The History of SummitPost, Volume V

The History of SummitPost, Volume V

Page Type Page Type: Article

Once upon an SP time, there were three awesome articles detailing the history of SummitPost (up through 2006).

Sadly, the author, a fine writer and once a highly prominent member of the site, deleted those submissions when he became angry with the site and deleted many of his pages and transferred some others. While most deleted pages here are no great loss in the grand scheme since they can be replaced or may not have had much value to begin with, the deletion of those articles was a real loss to SP because they were informative, well-written, and balanced. Newcomers have no good way now to learn the rich history of SummitPost, along with some of its greatest controversies, from its 2001 founding up until about 2006.

Update-- Fortunately, the author of those articles decided to resubmit them. Please read them in order:

This article, and the one preceding it, is not an attempt to recreate those previous ones. As someone who joined in 2004 and didn't really become active until the fall of 2006, I just do not have the firsthand knowledge to document what those articles covered. Also, this article is not going to go into every significant change and event on SP since the times those articles spanned. Instead, its focus is on two questions I and many others have asked many times:

  • What happened to voting and other content-related participation?

  • Why is the submission rate so much slower than it used to be?

As someone who was witness to and a player in many of the events involved with exploring those questions, I am trying to be as objective as possible but realize there may be sharply different viewpoints. I encourage readers to read the comments as well, for there they may see some of those different perspectives.

What Happened to Voting?

Years back, the page score for the Photo of the Week (POTW) would almost always go into the mid- or upper-90's. A Photo of the Day (POTD) submission would fare nearly as well. Good new mountain pages usually cracked 90%.

Today's voting algorithm is different than it was two years ago, making such scores more difficult to obtain now. However, erosion of page scores, resulting from a strong dropoff in the number of members voting, really began as early as 2009 and has only continued.

Why?

An easy answer is that the novelty of the new voting system that came with SPv2 wore off and people got bored, but there was another dynamic at play, too: frustration.

Silly as it may sound, photo voting has caused a lot of discontent on the site, and it even has caused some members to leave. To a similar but lesser degree, a flawed system of voting on content pages has caused significant unhappiness.

The Voting System

Once, SP had a 5-star voting system. Because some members found ways to manipulate and abuse it, a new system came into being. It was a 10-point scale with explicit definitions of each score.

A 10-point scale sounded great in theory, but in practice it had serious problems. For the most part, people were voting 10/10 or not at all. This resulted from a combination of factors, including these: people voting and thus hoping others would vote on their own submissions in turn, people complaining (sometimes in the forums and sometimes through nasty private messages) about "low votes," and people just wanting to be nice by voting 10 on something that really wasn't top-notch quality (related to this was the complaint about certain members who would vote 10 on anything, even if it was poor or incomplete, and this is still an issue on SP). There probably were other reasons as well, but those were some of the big ones.

Human nature was the culprit, but what brought this out was a system that didn't really fit with people's expectations and experiences, and that system was probably the root of it all.

In the U.S. school system-- and although SP is an international site, a strong majority of its active membership is from the U.S.-- a 90% is usually a low A, an excellent grade. So many would have expected a 9/10-- which in the voting system is "Wow! Amazing"-- to translate to 90% and be seen as a good score. Page scores would represent an average, and an 8 or 9 would be a positive vote. Even a 7 might be seen as one; 7 means "Good" in the SP system although it translates to the low end of average in the U.S. grading system.

But this is not how the voting system worked (or works). Because SP in its earlier days had problems with people creating multiple accounts to vote up their own material and vote down others', the changed voting system was based on power. A new member with no submissions could vote but would have little or no effect on the score, while a member with a lot of Power Points could have a much greater influence, especially negatively.

What members found was that a 7, 8, or 9, intended to be a good vote, might "sink" a page's score into a range that in the school system would signify a D or an F. This led to angry reactions, and angry rebuttals, and ultimately to people just voting 10/10 or not at all. People reserved 1/10 for a truly deplorable page or for material they found offensive.

Another source of contention was that the system favored, and still does, the number of votes, and, naturally, pages that get more hits are going to get more votes. One of SP's top contributors has posted many excellent pages on truly obscure peaks and canyons; in some instances, he has been the first person, or a part of the first party, ever to reach that particular peak or descend that particular canyon. Yet, his pages stand virtually no chance of matching the scores of pages for very popular peaks that in many cases are mediocre in quality; in some cases, the authors of some of SP's highest-rated pages have not even climbed those peaks, and this has burned a lot of people (there has been many a forum debate about whether people should post pages for peaks they haven't climbed. Even worse, there are members who have posted route pages for routes they have not climbed, sometimes for technical routes, though one of the elves took upon himself the task of deleting most of those pages a few years ago). 

Many have made the argument that pages for obscure objectives are far more valuable than are the ones for objectives such as Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney, the Colorado 14ers, and highly popular European peaks for which good information is widely and readily available. But those pages on obscure peaks, as excellent as they often are, come nowhere close to the scores that the pages for the trophy peaks get.

To say it again, human nature was the culprit. Anyone on this site will tell you that Power Points aren't important and that they mean nothing in real life, and that is true, but the reality is also that human beings tend to seek validation in quantitative ways. Hence the paradox that Power Points, and vote weight, mean nothing yet really do mean something.

