New MMBA Trail Guide!

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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby LuckyCharm4x4 » March 22nd, 2013, 8:02 am

This looks great so far. I've been looking for something like it for years now. I haven't read the entire thread yet or played too much with it, but how about a star rating system so that MMBA members can rank trails to see which ones would be worth riding?

Looks great though. I love it so far.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » March 22nd, 2013, 10:03 am

Rating systems are fundamentally flawed for many reasons. This article explains one of them: http://gigaom.com/2011/07/13/recommenda ... -research/

Another issue with rating trails is the diversity of riding styles. One person might love a slow, tight, technical trail, while another person hates it and would prefer a fast and smoother flowing trail.

Trails also change with time and weather, so a rating recorded now for a trail from a particular user might be a complete misrepresentation of their opinion of the same trail two years from now on a dry summer day.

Maybe a more useful feature would be to allow users to "tag" trails with key words ("smooth", "tight", "flowing", "sandy", "hilly", "flat", etc). That would both allow people to get a decent idea of what the trail is like by viewing the tags for each trail and make their own decision of whether they think it might be a good trail to ride, rather than relying on an average of other people's personal opinions expressed as a rating on a scale of 1-5. I could also allow trails to be searched/filtered by keyword tags.

Even this keyword tagging isn't perfect though. People have different personal opinions on what a "tight" trail is, what a "hilly" trail is, etc. So just because 5 other people tagged a trail as "tight" and "hilly", that doesn't guarantee that you will agree with their assessment. There's also the issue with the trail changing with time and weather that could cause older tags to become obsolete, but without any good way to "clean up" old irrelevant tags.

One feature I would like to eventually add, though, is the ability mark trails as personal favorites, and maybe also have a separate "wish list". I've already found myself browsing through the new trail guide, coming across a trail and thinking, "I'll have to remember to check this trail out sometime." Of course, I've already forgotten several of those trails. It would be nice if could just click an "add to wish list" button on a trail, and then later be able to somehow filter the trails to only show my "wish list" trails.

This info would most likely remain private to the user. I briefly considered that it might be good to show how many people have added each trail to their "favorites", but then I realized that it wouldn't really be an indication of how "good" a trail is, but more likely just a rough indication of how populated the area is around the trail.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » March 22nd, 2013, 1:29 pm

How about just some kind of free-form comments on each trail? This would provide a place for people to fill in details of the trail based on their own experience that are not already covered by the basic info about the trail. This is where people would mention things like "drains slowly, so avoid this trail after a heavy rain", describe whether the trail is tight & twisty, fast and flowing, has a lot of roots/rocks, etc, compare it to other trails (e.g., Potowatomi is like Pontiac Lake, but twice as long and with roots instead of rocks).

It would require us (the community of people writing the comments) be disciplined enough to keep these comments relevant to describing attributes of the trail that would be useful for someone deciding to try the trail for the first time. The comments would NOT be the place to discuss current conditions, arrange group rides, report trail issues, or carry on any kind of discussion. We would want to avoid any type of "rating" or "ranking" info, but instead focus on more objective observations about the trail that help others decide if it's something they'd like to drive across the state to experience based on their own preferences.

One advantage of this free-form comment approach is that it allows for self-correction of outdated info. For example, if the trail had poor water drainage issues in the past, and people have commented about it in the past, but now the drainage issues have been solved. Someone could easily add a comment such as "Some older comments complain about poor drainage, but those problem areas have been improved now and the trail dries up pretty quickly after rain."

A disadvantage is that it requires some sort of moderation to avoid "off-topic" comments. This could maybe be done with a system where users can "flag" off-topic or out-dated comments, and the comments get hidden after receiving a certain number of flaggings from users. This would allow the community of people that know each trail to self-police the comments about the trail, but still relies on people not misusing/abusing the flagging system.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby jonw9 » March 22nd, 2013, 4:17 pm

I forget, but isn't there a link back to the trail threads which is full of free form comments? Adding another location to check doesn't seem tremendously useful.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » March 22nd, 2013, 4:40 pm

The forum threads are intended to be a continuous up-to-date discussion of the current trail conditions, to say stuff like "I rode today and it was a bit muddy at mile marker 3, but otherwise good", or "there's a tree down 2 miles in from the trail head", or "I removed the that tree, the trail's all clear now". The existing forum threads are not useful for getting a general description of the trail.

