THE HISTORY OF SUMMITPOST Volume 2

THE HISTORY OF SUMMITPOST Volume 2

Page Type: Article

A QUICK NOTE

This article is part two of a three part report about the history of SummitPost.  It is recommended that if you HAVE NOT READ PART ONE, you should do so before reading this article.

THE SP STAFF:  DEALING WITH THE GROWING PAINS

Activity on SP was buzzing along at a fevered pitch. The problems of vote padding and other nefarious avatar activity were on the increase.  Topics not related to mountaineering had begun to appear in the General Section of the forum.  Josh created the Prate and Prattle (PnP) section and asked that members keep non-mountain topics confined to that area.

Josh had some members assisting him with various chores behind the scenes, and the members had their suspicions of who they might be.  One staff member was open about his role, and that was Morgan Brown, known as mpbro (User #220).  He was the message board moderator, and a tfirst had a fairly light touch. Censorship was and still is eschewed on SP, and in the early years, the members weren’t so brazen with their posts in the Forum.  But that was changing in SP’s second year,and the workload to keep SP’s forum civil and decent was piling up.

Morgan was one of SP's first moderators.  MPBRO:  I think Bob Burd,John Wang, and I were the first helpers. There really wasn't that much work to do in those days.  It started getting tricky and irritating once the forums gained prominence in the site. With ~500 members and no Iraq war, the topics mainly stuck to climbing.  As the war heated up, passions heated up and more off-topic (off-climbing) posts appeared.  The posts got personal.  There came a certain point (can't remember when) when we got to a fail safe point.  I assumed the avatar of "moderator" and started deleting off-topic posts en masse.  Unfortunately Josh was on vacation and there was insufficient communication between myself, sp elf,and Josh.  "Moderator's” actions were without precedent or warning and looked capricious to many.  Josh was forced to relent and put the deleted posts back, but at that point he did create "Prate and Prattle" as the SP trash bin.  If things had gone a little differently, SP would have no PnP. I can't say if it's better or worse.

Enter,without much fanfare, sp elf, that is, until the Sheriff Downey implosion.  After that well known event, sp elf was a household word on SP.  Dealing with offenders was usually done behind the scenes via email, and occasionally sp elf would appear in the forum, usually in an attempt to cool heated arguments.  Despite the presence of the moderators, the demand for more moderators was clearly indicated.

AaronJohnson:  Immediately following the Colorado Fourteeners Downey debacle, and after being involved in a number of controversial events on SP, Josh then contacted me, asking if I would like to be a staff member and explained what I would be doing.  He stressed that I should not fret over this stuff and not spend much time on it.. Great!  Another steep learning curve.

I accepted, but I wanted to avoid further controversies, so it was kept quiet for some time.  Events and circumstances eventually caused me to become more visible, first as a spokesperson for the staff and later as a full-fledged "elf," a term that bothered me.  I preferred"staff member," and still do.

Much has happened since then, as we all know.

The current SP Frequently Asked Questions document looks like an extensive operations manual for a jet aircraft.  It is actually a very carefully crafted briefing article and set of instructions on the many and often finer points of being an active SP member.  One of the questions is “What are the elves and what do they do?”  The answer is:  “All of them are experienced SummitPost members and they perform most of the maintenance on this site. Their task is to change or delete mountain pages, track down and fix html errors, track down and delete trolls and avatars and much more. The elves also moderate the forums but prefer, like their namesakes, to keep a low profile.”

Aaron Johnson:  It’s impossible to keep a low profile anymore. During the early days, sure, but not now, and it’s not for trying, believe me.  2004 and 2005 were our busiest years, mainly because the former SP was not designed for what it had to do.  So the staff made up for those shortcomings.  It was becoming a full time job.

When Morgan relocated to Texas,his duties on SP were curtailed.  The staff seemed to be carrying on well, but Josh opened discussions about adding yet another elf to assist with the workload. At first the staff considered the candidates and thought they’d make ago of it without additional help.  At Josh’s behest, they decided to invite a member to become the newest active elf.  Josh had suggested him and he seemed to be a good fit.  He was knowledgeable about computers, had built some fantastic mountain pages, and hailed from Germany.  There was no doubt a European presence on the staff would do great things in uniting the international membership.  That vision of a world community of mountain climbers was one step closer.

Enter Gangolf Haub, a current SP staff member and one of SP's most productive contributors.  Gangolf seemed to have his finger on the pulse of SP European contingent, and commanded the English language impeccably.  For doing battle with SP’s avatars, Gangolf used his own avatar, Glorfindel.  As Josh had predicted, bringing Gangolf onto the staff was a good move, and the others felt the workload reduce accordingly.

Yet two more staff members were added of a more mysterious nature.  These elves were avatars.  The first to appear was User #20689, when the avatar problem at SP had reached an all-time high.  Avatar Assassin became active November 1,2004, and was charged with investigating and if necessary, revealing nefarious activities by unscrupulous members. Efforts to keep a low profile were difficult in an environment in which members were sensitive to avatars, vote padding and vengeful voting activities.  Avatar Assassin’s presence was keenly felt whenever he appeared, and the members began referring to the mysterious presence as “Av Ass.”  His presence sent the message out that SP was serious about dealing within appropriate activity.  Avatar Assassin still investigates inappropriate activity and reports any findings to the staff, but has made no posts of any kind since the conversion to SPv2.

Josh soon suggested another member be added to the staff in 2005.  Enter Bubba Elf (User #24639) on June 22,2005, the newest staff avatar that assisted Av Ass and Glorfindel in the ongoing avatar war.  Bubba took on the learning curve of managing SP head on, often with some mistakes along the way.  The members were mostly tolerant in such incidents, and most of the membership supported the staff’s willingness to take on the offenders.

In February of 2006, SP’s burdensome first version was left behind with a re-design and new system that seems to have at least temporarily curtailed improper behavior.  It’s too early to tell if the new system, designed in part to lighten the staff’s workload, will be successful.