So no one was happy with the voting system, but no one has ever come up with a good replacement. People who put more into the site like having greater voting power, and there doesn't really seem to be a way to balance the competing interests and avoid the past problems at the same time. The current system makes non-10 votes less punitive than they were before, but most voters are still voting 10. And by making lower votes less punitive, the new system's engineers unintentionally made weak and bad pages look better than they really are (this is not the case, though, if people vote at the lowest end of the scale).

In all likelihood, the damage has been done. There just are not many people voting on pages these days, and in the cases of the pages that get more votes than others, name recognition seems to play as strong a role as quality does. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a popular member posted a page from a different account; almost certainly, the page would not get as many votes as it would under the author's true name.

Author's note: I have criticized the voting system many times but have never found a great solution myself. My current idea, just recently formed, is something along the lines of 9=90 and 8=80 and so on, but with that number becoming slightly higher according to a person's points, and a page score being an overall average. For example, a new member's 9 would be a 90, but someone with 100 points might see his or her 9 become a 91. This would preserve the greater role for people who contribute more. It would not fully address the problem of avatars, but I have some developing ideas for that as well. Also, popular pages would still have an edge, but the gap would likely shrink. There are other issues to consider as well. It's just an idea right now.

Photo Voting

At some point during 2009, people began noticing that a few members were getting POTD over and over, that these members were often posting variations of the same picture, and that sometimes the photos weren't even very good or were off-topic. What started bothering some people even more was that many of these photos were not attached to beta pages. Some of the submitters weren't even climbers, not meaning that they didn't climb technical routes to summits but meaning that they didn't go to summits at all or only rarely. In other words, they were trail hikers, not seekers of mountaintops.

There was a growing perception that a handful of people were dominating a highly visible aspect of the site and even changing the face and meaning of SP by doing so. To those people, SP was becoming a photography site, no longer a climbing and mountaineering site.

SP Photo of the Decade
SP Photo of the Decade-- a brilliant creation, by a now-departed member, that ridiculed the photo culture of SP

A hilarious article mocked this phenomenon, but it was too little and too late. Too many people were too fed up with what seemed like a trivial matter but was proving to be anything but.

In the forums, there were allegations of manipulation, cliques, deception, and degrading the site. To varying extents, all were true. Examples:

  • Manipulation-- SP used to have a Photo of the Hour. For an hour, the picture that got the highest score the previous hour was on the front page. This was an obvious boost to getting POTD and, eventually, POTW, and you would see members posting a picture at, say, 9:00 or 9:01. But they would only post one picture, two or three at the most, not wanting to flood out the one they wanted people to vote on. And you would see people post their best pictures shortly after midnight SP Time in order to maximize the time they would have to accumulate votes for POTD.

  • Cliques-- there were, and are, people who vote on their friends’ stuff just because they are their friends. It’s easy to figure out who they are. SP has seen a number of fairly shabby POTD selections and even a few unworthy POTW selections because of this. Also, there have been allegations of vote-begging via Facebook.

  • Deception-- something shown to be true time and time again is that many SPers either like, or are completely duped by, photoshopped pictures. Sometimes it is “merely” ridiculous color effects that nevertheless get some people excited and believing; one now-dormant member submitted many an obviously over-saturated picture, but it didn't prevent the swooning and the adulation. Once, out of curiosity and for fun, I posted a picture and then posted a copy with the saturation bumped up to the max; the original was good and the copy clearly more dramatic but also clearly manipulated, yet the copy got more votes. But the most egregious was a once-popular member who had some highly rated photos that turned out to be fraudulent. He would take a dramatic scene, and not always one he had actually shot, and then use clip art or even someone else’s picture (not one belonging to an SP member but rather to a pro photographer or a member of another website) to insert an animal into the scene in a spectacular fashion. Some of the Elves and a few other members were onto him for a long time and finally called him on it when they had the proof, but few others seemed to suspect anything; his phony pictures generated high scores and garnered numerous comments showering praise upon him. After he was exposed, he deleted his pictures and fled the site. (Sad though the author is to admit this, some Elves routinely voted on and complimented his pictures, and some Elves still partake in the club mentality that continues to infect the site.)

  • Degrading the site-- people started posting pictures of flowers in their gardens and of their pets, and not meaning pictures of their pets while on hikes and climbs, which are often pretty cool pictures (Liba & Duchess pics are awesome). These were domestic pictures. Yet they were well received by many. Other completely non-climbing-related photos got lots of votes and occasionally got POTD. Last year, a picture of me in my Halloween costume, posted just for fun, got POTD. Really, people? I deleted the photo because I was embarrassed that it got on the front page of a climbing site. However, my issue really isn't with the fact that people voted on a fun picture but rather with the fact that more people didn't vote on some of the many deserving mountain- and climbing-related photos that people had posted that same day. Off-topic photos are not the end of the world, but where are our priorities when we elevate such photos to front-page status?


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This picture by a professional photographer named Fabrizio Moglia was altered and then submitted by a mendacious member as supposedly being his work; it was done up as a "Happy Holidays" type submission and was very popular. The member even stooped so low as to have a friend post it for him; that friend, an honorable man, had no idea what his "friend" was doing.

Though it probably seems childish, some people got so tired of this that they left the site, feeling it was turning into Facebook and dominated by unserious people playing games. Three who left or went all but absent were accomplished climbers and big contributors (two were at one time on the first page of SP's top contributors). Ironically, their departures made SP a little more into what they complained it was, but they simply couldn’t stand it anymore. Several other climbers, ranging from light to moderate contributors, left as well, disgusted with the voting schemes and disgusted with the direction of content.

