I was made aware of the recent submission of the two articles, The History of SummitPost Volumes 4 and 5, written by Bob Sihler, and upon reading them I realized a substantial period of change had occurred since my departure from the SP staff in 2010. The question was often asked why I had removed the SP History articles. I felt they had become dated, and indeed they have, as evidenced in revisiting them. Reading them may take one down memory lane, but the cast of characters is in large part gone and a whole new cast now carries the torch. For most, the people and incidents in this report will be insignificant. Yet the interest in SP’s history has persisted, hence one reason for resubmitting these articles.
Following the five year period described in the first three History of SummitPost articles, a substantial and stormy time for SP ensued, which comprised my final four years on the SP staff. This period will likely go undocumented, although the transpiring events in that time dealt more with the changing character of the SP community rather than with the actual management and development of SP’s informational content. While this period may be memorable for many, it had little bearing on SP’s overall evolution. With the History of SummitPost Parts 1, 2 and 3 articles, those interested will be able to draw a line from point A (part three) to point B (part four by Mister Sihler) and get a pretty good picture as to how SP evolved to where it is today, and who the major players were that contributed to its colorful and vibrant history.
The original articles are available on the internet in a slightly amended form, but it seemed appropriate to resubmit them for the sake of continuity. Having SP’s history, as complete as possible and present in one place seems to make sense at this stage of SP’s mature life. When the original articles were submitted, SPv2 was brand new, and obviously the submission interface has changed substantially since then. The reader is reminded that very little editing has been done and the text is presented within the dated context it was originally written. Please bear with me on the style problems (no space after commas, irregular spacing between sentences, words jammed together). This may be a problem with the newer Word program working with the original document, but it's also SP's current editor (which I like overall), which displays the text in reading mode one way, and another way in edit mode in an unpredictable and inconsistent manner. Links in the original articles were obsolete and therefore removed. Original imbedded photos have been omitted. In the interest of time conservation, links are not provided in this version. Inclusion of new photos was done sparingly. A section in part two featuring links to highly recommended SP pages (shining examples of top notch contributions) was originally composed on SummitPost, thus it is not included in this re-submission. Such a list has probably changed substantially since then anyway. A search in the forum with a thread title (noted in quotation marks throughout the article) may bring up an ancient thread a reader may be interested in exploring, but good luck finding anything predating 2006, the period of time this article covers. It would take some determined archeological tenacity to dig up the details that are presented here only in a general journalistic overview.
I’ve continued to benefit from SP since my departure, and I’m glad to see it continues to be an outstanding source of information for outdoor lovers, and mostly for mountain climbers. That was the intent of SP from the beginning, and it’s gratifying to see it steadily on course. No web site is perfect, but SP stands out among the competition. Having benefited from SP in many ways, it seemed only right to give something back. Whether the current community benefits from or appreciates SP’s history isn’t the point. This is SP’s history, a chronicling of a time long ago, when old internet pioneers worked together to build something special. That period of SP’s life is now set apart from all we know today. It’s something special that belongs to everyone that loves SummitPost. That’s the chief reason why I have resubmitted these articles.
Take these articles for what they are, make them whatever they may be to you. Despise them, laugh at them, be entertained, enjoy them. Make SP’s history your own unique experience, and perhaps you’ll be inspired to influence SP into its next phase just as its pioneers did.
It's interesting to note that I am resubmitting these articles two days before my birthday, almost eleven years to the day that they were originally submitted. My thanks to Bob Sihler for his writing of The History SummitPost Volumes 4 & 5, which inspired me to resubmit these articles.
Respectful regards to all SP members and staff.
The mountains. Throughout human history,they have been there, fulfilling their roles, offering their challenges,inspiring our spirits and instilling our fears. For those that climb them, the mountains are life, or at the very least,essential to one’s happiness and well being. Walking among them is a joy and a blessing, climbing them is a life affirming event, that once achieved is only the beginning of a journey that runs the length of one’s life experience. When you’re in the mountains, nothing matters but living in the moment,whether relaxing by a stream or hanging off of a cliff. Life assumes a crystal clarity and startling simplicity that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. The beauty of the mountains is beyond compare, food for the soul, uplifting and regenerating. The mountains are many things to many people,despite the differences that span political, religious and social boundaries. One way or another, any mountaineer,hiker or avid outdoorsman will tell you these things in resounding harmonious agreement.
Nowhere is this commonality among mountain lovers more apparent than at a fledgling mountaineering web site called SummitPost.org. Once a tiny blip on the internet, SummitPostwas an experiment that grew at a phenomenal rate with each passing year. Simply known as “SP” among its ever increasing ranks of members, the little dot-com became a powerhouse of mountaineering information unlike anything the internet had seen within five short years.
Many web sites covering any amount of topics are similar in design. They are built by their members, and their message boards are constantly busy with a flurry of discussion and ideas. SP is no different in that regard, but what sets it apart and has been largely responsible for its popularity among the world’s climbing community is its devoted and passionate membership. There’s no doubt the way SP is designed and managed has played a major role in its success, but it’s the members unfailing support that has made SummitPost THE mountaineering and hiking web site to visit, reference and belong to. According to many users, nothing else even comes close. The members of SP uphold their favorite website with a sense of pride, and would be quick to defend it if necessary. Nowhere else is such devotion among members so apparent. Despite their differences,all of SP’s members dearly love their web site, shortcomings and all. The only things they love more are the mountains, which is ultimately why SP exists in the first place.