Why the secret avatars?  The members were chastising those hiding behind avatars to bump up the ratings on their contributions.  Yet the staff was engaging in the very same practice to enforce SP’s growing number of policies.

Aaron Johnson:  It’s fighting fire with fire.  This is the internet.  It’s a very transparent medium.  People need anonymity for any number of reasons and most of the time, they’re legitimate reasons. The staff is no different.  The staff has to do some unpleasant things.  We’re lucky we have these volunteers willing to do these things, most of which are unpleasant on V1.  Writing emails to offenders,exposing repeat offenders, banning their IP address—no one wants to do those things.  But as SPv1 began to collapse under that activity, and our tools for dealing with these situations were stop-gap at best, it was essential the identities of the staff be protected.  Most SP members are wonderful, but every now and then, we get some trolls that are genuine nutcases, and the staff had to be protected against these people.

In the final two years prior to SPv2 going online, most of the staff duties involved chasing down avatars, and responding to troll and avatar activity reported by members just about everywhere on SP.  Feuds that sprang up in the PnP forum would occasionally spill out into other parts of the site and tempers would flare.  The staff had a bomb in its hands on a daily basis, and on several occasions, it went off.

In the survey conducted for this article, members were asked about their most unpleasant experience they had at SP. The most common complaints involved avatars, vote padding, PnP problems and vengeful voting.  Even though most members support the staff’s handling of these unsavory affairs, some members also complained about how the staff handled several matters, particularly the removal of members, or the threat to remove them due to their conduct.

TROLLS

On March 25, 2005, former SP member Climbwild made the following post in the Site Feedback section.  Often comedic, caustic and controversial, Climbwild had unwittingly attracted an unsavory character’s unwanted attention.  Climbwild was once thought to be a troll until he became one of SP's well known contributors.  Controversial activity and disagreements with the staff eventually led to his departure.

Climbwild(User #30486):  Any other SP members received any nasty emails from 2ski1peak? He's certainly been active sending them to me. Maybe I'm too good at spotting his retard avatars,not that it's been hard to do. He likes to threaten physical harm, use vulgar language concerning family members, and generally threaten to do a number of things he would not have the guts to do from anywhere but a keyboard on a computer.  Anyone that would like to reach him or send him something nice via email can reach him at (omitted).  I fart in your general direction, fool.  By the way, he misspelled shipwrecked in his address, no small surprise!

Misha(User #7102):  Did you send him replies, and did he reply to your replies? I am just curious if this is his real or spoofed address.  If the address is real, you may want to report him to AOL Security/Abuse team if he threatens violence. They can at least disable his account or even report him to FBI. If he continues and goes too far, let me know... AOL is one of my clients and I may be able to help you with pushing your issue through their channels.

SPELF:  Two other recent avatars:  shavednpctbound     svenborgicechic

If you find messages from these or any other of his avatars,just post a link to the Bogus Entries thread in Site Feedback.

Recently used IP addresses:

209.193.2.245

209.193.2.90

Our troll is an AOL user, that we've discerned. I doubt he know show to spoof mail addresses so the one Climbwild posted is probably real.

Misha,an SP member with AOL connections advised Aaron Johnson, who complained to AOL on behalf of SP.  The 2ski1peak posts and threatening emails seemed to finally stop, but there’s always another one waiting in the wings.

Trolls are unwanted, unproductive members.  They join SummitPost to rile its members and cause general havoc, mostly in the PnP forum.  They contribute nothing but unrest, and in a few persistent cases such as this one, they stick with it fora long time.  Such people are often lonely or bored and are desperate for entertainment, no matter how banal.

Aaron Johnson:  They join SP to stir the pot, yet they dare not reveal themselves for the lonely,bored, pathetic person they really are. They often call SP members “posers,” when in fact they are posers themselves.  Legitimate members have a record of their activities on SP.  Trolls are too lazy to post their activities or participate in the contribution process.  As long as they have their precious anonymity, they are happy to raise as much hell as possible even though the membership despises them.  I have yet to see a troll come clean and show their face and accomplishments,back up their statements or display their achievements.  They are cowards, plain and simple.

And it appears the trolls won’t be going away any time soon.  SPv2 has already had problems with trolls.  The staff constantly advises that any troll posts should be ignored. Responding to them only fuels the fire. Ignoring trolls works effectively if the members can rely on their patience to do so.  Ignored trolls usually lose interest, but the stubborn ones are usually dealt with when the staff has a chance.  The staff can look up the IP address of a troll and first check to see if it is a member or a new person.  Blocking the IP can be done, and the staff can “seize the avatar” so it cannot be used again, but in this age of high speed service and dynamic addresses, there’s nothing stopping a troll from logging on again as someone else from another computer.

PHOTO WARS

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ONE OF SP'S EARLIEST PHOTOS-PICO DE ORIZABA BY JOSH

In the past, voting schemes by unscrupulous members were used to remove such deserving photos from the"competition" for the "Photo of the Week" slot on SP's homepage.  A new system on SPv2 seems to have remedied the once ugly situation.  One of the biggest problems on SPv1 was the Photo of the Week controversy.  For any number of reasons, this was a weekly wrangling between members hoping to have their photo displayed on SP’s Home Page in the treasured “Photo of the Week” spot. Members, both new and established, would take part in the online melee,which would often occupy much of the staff’s time.

The weekly battle would start with the submission of a striking photo by a member.  The highly prized four star votes would pour in, propelling the picture to the top of the list of contenders.  Another member would see their previously submitted photo drop in the ratings.  Using their multiple avatars, they would attack the new photo with low votes and bolster their own photo with good votes.  Since the photo of the week was changed on Tuesdays, these unscrupulous activities were pitched over weekends and on Mondays.

Complaints would be posted on the forum, or sent to the staff via email.  The staff would post notices on the photo’s comments, send emails to offenders or as a last result, resort to public humiliation on the forum when dealing with chronic offenders.  Most avatars would stop their activities, but others would persist, even after their avatars were seized by going through the routine of creating new avatars.  The staff was spending a large amount of time chasing and deleting avatars rather than assisting members with other more pertinent SP matters.