Being disgruntled with the voting system and the POTD/POTW scene was not the only thing that contributed to a decline in voting, but it had a larger role than many acknowledge or understand.


The infallible method to become POTD
The infallible method to become POTD-- by Bruno

Submission Comments

Just as there once were many voters, there also used to be a constant flow of comments regarding submissions. Most were positive and friendly, and some were critical, but almost all were appropriate and within fair bounds.

These days, if you look at the What's New page, you might notice that comments might sit around there for days. Once, it was a matter of hours almost all the time except on weekends, when people were out climbing and hiking.

So what happened? Probably, the decline is linked to the decline in voting. Although not all comments are from voters, most are, and it makes sense that as voting dropped off, so did commenting.

But the Internet also makes us lazy. Once, we did not mind typing out a comment. Now, we can just "Like" something, "+1" it, and the like.

New Submissions

Another constantly changing part of the What's New page was the lists of new page submissions. Five years ago, if you posted a new mountain page during the summer, it would be knocked off the What's New page in a day or two; today, even in summer, your page might stay there for two weeks or more.

Again, what happened?

Let's face it-- most of the attention-grabbing mountains are "taken." There are countless unnamed peaks, remote named peaks, and named-yet-undocumented peaks out there, but they require much more effort to reach, and many of those that reach them either don't have the time to make pages or don't see the value in doing so.

And, back to the laziness point-- with the nature of the Internet these days, how many want to take the time to write a really good page? Increasingly, fewer and fewer. We want to google for beta and find good info easily, but dwindling numbers want to be the ones to actually create that information that users want to soak up.

Squatters

Members sometimes express frustration over not being able to update older pages that semi-active owners squat on. Site staff encourages these members to contribute via up-to-date trip reports and route pages, but that still does not address the issue of inaccurate or missing information on pages that the owners refuse to update, share, or transfer. Elves have gotten more involved in transferring inactive owners' pages, but they remain reluctant to take pages from one active or semi-active member and give them to another who is willing and eager to make improvements. Things begin to get very gray on that path.

These things are understandable, but it is also understandable that they frustrate older members and discourage newer ones. As a result, SP continues to generate more usage because of its vast member-created database, but the life that once drove the site is all but gone and there is precious little dynamism.

Wikify This Site?

In forum discussions about content quality, the idea of wikifying the site-- giving any member the ability to edit and update pages, thus giving newer members a bigger reason to contribute-- has come up many times, and more than once from highly respected members.

Each time, though, the resounding response from both site management and members in general has been a deafening "No!"

There are some valid reasons for this, and here are the two that come up the most:
  • It would lead to endless petty debates, with edits and re-edits and so on-- over whether something is Class 3 or 4, 5.6 or 5.7, 3 miles or 3.5, and so on.
  • Many SP members pour some significant amount of their souls into the writing of their pages. There are other sites that may offer more bulk, general information on climbing routes for a particular crag, peak, or area, but no site matches SP when it comes to detail. For example, take a popular technical route on some peak. If that route is on SP, you are almost certain to find more information here, and better pictures, regarding how to get to the route and what gear you need to climb it. Since the purpose of this article is not to trash competing sites, the author is not naming other sites, but he usually finds on those other sites that the actual climbing beta is not as good as that for the same route on SP; the main difference is really that those other sites, being more geared to technical climbing, have more routes per peak and crag than SP does. (SP is also at its heart a site about reaching mountaintops, so it is not always the go-to site for the trad routes at a certain crag or area.)

SP in the Time of Cholera (Facebook)

Like it or not, ours has become a fast-food culture. We want what we want, and we want it now. Even if the voting system were somehow perfect, would it change the way people vote? Would members put more time and thought into their votes?

Probably not.

In my previous article, I pondered why the forums are dead even though new members have no knowledge of the tawdry history of the forums here and even though they have no experience with site moderation.

So I will rephrase the question for this article:

Why aren't new members voting, commenting, and submitting that much?

My best guess: (again) our Internet culture of wanting the goods without the effort. We want good street signs, but damn it, somebody else had better put them up. And don't ask us to help with the upkeep; that's somebody else's job.

Questions Going Forward for SP

  • Will moving to a like/thumbs-up voting system, as much as it might displease heavy contributors, increase user participation?
  • Does increased participation matter as long as site traffic continues to grow and content does not disappear?
  • Does SP want to regain lost ground? If so, how?
  • Can SP evolve as the Internet does, or is it going to bank upon its database for survival?
I look forward to reading members' answers to these questions, and I encourage and look forward to reading additional questions and answers.

As someone who has invested vast amounts of unpaid hours into SP, I want to see the site not only survive but thrive as well. I know that SP has value beyond its members' activity-- I know I am not alone among SP members in having been contacted for interviews, photo-usage permission, and the like (I have even been contacted for permission to use a picture of coyote scat, so if anyone wonders whether SP truly has enormous exposure, that person should stop wondering)-- but I want to see the site grow.

So, to those of you who see the site as something more than a source of free beta, become a part of it. If you already are a contributor, reach out to others in your circle and encourage them to get involved in some way. Tell them that even if the mountains and routes they have climbed are there and have good pages, they can still submit quality trip reports, climber's log entries, beta and scenery photos, and more.

SP is not the best climbing site out there and probably never will be, but it is the best mountaineering site. Let's keep it that way.