Casual web surfers looking for information about their next outing usually stumble onto one of SummitPost’s mountain pages. They’ll check out the information and a few pictures. If they’re lucky, they begin to wonder at what they’ve found, start looking around and realize they’re at the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If the stunning photography by SP’s talented members doesn’t win them over, SummitPost’s massive database usually becomes apparent, immediately overwhelming any newcomer. A chance investigation of SP’s extensive, informative and often volatile forum will leave little room for doubt that the unsuspecting surfer has discovered a real treasure. Without realizing it, most are hopelessly hooked.
Since its humble beginnings when the first members were “recruited” with email, SP has blossomed to over 31,000 members. They must be doing something right. A meager catalog of several hundred mountains in 2001 has since exploded to over 5,200 entries, and that’s not to mention canyons and other unique destinations. SP’s mountain related database is staggering, particularly in over 2,400 detailed trip reports. That so much wealth of information and experience should be located in one place is impressive enough. Roughly 700 of these folks are regular visitors and have contributed to the site’s collection of material in someway. About 300 of them are regular contributors and are active at SP on a routine basis, with 100-200 members checking in daily. For information output, SP’s membership is a prolific group of mountain climbers that also happen to be adept at their computers.
The SP community is like most communities. Certain folks do not get along, debates and arguments can erupt into chaos, and unrest among the natives has added to SP’s growing pains. Until the recent refit, SP was a challenge for its volunteer staff to manage. Underhanded dealings by members using multiple IDs thwarted SP’s voting system on Photo of the Week candidates. Altercations in the forum led to vengeful voting practices on members’submitted material. Email threats were becoming a problem and the staff was overwhelmed with a system that was for all intents and purposes, broken and limping along. The refit appears to have remedied most of the symptoms, but new challenges now face the climber’s favorite URL. Bugs are being discovered by the community and fixed by management,tweaking of the system is ongoing, and debate of the design parameters will certainly continue. SP is an evolving web site which may never be perfected, but if perfection is a destination, many would say SP is pointed in the right direction.
Despite all the differences and flaws, there is no doubt the membership is focused on SP’s primary goal: To be the ultimate,all encompassing mountaineering web site on the net. A survey on a cross section of members forthis report verifies that statement. When asked if they thought SP was the best mountaineering site in the world, most responded with an emphatic “yes!”
In this multi-part in-depth report, we’ll look at the phenomenon that is SummitPost, to discover the reasons for its success and what it took to get there. We’ll look at the failures and lessons learned along the way. We’ll take a look at the roots and major events that shaped SP, and also meet some of SP’s dynamic, opinionated and diverse membership. We’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at the SP refit to Version 2, and we’ll see what it takes to keep SP going. Perhaps by the end of this report, we will have reached a better understanding as to why SummitPost “is, was and always will be,” just like the mountains themselves.
THE EARLY DAYS: SUMMITPOST ARRIVES
A little web site appeared on the internet on March 19, 2001. With no fanfare and a few emails sent out to prospective members, SummitPost.com arrived with only a meager if not immodest assumption: It had the potential to become the best mountaineering web site in the world. SummitPost was among the first generation of open-source web sites, to the daring degree that most of its content would be built by its members. SummitPost’s elusive owners and creators, known only as Josh and Ryle, provided the structure and environment at no charge.
Members have often wondered if Josh and Ryle really believed SummitPost would become the formidable mountaineering database it has become. By 2005, SummitPost Version 1 (SP1) had undergone several server changes and was a maintenance intensive site that required daily monitoring and lots of T-L-C. Some contend that the admittedly clever and creative wunderkinds would have been ready for the big changes that overtook SP1 if they truly anticipated SummitPost becoming the best and biggest mountaineering site on the planet.
At submission time of this article, neither Josh or Ryle had responded to email inquiries about SummitPost for this report, so all we can do is speculate and report what we know as a matter of record in SP’s forum and on the internet. There’s no denying what has happened, and that Ryle’s suggested glimpse of the future has become closer to fact than fantasy.
SUMMITPOST CO-FOUNDER JOSH IN ACTION
By summer of 2001, with a few hundred mountain pages posted, Summitpost.com was up and running, albeit quietly. Josh and Ryle were members 1 and 2 respectively. Another 6 members, long since inactive, joined up.
The following quotes were sourced from “SP's History”.
WilliamMarler is one of SP’s earliest members. Utilizing SP’s dynamic search tool, he shows up as the 9th person to become a member: I remember getting an email from Josh after he saw my name and a couple of shots on ..what was that other site... gee I'm getting’ s-o-o-o old I can’t quite remember.... ah yes Peakware.... he asked me to take a look at SP.There was a time I am sure he regretted that. I posted so much crap in the beginning until I saw what was really happening with the site and took it more seriously. It’s been fun and an incentive to get out there. Not that I needed much before, but It has made me pay more attention to places and routes I visit by taking notes and images to share with everyone I have met on SP.
SP CO-FOUNDER RYLE
An email from Ryle to prospective members read as such:
From: [Ryle Goodrich]
Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2001 11:19 AM
To: [12 e-mail addresses]
Subject: Climbing Info
It's often hard to find useful mountaineering information on the web. Last week a friend and I finished setting up a web site that enables you to easily post information about your climbing experiences and upload mountaineering pictures. The site is designed to make submissions useful for others.
Last week dozens of climbers submitted hundreds of climbing photos and information on over 100 mountains. It is a fun site, and it definitely has the potential to be one of the best climbing sites on the web.Check it out at https://www.summitpost.org
Keema(User#275): I found the site looking for information on Mount Adams.My, how it has grown! I then started submitting stuff.
