Tag Archives: communications

Bushwalking 2.0 | A Social Media Plan to Grow your Club.

Social media are familiar to everyone and can help your Club collaborate, share, welcome, energise, update, compete, promote, plan, collate, produce, discuss, record, and present, using well known web 2.0 interactive tools such as Twitter, blogs, Skype, IM, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, wikis and forums.

Web 2.0 tools can help you collaborate with other Club members to develop new resources, share the work load, make new members feel welcome, update guides and policies, run competitions, promote your Club to the public, plan events, collate, edit and distribute digital newsletters, promote discussion, and record events, skills and presentations.

Your members are probably already talking about your Club using social media. There are tools available to check what your target audience are saying about you: Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Technorati are but a few.

What are they saying? Is it positive or negative or simply non-existent? Do they have misconceptions? Do you want to capitalise on the opportunities available to promote your Club to new members?

The first step to grow your Club is to devise a social media plan, keeping in mind your goals and probably limited resources.

Some questions to be answered:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • What do you want to change?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sort of relationships would you like to form?
  • How would you like to change your relationship with your target audience?
  • What resources (time, people, money) are available to implement your plan and maintain it?
  • What have you already tried and how successful was it?
  • How do you intend to promote the changes?
  • How will you know if it is working?

NB It is critical that everyone in your Club hierarchy is supportive and part of the development of this plan. 

Read more about using social media and web 2.0 tools

Some of the ideas here have been adapted from the Museum 2.0 How to develop a small scale social media plan and the Museum Social Media Strategic Planning Worksheet

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Bushwalking 2.0 Pt 3 | Goodbye Newsletter

Has the Club newsletter had its day? Do you struggle to find an editor for your club publications? Is there a better model for publishing today with the advent of web 2.0 tools? Should those who are prepared to receive a digital newsletter receive a membership discount?

The typical Club newsletter is published monthly or quarterly and contains articles contributed by a small number of writers and edited by the Editor or perhaps a small editorial panel. Usually the Editor has struggled to get sufficient articles by the deadline and has probably had to personally seek new contributors and “hound” those who have promised regular contributions. Quality articles rarely arrive on the editor’s desk without some begging or “arm twisting” having occurred.

The production and distribution of the Club newsletter can be both labour intensive and expensive, especially if it has to be posted to a few hundred members. More progressive Clubs will have already diversified and will be encouraging members to opt to receive their newsletter by email as a pdf. Some clubs only have their newsletter for download from the Club website, usually from a members-only section, but if they could see the promotional value of the newsletter, it would be there for anyone to download.

Producing a pdf is the first, but most important stage of going digital. It reveals a commitment to part with tradition at the cost of losing a few die-hards who want to live in the past. If you really want a quick transition from paper to digital, discount the membership fee, by an amount which reflects the cost savings, for those who are prepared to download their copies of the newsletter. The real costs include postage, envelopes, database maintenance, printing, collating, “stuffing”, sorting by postcode and posting.

Of course web 2.0 tools are designed to be interactive and collaborative, perfect for the job of efficiently editing a newsletter. Even better, with the correct selection of the web tool, you can facilitate concurrent editing of contributions by the panel or if you are really adventuresome, open up the process to anyone in the Club to both contribute and edit. They can edit as little as they want or as much, knowing that the “real” Editor can reverse any changes made if needed, reverting to any previous version with a click of a button.

The other benefit is that the process is transparent, so that members can see how the current edition is progressing and contribute if they feel or see a need. The final version has only been published when the Editor digitally locks the pages and exports the finished file as a pdf.

Suitable tools for this  publication model include wikis, online documents with user-contributed content that can be edited by any authorised person, Google docs shared in the Cloud and even some versions of Adobe Acrobat. All of these alternatives avoid the need to sequentially pass a partially edited document from one person to another.

Of course if you are going to fully benefit from web 2.0 tools, why convert your publication into a pdf at all, just leave your wiki online with the finished pages locked and an invitation to everyone to start on the next edition.

More articles in this series

Pt2: Is your Club Ageing?
Pt1 Pt1 Re-energising your Club

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Bushwalking 2.0 Pt 1| Re-energising your Club

Can web 2.0 tools reduce the workload on your Club Committee? Can using social media recruit and retain new members? Do existing Club hierarchies deter participation? Could a more democratic governance attract younger members? Do younger walkers expect different things from their Club than older “baby boomers”? Is your Club membership getting older?