P.S. If you want to contribute but want to do some trolling as well, that could be fun. Just talk to certain elves first. ;-)





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Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson - Mar 7, 2015 11:52 am - Voted 10/10

SP HISTORY V5-OLD TIMER'S PERSPECTIVE

For those of you who are wondering about the guy that Bob mentions at the beginning of this well-written article, I'm that guy. With his previous article "Volume 4," I asked that he notify me when Volume 5 was done and he politely did so. My thanks, Bob. Bob's recent writings have been cathartic in compelling me to reminisce about a special and unique time.

• Do newcomers really care about SP’s history in this age of temporary? It's been made clear for those that really are interested, the history of SP can be found on internet. I could resubmit the articles-it would take considerable work to make them appealing, but if I did, would it make a difference, would it be worth the time invested? How would the SP community truly benefit?

• Bob chronicles the voting system’s changes very well, and it was just as he says. It was always a problem that plagues staff members to this day, but back then, it was a fierce and daily battle. I recall as a staff member removing many votes for a myriad of reasons, from rivalries to downright hatred.

• Voting played an important role in establishing SP’s reputation for excellent info. SP’s most important years were those formative ones in which it had to establish itself and its reputation. In later years, that reputation has slid somewhat into mediocrity, but SP is still the best information source of its type thanks to the early submissions from passionate members in those formative years. It is through their efforts SP’s reputation was established, and internet and media attention contributed to cementing SP into its current status.

• Bob is right about the voting system overall though. The damage has been done. Fortunately though, this does not have that much bearing on current society’s “must have it now “ attitude. SP is still relied upon by all sorts of folks, including me. I’m always interested in what SP might have to say on a possible destination.

• In today’s SP, name recognition may have an equal influence as quality when people vote on a submission. Back in SP’s formative years though, members knew who submitted good pages. They looked forward to it and were excited when a page from a favorite contributor would appear on the WHAT’S NEW page. I’d venture to say that while it is the same today to a certain degree, this is not the case as often anymore. Sure, the “choice real estate” has all been claimed, but a truly good member concerned with the quality of their submission could establish a reputation easily as a first rate contributor.

• But Bob’s right. In this day and age, who has the time to do that, especially in this rushed society where everything is so temporary and our attention span is focused on one thing for a maximum of a minute? It’s a lot to ask for a fleeting moment of visibility on a monitor. I certainly understand and saw it coming toward the end of my service on the SP staff. Yep, our society and the internet has changed that much since 2001.

• Bob relays the photo voting problems accurately. This will always be a problem and an admitted flaw at SP, but IMO, it is not important, and overlooking it won’t adversely affect SP’s reputation as a good source of information.

• While good members departed over the photo issues and other problems, IMO the chief problem that caused people to leave SP was life changes. Changes in their own life, followed by changes in the internet’s role in their lives.

• A significant number of those departed, including me, left SP because of their unhappiness with what was happening at the web site and/or having the realization that the “old guard” no longer mattered in today’s SP. This is nothing against SP. It just how things are in the rapidly changing world of the internet. The values and motivations of SP’s founders were no longer relevant, and SP’s current members couldn’t begin to relate to these attributes, regardless whether they knew us personally or if The History of SummitPost articles were still posted, or if all those old members were still active. For me personally, it was best and certainly my queue to move on to life’s next journey and challenge. I hold that period of time dear to my heart. I’m proud to have played a major role in the formation of this grand website, and when appropriate, I’ll mention it in conversations with folks. Despite that “wonderfulness” though, it’s the past and is as insignificant to a current member as a piece of chewed bubble gum in the gutter. Everything is temporary and fleeting. Live for the moment, and more importantly, for your future. Reveling in past glories is whistling in the wind.

• Bob is right about the WHAT’S NEW page. I remember submitting a page and by the end of the day, it was almost pushed off the What’s New page. Things happened very fast back then. SP was blessed with lots of excellent contributors that cared about and supported the vision Josh and Ryle had in mind, and I was pleased to see Colorado leading the way in the effort. But again, now that the work is done, what does it matter? Sure, people benefit from it. That’s the intent. Had it not been done here, though, it would have been done somewhere. That’s the nature of the internet. SP had the blessing of timing and being in the right place at the right time. It was a magical moment to be sure, and clearly I was destined to be part of it. And many others have benefited-which was the intent. But of those that benefit, very few actually care. So it’s only natural that SP has quietly slid into “routine mediocrity” for lack of a better term. As Bob suggests, SP’s reputation is only slightly affected.

• Squatters were a problem back in SP’s young days and I see this is still the case, although there’s probably much less choice real estate to squat on, and people as Bob says, don’t waste their time on such endeavors any more. The life that drove the site has since departed, but SP is now living the life it was designed to live-be an information site, which was always the emphasis I stressed as a staff member. Being an information provider is not unlike being a library. It is a quiet, mundane and routine, if not happy existence, but it’s an honorable one. In turn, it’s only natural that the forums would quiet down as well. But that’s fine, because that is no longer SP’s focus. You want soap-opera style forum action, go to 14ers.com.

• Wikify SP? No. This would destroy the original mission statement of the web site, which is the very heart of the matter.

• I like Bob’s analogy on why people don’t vote or comment. Makes perfect sense.

• Will moving to a like/thumbs-up voting system, as much as it might displease heavy contributors, increase user participation? No.

• Does increased participation matter as long as site traffic continues to grow and content does not disappear? No.

• Does SP want to regain lost ground? If so, how? I’ll answer with another question. Has SP fulfilled its original mission statement, and if so, would it not be a good idea to stay focused on that mission rather than be something else that it isn’t?