Several instances resulted in an all-out war via email and lengthy discussions on the forum.  Revenge votes would often flareup on other contributions such as mountain pages.  SP even received the threat of a lawsuit for slandering the offender.  The debate was heated and the attention was focused.  It was more evident than ever that the system was too easy to manipulate, and SPv1 was seriously close to just seizing up.

The site was also besieged by bad photos being submitted in torrents, usually by new members looking for a place to display their family outing photos.  Aaron Johnson from the “More Bad Photos Lately?” Thread:

SP has been besieged by a rash of beginners that have not read the instructions or have read but cannot or refuse to comprehend them. This maybe the worst outbreak I have ever seen. As a staff member, it's going to take thought and effort on how to deal with the situation.  Obviously, an attention-getting tactic needs to be in place to make sure newbies read all of the pertinent instructions and policies about submitting material to SP. An effort is already underway. That way, when their junk vanishes, the staff doesn't have to be apologetic about it. Meanwhile, I've noted the various new members and will alert the staff and Josh as well. Please be patient and bear with us, and continue to make note of these submissions to the staff. Thanks.

CORAX(User #19208):  Seriously,this may get out of hand if it continues. The same mountain submitted twice. Two examples just tonight. Copyright violations ad finitum. Loads and loads of really bad photos and pages. Obnoxious trolls coming back, again and again etc.It would really be a shame if SP went down the drain because of the above.

If a more dictatorial rule is needed - sure, I'm all for it,even though I can see some problems with it and I guess it´ll take a lot more time for the staff.

There wasn’t much the staff could do with SPv1’s system inadequacies other than manually chase the bad submissions down and delete them.  But the submissions were far exceeding the staff’s efforts, and it was becoming a losing battle.  Yet in the same discussion, SP member nebben(User #19791) gave a possible glimpse of the future in a roundabout way:  How about automatically zap pictures after a given period of time, and a given star rating? I mean, if a picture consistently gets no stars or 1 star, why is it still being hosted and why is it still being served?

In the “Photo voting for non-members?” thread, Alpinist (User#16167) suggested this:  It's too bad the system wasn't originally designed with a 1-10 star ranking, for photos and mountain pages. That would provide a greater range of votes. Too late now though, as it would be impossible to fairly convert the existing votes over to a different ranking system.

WilliamMarler:  There will always be someone out there who has a different opinion of images posted on this site. I have been here over 2 years and have seen lots of examples of similar down voting. For whatever motivation. I would not worry about it too much. It’s just the way things work on this site. Josh and everyone else who is a serious contributor here have better things to do than police such activity.He created this site to allow for people who are interested in mountains to display their images and share their knowledge and experience. I have learned if you post here you must be prepared for all types of comments on your work.It is not always positive. But in the long run the real people always show through. I thank those who have commented on any of my images. That is the real reward for me-feedback from the entire world. That to me is really cool.

SPv1 BOGS DOWN

A flood of inappropriate photos like this swamped SP during early 2005.  On May 11, 2005, the “SP Housecleaning” took place. This was the first and only event of its type ever to occur on SP.  The plethora of pointless pictures had become so rampant that it even commanded Josh’s attention, who gave the green light on the project.  Josh was concerned about too many photos on SP giving the impression that the site was hosting family album collections.  This massive three-day effort involved the entire staff at one time or another, plus enlisted help from several other members. Over 1735 redundant and off topic photos were removed.  At four clicks per photo, the project added up to over 70 hours of intense virtual labor.

The project was welcomed by the majority of members with much exuberance, but there was no denying SP had problems.  The Housecleaning Project was the first visible event of major importance attesting to that fact.  Many comments and suggestions were offered by the membership on how SP could be fixed or improved.  As before, the subject was usually quashed by the staff and met with silence from Josh.

Bob Burd (User #276) responded on May 12, 2005, to persistent suggestions in the Housecleaning thread:  Josh has repeatedly indicated that he is not interested in significant code modifications to the site at this time. Things that are broken, or simple changes (such as a user name change) get attention, nothing else. Until that changes, manual methods…are the only options.

The manual methods list was growing.  SP’s staff was holding a constant vigil over the Forum,  chasing pesky avatars,investigating photo vote complaints and copyright violations, vengeful voting on submissions, threatening emails and deleting inappropriate posts.  These duties were in addition to the routine of looking over SP for any signs of problems, assisting members when able,reading and posting submitted trip reports on the Front Page and maintaining their own contributions.  SP had become maintenance intensive, just the opposite of what Josh had intended.  Yet, nothing but silence could be heard from Josh’s camp.

By the end of 2005, these matters figured prominently in forum discussions, but rumors were adrift as well that perhaps a new SP was finally on its way, and it would address many of the problems plaguing SPv1.  Josh made it official with the advent of the new year, ending that mysterious silence. In the “SPv2 Suggestion Box” thread initiated by Nelson (User #442),Josh began responding to queries from the members about the next big event in the dot-org’s future.  The future looked very promising, and it appeared SP Version 2 was looming on the horizon.

WHEN THE NATIVES GET RESTLESS

As mentioned earlier, there had to be a better way.  SP2 was under wraps and being built toward the end of 2005.  SP1 was a maintenance mess and limping along.  The staff was at the end of their proverbial rope. Thankfully, the passing of the new yea r holiday was fairly quiet.


Climbwild then resigned from SP in January of 2006. Sourced from the “Dear John” thread:

I'm gone.

After receiving the latest in a number of behind-the-scenes threats from SP elf, I've decided to remove my material from SP.

The selective policing of the site, non-action by management to take the site in a positive direction (until embarrassed into it by a public offer to purchase the site by a member), and continual acceptance of non-contributing internet trolls and obvious posers who do nothing but post in P&P, I have come to realize that this site is a group of about 25,000 posers and non-participants and a few hundred genuine members.

