you with my theories). I have no problem shelling out an annual membership fee to have access to this information. And this is the only site I pay for. I'd argue that Bivouac doesn't need to dress itself up. And it certainly shouldn't change the search-based navigation which is part of it's strength.

#624 - 2006.02.17 Ramsay Dyer - competition?
I think bivouac is filling a different niche from the online forums. The information here is more structured and enduring. A site set up for people to share what they've done each weekend is not going to be a site that avoids redundant information. I think a lot more time goes into the trip reports that are posted here than generally goes into reports that go up on the forums on evening after a trip.

It is a point though that bivouac needs members and a website that is not dynamic probably has less pull. Encouraging road and snow bulletins is a good idea.

I also agree with Greg regarding the user interface. I don't see the problem. was mentioned as a competing site. I don't get much out of it, and I suspect that has something to do with the interface. It seems to come from the school of design. A much simpler interface is offered by google, but they get by. I guess it just comes down to personal taste, and to each their own. But everybody knows google is better.

#623 - 2006.02.16 Matt Gunn - need to attract members
With all the competition out there (clubtread, trailpeak, cascadeclimbers) bivouac has its work cut out. Obviously there is a cost to running the website. That money will either come from advertisers or membership. To attract advertisers I strongly believe that the website will need a facelift and slick appearance. If the site is going to survive off membership fees, then it will have to compete head to head with similar free sites. To compete with other sites I think it needs to offer a better discussion forum (these forums help build community) and it also will need a slick look. Like it or not, people make judgments based on appearances, and aesthetics are important. I think the slow down at bivouac is linked to the increasing free competition, I hope it can be revamped to attract more folks.

oh yeah, to be attractive, bivouac dollars must be redeemable by the person who wins them. otherwise it's just putting an added responsibility on their shoulders.

#618 - 2006.02.13 Greg Jones - Well....
I agree with Paul about the Bivouac $, but I don't understand the need to change the physical appearance of the site. What exactly about the cosmetics offend? And further more why does it matter? The site is usually slow around this time of year (in regards to member contribution), and I as a paying member would rather have a slow period than the insertion of redundant data (Squa/Cheak, Diamond Head...). These areas seem to get frequented in Dec/Jan. I don't agree that the site is not "user friendly". There is an obvious search function, and the result of said search brings about more options for the user to apply. The redundant content I referred to above is a result of user entry. What can be done about this?

I've spoken with quite a few members that chose not to contribute to the site. This is fine! By paying there membership costs they've supported the site. What most of them say is that it takes too long to enter essays/trip reports, and is too confusing. Unfortunately, some of these "confusing" tasks are imperative to the infrastructure of this website (lat/longs are something that comes to mind).

Some "googling" will bring up some great Trip Reports on climbing sites and even hiking websites. Why? Because it is easy! Easy to upload pictures, no waypoints, people comment about it. But trying to find relevant info from these sites is likened to gold panning...... you have to filter out a lot of crap. I think some people are finding that contributing to the Bivouac site is an obligation. One author recently told me they "feel they should put more on the site".

That being said, I like the fact that specific data from specific people is the core product of Bivouac. Although I think this may be a contributing factor the "stale" nature of the site. Catch 22? If your asking what can be done to make the site more interesting. I would like to see a lot more members contributing even in the smallest of ways. Inserting a Road Bulletin is an incredibly important function, and one that takes no time or even semi-lucid thought.

#617 - 2006.02.13 Paul Kubik - Bivouac dollars
Has anyone found a use for Bivouac dollars? I was surprised to find out I could not use them to extend my membership. As it is the contributors who make the site I felt it would be a small token of appreciation to be able to use them in that way and a motivator to enter more content to cover the gaps. A huge amount of effort is needed to earn 20 Bivouac dollars. Robin suggested I buy a non-Bivouacer a one year membership with my Bivouac dollars and then get them to buy me a dinner for $20. Since I wouldn't dine alone it ends up costing the new member $40 for a one year membership- not a very good deal.

This is an example of reductionist thinking, of course. It reduces a social engagement such as going out for dinner to a cost-benefit analysis- surely the antithesis of what meeting someone for dinner is all about. However, I think it gets to the root of what Justin suggests. The site hopes to project an image of a content provider that is devoid of unnecessary encumbrances that stand in the way of a user browsing the information. A note to Robin: a business maximizes its profit by keeping its customer's interests constantly in mind. So the site is clunky; looks dated; requires lots of mouse clicks to navigate; has an intimidating amount of data entry; has a lot of redundant content; is hellish to maintain. Yes, it needs a facelift.