• Can SP evolve as the Internet does, or is it going to bank upon its database for survival? Perhaps SP has already evolved in its maturity. I’d be interested to see what others think SP should evolve into? The internet may be evolving, but is it for the best? Does SP need to evolve and perhaps change into something else to achieve its intent, or would it be better for SP to focus on its mission and continually improve so that it can be the best source of information of its kind?

• Things may be quiet and mellow at SP in this day and age, but is that a bad thing? Compared to what I dealt with back then, I’d be grateful today for SP’s current atmosphere, which is quiet and much less contentious. Yeah, it’s not as interesting or exciting, but back then, SP was still evolving, and it wasn’t as close to being where it needed to be as it is now. So seeing SP “grow” will mean many things to many different people. Keeping SP’s focus will be important though if SP is to actually thrive in today’s very temporary climate.

• Bob’s closing comment: SP is not the best climbing site out there and probably never will be, but it is the best mountaineering site. Let's keep it that way. This is my point exactly, and it has always been my view since day one. I would recommend to SP’s current community that this is the vision the membership should stay focused on, should they decide to become involved with something that can easily vanish in the blink of an eye. If it is a worthwhile endeavor, and a wise use of your time in which you will feel rewarded (which is was for me), I highly recommend you take up the torch, and may you be blessed in the process!

Best regards,

Aaron Johnson
Former SP Staff Member

PS-Bob-Great job on the article. Thanks for posting and alerting me to it as I requested. I enjoyed it, especially seeing that my perspective wasn’t as narrow as I thought It was.

Dean

Dean - Mar 7, 2015 3:43 pm - Voted 10/10

Well written

Bob, I think you've hit this one out of the park. If someone doesn't know much about Summitpost and how it has developed over the years, by reading your articles they will get a great background and a feel for what has transpired. Thank you.

Most of my mountain pages border on obscure peaks in Nevada, Utah and other western states but when I started looking for information on the ones I was interested in, I found little out there. It became one of my goals to "share" the information that I acquired with others that might become interested in visiting some of these peaks and in return hope that they too would add some helpful information to the created page. Many of the peaks I've been to are rarely visited but are gems in their own right, deserving of more appreciation. To do a page right, it takes time and effort and I can only hope that others will find it helpful. I don't want to make this sound self serving since I'm the one who gets the most out of a peak I share on Summitpost.

Summitpost is a valuable resource to me, I hope others will also take the time (as you do) to keep building it and making it the tremendous resource it has become. It is unique in the fact that it has developed through a communal effort and overall, the pluses have outweighed the minuses. Thanks to the elves and contributors who have made this site happen, I salute you.

LongLost

LongLost - Mar 7, 2015 5:12 pm - Hasn't voted

Thanks

I much appreciate the effort you and Aaron have put into various articles, and comments, describing the history of this site. I joined a little before things started going south, then left because of some of what I saw, and later came back under a different name.

I think whenever you set up something involving an assessment of better/worse on this that or the other, with accompanying votes on quality and etc., you invite the kind of result you've experienced. Human beings are often very weird (read: immature) when it comes to things like that, no matter the specific topic involved. Better to just let people post things and comment thereupon, and leave it at that, IMO.

Silvia Mazzani

Silvia Mazzani - Mar 10, 2015 2:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Easy to say and hard to do, but it's worth a try

Very good article, Bob, thanks for explaining to a relative newcomer like me what was to be the site in its moments of glory, but also what were the difficulties and rivalries, certainly due to human nature, unfortunately so often inclined to misconduct not only in real life but also in the virtual one.

I have joined SP in 2011, after the fall you’re writing about, but I could still attend to misconduct and manipulation, such as those perpetrated by that escaped member , whose rigged photos had deceived me and other people in good faith as me for a long time. From this point of view, things have improved now, but not at all in other ways, such as the dramatic decrease of voters and the number of submitted pages.
However, we must keep in mind that most of the mountains have already been posted and it is increasingly difficult to find non-existing ones, especially for USA users.

As you yourself have written, a perfect voting system doesn’t exist and will never exist , it’s rather the bad use that people make of the vote to make the system flawed and a source of frustration and dissatisfaction. Things change, even mountains change, so also Internet has changed : now the users seem to prefer the information “hit and run” rather than full, rich and competent information. I think not for this reason SP should become a site for throwaway information about mountain, in fact much can and must be done to improve SP info.
I fully share your acute analysis, but I think what's done is done and now the most important thing is to focus on the present.

I wish to give my contribution, albeit small, so I would like to focus on some points that I consider essential for the future of SP:

- Definitely the most important mission to make SP living very well is to update and improve the countless mountains and routes pages that have become obsolete, containing old information and not current or incomplete, or even unattractive.
This is not at all a novelty, this point had been well understood and encouraged, so that a great work had been started, but now greatly slowed with starting enthusiasm collapsed. It’s not always possible to update an old page attaching a route with fresh news, and when possible sometimes the operation can be a bit ridiculous: at the end you have a route page with much more information than the main mountain page! The road is hard, especially due to the fact that the owners of the pages are completely unwilling to share their pages, fearing confrontation and eventually losing those

- This is a huge obstacle. How to get around it? Wikify SP? I think that only if the working team is very close-knit we could obtain positive results, otherwise we would witness to endless discussions and disagreements and eventually the remedy would be worse than the disease.

- In my opinion the trump card to overcome the obstacle of the owners refractory to share their pages with the potential updater is to find the way to stimulate this latter, but without humiliating and above all affecting the original owner. I don’t know what could be the system, but it shouldn’t be too complicated for an expert of mathematical algorithms and power points.