RPC(User #794): It was a cold and rainy day back in January 02. I was just coming off a long shift of surfing nude websites when I stumbled upon a link to SP...and I thought to myself "oh what the hell,let's see what's in there". I was actually looking up some stuff on cascade volcanoes when I found SP. I started things off right by being a pr*ck (though at the time I did not see mypr*ck-like ways for what they were) and down-voting Brian Jenkins' Elk Mountain page.
MartinCash (User #3040): I joined when I moved out to the west coast in September of 2002. I thought the site was really well laid out, and dug it the first time I came across it in May of 2002. I thought the information and particularly the technical climbing info was kinda lacking though (especially in the Northwest).Almost 3 years later, and my, things have changed. Thanks to people like Paul Klenke, Radek Chalupa, Brian Jenkins, and Fred and Moni Spicker, SP is now a powerhouse of information on climbing and peakbagging in this area.
Members slowly filtered in and the world’s major mountains,climbed or not, were steadily being added. As 2002 began, activity began to pick up. Mountains were added quickly, only to have the submitters vanish. The mountains would then languish with dated material. The Forum board was seeing more discussion and served its purpose in gathering current information and allowing a few members to connect and climb together, but SP seemed to be in disarray and without direction.
SP MEMBER ALAN ELLIS
Alan Ellis (User #1202): I actually joined in June of 2001 as"mtntrail1" and was around member #300. However, at the time, the site was new, with not much data, so I pretty much ignored the site for about 10 months. When I tried to log on 10 months later, the site was huge; however,I forgot my password and had to create "mtntrail2". By that time member numbers were up to over 1400. I later dropped the "mtntrail2"and changed it to my real name.
Even in April 2002, the site was somewhat in turmoil. When the site first went up in March 2001, a lot of mountains were added quickly,especially all the popular ones. Most of the mountain pages added in the beginning were not as good a quality as what you see today. And.....a lot of folks added these mountains, then disappeared. Members began to realize the importance of this site and the mountain pages, and began to vote mountain pages accordingly. Several of us began to follow their lead and looked at these mountain pages more closely....especially the more noteworthy peaks such as the CA 14ers, CO 14ers, state high points, and noteworthy world peaks.
As a result, in the summer and fall of 2002, a lot of mountains came up for adoption because of low votes and lack of response by owners who had disappeared. It was not uncommon to have a CO 14er up for adoption on a weekly basis. Back then, you could not transfer a mountain at will. You had to wait for it to come up for adoption, then be the first to snag it. Some of us would grab mountain pages when they came up for adoption early in the morning,then find owners for them later. Before the summer of 2002, a lot of the CO14ers and some of the popular Rockies peaks were in really bad shape. But by the spring of 2003, these pages had been moved to responsible owners (what you see today) and the pages were brought up to a high level of quality. The same goes for some of the west coast peaks. There were only a few east coast mountain pages, but nothing like you see today.
Another problem with the adoption process was a person called a"squatter." That was a person who would see a page up for adoption,adopt it, then do nothing with it (squat). Usually, the squatter was someone who knew nothing about the mountain, but only adopted it to get the points.There was some kid in New Zealand who squatted on several CO 14ers and it took forever to get them back. People don't seem to care much about squatters anymore.
Kane,(User #499) joined SP in October of 2001. Within 7 months he was one of the site’s biggest information producers for the state of Colorado. He was a supporter of SP and several other sites, including the locally owned Fourteener World, where he was also a major supporter and contributor. As the Fall of 2002 was in full swing, he had noticed another member with respectable credentials showing up regularly on SP. With many of Colorado’s treasured fourteen thousand foot peaks on the adoption boards, mostly due to neglect, Kane realized something had to be done if SP was to remain a viable information source on these mountains. He contacted Aaron Johnson (User #1756) via email.
Aaron Johnson: I stumbled on SP surfing. I joined June 19, 2002, but just hung around and lurked, submitted some photos and stuff where they were needed (I think Capitol Peak may have been the first mountain to get my attention due to lack of good photos). Kane noticed me hanging around, because one day I got a very direct email from him saying to grab Wilson Peak. It was up for adoption and he didn't want it falling into someone's unqualified hands. Well, I was hardly qualified when it came to computers, but I wasn't about to let a Colorado 14er be mishandled, either. So I took the plunge and reworked the page, to much relief and support from the SP membership. It was quite surprising. From then on, the learning curve was steep and fast. Lots of it was a blur.
Thus began a focused campaign among SP’s Rockies members to improve the quality of information content on the Colorado mountain pages. As the memberships accumulated quickly, with 1700 in summer and 3000 by fall, members throughout SP had begun to work together in raising the quality bar on SP’s content.
Fred(User #2098): There is a very strong Colorado group that dominates the Rockies message board and acts cohesively on many issues. These guys tend to vote on virtually every CO entry and for the most part only occasionally vote elsewhere. The same"core groups" exist for California and the Pacific NW.
MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE POND
SummitPost had grabbed the attention of the European mountaineering community as well. Though not as large as the American contingent, the European members were doing a very good job at contributing material about their own mountains. A type of friendly rivalry formed, and at the time, the American attitude on page construction was not taken as seriously asthe Europeans did.
Among the Europeans were a number of notable mountain climbers. Ivanho Ghiradini, Alpenkalb and Rahel MariaLiu were accomplished climbers and among SP’s pioneering contributors. Rahel particularly had a lot of influence concerning contribution quality, and for a time had a direct line of communication with Josh in early 2002. In an early early thread about copyright violations, Rahel was instrumental in influencing members to be concerned about such issues.
