Outdoor Forums and Social networking – a few thoughts

I am not going to win any prizes for originality or extreme cleverness with regards to what I have to say on the subject. But, having used a variety of forums and social networks over the past 7 years with regards to the outdoors, I do have a few thoughts.

Like a lot of 30 & 40-something people who enjoy the outdoors, I “rediscovered” it as a passion after a period of relative abstinence. I did a huge amount of walking and camping (and cycle camping) throughout my teens and early 20’s. However, work (after the college years), buying houses, developing a career (nightschool) and finally kids, slowly put paid to regular outings. I cant remember an actual date or period in time, but by my early thirties I was reduced to the odd day walk and no camping. Then out of the blue, when I got into my mid thirties, I began to get a form of wanderlust and started reading magazines like TGO and Trail. My walking picked up a bit and I started updating my kit (which it has to be said was looking a bit sorry for itself). In fact, I updated my kit alot and thus began a bit of an addiction in itself (but that is a story in itself for another time!).

Now all this was fine and dandy and I would probably continued bimbling along with this enhanced but not completely focussed love for the outdoors had it not been for a chance google search one day. I cant remember what I searched for, but right at the top of the tree was a funny website called Outdoors Magic. I browsed it, joined it and slowly found out that there were actually thousands of other people out there with similar thoughts and aspirations for the outdoors. This and the fact that they werent all just a bunch of red-socked bobble hat wearers too (well mostly). Not wanting to limit my horizons, I soon joined the TGO (The Great Outdoors) forum then shortly afterwards the Trail (sorry LFTO or Live For The Outdoors) forum.

What struck me in those early days was the enthusiasm, passion and great sense of fun they all engendered in me (and to my eyes a lot of other too). It felt like the first week of college over and over again. Of course time moves on and along came Facebook, which although not a forum, was a social networking site that allowed likeminded people to seek each other out. Not as dedicated to the outdoors but still a very good tool for connecting with people. So, 5 years ago I found myself spending huge amounts of time on these sites, making friends, getting advice for walks and gear. I started camping again with gusto, walking with complete strangers and visiting mountain areas I had never been to.  Those were fun years where nothing appeared too much in terms of outdoor aspirations and achievements. I do look back on those times fondly, almost like an age of innocence. In fact thinking about some of the stituations and conversations had in those days, has me creased up in a heap on the floor, eyes streaming with genuine laughter.

Things change however, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. I started to shun one or two forums as they became littered with overly competitive people trying to score points off each other or have “flame wars”. I became more discerning (some might say growing up). The other thing that started to become apparent was the arrival of the blog. Now if you are reading this, you are very well aware of what they represent (obviously – d’oh). Some people vilify them as a shallow attempt to making oneself feel important. Some people (me included) think they are an important media for connecting with likeminded people. After all, if you dont like what someone is writing, then you dont go back and they write their prose to an audience of static and silence.

So into the last 12 months and the “newest” social network on the scene being Twitter. I must admit that I didnt “get it” when I first joined. I posted a few things, followed a few people and then was vaguely disappointed when nothing happened. I went back to blogging. Then my only remaining outdoor forum started to pale as well (Outdoors Magic). A lot of the interesting articles dried up, trolls were seen under bridges and on mountain sides and things started to go downhill. I went back to Twitter and found that like anything worthwhile, you have to persevere with it. Engage with people, treat them nicely and always try to have fun. I have to admit that the past 6 months on Twitter has been hugely enjoyable (one or two moments aside). I have connected with more people on this format that any other in the past. I dont know what the secret is and I dont know if it will last but I do recognise it as a very good site for networking. I really hope it continues and even if it doesnt, I know I will at least continue blogging for a long time.