- SP is primarily a mountain and alpinism site, so we should not tolerate that it becomes a photography site or a place to post breathtaking photos but having nothing to do with mountaineering. However beautiful photos are blessed, because we must admit that these latters convey information more effectively than not the bad photos.

- Commit ourselves in the first person to participate in the vote

Thanks again!

JRB

JRB - Mar 13, 2015 6:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Why I joined and contribute to SP

My son, John, Pookster1127, joined SP in 2012 to record our trip to the Blue Glacier and Mount Olympus. He was 15 years old at the time and just looking for a way (beside Facebook) to easily document the trip. In our research for the trip we relied heavily on the Mount Olympus SP page by Redwic and the SP trip reports which had the best video of the route. From my perspective the info was far superior than we obtained anywhere else. It was also more entertaining with a great "personality".

We did not know or understand anything about the mission of the website or the voting system but when the votes for his pics and the report came in it let him know others reviewed his work.

I encouraged him to write an article on why he started climbing which got good reviews and made the front page of SP several months after he posted. John is off to college now and he never goes on the site anymore. I hope he will be back.

I joined in 2013 and am still a regular in reviewing the site for ideas for next trips. We climb at Seneca occasionally and I wanted to climb on the west face up to the notch because of one of your posts. We went to the Grand Teton in part because of the work by PanamaRed.

I am saddened Bob, you feel the site is no longer as vibrant as it once was.

By the way I could care less for the voting system for evaluating the quality of the contribution. I can not see the point. I look at all the contributions to a potential climb. I do not need someone else to evaluate its quality for me. Up and down votes seems like they measure popularity not quality and isn't that what the SP voting system has evolved to anyway? Sorry, just the way I feel.

I, for one, would challenge the leadership of the site to open all the pages up to contribution by all members. I think unless you do so the pages that are up will become static and stale. The people most motivated to contribute to a climb are the ones who were on the mountain last. If your concerned about quality and accuracy give the page owner rights to accept or deny the changes and a certain time to review the material. Or perhaps put the changes up in a beta format and give the membership a chance to review them and let the page owner decide. If the page owner is too busy then give the page to someone else with more time. Keep a history of page ownership so that others know of the "old timer's" work

I recently wrote an article on the history of The Grand. Chugach Mtn Boy liked the article but was unhappy that I had referred to the Grand as volcanically formed. He objected politely to my error and I changed the article. Simple peer review. BTW had I been able to contribute to PanamaRed's Teton page I might would have written the article differently but it might have been good content for that page. My article now rarely gets any hits so it might have been more useful to SP as content for the main page. (or maybe the content is boring - what author really knows?)

My contributions are far less than most active members on the site. I much appreciate those, like yourself, who have dedicated themselves to clear, accurate, useful, and interesting content. Still, if SP made it easier to contribute to the main pages perhaps SP would attract more folks who have a few hours - rather than the few dedicated people who have a "second career" as a SP contributor.

Redwic

Redwic - Apr 3, 2015 7:15 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Why I joined and contribute to SP

Thanks for the honorable mention, JRB! Much appreciated!
If I can ever be of help regarding another peak, or if you are having difficulty finding information regarding a peak in the Northwest (primarily), just let me know.

LincolnB

LincolnB - Mar 16, 2015 12:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Voting

I was never much of a voter on SummitPost, but the new system made me vote even less. In my day job as an engineer I periodically have to rate each of our suppliers on a variety of measures -- I think of 7/10 as a good score; suppliers are sometimes hurt and want to know what they did wrong; that leads to useful discussions about our relative expectations. All of which takes a lot of time and thought.
Much as I love SummitPost, I just don't have the mental bandwidth to think carefully about each vote, or worry about what the submitter might think of a 7/10. So once in a while I'll give a 10/10 to something spectacular; otherwise I don't vote at all.
Maybe this would be too complicated -- but what about a dual system, where we could "like" something that looks cool, and have a numerical scale for those who want to go deeper?

MoapaPk

MoapaPk - Mar 16, 2015 5:38 pm - Hasn't voted

broken system

Occasionally I will read a page, realize it has ambiguous or outdated instructions, and I will submit a map with an extended caption. Such maps and captions are a quick way to give the information missing from the page; for simple routes, that is about all one needs. And here's what usually happens: No one votes for the map, so it sinks to the bottom of the summitpost ratings. People continue to read the main page, ignore the low-ranking images, and take a bad or illegal route.

Redwic

Redwic - Apr 3, 2015 7:17 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: broken system

I totally agree.

StartingOver

StartingOver - Mar 17, 2015 12:27 pm - Hasn't voted

Why do I Visit SummitPost?

I visit SummitPost to get information about mountains that are within my reach, to view spectacular photos of those mountains, and to read fun and inspiring stories.

I'm a hiker and aspiring trekker interesting in climbing as many mountains as I can. Sadly, I've concluded that I will not be the type of person to summit Everest, Denali, or anything that requires highly-technical rock climbing skills. Anything over class 2 is likely out of reach for me, though I did climb Borah as a youngster. When I climbed Borah, the guidebooks categorized it as Class 2. Now the consensuses seems to be that it is Class 3. So maybe Class 3's are doable for me as well. After attempting Rainier several years ago, however, I suffered spontaneous lung collapse--caused solely by bad luck and not bad conditioning or anything else that could have been prevented--that set me back for some time. I am now slowly, cautiously getting back into the swing of things, taking care I don't tackle anything without adequate preparation that could cause any further medical problems. Make sure I can handle 10,000 feet before trying 10,500 feet, and so forth. It is dramatic altitude change that can cause spontaneous lung collapses like the one that I had.