Many bushwalking Clubs are suffering from an ageing club membership and struggling to find sufficient Committee members to share the workload. This is the first of a series of articles which will look at some of the questions raised and future posts will attempt to suggest some solutions.

By nature web 2.0 tools are interactive and collaborative and usually involve many-many interactions and user-generated content. They provide many opportunities to include Club members who previously may not have participated in any of the organisational aspects of your Club and, in so doing, take some of the workload from your Committee members.

Social media, generated using web 2.0 tools, provide the opportunity for Club members to develop relationships with others they may not have even met, develop a sense of belonging and in so doing welcome new members into your Club. Potential new members browsing the web will be comparing walking Clubs to get a sense of how easy it will be to join in  and become part of the membership. If they sense there is a “closed shop” attitude with “cliques” they will not join.

Often Club hierarchies may inadvertently discourage new members from contributing by “censoring” or “filtering” new ideas that don’t conform with the status quo. Web 2.0 tools encourage e-participation and are inherently more democratic and here lies the danger for some Committee members who may see such processes as a threat to their power. Change is often resisted by those who fear the status quo will change.

Younger generations often do not have respect for figures of authority who sometimes reside on Club Committees. They expect their views to be considered on merit and will often either actively oppose authoritarian, rigid and outmoded ideas or if they feel a lack of openness, may withdraw their participation or even membership. They are used to interacting via the social media with a large number of people, where their contribution is valued and not  filtered, according to their status in the organisation.

Does your Club have an ageing profile and if so why?

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Planning a Bushwalk | Using Dropbox and Google to Share and Store Information

Want to share a map or form with those who need it but not send it to everyone in your bushwalk group? Do you have a spreadsheet you want to share? Want to send a questionnaire or “survey” to your hiking group? Want to set up a group calendar, so you can see  when is the best time to plan a hike? Want to share your photos or video clips after the walk?

In Planning a Bushwalk | Using the Web to Share and Store Information Pt 1,  I discussed how the Web allowed us to share information so that only the latest version was available and easily accessible to everyone with a need-to-know. This post (Part 2) will help you to access specific websites and web tools which will help you to achieve these aims.

Want to share a map or pdf with those who need it but not send it to everyone in your group? One way is to upload it to the web “cloud” where it can be easily accessed based on need and is available 24/7 without your intervention.  Both Google and Dropbox and possibly others, with which I am not familiar, offer this free service but for a limited amount.


One such website where it is possible to do this is Dropbox, one of the  easiest ways to store, sync, and, share files online and which is available free for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Mobile. Watch the video about Dropbox. Dropbox offers free startup accounts with storage of 2GB, but larger accounts have a monthly fee eg 50Gb cost $99/year. By installing the Dropbox software on your computer or mobile, any file you add to your Dropbox, a folder on your desktop, becomes almost instantly available on any other of your computers, including mobiles, which has Dropbox installed or via a web interface if you don’t have access to one of your computers.

While I am embarrassed to admit I have succumbed to this Dropbox ploy, everyone joining Dropbox gets a 2GB account for free, but if you click this link both you and I will get an extra 250MB for free on our Dropbox accounts because of this referral!

There are mobile phone apps available for iPhone, iPad, Android, or Blackberry, although any phone with a web browser can always access the Dropbox website. Get access to critical files, such as booking confirmations, passport scans, drivers licence copies, route plans, emergency contact lists when on your bushwalk or while at local base, wherever you have a 3G service or wifi.

Now you can share the contents of your public folder for your latest bushwalk with your mates even if they are using a different operating system to you. It’s as simple as sending them an email, with the  link to the file.

Check out my Dropbox public folder, which contains the file How to use the Public folder in Dropbox.

It is easy top access your Dropbox from your iPhone using apps such as Dropbox by Dropbox.

Google also offers “cloud” computing with the ability to save files for access from any computer, much like Dropbox. In Google however, the files can use templates provided by Google Docs which at this time include the following formats:

  • Document
  • Presentation
  • Spreadsheet
  • Drawing
  • Form
  • Folder

or can be uploaded in an existing format eg Microsoft Office and become part of your Google list in a public folder, just like Dropbox. This is explained in more detail in the Google Docs Blog below:

“Instead of emailing files to yourself, which is particularly difficult with large files, you can upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB. You’ll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year. This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone. You might even be able to replace the USB drive you reserved for those files that are too big to send over email.