I've tried to make a difference with creative, time-consuming and dynamic pages, as well as posting in a helpful manner in the technical threads. I've voted on countless mountain pages and have encouraged many members to improve their work and offered to assist with HTML for those who needed the help. After all, members were good enough to show me how HTML works.

I've spent possibly unmatched numbers of hours on my pages to try and make them the best on the net and bring in as many hits to SP from the internet as possible, as well as trying to raise the profile of Canadian peak son SP, and when googled into the net all my pages come up high on the list,some in the number two or three spot.

On the other hand, I've rubbed some members the wrong way and have been similarly treated by others, often unprovoked. I'm blunt and a straight shooter, and my temperament is identical off line as it is online.Some folks don't like a person who talks straight and says what he thinks.Tough shit, let them cry themselves to sleep over it. You are getting the real person and not a phony. Like it or not, I don't apologize.

I've made a few good online friends here, and when the sun comes up tomorrow we'll still be friends as far as I am concerned. To the P&P trolls, bored housewives and other misfits who form a significant portion of the site, I offer no apologies for the abuse I've heaped on you. Others will continue the tradition because you have no business here, and you've got it coming.

This is a well conceived site and probably the best on the net at this time, but that will soon change I believe as there are too many things standing in the way of this site realizing its potential.

Sayonara.


To which Josh responded:

To All,

A number of Climbwild's pages were adopted by him and had decent content before he took them over. Unfortunately, that content is pretty much lost. That's a problem with the system that will be remedied.

Anyway, MOVING FORWARD! The mountain pages below are now up for adoption. In an effort to streamline this process, I have transferred the old pages (which he deleted the bodies of) to myself. I have recreated the title sto the best of my ability.

I'm sure there are many people on SP who can rebuild these pages to be better than ever. That's the beauty of SP. It's a fault-tolerant system.So, have at it! Post here and I'll transfer them to you.

Some members were obviously glad, others were deeply saddened and implored Climbwild to return.


Climbwild:  It is to late. SP elf emailed me and told me to save my material because he was going to delete me. It was better for me to walk away and not let him do this to me.  It was obvious he prefers the company of internet trolls in P&P to that of contributing members who've worked hard to produce the best work they can. That is fine.

Attm:  He had no choice.The bully was the SP Elf and the elf was going to ban him. There was nothing he could do.

Tonyo(User#754):  …the pages I saw were among the best on SP. It was obvious he put incredible amounts of work into them. I agree that CW was often brash, foul-mouthed, and rubbed people the wrong way, but I think, with him, you get what you see. But those are all personal things. As far as mountains are concerned (that is why I'm here, after all) I would totally trust any information I got from him, and even with his bluntness I would expect a respectful answer to a respectful question,unlike with some of the idiots on other message boards.

Herbie(User #1077):  Well,a member left, and it was his decision. He deleted his pages, also his decision.  Somebody else will write new pages. That's the way SP works, I don't see a problem with that. If a member cannot stand discussions in P&P, because many people neither share his opinion nor like his way to express himself, it is his right to quit. I don't see a problem with that.  I agree with DMT, he expressed himself often like a foul mouthed asshole, with all due respect.  I'm also sorry to see him go anyway, and I know he had good pages.  However, it was his decision to quit and I have to accept it, and you should, too. I'm not sad about it, and not happy about it. SP will continue to be a good site.

Rhyang(User#18886):  I am as big a fan of the Ice Climbing Adventure Forum and some of his other pages as any other ice addict. They were fun. In fact, they still are fun - they can be seen in the Google caches and on his personal website.  However, I have seen some of his vitriolic comments posted to people's photos, pages, etc. At one point he would make vengeful votes on people's work, based on what might have been said in p & p. This was before the elves were able to detect vengeful voting - he was called out on it several times after that.  He was really harsh on most of the forums initially - I realized early on that I should avoid disagreeing with this guy or else I would be in for a flame-fest. He would post rather uncalled-for rude comments in people's threads without provocation. It looked to me at times as though he was just looking for a fight. Anyone who has been here and reading General, Gear, T& T and California since early 2004 knows what I'm talking about.

Josh:  Climbwild was warned a ridiculous number of times to tone down his vitriol or risk being deleted. Apparently, conforming to the site's posting policies was not something he was willing to consider doing. His posts, which clearly violated the SP Posting Guidelines were not confined to just P&P (or even the forums).  All of you Climbwild sympathizers need to know that he was given an absurd amount of leeway due to the fact that he actually contributed some stuff to the site. You can bitch about how "the elves are unfair" and all of that nonsense. Do they make mistakes? Yes. Do they have nefarious intentions? Absolutely not. Are they "out to get" certain members?Pull your head out of the sand. If you want conspiracies, go watch X-Files reruns. The elves demonstrated more patience with him than I would have, that's for sure.  In SPv2, we are going to try an experiment: We hope to eliminate the need for member banning. Instead, individual posts in violation of the policies will be quickly, and universally removed. There will be no leeway given to anyone's posts. Also, the posting guidelines will be more prominent.Right now, the plan is to keep P&P around. It will be moderated more heavily than it currently is but not as heavily as the rest of the site.

DingusMilktoast (User#16137):  I really came to respect sp.com management that they didn't try to stop him from deleting his work. See, I didn't like Climbwild's behavior, but I support his right to take his work elsewhere. Had sp.com tried to prevent him from deleting his work I would have busily deleted my paltry submissions quietly and quickly. An open source site must be OPEN SOURCE in BOTH DIRECTIONS, or I won't contribute.

Josh:  I feel it's worth reiterating that people submitting to SP are NOT putting their work into the public domain. You retain full "ownership". Someone with more copyright/legal knowledge could help me phrase that in a more precise way, but I'm sure you get the gist. V2 will have more precise language (I'm getting some help with that).  Rest assured that SP will never claim ownership to any content submitted to SP. Anyone can remove any of their submissions at any time.