Forums? Really not that interesting to me. I suppose if I had a very specific question for which I needed an answer I might wander in there. Otherwise, I don't find them enticing, and that may be why participation is down (Note that I just joined several months ago, so I have no historical perspective on this).

I think this site will thrive if it focuses on providing up-to-date information about all kinds of mountains, from the Class 5.11 routes I would never even dream of attempting to walk-ups and class twos (my focus), along with providing photos and stories about those mountains.

It's fun to get votes on my pictures, but I don't expect to -- and honestly shouldn't -- ever become a member with great "power." I post photos both for my own enjoyment and as a reference for me and ones that I think others might enjoy too. I'm no professional photographer, and it is unlikely I will ever manage to take a photograph of a mountain worthy of a 99.99% rating. But there's absolutely noting wrong, in my opinion, in taking photos from roads, or along the trails, that provide information about the mountain or route at issue. Indeed, that is the primary reason why I started visiting the site in the first place.

I think this site does a pretty good job of this already. Hopefully participation will become more active during the summer. I suspect less people visit during the winter time. Many of the pages are too short and do not contain enough detailed information about the routes and conditions. Many of the pages are too old and have not been updated in quite some time.

In short, I have no interest in a site focused solely on highly-experienced mountaineers reminiscing about routes that are not accessible to the vast majority of people. SummitPost is not that, and it should not become that -- and I don't think you are advocating for that either. If the focus remains on quality postings about beautiful (or even not-so-lovely) mountains, the site will continue to thrive.

scramblingbadger

scramblingbadger - Mar 17, 2015 4:10 pm - Voted 10/10

Another view to add to the mix...

Twelve years ago, I was transferred to the Pine Ridge area of northwest Nebraska. I loved the many thousands of acres of forest, small peaks and buttes, canyons and numerous streams. But finding any useful information to access all that beauty was extremely difficult. It was surprising to find widespread indifference to the surrounding beauty of that area. So, I began exploring, mostly on my own, and eventually started a website (Panhandle Trails) to share what I was learning. And about that time, I also discovered SP. It provided another useful means to share info that had proven hard to come by. This has been mostly a solo venture for me. I have grown to appreciate the "big umbrella" of SP that also includes lesser peaks, canyons, buttes, and more. It's great to learn about and share hiking opportunities for those of us who are in our declining years.

After my 2012 retirement, my wife and I moved to the nearby Black Hills. Our goal has been to share though our site and SP what we have learned so that other hikers visiting the Black Hills-Pine Ridge region will not have to go through the same difficulties we have in finding useful hiking information.

Yes, SP is evolving. Change is inevitable, and there are good things we hate to see disappear. But I am glad to have people like Bob working for positive change at SP. Proactive changes are generally quite difficult wherever you are "charting new waters". But I believe the benefits to hikers and climbers worldwide are worth all the efforts (and headaches that sometimes go with the territory). My wife & I will continue to share what we learn from our region (that is not nearly so popular as the Rockies, Sierras, Alps, etc.). We are glad to be a small part of a much-larger group effort to continue to grow the SP database.

In my early days at SP, I did not vote or comment much. I actually understood little about SP. But I have come to see the importance of peer review and encouragement through comments and votes. Because I am not a technical climber, I try to stay away from voting on anything that I believe I know nothing or next to nothing about. Votes should be real. I agree that voting should be more than a popularity contest or a clique thing. But I also recognize that some members turn in consistently good work - well researched and thorough. There is a reason those people get a lot of votes. I appreciate how they "set the bar a little higher" for people like me to aspire to. I'm sorry I missed "the good old days" at SP, but I have no problem with the way it is right now and am glad to be here. My thanks to Bob and all the others who share at SP!

MoapaPk

MoapaPk - Mar 17, 2015 6:45 pm - Hasn't voted

the reason

Some people get more votes because they produce good pages. But most people get more votes due to mutual back-patting, or by having objects (e.g. Mount Whitney) that get a lot of enthusiasts who want to vote on something emblematic of their accomplishment. Please don't kid yourself into thinking that a good page correlates with a good score.

"Peer review" here is pretty silly. Twice I have found highly-rated pages that were plagiarisms. I would be more in favor of voting for elves who simply decide if a contribution adds to the knowledge base. Most of the pages could replaced by a single map and gpx file, or rock-climbing topo with a detailed caption.

KeithN

KeithN - Mar 19, 2015 9:17 am - Hasn't voted

Merely evolution

The site has simply changed into the creature that best fills the nearest niche, and that creature is a jazzed up version of Backpacker magazine. The online guidebook concept doesn't really work - for SP or any other site. It's nice for a weekend visit to an area, but not for anyone who seriously wants to explore an area's climbing potential.
Besides, let's face it, the vast majority of members/readers of the site are pedestrian tourists (and I do not mean to denigrate them with that label, I just mean that they like to walk around and see things). The site serves their needs and provides some motivation for their interest. That is not the same interest that most climbers have when they venture out to climb. Why pretend the situation is otherwise? Why lament the change?
The photography is very nice, anyway.

gimpilator

gimpilator - Mar 20, 2015 3:56 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice Summary

I think just about anyone else would have been reluctant to touch the voting issue with a ten foot pole, but you have accurately described the issues we have faced, including why voting and other feedback is an important issue, and how it affects the rest of the site. For anyone unfamiliar with SP, this article might seem like dry reading, but not for those of us who have sat back over the years and watched these issues unfurl.