RahelMaria Liu (User#677): I think it is not only the legal way, but a fair and kind manner of behaviour if everybody who copies infos from other people's sources(it does not matter from which one: either from another webpage or from a book or even from other SP-members) to his/her own SP-page makes a little note concerning the source.
At the same time, Josh was making the first efforts at addressing the issue and avoiding a lawsuit. Everestnews.com seemed convinced their material was being copied and pasted onto SP. They threatened to sue SP, even though Josh could not locate their material anywhere. It was suggested this was a scare tactic as SP was viewed to be a considerable threat to the “competition.” It turned out Everestnews’ owner was not well versed in legal matters on the internet, but this event was the first to indicate the seriousness of copyright violations on SP.
JScoles(User#441): Most likely he was really ticked when SP comes up before his site on most search engines and that what lead him on his rant.
Nelson(User#442): Everestnews.comused to be a decent site a few years ago, but it has so much crap,commercialism, and hullabaloo on it these days that I stay away. In further defense of Josh (better late than never) I was surfing around SP last year and was surprised to find one of my photos on the site. It had been lifted from Peakware, a shot of Kangchenjunga. I E-mailedJosh and he immediately removed the photo. I then joined SP and reposted the photo myself! Thanks Josh!
An interesting statement was made in the historically significant thread by HONKYDONG (User#908): SP is more akin to a democracy or republic, in which everyone has input, and it ultimately fosters a superior product.
Josh also commented on SP’s financial picture. Josh: BTW,if you're curious about the financial state of SP, you should know that Amazon.com book sales currently amount to ~$35/month. Affiliate gear sales vary month to month, but most months the total $ intake does not quite cover my hosting expenses, and only in recent months has it been even close.
Early on, problems that would plague the little dot-com began to appear. In a thread entitled “How Can We Neutralize False Members?”, Rahel offered a long and troubled post.
RahelMaria Liu: NTonyleft, Claude Mauguier left - and I will also leave and delete all my stuff and create an alternative page where no perpetrators work and have a tyranny. I have not spent so much time in order to be made ridiculous by a webmaster, in order to be a good goal for people who just want to give expression to their aggressions against other people as Alpenkalb, Schatten and others did it. And I also don't want to work together with a webmaster who supports those people instead of friendly people who spent their time working for a harmonic atmosphere. It was a very big frustration and disillusion for me, since I was very enthusiastic at the very beginning. This was the reason why I wrote so much stuff. I should have stopped writing much earlier as the other persons did who already left Summitpost.
Rahel had a falling out with SP’s management and some of its members, and she departed. As we’ll see later, this wasn’t the first time this would happen, and it would happen for similar reasons. The incident infuriated Rahel and it became an extended ordeal that SP’s passionate membership debated the entire month, with active participation from Ryle and Josh. Rahel was angered that Josh would not do something about the average votes of other members on her contributions. She had resorted to the same false ID behavior others had utilized, and before long, the membership was divided on the issue.
Marco979 (User#132) lives in Milan Italy, and has been an SP member since April of 2001. His comment in this lengthy debate: Hi Josh, what bad atmosphere!!! I think that you have to defend the skilled members from these crazy spirits. I hoped that all SP pages would be like Rahel's pages! I know your hard work, but you have to understand also that some "false members" destroy the SP spirit.
MPBRO(User#220): Good point, Marco. Maybe anyone caught using multiple aliases for attacks or otherwise disingenuous purposes, like shatten2, should have all their SP accounts terminated.
In another thread, Morgan addresses the European contingent: It looks as if the SP community (in Europe) will have to work hard to replace some information lost through a recent rash of mountain and route deletions. Are you people up to it???
Sourced from the “Does SP Need a community Values Page?” discussion, Josh says: SP is at a critical point in its evolution. Yes, we should strive for a completely harmonious existence here, but in reality, that's not going to happen 100% of the time. Because the site is so interactive, and because there are so many people of differing backgrounds, languages, and cultures, there are always going to be conflicts and misunderstandings. Sometimes the conflicts will be valid; sometimes they will be based on simple miscommunication.
The thread was a harbinger for things to come, including a first draft of a “code of conduct” discussion on copyright policy, and even a mention of SP Version 2 by Morgan. SP was definitely on a course, but to exactly where was not yet clear, and no one had any idea how long it would take.
ANOTHER EARLY AND UNFORTUNATE DEPARTURE
A highly regarded mountaineer that was also an SP member for a short time was Ivanho Ghirardini. Much of Invanho’s work had supposedly been removed from SP due to quality concerns. As with any language barrier situation, a possible misunderstanding resulted, and Ivanho, who reportedly had problems with the Chamonix Climbing Organization in France, suspected SP was somehow involved with them and had decided to leave. SP Member OM stated in a thread that the Climbing Organization was a“real mafia,” and opposing them, which Ivanho reportedly did, could mean considerable trouble.
OM(User #383): If you need rescue, the rescue can be late..., the French Tax Department Official can give some additional problems to you, the justice Department can try put you in jail for something you have noting to do with....If you insist too much they can organize your departure, for example sending some blocks of stone on the route you are climbing... Some world known Mountain Guides like G.Rebuffator R.Desmaison had got some problems with some Official mountaineering organizations. Some events related to this appear discreetly in their respective books and interviews...(grammar and spelling adjusted for clarity).
It was and still is one of SP’s most unique and problematic departures, and reportedly a great loss to SP.