So, what’s the purpose of the post? Just some rambling musings that I thought I would put into words. I would like to thank all the people I have connected with over the past few years, some of whom I have met for real and count as valued friends. I hope everyone out there gets as much enjoyment from whatever online forum or networking site they ascribe to, as I have and continue to do. And if you dont like or agree with what I have written, then you can send me back to the ether with a mere mouseclick. I wont mind 🙂

Keep walking, keep camping and keep posting guys and gals.

About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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20 Responses to Outdoor Forums and Social networking – a few thoughts

  1. hillplodder says:

    Couldn’t agree more with everything you said. So much of this resonates with me too.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      well, I was starting to write the post and then I saw your post and thought that they were 2 similar threads. Sometimes I wonder if I ramble though! 🙂

  2. An eloquent post my friend 🙂
    As with @hillplodder some of what you say resonates with me too.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • backpackbrewer says:

      no problem Chris. It is interesting to get other peoples thoughts on forums and social networking sites. I guess there will be a whole spectrum of opinion. The main downside of such sites is that arguments can escalate rapidly due to the “safety” of relative annonimity and not being face to face. On the whole though, I do feel its a positive experience and the “off” button is just a finger press away 🙂

  3. Twitter is a great place where will technology go next.

  4. john hee says:

    Social media. Now there’s a topic.

    I’ve watched it grow from the orginal Newsgroups (still going….just) onto forums, special interest groups on Yahoo etc etc.

    Same theme running thru it all. The trolls try to bugger it up. The interested keep plugging away, And when the flame wars start some of those valuable people move onto less annoying pursuits, if they’ve any sense (I personally know of cases where people’s health & family life have been affected by these sort of attacks)

    As for me – I’ll stick to the blogs and watching the forums, providing advice for those who ask, and ignoring those who don’t give me on-line the same respect that they would face to face

    Twitter -well I still don’t get that media, but if it works for you ………….

    • backpackbrewer says:

      thanks for the observations John. It is annoying when good people have to move on or stop posting because of certain disruptive people. I reckon most of the disagreements could easily be sorted with a couple of pints down the pub though 🙂
      With regards to blogs, I would always encourage people to moderate the incoming comments. That way, the trolling is stopped dead in its tracks and it all runs smoothly.
      Twitter isnt for everyone. It works for me (currently) but then so does blogging so its good to have choice!

  5. I don’t get the twitter??
    I’m not being negative, I’ve just never signed up or really had a look to see what it’s all about. It seems I need an account though if I want to sign up for that social hiking website that Martin Rye posted about a few weeks ago. That looks like a usefull tool so I reckon I might find myself signing up before long.
    I must say though that it was OM that “got me out there” and gave me the confidence to go out myself on the hills after getting the bug years ago as a youngster in the Scouts. I did get fed up with it though and started to find it very reppetitive what with all the arguments and trolls and the same gear questions over and over. I think that’s why I drifted into the blog scene, writing and folowing.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Its ok to say nay to Twitter 🙂 I find it best for connecting with people, posting pictures easily (via twitpic), socialhiking, and for links. It isnt for everyone.
      OM was the big starting point for a lot of people I think in terms of getting out there, meeting up and exchanging ideas. It has staled but maybe it will pick up again or get replaced by something better?
      Blogging is definitely the way to go for stress free input, reviews, opinions and cataloging outdoor-related stuff. I find it quite therapeutic 🙂

  6. I’ve been blogging for less than a year, but can’t believe how much enjoyment I get from both reading other people’s and writing my own. Thanks to the blog, I’ve also ‘virtually’ and ‘actually’ met a group of like-minded characters who not only give me lots of ideas but also make me laugh. I haven’t yet gone down the Twitter route though, and currently have no plans to. I do dip into it from time to time via other people’s blogs, but have to say that I don’t really get it – am I missing something?!