Combined with shared folders, you can store, organize, and collaborate on files more easily using Google Docs. For example, if you are in a club or PTA working on large graphic files for posters or a newsletter, you can upload them to a shared folder for collaborators to view, download, and print.

You can also search for document files you’ve uploaded or that have been shared with you just like you do with your Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs. And you’ll be able to view many common document file types with the Google Docs viewer.” (From Google Docs Blog)

A single Google account is much more versatile than Dropbox because it also offers you access to all of the following dedicated Google web applications:

It is easy top access your Google Docs from your iPhone using apps such as GoDocs for iPad/iPhone by Lightroom

In my next post (Pt 3) I will explain how to use these Google app and Docs.

For more info check out my other posts:
Web 2.0

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Planning a Bushwalk | Using the Web to Share and Store Information Pt 1

How can bushwalkers share information? How can shared information be kept up-to-date?  Have you ever tried to set up an emergency and personal contacts list for a multi-day hike? Tried to get consensus on a route plan? Wanted to share maps, trip intention forms, routes or other documents?

In a recent post, Searching for Bushwalking Information on the Web | Search Engines and Social Bookmarking , I suggested that a free Google account was a good way to to find information using web tools such as Google Alerts and that the social bookmarking site Delicious was in some ways better than a web search using Google or one of the other alternatives. These are both web tools and the second is designated a web 2.0 tool as it involves a high level of interactivity and sharing of information.

One way, of course, is to have everyone email you their emergency and personal contacts and then circulate a master list by email.  This works to some extent, but you can spend a lot of time resending the master contact list every time someone changes a phone number or their NOK! How do you know  that everyone has updated the master contact list and given the correct list to everyone who needs a copy?

One way is to place your list in the “cloud” eg Google Docs so that only one list exists and this is always the latest. You can give those in your group read/write access and they can update their own details as required. Then you just give people who need a copy a web link to the master list or if you must,  print the only copy immediately before your departure. If you are separated from your luggage and have a smart phone or access to an internet cafe where you can browse the web, then this list is immediately available. Your Club’s Safety Officer will always have up-to-date access, too.

If you have a consensus leader, then your route plan will be a joint effort. Each change will of course necessitate sending out a revised version and before long you will have so many versions no one will know which is the latest unless of course you are highly organised and use version control. Why not have just one version in Google Docs and keep this version current?

Want to share maps or other documents then use one of the web storage sites where essential docs can be uploaded by one person and then downloaded by everyone in the group who needs a copy. Of course, you could simply send a copy to everyone in the group by email, which is how we used to do it. However, files sizes for maps and pdfs are often huge, making this method largely unworkable for most walker’s mail systems.

Part 2 of this posting will give specific examples of websites and web 2.0 tools which you can try.

For more info check out my other posts:
Web 2.0

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Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 1

How should I plan a bushwalk in NZ? What are the logistics of such a trip from Australia and within NZ? What maps do I need? Can I upload them to my GPS? What are the risk management requirements of the Routeburn Track ? What is the weather likely to be in November? What special equipment will I need? To whom do I send my trip intentions form, if they are needed? Do I need a permit, and if so from whom? How do I obtain stove fuel or is it provided? Are there huts which I can use or will I need a tent? What emergency communications are available? What is special about the flora and fauna of the area and what field guides should I take? What are the photographic features? How much will it cost?

Invitation to Contribute

I have just started planning a week long trip to the Routeburn Track, in the South Island of New Zealand in November 2011 and thought I would share the process with you as it evolves.  This may not be the way you would do it, and if we differ,  I would encourage you to make alternative suggestions. I will be planning the walk on the basis that it will be independently walked by two experienced, fit bushwalkers, who will share equipment.

The questions listed above came randomly to mind and will all need to be answered before I leave. You may have some other questions you would like answered, if you are intending to do the same trip, or think I have left out and need to add. Your suggestions will be incorporated.

As the planning is a work in progress, it may need to be amended as I progress or receive better advice from others. I am particularly seeking wisdom from those who have walked the track recently and will incorporate your advice with appropriate acknowledgement.

Sequence of planning | Where should I start?

I guess for most people, with limited holidays, the suitability of the time of the year and duration needed are actually the critical  factors, followed closely by the cost.

  • Can I do this trip in November? 
  • How long do I need?
  • Can I afford the trip?