DIGGLER(User#453): Ghirardiniis an extremely good & accomplished (though eccentric) climber, & his posts are mostly innocuous & can be quite entertaining. It is also quite an addition to the site to have route descriptions (many 1st ascents) straight from the horse's mouth. I hope he stays (his own decision).
DESAINME(User#5158): Just a note: Mountain was a British climbing magazine equivalent to today's Alpinist. Issue #62 July-August 1978 carried this headline on the Alps. Ghirardini Solos Big 3 N. Faces in Winter (article on Page 13).
"Ivan Ghirardini , the 25-year old French Solo climber, had one of the most remarkable winter seasons ever last year."
Between December and mid-March he soloed the Matterhorn, GrandesJorasses and Eiger all by their classic north face routes. The Schmid Route onthe Matterhorn took him 9 hours on December 21. This was the third winter soloof the climb. The first winter solo of the Croz spur on the Grandes Jorasses(reported in Mountain #60) was climbed on Jan 6-8 and was complicated by his breaking his ice axe high on the face. Finally, the second winter solo ascent of the 1938 route on the Eiger took him six days, March 7-12. The first was made immediately prior by the Japanese T. Hasegawa. A storm on the 10th and a 100 foot fall in the Exit Cracks were the major incidents on Ghiradini's climb. His technique of using the sack as a counter weight affords him some security on difficult pitches.-but because it means climbing such pitches three times in order to retrieve gear, it is time-consuming. What is particularly impressive is the conditions in which the ascents were made: the last winter season was one of the worst in recent years. Ghirardini ignored the conditions in general,starting each climb immediately after one snowfall and, in his words"getting back just before the next".
MARTINCASH (User#3040): A real legend of climbing on SP. So sad to see him go. I remember my initial reaction when I first went through his profile page. Wow,this site is for real! Look at this guy! He gave credibility to a site filled with weekend warriors like myself.
OM: Ivano is a legendary mountaineer of our time. It was a chance for SP to have him as member. The first time I had to know about him was an article in Club AlpinFrançais Journal in 1975 ! Hope he will continue to have contacts with us...and hope he will continue to create good pages somewhere on the web.
VIDPOGACHNIK (User#2279): He (Ivanho) is a well known alpinist. As I saw the discussions, he started to suffer from some kind of paranoia. I know it's impossible to make diagnosis on the basis of internet chat, but his suspiciousness was beyond any normal frames. From the president of France to some guys on the web, supposedly wanting to steal his family name. But he had some very fine contributions on SP and we are all sorry that he had left.Still, being able to cooperate is also one of essential things on SP.
GangolfHaub User#17266): I know he was a great climber, the greatest SP has ever had. He was the first human to solo the three classic Alpine north faces(Eiger, Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses) - Heinrich Harrier mentions him in his latter editions of "The White Spider". Ivanho got (and gets) along well with Rahel, Om and Diego. As far as I understood there are rivalries between the guides in Chamonix (probably like Petefish vs. Bigwally) and Ivano got obsessed by being harassed by the Chamonix "Mafia" even here on SP.The real problem, however, was that everybody chimed in to give his comment and question Ivano's credibility. A guy like this doesn't take this kind of stuff... Over here in Europe it looked like the (ugly) Americans were chasing Ivano from the site, though it was more a mob - thing.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SHERIFF DOWNEY
Meanwhile back in America, among SP’s Rockies contingent was a young member blessed with a fine writing talent. He meant well for SP,taking on the role of the site’s quality crusader. He wasn’t afraid to speak up about the supposed poor quality of some of SP’s pages covering the famous Colorado fourteeners. The following is sourced and edited from the “Fourteener Pages Need Work” discussion dated February 25,2003.
Aaron Johnson: I share Leahcim506's passion for improving the Rockies group. Some patience is called for though, as many of these maintainers are busy, and are out CLIMBING as well as leading their lives.
Andy(User#2036): To address Leahcim506's comment, "There are several mountains with bare-bones info and the only reason they ever got 4-stars was for pictures that they didn’t even contribute! ", I'd say the photos are what makes a page. Aaron, and others like him, have rescued many an sp page from mediocrity with their exceptional photos. There’s nothing wrong with this either—that’s the beauty of the summitpost community! I think you should work on your own pages before trying to save other people’s pages.
AaronJohnson: My guess is the adoptions will be arranged. I wish to emphasize again that management and style are individual things that give a page (and the mountain) its character. Be sure when voting on a picture that the criteria is about quality information. Pretty pictures are the icing on the cake (and I know I've got plenty of those). Informative pictures (and maps) are important and should be judged accordingly, not because they're pretty. Information can be presented in two ways: In depth and detail,or concise. Both approaches are acceptable. The idea: is it EASY TO UNDERSTAND? The lacking pages need these improvements, but making them so will be a challenge for the maintainer that takes them on. They should be sure they are up to the task. Patience is required from all SP members regarding page quality.
Longtime member Bob Bolton (User #82, joined March 30, 2001) was an owner of some of the disputed Colorado pages. Bob and his climbing partner had driven down from the Pacific Northwest to climb the mountains in Colorado, and he subsequently submitted them to SP, and they were among the first Colorado peaks to be posted. Since that time, the quality bar had been raised in the Colorado region, and Bob was not aware of it. He handled the situation gracefully.
RFBolton(User#82): OK,it's time I chimed in too. Although I didn't prefer the tone of Leahcim506'scomments, I'm sure we all agree that his criticisms are accurate. Accuracy is a fine trait, but probably even more important is diplomacy. You're young, and you'll learn.