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Chrissie, the amount of enjoyment one gets from writing blogs is evident in the content and obvious enthusiasm shining through. I can see that in the entries in your blog so keep it up! 🙂
      Seeing Reuben for real must have been great. Seeing James for real less so 😉
      Having a laugh is a very very important part of the online and real experience of outdoor hobbies. Thats not to say doing your own thing isnt fun but now and then a really good natter and discussion is a great experience.
      So it looks like opinion is split with Twitter then….very interesting. I dont know what that means but it matters not a jot 🙂

  7. I’ve got to agree with a lot of what you’ve said here, I have had a similar experience. The ability to talk to others with similar interests does make social media a useful tool.

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Very much so, with a few caveats. Blogs = safe and moderated. Twitter = potentially unrestrained and confrontational. Both excellent platforms in different ways

  8. good post, very similar to myself actually. Had a great love for the outdoors when younger, then work/family made me forget about it for close on 10 years, but in my mid thirties I rediscovered this love through the Walkhighlands website.
    I had a twitter account for a couple of weeks about 3 years ago but closed it as I didn’t think it would last. I thought at the time it was a fantastic idea – but now, I just don’t have the time myself. In fact I barely have time to keep my own blog updated.
    Blogging though is where Im happiest now. My own wee space to record my adventures, and also to follow others with similar interests. More effort goes into a blog than a forum or social network, and I prefer to use my limited spare time in reading blogs now than forums.

    (ps, hi… only recently come across your blog and now subscribed 🙂 )

    • backpackbrewer says:

      Hi David,

      many thanks for the reply and subscription 🙂

      Very similar indeed to my own experiences. I agree with you with regards to blogging. Its at your own pace and you can build upon it as time goes by. If you want to take a break, it will be there when you come back to it (a bit like a lot of hobbies that we all “own”).

      I really enjoy reading other peoples blogs although its “kid in a sweetshop” time and I just havent the time to read them all but do try to keep up to date with a couple of dozen or so.

      Some really great photos on your blog btw… 🙂

  9. Dan Simpson says:

    I might be a bit out of step, I have never been on twitter and use facebook sparingly. I have found outdoors magic pretty useful and it’s about the geekiest thing I partake in. I feel quite at home talking tripe with like minded people but I have gleaned some useful nuggets of there too.

    Through OM I’ve made my own tarp from a fabric of which I had no prior knowledge until OM, I’m currently making a caldera clone thanks to a bloke called Captain Paranoia, I’ve bought an axe and pack at really good prices from people who are happier to pass stuff on than make money on selling kit. I even heard about this blog on OM ; )

    I wonder if forums and blogs are like the walking mags ? I found mags incredible at first, hills and destinations I hadn’t heard of, an insight in to routes up mountains that look unclimbable, talk of bothies and wildcamps. But then after a time I became familiar with most of the hill regions and felt like the articles were just being regurgitated, so a few years down the line I don’t get much out of mags any more but if it weren’t for Trail I doubt whether I would have climbed Tryfan,Cnicht,Ben Arthur or wildcamped in the Cairngorms .

    • backpackbrewer says:

      the good thing is that everyone is different and gets different things out of the outdoors and the media that connects us to it. OM was awesome to begin with and still has its moments but a lot of the energy has gone out of it.

      I felt the same way about outdoor mags in that to start with everything was new and exciting. Now though, you are right, everything is just regurgitated. I had a look at some national park maps today and each one is just huge and should have enough walks to last for years. I think and suspect that they are getting lazy (the mags that is) which is a real shame. What they need are really keen and enthusiatic people to write for them

  10. Sam says:

    Just wanted to add my point of view here.. the best information about what and where to go in the outdoors.. wherever on the planet you may live.. isthrough personal Blogs..the big business Mags are just looking for advertisers.. whereas Bloggers with a personal perspective and insight into local areas give the best and most detailed information. The info is usually more insightful and useful.. as they are talking about something they love and places they have actually been.. so passing it forward is the best way to help those of a like mind.. so thanks to all you bloggers.. this is a bit new to me.. but I have descovered a whole new world reading personal blogs.. not only on subjects that I am actually knowledgeable about myself.. but about stuff I never knew I was interested in!

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