THE ELVES COME OUT OF THE CLOSET

The restlessness of the natives continued to grow. Despite repeated statements from members and staff proclaiming the wide latitude of SP, the site was privately owned. Management could dictate policy and enforce it as needed.  Members continued to press buttons and stretch the tolerance envelope.  Despite the continued problem with avatars, members were pressing to know the identity of the staff members, as early as February 2005. Sourced from “Come Out of the Closet!”:

Shredder(User #1422):  Who thinks the elves should come out of the closet and just be who they are like on other chat sites?

SPELF:  How would that change things for you shredder? Would you find me more personable?Less Gestapo-like? Easier to toss stones at? My opinion is that it will bias folks when voting on pages and photos. I think they should be treated, good or bad, like any other member, and not because they know I can review the votes or delete the ones I don't like or whatever. When I stop making other contributions to SP I'll be happy to reveal myself. And besides, I know it really bugs the shit out of you more than anyone else.

JohanHeersink (User#16579):  Funny to see that none of those few who all the time are screaming and shrieking about the elves and other members of the management are registered here under there real name: Live up to what you demand from others!  Why should we know who the management are, as long as they do a good job? Indeed such demands stink of the want to be able to do easier stone throwing at them.  The elves and the rest of the management are doing a wonderful job over here,keeping the site as sane as is possible in view of the utterly negative and aggressive nature of the contributions of certain members.

After Climbwild’s resignation, despite support from the membership, discussion among the staff continued concerning the revealing of the staff avatars.  The cited example was Aaron Johnson, the “voice of SP” diplomat, but ironically, it was Aaron Johnson who disagreed with revealing the staff identities for reasons concerning protection stated earlier.  It was ultimately decided that for those who felt compelled to do so, they would reveal themselves to the membership.  Conduct of SP ELF in PnP had come under fire and concerned members thought the elf’s participation in PnP was a conflict of interest, and members wanted the matter resolved.  Attm and SP ELF were matching wits, and attm was certain the elf was Bob Burd.

Bob Burd then announced he was SP ELF and Gangolf Haub announced he was Glorfindel.  Both Bob and Gangolf had found it increasingly difficult to differentiate between themselves and their alter egos, and had inadvertently revealed themselves in emails to members.  They felt it would be easier to be visible staff members rather than operate from behind an avatar.  Bob’s writing style was telling, and SP ELF’s identity was becoming more obvious while trying to mediate contentious PnP threads.  SP ELF’s  participation, as well as the way he participated, was viewed as a conflict of interest.  Bob Burd initiated the “Attm, Let’s Talk”thread to publicly discuss and resolve the issues.  Attm was understandably upset, so the conversation did not get very far between the two high profile members.  Aaron Johnson eventually removed the thread as it was not proving useful in any way. But by “coming out of the closet,” the staff members seem to have a burden off of their shoulders.

This resulted in a thread about rules that should govern elf activities.  Previously, there were no rules, and there are no rules currently, either.  Proposed rules had been suggested from time to time, but never made official in an attempt to keep SP as free form as possible. Sourced from “Can We Have A Public Conversation...:

GangolfHaub:  I have been a member of this site for two years now and so far I have witnessed no power abuse by the elves. But that might be my way of perceiving things.  You all seem to have a quite hazy view of what the staff does. We actually don't see ourselves as the police of SP, we are quite literally administrators. Most of the work that has to be done includes keeping the site up to date, managing adoption and change requests,selecting trip reports and the like. The sp-elf once said it - for these tasks we are equipped with very crude tools so more often than would be necessary some thing or other has to be deleted.  We depend on you telling us about the shortcomings, about threads which are flaring up, about trolls, about bugs, etc. This is what this forum was meant for. To our best knowledge and abilities we do what is required but there are no rules.

Gordonye(User#361):  I don't think the proposal to burden elves with more "rules" will be helpful. Elf decision should be final. SP is not a democracy, and it doesn't have a budget to hold democratic process. Elves are people with regular lives like you and me and are working for free to do the critical tasks of maintaining the site, there should be no more work that is required of them.

Attm:  There are some simple ways that all the drama could stop immediately. Anything goes on P&P except personal insults or posts created with the specific intent of insulting someone personally.  I thought the elves had specifically stated that these WERE the rules but based on some recent posts as well as many in the past that weren't deleted, I must have either imagined that these rules were stated previously or the rules have been forgotten and not enforced any more.

1. Delete any post that insults an individual. Obviously any post about a group of people such as a country or a political party wouldn't bean insult directed at an individual, only a criticism of a government or a particular philosophy. I have seen someone initiate an insult and nothing was done until it became an all out war. I've also seen insults that have been ignored and were left there since no one complained or because it never started a huge fight. ANY insult by ANYONE needs to be deleted as soon as possible no matter what.

2. Delete any new topic that is directed at an individual with the intent to insult.

3. Enforce the rules and make no exceptions for anyone including a friend of an elf or someone who subscribes to the same political ideology, or an elf himself.

4. Do not allow any criticism of an individual's pages or photos in ANY message board other than in the voting system which is already in place.Address ALL of those issues via email to the elves. One of the topics that created controversy recently did that in Site Feedback, but that never was stated as a rule and had been done previously in Site Feedback by an elf. Site Improvements would be fine as long as they don't call to attention an individual’s contributions.

5. Any hard and fast rules should be followed by all members including the elves.

Kris(User#12614):  I'd say if P&P is going to be part of SP, leave it alone and let people post whatever they want.

Attm:  Bob Burd wanted to ban me and the elves also stated that many others wanted me banned, while at the same time nobody seems to want to ban others who are doing the same thing.…I thought that P&P wasn't supposed to be censored based on political discussions, but when a moderator has a different opinion, it doesn't matter what the members think. The reason for my defense is because I have been singled out by an elf using a different avatar to either outright ban me using the sp elf alias, or use his real alias to bash me on the message boards hoping I would get frustrated and leave on my own or to get others stirred up so they would email him demanding me to be banned so he would have an excuse to do soother than his own dislike of me.