I wish to thank Aaron for moderating this situation, and for offering to coordinate the adoptions of my 14ers by others more inclined and able to upgrade them. I have sent him a message in which I asked him to find adopters for each of them and give me the list. I will then request Josh to change the maintainers accordingly without actually showing them up for adoption, if he'd be willing to do that. I don't want those mountains falling into just anybody's hands, and I trust Aaron to accommodate the adoptions appropriately. When SP was brand new two years ago, I had done those 6 Collegiate peaks about six months prior, and I knew that before I could climb any more of them they'd all be long gone. But unfortunately soon after I started to enthusiastically contribute to SP, my life got crazy and has been ever since, leaving me limited time and energy for SP. I hope you all will consider which of my seven 14ers you want and let Aaron know ASAP so we can get this taken care of. Thanks in advance for helping me out with this!
Utah resident RMJWinters (User #2002): Being an active SP member, I feel it's time to chime in as well. First and foremost, this thread is amusing to say the least. I have climbed all but 2 of the 14ers and currently own Ellingwood and Little Bear. I am more than willing to adopt any other 14ers or peaks as well.
I prefer to spend my time hiking and climbing when possible.However, living in a white-collar world requires me to put in my time making a living. Having said that, I actively participate in SP because I can learn,live vicariously through others and/or garner a breath of fresh air during an otherwise mundane office job. It's a thing called work/life balance. For those willing to do some work and contribute, let's give them suggestions and support...not criticism. The cream will rise and the deadbeats will fall into oblivion.
The SP zealot in question that was causing the ruckus was a young, enthusiastic gentleman named Mike Downey. Most of his posts in the historic discussion were deleted, most likely by him, but this post remains:
I apologize for any "harsh" comments. I did not intend to outrage anyone or appear as outraged. I am not and was never outraged, I was merely suggesting that some of the 14ers, which is the pride of the website,are in need of updates and more info.
AaronJohnson, February 23, 2003: I have been in contact with Mr. Bolton and he currently has my recommendations. Barring any further discussion he may wish to exchange with me, the pages in question will have new "parents" middle of next week at the latest. Once the recommendations are reviewed and agreed upon, I will notify the new dads prior to the changes and Mr. Bolton will request Josh to make the applicable changes.
And five days later: As mentioned previously, this matter has been expedited per Mr.Bolton's request. My recommendations have been reviewed and endorsed. Mr.Bolton contacted me and he is now informing Josh of the applicable changes. I have sent emails to affected parties. Check SP whenever you can. I would guess Josh will make the changes either before or after the weekend. Congratulations to the new "fathers!" Enjoy your new children, gents. I look forward to viewing the results. When you're ready, send out an "APB" to all who you would like to see your final product!Raise your kids as best you can! And have fun!
And on March 4: My thanks to Mike Downey for kicking us out of our complacency and spurring this project on in the first place. Thanks also to all the new maintainers for volunteering. Results so far are excellent. I was honored and humbled to serve as facilitator to this project. A great example of the collective working together!
The Fourteener thread discussion and related melee attracted much attention, but for the young Mike Downey, it was the beginning of an extended learning experience, not only for himself, but for everyone else.
Other problems ensued, as evidenced in Kane’s “Cheesy” thread, dated April 24, 2003.
Kane(User#499): O.K.I don't want sound like an ass here but borrowing 11 photos and submitting a peak that you haven’t summited? First, it is a good page and I can tell he spent some time developing it. And yes, I am assuming that Leahcim has notclimbed California Peak for the route information is very limited plus this is a centennial thirteener and he would have submitted this peak many eons ago instead of some of the lesser known peaks he currently maintains. Maybe I shouldn’t assume. Even if he has climbed it, it seems weird to borrow 11 images to submit a page. I now he has an admiration for the Sangres but so do I, and many other SP members. Hey, I have an admiration for Rocky Mountain National Park, but the last thing I’m going to do is submit The Spearhead, Pagoda,Chiefs Head, McHenrys, Isolation etc. I can borrow 100s of photos plus I have good guidebooks. Why not? BECAUSE I HAVEN'T CLIMBED THOSE MOUNTAINS, that’s why. It just makes more sense that way. Hey, I was excited to see California Peak submitted by Leahcim,plus I saw all those nice photos. I was thinking he finally got that scanner of his to work. But I left the page feeling weird about the borrowed images. Maybe it’s just me.
Fred Spicker is one of SP’s most respected members, and often in the minority on many issues. But when it comes to mountaineering, Fred’s knowledge and experience is vast, both in the Pacific Northwest and in Europe.
Fred: Cheesy for sure. A good rule to follow - If you haven't climbed it, don't enter or maintain it. A problem obviously exists regarding photos from other sites. For a while people really got on the stolen photo thing with several members (including also Summitmark &Chandra). Then all of a sudden they started posting photos "with permission". Does the permission really exist?
AndyLeach (User#2036) was an avid bicyclist when he joined SP on July 19, 2002, and since then has focused on mountain climbing. He had this to stay about this problem: I agree with Kane and Fred. You shouldn't enter or maintain a mountain you haven't climbed (which Josh has explicitly stated in the page submittal form). And nothing adds credibility to the fact that you've climbed a mountain like photos that you've taken while you've climbed the mountain. Without this kind of guideline we could all go nuts like Kane suggested and submit mountain after mountain we've read about in some guidebook. I get the feeling (which may or may not be the case) that's what people like Leahcim and Eric Dix have done when they don't have any photos on their pages.
