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  • Gravsports-Ice upgrade summary

    Comprehensive version. (see the next post if you're a TL;DR type)

    So fair warning first. This is going to be a lengthy post but for anyone interested in Gravsports-Ice (GS-I) it will be worth reading. Probably ought to be required reading. Last year a discussion was started in the General Discussion forum on the evolution of posting ice conditions. Unless you're new around here then you'll have noticed a lower volume of posts. It's also a couple seasons since the Facebook group for ice climbing really got going. If you have the time you'll find that discussion here

    GS-I EVOLUTION THREAD

    If you have time go read it but I'll try to touch on some of the salient points here.

    So what are some of the failings of GS-I? Well it's older bulletin board software. GS-I was started over 10 years ago now. A lot of people had flip phones then, smartphones were not so smart, and the software wasn't written to be smartphone friendly. Now I'm no webmaster here so I'm going with the IT expert when he tells me the better option is new software. I gather that the current UBB software has some "fixes" but that there are better alternatives out there.

    Besides the smartphone viewing headache the current software doesn't lend itself too easily to making a post or including pictures. File sizes have lead a few folks to posting wrongly oriented pictures. That is also a problem with posting pics on a desktop browser. Facebook (FB) is undoubtedly easier to post to and to view on a phone.

    Where GS-I excels is in the organization. Forums and categories help keep the topics separated into geographic areas for conditions post along with other headings for such as partners, gear, general discussions, and ice is for whiskey. It means if you don't need a partner, then don't look in the partners forum, or if you're wanting to know conditions in Kananaskis, its all together.

    This same format along with a good search function means looking up past history on a climb, or finding approach beta, or that new route that was posted early last season, are all much more feasible to find and overall better archived.

    So what of the Rockies ice FB group, has it proved its worth. Undoubtedly. The mobile friendly format is way easier to use and the ability to post photos is way better. Do all the photos posted showcase ice conditions? No. Some are posted to showcase the ego of the poster. That's not said as a bad thing because its cool to see the pics. I suppose that counts against FB if you're looking for conditions reports but it certainly is easier to do on FB. For that matter a pic or two does NOT count as a conditions report. It looks pretty but shares little information of ice quality or condition, however that is a failing of the poster, not the platform be it GS-I, FB or instagram. As your mother used to say "use your words".

    Probably the biggest failing of FB is the opposite of GS-I's archiving strength. The information you seek on an area or a climb can be buried under a seemingly endless flood of partner requests, gear questions, pretty look at me pics, and requests for conditions reports by people who never share what they themselves encounter. Not that the last type of post is restricted to just FB mind you. My favourite is when you look for conditions on a given climb, find nothing posted, go hike in and climb the given climb without beta, then see a post from two or three days previous. Like where was it hiding when you needed it?

    Another issue is finding conditions reports when you are not registered for a platform. What do I miss on IG because I don't use it? I know a few people who close down their FB accounts, either temporary or permanently. Did so myself for three years. At least if you aren't registered for GS-I, you can still lurk.

    So those are just a few failings and strengths of the GS-I and FB platforms. I don't think we need to lose either platform because both have a role to play. I do think the GS-I platform needs upgrading though. I post my conditions reports to GS-I because as old as the software is, its still a better archive and reference tool than FB.

    In order to upgrade GS-I I'm curious as to some of the things that users desire. What would you be looking for with an upgrade to GS-I? Based on some of the comments I've seen, I discussed some in my above information. I'll summarize some below but I'd like to hear additional desires.

    *More mobile friendly

    *Easier and faster photo posting

    *Better search functionality

    *Geographical areas at a glance

    *Integration or sign in with FB login

    *No requirement to have a FB account

    *Foster a more respectful and inclusive community, reduce negativity

    An upgrade like the saying goes, may please some of the people, but never all the people. It's going to give us a much better idea of what features to pursue if we know what you're looking to get out of a new upgrade. There will be bugs and problems to work out, but if we know there is a demand out there, then we have a direction to aim for.

    There are probably a number of different software packages that will do the job. Features vary as do the pro's and con's. I'm no software guru so I rely on others more savvy that recommend the Vbulletin software. I'm told it has a good combination of features at a good value. It can also be used with an additional plugin which will list FB group activity in its own forum. Best of both worlds on one website and even non-FB peeps can see what's been posted on a FB group with the plugin.