There are four good places to start  for this sort of general information:

  • commercial tramping tours
  • regional tourist associations
  • government departments
  • tramping guide books

With some thorough research,  these sources should provide me with the answers to the following questions:

  • Do they go in November? 
  • How long do they take? 
  • What sightseeing do they incorporate?
  • What are the highlights of the trip that should not be missed?
  • What options ( linking walks) do they provide?
  • Where do they start and finish?
  • What do they charge?

Hopefully, you will be able to help me with this research process.

Other Relevant Posts

Bushwalking Workflow | Planning a Bushwalk
Bushwalking Rescue | Emergency Beacons and Personal Tracking Systems
How do You Organise Your Food for a Multi-day Hike?
Packing for a Bushwalk 
Plan Safer Bushwalks | Weather Forecasts and Climate Records
How much fuel do I need?

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Is Solo Bushwalking Safe?

Why walk solo? How can trip planning reduce the risks ? Solo communications? What additional equipment do you need for a solo walk? How can you make it easier for rescuers?

Why would anyone want to walk solo?

If you have ever walked in a large group, you would understand why someone might want to walk solo. Rarely will the speed of the group match your own; you may want to stop for extra photos or to check a bird call; you may be slower up hills than others but be able to keep up on the flat or downhill; you may not like the company or find that their noise spoils the wilderness for you.

Then on the other hand, you make not  have walking partners who are free when you want to walk; who want to go where you do or have your experience or motivation. Perhaps you want to climb seven peaks in seven days, in which case you have probably narrowed down the list of potential companions who either want or have the fitness to walk with you.

The dangers of solo walking

Traditionally walkers have been taught to never walk in a groups smaller than four:  two to get help and one to look after the injured party. With the advent of  personal locator beacons (PLB) which can summon emergency help easily and even in the remotest location, a group of two is feasible and safe, in my opinion. The other major problem with solo walking is the added weight of no longer being able to share a tent or stove. Added weight increases the risk of injury, slows down progress and makes for longer days on the track.

But a group of ONE…. still not recommended by any authority of which I am aware. Despite this, with adequate trip planning, equipment and experience, solo walking can be safe and certainly enjoyable.

Pre-trip planning to reduce risks

 The inherent problems of solo walking can be reduced by selecting routes that are popular, so that if the need arose, you can  call on other nearby walkers for help. Not my style, as I like to be self-sufficient, and would be too embarrassed to do so.  Selecting a walk that you have done before and avoiding an isolated route, where there is a high risk of injury, both add another level of safety.

The trip intention sheet becomes more important for solo walkers, as it lists where you will be each night, how self sufficient you are and gives details of when you will arrive at your destination and what to do if you are late. This sheet, and its lodgement with authorities and a trusted friend becomes essential on a solo hike. Solo walkers unfortunately have a history of getting lost and requiring rescue, often with serious consequences.

 Be aware of the common injuries you may expect and do a relevant first aid course.

Making it easier for rescuers.

If you are unfortunate enough to require rescue, you can help by trying to be rational  about the things you do while lost:

  • make sure that you mark your route if you go off the track
  • leave a track marker which can’t be missed
  • show with arrows or boot prints the direction in which you have gone
  • make sure you and your campsite are visible from the air: carry a signaling mirror, reflective space blanket, flashing torch, light a fire, but make sure you observe any bushfire bans.
  • make sure you can be heard: always carry a whistle and know how to use it in an emergency.

Solo Communications

New technology such as the SPOT gen3 allows you to keep in contact with friends by using satellite technology to send SMS and emails to your emergency contact. If you fail to send this each day, they can then activate the emergency plan you have given them. Your PLB or SPOT can be used in an emergency to call for help from rescue authorities, but the PLB, being dedicated for this purpose is much more reliable. The PLB has  much stronger signal strength and is recognised by authorities as a call for help, which they will not ignore. The SPOT has the potential to do the same thing, but there are more steps in the emergency response chain and hence more likelihood of a step failing. SPOT has an annual subscription fee which makes it much more expensive  to run over a few years than the purchase of a PLB.

If you have mobile (cell) phone reception where you are walking, then the risk of a life threatening situation is  much reduced, and  this becomes an essential part of your equipment.
Solo equipment

Beyond the lack of ability to share a tent or stove, which will obviously increase the weight of your pack, there are other weight increases you may need to consider.