It was a matter of serious concern. Copyright issues have since been remedied, though much remains a potential legal quagmire concerning the internet, but back then, it was a new frontier, and SP had no official policy in place. There was a submission policy, but few members saw or were aware of it. Whether they knew it or not, members could get SP in plenty of legal hot water by posting a photographer’s pictures without their permission.
Then there was the reputation issue. If a member had not climbed the mountain, it was the growing popular opinion that they should not submit the mountain. But what about the big mountains, like K2 in the Himalayas,and regarded by most mountain climbers to be the toughest mountain in the world to climb?
AlanEllis: At what point do we decide if you can't maintain a mountain because you haven't climbed it? Obviously, Everest, K2 are examples of submissions where the person has not climbed or may not ever climb. If anyone can remember "mikepolec", he began to add a lot of Teton peaks which were extremely dismal and used copyrighted photos and text.In fact, all his peaks are now gone or adopted by others. I added the Mt. Moran page because I was afraid he would add it and screw it up. I have permits for a July attempt. I adopted Granite Peak and Wheeler Peak which I haven't climbed. They are both state highpoints, and as you know, I usually adopt important peaks and try to give them away later. Itried to give Granite away to Bob Bolton and others, but with no takers. I don't know what the circumstances are for the California Peak page and Mike Downey’s reason for submission. I have said before that he is full of youthful enthusiasm and has a passion for this site and a passion for the mountains. At the least, he should make a serious effort to climb the peaks he has submitted.
John(User#186): Personally,I don't see anything wrong with borrowed photos as long as permission for posting has been granted.
Kane: The Adoption process is one of the cool features with SP, so maintaining a peak by adoption is sometimes for the better of SP. Lord knows that squatting is not cool. I would love to come to an agreement concerning this issue. Sort of a "Colorado" agreement, I can't keep up with the rest of SP's regions.
Fred: A good rule to follow - If you haven't climbed it, don't enter or maintain it." This is in the line of advice rather than a suggested hard and fast rule for submitting or maintaining a page. I personally follow it very strictly - for obvious reasons. One being that it should keep one from suffering the type of criticism being discussed here. BTW - included in the parameters to consider on the add a mountain page are the words "or attempted to climb". I think that the intent is clear - up close and personal experience with the mountain - having planted your ass on the highest point is not necessary.
As far as SP was concerned, this was a precedent setting event. Sure, other copyrighted photos had been posted here and there on SP, but not in a big number as to be instantly noticed. This was a glaring problem that could cause much trouble down the road.
Aaron Johnson: The possibility of another incident not turning out as well should concern everyone. Providing links to material is an excellent way to display the works of another author, creator or photographer. Placing their works within your own, in another published medium,credit given or not, arrangements understood or not, places SP at risk. Josh knew this when he developed the policy. It is a wise policy designed to protect SP, himself and its members.
Exceptions would involve historical documents, matters of public record and acknowledgements to authors concerning source material. Paraphrased material should be acknowledged. Copied material should be forbidden and called to task unless the permission or endorsement of the author/creator is presented prominently in the text. Photo credits by friends or associates of submitters must be properly stated. Scanned maps and historical material must be acknowledged. I strongly support submission of one's own original material, or linking to another's material,keeping that creator's work within its original context and exhibition on the internet.
Downey continued to keep the membership on their toes, often bringing their ire upon him. He went on a crusade to “save” the California Fourteeners and other peaks from the same mediocre fate that had almost befallen the Colorado Fourteeners. The usually quiet but spunky California contingent was calling for a lynching. Alan Ellis and Aaron Johnson, who had once taken Master Downey under their wing, had warned him that he was on his own should he decide to raise another ruckus. Downey must have been testing the waters to see how far he could go. He stopped that crusade and inadvertently began another. He then refocused the magnifying glass on himself with the next controversy, having hardly finished licking his wounds from the California incident.
The following is sourced and edited from the “Sheriff Downey Gets Busted!” Thread:
Kane: Typically SP members don't get a lifetime of embarrassment for vote padding but this case is different. What in the world are you doing bitching about "down voting" and getting busted for "Downey voting!" Lord have mercy on his poor soul! I had no idea that Sheriff D would be our first SP poster child for this offense for "votepadding." Looks like there is a new sheriff in town, his name is: SP Elf.
Andy: Sad. I can see a new special on FOX: "When SPers go berserk!"
Mike Downey had committed an offense, which up to that time, was an acknowledged practice, notably in the European contingent, but not addressed by SP in a definitive manner: Creating additional false memberships to vote on his own submitted material and boost the quality ratings of his contributions. These false IDs were called avatars, and it was a problem that would increasingly plague SP in the coming years. When his offense was revealed by the newly instituted SP Elf, SP’s own avatar empowered to keep an eye on nefarious activity, something snapped. Young Mike Downey “imploded,” a term adopted by the membership that applied to members that would depart SP in a rage of anger for any number of reasons. Downey wiped out his material and left his pages empty, with many other contributions from other members homeless.
Previous implosions had occurred in both the European and American contingents, with Josh single-handedly redistributing the few pages that were affected. But this was a major event. 20 pages, emptied and decimated with material that needed new homes. Members hav ealways been free to remove their material from SP, but when it was mixed with other contributions by other members, this caused serious problems. Josh banned Downey and efforts were then underway to salvage the situation.
AlanEllis: I think Mike was more embarrassed than pissed off. He made a major mistake which is something kids do when they try to play on an adult playground. I feel sorry for the guy, but I'm also disappointed in him. I have defended him in the past and some of you have disagreed with me. Looks like I was wrong. Towards the end he appeared to have shaped up, but this time he really shit in his own mess kit. My only concern now is Antero, but it appears that Aaron has a handle on it. Thanks, Aaron, for leading the way on this. Hopefully, the old page can be recovered. The other loss is all those Sangre peaks. Whether we like it or not,they were a valuable part of the Rockies section. Without them, the entire range is limited to the 14ers.