Attm’s suggestions were taken into consideration, although such a policy was dependent on heavy and constant maintenance, which the staff was not excited about.  After all, SP was about mountaineering, not about political squabbles in an anything-goes forum.  But what were Josh and the staff to do?  PnP was and still is SP’s most popular feature, yet it has nothing to do with mountaineering.  The issues were piling up, and right at the same time SP2 was about to go online.

PnP was simply not a priority.  It would have to wait until another day.

SO WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MOUNTAINEERING?

Any outsider would have to ask this reasonable question.  Moreover, what does it have to do with SP?  To get an answer, one obviously has to look deep within SP’s complexity to understand it all.  Whether you like it or not, it has every thingto do with SP.  The character of the SP membership is made evident through such activities, and it’s plain to see, the SP character is far from perfect and never will be.  SP’s character will certainly always be evolving, interesting and entertaining.

Such activities and problems also give insight into those that have built SP.  Despite all of the problems, most of SP’s major contributors have the most important aspect of their membership down to a fine art:  submitting informative webpages on mountains all over the world. In terms of reputation, SP shines on the internet and often succeeds where other well known sites fail.

SP’s history is a stormy and contentious one, and will continue to evolve in a similar manner.  Such unbecoming events contribute to SP’s evolution as much as its mountain pages contribute to its growth.  While SP’s informative content shapes its reputation at being the best it can be, SP’s membership and its activities shape SP’s future, and determine the path they will take as a mountaineering community.

In that regard, the pointless political ramblings of PnP mean nothing, and thus the staff’s resistance to manage PnP is understandable.  Along with an outstanding database, input in the Site Feedback section and other key areas of the forum are what matter, and what shape SP’s future.  What happens on SP most likely will determine the future of its most active members.  When we speak of an SP member’s future, it means mountain climbing, which is what SP is all about.

WHAT MAKES SUMMITPOST GREAT?

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CRESTONE PEAK, COLORADO, BY LONGTIME SP MEMBER KANE

What does make SP great?  Any serious SP member would instantly respond “its mountain pages.”  This has always been the SP flagship, the chief information attraction on SummitPost. But an important part of the mountain page is the route page.  For many members, the mountain page is incomplete without one.  Beyond a doubt,some of the best route descriptions on the web are on SP.

SP’s many other features certainly figure into the big picture and set SP apart from other member built web sites.  A well written trip report speaks volumes to hikers and climbers.  While it’s certainly a plus to have a trip report filled with vital information, such information can also be gleaned from a good read.  Some of SP’s reports are written by talented climbers who happen to be great writers, and they know howto spin a yarn.  You can read SP’s trip reports for hours, and it’s not unlike reading a book you can’t put down.

A newer feature is the area/range page, which provides an overview about a given area or mountain range in terms of access and other vital and interesting features.  The idea caught on with SP’s European members, and the concept had to fight for acceptance among the American contingent.  Perhaps the turning point was Josh’s acceptance of the idea and incorporating it into SP’s structure.  After that and the activating of SP2, the concept took off.  Some of these pages are unique and presented in an unexpected fashion, and feature an interactivity no other web site can come close to imitating in such abundance.

SP has broadened its scope in terms of objects that can be submitted.  While the concept has come under criticism from SP’s devoted mountain climbers that claim the site is watered down and no longer exclusive to mountaineering, the move has proven popular.  Appealing to other aspects of outdoor activities, primarily hiking, rock climbing and canyoneering, SP’s database continues to grow, no doubt providing a healthy competition to other sites that may specialize in these interests.

Articles,including the one you’re reading now, are one of the new object types being submitted to SP.  Articles span related topics that previously had no home on SP1. Subjects to date include mountaineer biographies, mountaineering history, mountain peak histories, articles on climbing gear and climbers,camping and expedition gear, how to build and maintain a SummitPost mountain page, wilderness issues, receding glaciers, avalanches and rescues. 

SP also has the “other” section, which features canyons.  Referred to as the opposite of climbing a mountain, climbing down and back out of a canyon, often using technical gear,is called canyoneering.  This unsung sport continues to grow in popularity as an appealing alternative to the crowded conditions on a popular peak. Canyons throughout the American West, many that are rarely if ever explored, beckon to canyoneering enthusiasts. SP’s entry into this arena on the web perhaps marks the first organized effort by a major website to embrace this challenging and dangerous sport.  Of course it’s not surprising that SP’s canyoneering beta is some of the best to be found on the web.

The”other” section also features photo albums, created by members featuring various subjects ranging from rainbows to moons over mountains.  Other objects include data for number crunchers, such as lists and fact sheets. Huts and campgrounds have their own section to provide specifics about a given facility, which can be helpful for treks in Europe, Nepal or America.  Logistical Centers, a type of area page unique to the California contingent, provide pertinent information and links pertaining to a given area.

In addition to all of this amazing data are SP’s highly interactive features,Plans & Partners and the Forum, where members interact with one another on a daily basis.  It is through these interfaces that SP history is made, both good and bad.  We’ve looked at some of the bad, and we’ll look at more later and try to make sense of it all.  But for now, it’s time to put the good side of SP in the spotlight, and it’s a bright light indeed!

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ANTELOPE CANYON BY SP MEMBER
MARK DOIRON

SUMMITPOST GATHERINGS

There is one undeniable truth any SP member will agree on:  SP without a doubt has enhanced the mountain climbing experience for climbers all over the world.  The impact cannot be measured, but it’s reasonable to speculate that SP’s immense database has benefited climbers everywhere.  SP’s interactivity is second to none, particularly in Version 2, which features a Plans and Partners section that helps members meet and climb together. Countless people have met and forged new and long lasting friendships through SummitPost.  Few web sites can lay claim to such positive results just for being a member.  When you consider the value, SP is unbeatable.  Whether you contribute or not, being a SummitPost member costs nothing.

