Written by Nathan Cloud on Wednesday, 08 Feb 2006.
First off: I apologize that it has been so long since I reached out to my adoring public to let you know whats going on. Secondly: Winter? What happened? We have been riding almost every weekend, and I have to say that global warming is awesome in this context. It's too bad it's really just a happy path to our inevitable demise.
You probably already noticed our new comments and ratings system.
First off I separated the comments from the ratings. I felt doing so would yield more honest ratings. Call it honesty from anominity. Of course I still know who you are - so any ratings associated with me should naturally be 9's or 10's. You have been warned.
Comments on the other hand... well, they were very "ho hum". I originally designed them with efficiency and page size in mind. And this worked too well: not a helluva lot of comments were being left, and even worse, most of these comments were never being read. So I redesgned them to act more like a 'blog comments' system. I added limited bbcode support, topic reply notifications, ability to edit your own comments, and a simple threading/reply to comment interface.
In the end, I think they are much easier to use, a lot slicker, and from what I can tell - Crankfire comments are the new hotness.
I am even 75% ready to declare the ratings and comments classes stable and complete.
With the help of our members, I have a list of enhancements and new features for this site that I plan to tackle during these 'cold bikingless' months.
- Do radius searches for each trail in order to identify nearest hospital and bike shops: I have a hospital data-layer, and I have the functionality complete to do just that. However, I need to weed out all the hospitals that can't help broken bones and such (psychiatric wards, etc.), then I need to implement it.
- Previous/Next Picture dialogues when viewing pictures: Great suggestion, programming nightmare.
- Site search engine: Right now I use a little Google add-on that is not even close to being all inclusive. Started playing with a script called Phpdig. Stay tuned.
- Add a shoutbox for 'live' chat to the site: Live chat? People love it. Gonna give it a whirl and daisy chain it onto the forums.
- Adding videos to this site: People love videos. And I have a helmet camera.
- Trail Mapper: This is the biggin'. See below.
Trail Mapper Plans
Arguably one of the hottest applications ever written for the internet is our humble mapping engine. While it mostly works, it has some nasty limitations that really bug me. I designed Crankfire so all data contributed here can be immediately and dynamically viewed and manipulated - basically I did not want to have to take every track and waypoint and massage it into single maps. I put my mind at ease with these issues by telling myself that the demographic I was targeting was GPS users, and since they have GPS's and we distribute GPX data... It was all good. Sort of. Not really.
Ok, that is not the case. Every couple weeks or so I get an email on how to print the maps we generate here - and I have no good answer. Also, with some of our data sets getting quite large, some of you have noticed a certain lack of accuracy on the maps I generate. Overall, it just needs some good loving.
So I devised a plan. A 2 pronged plan. Thats right, prongs.
Prong A: Google Maps. Google Maps has an API that I have been playing with that allows me to do many wondrous things. I can show tracks and waypoints in the context of the incredibly slick Google Maps interface. I am also working on a GPS Route creator function (which only half works right now) - which will allow users to generate GPX GPS routes to upload into their GPS's right from good ole Crankfire.
Prong B: The Crankfire Mapper Rewrite. It pains me to do so, but it has to be done. It is going to hurt. And it might piss off my hosting. I am more or less planning to rebuild it from the ground up with an end result that will yield accurate maps, make prettier track lines (the dotted messes have to go), and to ultimately allow users to print nice maps.
So 2 map engines it will be. I like Googles Map interface too much to abandon it - and having my route creator dialogue almost done, I am thinking that could be an indispensable tool. On the flip side, we need topographic maps, printable topographic maps. So 2 map engines it will be. Hot times I tell you.
Otherwise and in conclusion
So we got some stuff going on here. The site is coming along, things are suprisingly active for the winter, and good times abound.
I also want to throw out that 2005 was a great year for Crankfire. I think we have a great community going here, a community that avoids taking mountain biking way too seriously - we are just a bunch of misfits in it to have a good time - and that's just the way it should be.
I would like to sincerely thank everyone or making this mess of a website what it is. I just press the buttons, you yokels all are what makes Crankfire what it is.
If anyone actually read everything up to this point, I offer you congratulations for getting this far through a lot of my meaningless ramblings. I also offer you my apologies for the headache you probably have.