BryanW (User #1714): I see that all of the stuff on his account is gone. Kind of ironic that the guy that always complained about"hate voting" got busted. Mike was an OK guy, but it seemed like he thought SP was his personal photo album. Maybe he was just misguided or perhaps he was "point" hungry.
Kris(User #12614): I always thought it was kind of funny that anyone (not just Mike) would get so invested in this whole thing. I mean, how important is it really that your photo gets 4 stars instead of 2, or that it becomes the photo of the week? Who cares? To me the nice thing about this site is that people contribute however they can and it makes planning a trip so much easier. It's a great climbing resource. Enjoying beautiful mountain photography you can find here is a bonus. What really bothers me is not the fact that anyone can create multiple id's and vote on his/her own pics, but that if someone gets upset that person can delete instantly all kinds of valuable information. Not all those who maintain mountain pages created them from scratch. Very often they adopted pages that were created by someone else. Most pages have many contributors. Why should one person be allowed to delete what many worked to create? What if Josh got upset and decided some day to shut the whole thing down? I think it's childish when people do things like that without any concern for others.
Iceaxeman(User #1855): Mike had a passion for the mountains and unfortunately got carried away with the point system. That being said, do we really need points? I for one will miss reading his submissions.
Alan Ellis: Well,you guys remember that he wasn't banned until he deleted all his own stuff.Before that, his only punishment was the embarrassment of his downey-voting being made public. Had he not deleted all his own stuff, he probably would not have been banned. He brought the banning on himself, so I don't feel sorry for him at all. I would have more respect for him if he would have confessed and apologized for vote padding, then laid low for a while. But the deleting of all those pages, especially Antero (which wasn't his to begin with), is the reason he was banned......... and rightly so.
ScottyS,from Reno Nevada (User #2291): Wow --- I leave for a week and look what happens. It sounds like MDowney (formerly leahcim) stayed true to his original form (for those of you who remember his spectacular entrance and underhanded dealings with the California 14'er pages). There was a lot more to the story than just getting upset over a few votes. From day one Mike was a point-chaser, although he became very subtle about it later. Not only was he very pushy & rude, but actually managed to hijack Thunderbolt Peak of all places from Romain (through the down-voting process), and was angling for more when I busted him. Basically, after it was all cleaned up, Mike went back and cleared his entries in Registers, Message Postings, and Comments in order to sweep the whole thing under the rug. He then changed his handle to "MDowney"from "leahcim" and limited his activities mostly to Colorado. A couple of unsolicited, rude, and demanding emails to my home inbox early on did not help things. Actually, my last mountain page submission(with obligatory SP Police section) prompted another letter from Master Downey,which was bad enough to make me ban his email from my account.
Steven Cross (User #47): He was the youngest active member on the site. 17 is quite young and he seemed to have more knowledge than experience. He knew a great deal about the Sangres, but posted quite a few mountains he had not climbed. I'm almost not surprised at his actions just ‘cause there is a maturity difference between him and everybody else here. Teens can be very unpredictable and do very irrational things. For now I think it is best he is not here. When his experience catches up with his knowledge I think he could be a great member with this site. I'm sure in 3-4 years down the line if he felt like coming back he would be more accomplished and more mature and could be a great resource here.
DKantola(User #756): I don't think it's fair to stereotype Sheriff Downey's actions as those of the typical teen. Most of us recognized his motivation for being here a long time ago. To me, SP is about quality submissions, sharing information, and promoting a community spirit within our chosen mountain activities. Unfortunately the existence of power, then points, has attracted an unsavory element. On balance,though, it probably has encouraged members to post more quality stuff than junk. It's good that SP is being purged of some of those junk posters and point-grubbers.
SPELF (User #17510): There was no ban of his IP address that I know of, so he's not prevented from rejoining. During a meltdown it is common practice for an elf to delete the membership and take over the avatar to keep the member from deleting posts, mountain pages, etc. I wish we'd been alerted earlier, but it doesn't take much time for a determined member to delete all their stuff.
DaveDaly (User #893): "It's just a web site"... True enough. But the website’s content (i.e. route descriptions and essential beta) are resources for people attempting mountains or rock climbing routes. Bad page can lead a person to failure.....or even possibly death or injury!
Aaron Johnson: Folks may use SP as an information supplement, but I've heard comments recently, and read them right here on SP, that SP is now good enough to rely on as a sole source of information. Foolish? Perhaps. But that is what's happening. Are we up to the challenge? Absolutely.
Vote padding. Avatars. Down voting and hijacking mountain pages. These concepts had been lurking under the SP rug, but they were now out in the light. The membership was aware of and on the lookout for them. Then there was the issue of making a quality mountain page, a page with plenty of information and useful photos. The bar had been raised and the SP community seemed to be up to the task. Whether he realized it or not, Mike Downey brought about positive change to SP, even if he went about it the wrong way. Despite the consternation and discomfort his actions caused, there was no denying Downey’s activities were the major impetus in improving and refining the way things were done at SP. Perhaps for that one positive fact, the membership should thank Mike Downey.
THINGS TO COME
Growing Pains; The SP Staff; Trolls; Photo Wars; SPv1 Bogs Down; When the Natives Get Restless, The Elves Come Out of The Closet and More!
Proceed to Part Two
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