Perhaps the benefits of being a SummitPost member are no more evident than in the SP gatherings.  First pioneered by one of SP’s flamboyant Rockies contingent, SP gatherings have gained momentum and grown in popularity.  Alan Ellis organized the first “official gathering” on Colorado’s highest mountain, Mount Elbert, on June 14, 2003.  Members have since emulated this practice allover America.

The following photos and illustrate official or casual SP Gatherings, proof that SP is one of the most positive, influential and successful interactive websites serving a specific community.


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FIRST SP GATHERING IN COLORADO ON MOUNT ELBERT, THE STATE'S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN  JUNE 14, 2003
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SP MINI GATHERING IN KRANJSKA GORA

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SP GATHERING ON MARBLE MOUNTAIN, SANGRE DE CRISTO RANGE, COLORADO



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SUMMITPOST GATHERING IN THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS, COLORADO, 2010

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SUMMITPOST GATHERING IN THE DOLOMITES, ITALY

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FIRST WINTER GATHERING IN COLORADO, 2004
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2007 SAN JUAN GATHERING, COLORADO

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COLORADO WINTER GATHERING 2005


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WINTER GATHERING IN CALIFORNIA

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MAY, 2007 GATHERING IN VANCOUVER

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JULY 25, MONTE ROSA GATHERING, SWISS-ITALIAN BORDER

AREA AND RANGE PAGES

Known at first as a “group page,” this new concept of mountain page was initiated by SP’s creative European contingent.  Once the idea had the attention of the American members, much debate took place.  Where the format worked well for the Europeans, the Americans were of the opinion it was inappropriate for American mountain ranges.  Whatever the case, there was no official area on SP1 to host these pages.  SP had not been designed for it, but it was clearly an idea many members were embracing, and was yet another indicator that SP1 was becoming dated, and if SP were to grow, SP2 needed to arrive, and quickly at that.

From“A Grouping Structure,” March 14, 2004:

Gabriele.roth(User#17546):  Some days ago Gangholf told me " Would it be a good idea to post the Group Pages to the Dolomites and all the single mountains to the Group, so that Dolomites would have only Civetta Group, Catinaccio Group, Odle Group ... ,wheras Catinaccio would have Vajolet, Kesselkogel etc.  What do you think? We could discuss this in the Europe Forum."

VidPogachnik:  1.Let each mountain have its own page! All specific information of a mountain(routes, overview, pictures, history, etc. should be on individual pages).

2. Let's first agree on groups we shall use. For Alps it is quite clear for bigger groups (Mathias Zehring is an expert here), but detail scan be discussed on a forum like this.

3. Then, group pages can be created, but should have only common information: how to get there, camping, may be huts, weather, tourist info etc.The purpose is not to repeat this on every individual mountain page.

4. It's hard to tell which descriptions should go on group pages. Maybe some general pictures to give a flavour of the group, but not more. Perhaps hiking routes that cross the whole massif, as for example Carnianroute (Hohenweg).

5. Pictures of mountains which do not yet have their own page should not be posted on the group page. I am against the situation where a group page becomes a garbage container, where everybody posts pictures of mountains of "minor importance". Later somebody creates an individual page and the mess is still in the container. If information is important, do the individual mountain page! I am very annoyed with pages like the Queyras group, where hundreds of pictures are stored and nobody will ever look at them,because you don't have time to wait while loading or you even can't find anything in the mass. Too much information is NO information!

Clarity(User#17668):  I don't think the "group" concept enhances the quality of information we are trying to provide to one another. What does the group page provide that is not able to be provided on any single mountain page?  I went to look at the Bogda Shan Group page...cumbersome would be an understatement. I'd rather see the relevant material on the mountain page I'm interested in climbing.  Don't intend to take the wind out of anyone's sails but really what does the group page provide over and above the single mountain page?

Clarity’s concerns were echoed by some Americans, who were concerned about redundancy and reducing the importance of the SP flagship, the mountain page.  Geographical divisions became a confusing problem with complex mountain ranges as well.

Vid Pogachnik:   I agree that giant mountains around Cortina are a problem. Tofane, Cristallo,Sorapis, Antelao, then also not so giant mountains south of Cortina (Nuvolau,Croda da Lago). Hm? I think that Cadini are usually treated as part of Sextengroup, which is huge, I agree. Is it right to split it? I don't know.

Kletterwebbi(User#1285): I agree that the creation of group pages is somewhat delicate. One point is to consider, that not too much redundancies to the single mountain pages will be created. On the other hande.g. a list of the groups hut's is ok but for the single mountain the hut information should be on the mountains page (if there is any ...) too.  "Constructive difference ... " ...that’s one of the good points of SP.

The discussion ran for thirteen pages, reflecting a concerted effort by the Europeans to start up the new group page program.  They took the initiative, without any input from Josh, and it impressed a number of members.  Ultimately, Josh would create a special section for the new feature on SP2, along with a huts and campgrounds section,but the road to acceptance was not easy. Confusion was the first thing the SP membership had to wade through.  From “Mountain Range Submissions”:

Gordonye:  I don't think creating pages of large mountain ranges adds value to the site. Smaller ranges are ok since the logistics would be the same for all peaks in the group. In this case it's no different from a logistical center page (or Monte Rosa group,Mont Blanc group, etc.) Also there could be traverse routes that link several peaks, which would be valuable.

Vid Pogachnik:  The discussion on Europe thread ('the grouping structure”) gave us good solutions and after it a lot of co-ordinated group work started. Now we have Dolomites info gathered on some group pages (to avoid redundancy), summits within each region have of course their own pages. This approach, if reasonable, is useful!

Thomas.scheidl(User#1030):  It would be useful to have a separate "range overview" format.  Summitpost is a relational database. So we should think in database structures too, and try to avoid redundancies.

Gordonye:  SP is not quite a relational database yet. It only has mountain pages, route pages, and a"mountain group" field. There is really no place to put overview information of the entire Alps, Sierra Nevada, or Himalayas. On the other hand,I think generalized geographical descriptions of ranges can't really be considered "first hand" climber information. Devoting entire mountain pages to only generalized information (without logistics) IMO is not the intention of SP.

