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.
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