 Is there some equipment that you would normally share around the group that you will now have to carry yourself?

  • a better first aid kit
  • better or more navigation equipment?
  • a rope
  • different food packaging with individual serves
  • an inflatable raft!!

See also

Black Hills Hiking Safety: Risks of Hiking Alone Copyright 2002-2009 Travis N. Wood
Planning a Walk
 Communications for Bushwalkers Rik Head Bush Search and Rescue Victoria (Version 1.0 March 2009) pdf
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Bushwalking Rescue: Emergency Communications by Cell or Mobile Phone

What sort of mobile phone do I need? Which service providers should I use? How should I ensure adequate signal strength? What number should I call?  When should I call 112? When should I call 000? What information should I have ready?

 I’ve sometimes been surprised about how good mobile (cell) phone reception is when you have  line of sight.  Frenchman’s Cap in the central highlands of Tasmania to Mt Wellington, Hobart…70 km.  Is it possible? With such good reception then  the mobile phone becomes a viable communications tool for rescue. You can check reception in advance by viewing the service providers coverage maps, but these won’t show isolated locations where reception is exceptionally poor or surprisingly good, usually due to local terrain.

Choosing the right mobile phone is important if you want to use it for emergency communications. You must choose a phone with a decent internal antenna and these are referred to by Telstra as “blue tick” phones which means they are suitable for regional  reception areas in contrast to metro use only. You must choose a service provider which has good regional coverage and Telstra has the best coverage by far. If you are a serious bushwalker who wants to be able to use their mobile phone for communication in the wilderness then you have no choice!

How do you know if your signal strength is adequate for a call? 

Most of us can read the signal strength indicator, but this can be annoying as you continually have to take the mobile out of your pocket to check the symbol. If you have an iPhone, there is an app which will tell when you have moved into an area with adequate signal strength, even if the phone is in your pocket.

No Signal: No cell service? In a dead zone? want to be notified when you can make calls again without taking the phone out of your pocket? 

If you need to make an emergency call and don’t have adequate signal strength then the best thing to do is to head for high ground. While you may not have voice communication you may be able to send an SMS. If reception is poor be aware that you phone will turn up the power in order to get reception and this could flatten you battery prematurely. Leave your phone turned off unless you need it.

Dial Triple 000 NSW Police

If you have a recent mobile phone, you may be able to dial triple zero 000 to get emergency help from any nearby service provider. The better alternative, if you have an older phone is to dial 112, the internationally recognized emergency number. This number allows you phone to roam between service providers and to get the best service available.eg if you use Optus or Virgin then dialing 112 will allow you to use whichever tower is closest, most probably Telstra. It also allows someone finding your phone to call even when it is locked or turned off. A good reference is on the Australian Communication  and Media Authority’s  website Calling the Emergency Call Service from a mobile phone: FAQs

What information should I have ready for the emergency call service operator? 

Well, one obvious thing they will want to know is your location and they won’t want a grid reference. You must be able to give them latitude and longitude, which is available from your map or GPS if you know how to get it or perhaps you can convert it if you have the appropriate iPhone  app .

Map Tools: utility that lets users fully utilize coordinates. Converts between datums, including AGD66, AGD84,GDA94, NZGD49, coordinate systems, and map projections and calculates distances.

It is a relatively simple task to change the units on you GPS so they give lat & long instead of grid references. It’s not difficult to read the latitude  and longitude from your map.  Next best is to give them the distance and direction to a prominent feature nearby.

What information will they need from you?

The St John’s Ambulance suggests their staff should collect the following information:

Type of Incident
• Caller name and call back number
• Location of incident and where possible a location name
• Map reference
• Radio Communications/Frequencies
• Number of patients
• Medical category applied to tasking (SJA use)
• Diagnosis / presenting problem
• Patient details if available
• Type of injury or illness
• Type of terrain and hazards (ie. high tension or power lines)
• Weather conditions in the area
• Identify any obvious landmarks or potential landing sites

See also  Emergency Call-ins  This article provides a structure for emergency contacts in bushwalking clubs and schools to respond to callers.  

This section is from the Outdoor Action Program’s Guidelines for Handling Emergency Situations and is not contained in The Backpacker’s Field Manual. Copyright © 1999, all rights reserved, Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University and Random House Publishing, New York.

Have you had any experience using a mobile phone to summon emergency help? Let us know how it worked for you, by commenting.

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