    Obviously this is going to cost money. Exactly how much? Personally I wouldn't have a clue so lets look at what's involved. Besides the software purchase, there is the cost of the plugin. On top of that the site has hosting costs which is currently paid by Will Gadd and Eric Hobbs. Some users have made a donation and some do so each year. Probably the biggest cost in an upgrade is the migration and setup to get a "new" site moved over and functional. There may also be a little delay while bugs are resolved in the beta stage. All in, I've been told to expect a range of $3k to $4k to get it running. Any additional funds could then be used to cover future hosting.

    Where is this money coming from? Well the initial input was from Wade and Raf who donated a portion of the last Night Of Lies to the tune of $1500 which is a fantastic start. I've been looking into a donation line. We decided to utilize Paypal because even though Paypal have fees for funds raised, it is a lower percentage than other crowd sourcing funds such as gofundme or kickstarter. Other ideas would include a slideshow, some sort of music evening, and a pubnight with a gearswap. In fact I'd be open to hearing about any ideas you might have to fund the upgrade.

    Then what about ongoing costs such as server costs, future upgrades, bandwidth, or magic fairy dust to make the ice grow fatter? If you're like me you probably like the fact that GS-I is advertising free. Yet its a "free" site that users don't have to pay for, and run by volunteers who ask for no money. How important is that to everybody though? How receptive would you be to some level of advertising if it were kept to a minimally intrusive form. That might be a rotating banner ad, a corporate sponsor for the site, or how about links to a dedicated page where commercial outfits or guide services were listed? Would guide services even be willing to pay to be added to a guides list?

    Feedback is requested by participating in the other topics in this forum and by way of polls as they are posted.
    .

  • #2
    Shortened version (but there is more info in the comprehensive version above)

    A previous topic started by a user pondered the evolution of posting ice climbing conditions. The number of posts has been declining and there are various reasons for that.

    Gravsports-Ice (GS-I) has been going for over a decade now and the software is dated. It's not mobile friendly. A Facebook (FB) group started a couple seasons ago has become more popular as mobile use has become more prevalent.

    Problems faced with GS-I software include site navigation, post composition, and posting of pictures, including file size and orientation.

    GS-I strengths include it's organization, compartmentalization, archiving, and search function. Topics are grouped in categories and by geographic locations. You get to look in the category you need without looking through a long list of irrelevant posts. As a webpage and not an app, the information is available to anyone browsing the internet, not just registered users. Yes lurkers are welcome too.

    FB provides a more mobile friendly way to interact, a simplified way to post pics from a smartphone, and a wider user base. Pics of people climbing can entertain or inspire. However FB is frustrating when seeking specific information. The opposite of GS-I's archiving strength. Other social media platforms such as Instagram add to the scattered nature of information on ice conditions. For someone who doesn't use FB or other social media it can mean information is simply not available.

    So those are just a few failings and strengths of the GS-I and FB platforms. I don't think we need to lose either platform because both have a role to play. I do think the GS-I platform needs upgrading though. I post my conditions reports to GS-I because as old as the software is, its still a better archive and reference tool than FB.

    In order to upgrade GS-I I'm curious as to some of the things that users desire. What would you be looking for with an upgrade to GS-I? Based on some of the comments I've seen, I discussed some in my above information. I'll summarize some below but I'd like to hear additional desires.

    *More mobile friendly

    *Easier and faster photo posting

    *Better search functionality

    *Geographical areas at a glance

    *Integration or sign in with FB login

    *No requirement to have a FB account

    *Foster a more respectful and inclusive community, reduce negativity

    An upgrade like the saying goes, may please some of the people, but never all the people. It's going to give us a much better idea of what features to pursue if we know what you're looking to get out of a new upgrade. There will be bugs and problems to work out, but if we know there is a demand out there, then we have a direction to aim for.

    I'm no IT techie so I'll defer to others who tell me new software will work better than patching the old format currently in use. Plugins will allow integration with FB too. Costs have been estimated in the $3k to $4k range to buy software, migrate the site, and work out any bugs.

    The funding to perform such an upgrade has already been initiated by Wade and Raf, who donated $1500 from the last Night Of Lies towards further fundraising. I'm starting a donations line using Paypal. We considered other crowd funding methods such as gofundme and kickstarter, but while they all take a percentage, the fees from Paypal were slightly more favourable. Other ideas would include a slideshow, some sort of music evening, and a pubnight with a gearswap. In fact I'd be open to hearing about any ideas you might have to fund the upgrade.

    Other considerations include ongoing costs. GS-I has always been free for users, and free of advertising. I'd love to keep it that way but how receptive would everyone be to accepting some limited advertising in as minimally intrusive way as possible?

    Feedback is requested by participating in the other topics in this forum and by way of polls as they are posted.
    .

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    • #3
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