As someone who has invested vast amounts of unpaid hours into SP, I want to see the site not only survive but thrive as well.

My sentiments exactly.

MoapaPk

MoapaPk - Mar 20, 2015 4:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Irony: forums now best part of site

I get good info here. The participants are eclectic.

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis - Mar 20, 2015 7:47 pm - Voted 8/10

Lots of good points

I've also wondered why there wasn't more participation in commenting. The instant gratification status of society sounds like it would explain everything except if you look on youtube or twitter, you'll find that people are more than willing to voice their opinion. It could be a digestion issue, and by that I mean reading. This site might evolve into a photo/diagram/video climbing blog but it could also still be informative. Newer members don't seem afraid to post video TR's or massive photo maps of their routes. Mudrat Mackenzie always puts together detailed lines. Wish we could spark more discussion there.

As far as the wiki thing goes, SP does allow members to share pages, something that we rarely see. I wonder how much of this is egos getting in the way as opposed to pride in work on a given page? Certainly members could share pages with other knowledgeable members and improve the information on their page without having to relinquish ownership. I have done this with some of my pages already. I really wish it caught on more.

ToOldForThis - Mar 23, 2015 1:41 am - Hasn't voted

Long Time Lurker

I have been coming to SP for the past two years looking for information on hikes that I want to attempt and getting ideas for hikes/climbs I didn't know existed. I appreciate the info available and I enjoy reading the trip reports as much as or in some cases more so than the pages themselves.

As far as new pages, there are few summits that I could not find already. I may decide to post something, but I question the value of posting my experiences from climbing some small peak in my proverbial backyard that I doubt anyone else would be interested in or will ever search for on these pages. The fact that you have so much information available should not be viewed as a negative.

Second, I have noted that some pages are very outdated and contain incorrect information. How should this be corrected? Certainly not by allowing anyone and everyone to edit pages. This would likely result not only in wars over what should be on the page, but also more inaccurate information, possibly intentionally inaccurate. However, there should be a way to open certain peaks, etc. to new posters if the current "owner" has moved on. I like the idea posted above where a page owner has a set amount of time to reply to a formal request for an update/change to his page. A lack of response should be viewed as an abandonment of the page and a loss of "ownership." This would allow outdated or incorrect content to be replaced by current and correct information, which is what I came for. As it is now, I rely as much or more so on the Trip reports for my information on a particular mountain or route.

Lastly, thanks for what you and the other moderators and contributors do in providing and maintaining this site. It has been an enjoyment and a useful tool in getting me back into hiking.

P.S. I couldn't care less about the scores at the top of a page. I can judge for myself if the information was useful, without seeing what other people thought of it.

rgg

rgg - Mar 23, 2015 2:38 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Long Time Lurker

Pages can be adopted by other members. While the normal process is to ask the owner about it, if the owner of an outdated page has been inactive for a long time it is automatically considered to be up for adoption by others who are willing and able to improve it. See this thread.

However, outdated or poor pages for which the owner is still active, but just not willing or able to either improve the page or let someone else adopt it, well, that's a problem for which SP doesn't have a good solution. This has been argued about for a long time. Some argue that such pages should be passed to others even if the owner objects, but I certainly wouldn't want that. But I don't see a solution that will make everybody happy.
So far, the only headway that has been made is when someone adopts a page, but then does nothing to improve it. In that case, if someone else asks to adopt that page, that request will be granted.

jacobsmith

jacobsmith - Mar 23, 2015 11:44 pm - Hasn't voted

The real problem

What this article describes is not the advent of a "fast food culture" that wants results without putting in any work. People have been complaining about our society using terms like those for the last 50 years. What this article describes is a community dying.

Summitpost currently survives on its database, even in the 5-odd years I've been here I've seen a marked decrease in the number of serious climbers contributing to the site. I suspect the forum wars and the voting/power-points system are to blame. One of the biggest problem with this site is that people vote on page quality and not on route quality. Contributions are judged first by how pretty they are, as if they were in competition with each other.

Example: several years ago I did a couple climbs at WA pass and put together some skeleton pages, nothing fancy, just some placeholders that i intended to flesh out in the coming weeks, and within a couple days I had a site administrator deleting my photos and tagging my pages for major revision. He seemed incensed that I dared to post these routes without regard for his quality standards. I got pissed and deleted the pages. Those routes, classic moderates many on this site would enjoy, are still not represented.

Summitpost is very, very far from being the premier climbing website. I can go to sites like CascadeClimbers and MountainProject and hear about important first ascents from the first ascensionists themselves, I can post a historical query on Supertopo and get responses from some seriously famous climbers. On Summitpost I can read about some random guy's hiking trip.

While I understand the emotional attachment some of you guys have to this site I kind of wish you would let it die its natural death. I had some good times on Myspace but I don't really care that I haven't been to the site in 6 or 7 years. Times change and Summitpost is a dinosaur – a weird, insular, out of touch reptile that pops up a lot on google searches. There never was any glory to getting the summitpost page for a cool peak, it never meant anything special, let it go.

yatsek

yatsek - Mar 28, 2015 3:42 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: The real problem

SummitPost is NOT supposed to be another MountainProject.

"SummitPost is a collaborative content community focused on climbing, mountaineering, hiking and other outdoor activities."

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