Dgreaser(User#22087):  There is definitely some ambiguity concerning the naming of some mountain groups as"mountains" vs. "ranges." For instance, the Bitterroot Mountains of the Idaho/Montana border are a SUB group of the greater Bitterroot RANGE which also encompasses the Beaverhead MOUNTAINS as well as some other"mountains". How do we differentiate? The USGS? What if the map has both such as in this instance? Should we use the smaller of the two to define the "group"?

Sourced from “What's In A Good Mountain Group Page?”:

ATTM:  My question is,why is there such a big push now for group pages? Sure, there will now be a section for group pages, but it certainly isn't a requirement is it? I think it was added as a suggestion from some Europeans that like group pages. I thought most didn't like the idea of group pages over here.

Kane:  Barry, where have you been? It’s not like we all just suddenly changed our minds and wanted to do more work around here. It might have something to do with the idea that the owner and creator of the site recommends group pages to maximize his innovative SPv2. A few group pages by a few of us that value Josh's wishes doesn't seem like bad idea, especially when we all brainstorm and come up with a streamlined list of criteria.

Aaron Johnson:  Josh has adopted this structure as a basis for the new SP going forward. He thinks this approach has its merits and he would like SP to go in this direction.  … if these pages are not developed by experienced hands, they'll be erected (haphazardly) by inexperienced hands. I think this is what concerns most of the established SP Rockies contingent.

Scott Patterson (User#16365): It could be an advantage because people might do a search on say "Gore Range", but not so many will be searching for "UN -------". It seems to be a big advantage on peaks that are un-named on the maps, as well as those peaks that are lesser known.  I do see what you mean though. Some of those European Group pages, are nothing more than a list of peaks and glaciers, and don't have much info.  Like Kane, I too wonder what is required of these group pages.

Andy:  For every list on the left hand side of the page in SPv1 there will be a page on SPv2 - Colorado Fourteeners, Front Range, RMNP, Sangre de Cristos, etc. We might as well make’m as nice as possible.

AaronJohnson:  There are over 87 pages (mountains) that will be currently attached to the San Juan Range page.  I noticed several area pages about Wilderness areas in the San Juans that were prepped on SP2. I don't know how they got there, but in my view, they are unnecessary, other than a display area for more photos.  …So, be cautious before you create a page.Save yourself some trouble by looking around and inquiring first. SP2 is huge and it will be easy to miss something.

ATTM:  …I would hate to see stuff I have written get canned in the name of group pages.

Aaron Johnson:  Guys,DO NOT change anything on your pages. IMO, the Mountain Page is still the STAR of SP.  …Right now I envision the San Juan page as a brief overview with some basic stats on a given wilderness area. On your mountains, located in those areas you can get as specific as you want. I plan on having an overview of each San Juan wilderness in one section. Some sections will have their own page (builders of these pages need to guard against having too long of a page for loading purposes). The San Juan Range page will SUPPORT you guys' work!  I feel strongly that the original authors who penned the mountain pages on SP1 are what the range pages should defer and refer to. The mountains are the focus. Regarding this, those maintainers should not have to change ANYTHING. The authors of the area/range pages should keep this in mind and adapt accordingly.

From“SPv2 Group Pages”:

Aaron Johnson:  A group page could steal much of this page's thunder. We want to be careful that we do not duplicate and therefore negate the impact of someone's mountain page into which they have poured so much effort.

What Should a Group Page Have?

1. Most importantly-links to the mountain pages (prominent ones,such as 14ers, featured in the page text).

2. Overview of the range, discussing character and general layout/logistics

3. Highway and road access overview

4. Optional BRIEF history overview that may include any mountaineering history. Example: The Lake City area of the San Juans is home of the infamous Alferd Packer incident. I would briefly overview this historical event.

Kane:  I agree with Aaron, no 2nd tier pages. 2nd tier tome, would present too much clutter, and losing the clutter is what we want.  I certainly don't want to have to click through a "maze" (Aaron’s perfect word) of pages to get to my desired mountain page.  Photos...The range page maintainer can set up their pages the way they want. My opinion on the photo thing is "less is more."

Josh:  As you CO SPers have already realized, taxonomy planning is going to be an important part of SPv2. In fact, right now there's a whole forum for it on the new message board.  As you probably know, the new system was designed to accommodate any sort of taxonomy that makes sense for a given collection of objects. …I think the appropriate taxonomy is extremely dependent upon the specifics of the area.

When SP2 arrived, the new Area and Range page section was ready, and a large collection of blank templates was ready to be distributed to volunteering members.  Version 2’s first weeks were a hectic period of creativity. The staff handed out the pages as fast as humanly possible, and most of them were on display within a month’s time.  During this time, the busiest spot on the message board was Site Feedback, mostly concerning tweaks and bugs for Version 2.  PnP was very quiet.

SummitPost members were asked if they thought of the new area/range page concept was a success.  Most respondents simply offered an emphatic “Yes!”

David Kiene (User#2508):  I'm not certain how useful some of the pages are, at least for U.S. areas or groups.  It will be interesting to see what kind of feedback submitters get after people have had a chance to use them to obtain climbing information.

Brian Jenkins:  I like them.  It's another way to attract people to a broader area and hopefully the mountains within.

Rfbolton:  No opinion,although I definitely like the idea, especially now that objects can be attached to any number of other objects.

Nelson:  Yes, in general they are successful, IMHO, a good place to start when researching an area.

THINGS TO COME


SP & Other Sites;Google; Building SPv2, running SPv2; V2 Unhappiness; deaths; SPv2 Features tips; The Fate of PnP; member photos and brief SP resumes; members and staff respond to interview questions;  Why SP is what it is today and more. 







Comments

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rgg

rgg - Mar 18, 2015 3:32 am - Voted 10/10

Thanks again

As for the first volume, I'm glad you reposted this. Now I'm off for a coffee and then I'll read the last one.

Cheers, Rob

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