What's being discussed here is a way for people to contribute additional generalized (not specific current conditions) details/attributes of the trail itself that would help others decide if it is a trail they would like to ride: "fast and flowy trail", "very tight and technical", "has a few log bridges and jumps", "there's a few steep and technical downhill sections that would be tough for beginners", "lots of roots and 1-2 foot drops", "smooth trail with very few roots/rocks", or "the intersection at post #5 is a bit confusing for first-timers. turn left there to stay on the trail", etc.

Theoretically, it shouldn't blow up into a 100 page long thread of comments on each trail, because each comment would only contribute additional important details about the trail that hasn't yet been mentioned in previous comments. It only takes so much to describe the important characteristics of a trail. It would be a group effort to describe the trail by people that actually ride the trail, to complement the "official" description of the trail. A description of the trail written by bikers for bikers.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby Loren » March 22nd, 2013, 9:16 pm

From my perspective, a first step that would avoid the moderation issues would be to provide access for trail coordinators to update descriptions, conditions, and other status for their trails.

A few years ago before the last refactoring, I had access through a simple form to maintain "open/avoid/... " status for our chapter trails along with a line of text elaborating on current conditions. While some trails were never updated, we updated status fairly frequently during the spring thaw. That status appeared in the index for trails, so it was readily visible. That ability to update was lost along the way, and the status removed from the trail guide.

I can't complain about the responsiveness that Steve and others have had over the years when I've emailed updates for our trails. Still, it requires an email and attention of two people to make these updates happen, and so they happen infrequently. For instance, I'm bothered by the difficulty ratings in the new guide for Island Lake but haven't gotten around to write an email yet. But if it was directly editable, I'd probably have taken care of it.

There's a google map of trails that I've seen where the open/closed/avoid status is surfaced as different colored icons on the google map. (I suspect that they generate the kml on demand from a database). If we added status, that would be a cool way to surface it at a glance.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby LuckyCharm4x4 » March 25th, 2013, 10:39 pm

UselessPickles wrote:Rating systems are fundamentally flawed for many reasons.


Joe Lampen does a good job of breaking it down. Maybe let voters effect only the "technical rating" column in his spreadsheet?

http://josephlampen.wordpress.com/2013/ ... l-ratings/
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » March 25th, 2013, 11:04 pm

I don't think we're talking about the general public voting on difficulty ratings. It was more about rating how "good" a trail is. And my term "rating system" was referring specifically to systems that allow the general public to all submit their own rating; not all rating systems ever.

Either way, it's impossible to enforce any rules/standards by which people will come up with their ratings (either for difficulty, or for "how good"). Especially the "how good" rating, since everyone has different subjective opinion on what makes a "good" trail, along with all the other flaws with public rating systems.

As for difficulty ratings, the IMBA already has guidelines for determining difficulty: http://www.imba.com/resources/maps/trai ... ty-ratings

It's probably best to leave the difficulty ratings up to trail coordinators, following those guidelines. They can get feedback from others and compare to other trails in the region as recommended by the guidelines. The benefit of limiting official control of the difficulty ratings to a small number of people, is that those people can coordinate with each other to ensure that difficulties are determined as consistently as possible across the state.
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby jonw9 » March 26th, 2013, 8:45 am

What about a system like singletracks.com that lets a person update the trail conditions?

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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » April 20th, 2013, 12:29 am

From what I understand, there's complications with a trail's open/closed status because it's really the land manager that has the authority to declare the trails open/closed. Since this is an official MMBA trail guide, we probably need to be much more careful about avoiding misrepresenting information about the trails (especially open/closed status) to maintain a good relationship with land managers. Websites like singletracks.com have no relationship with land managers to maintain, so they can allow all of the information about trails to be crowd-sourced, and will suffer no harm if the crowd provides information that disagrees with the land managers.


Completely different topic now...

The "MTB Project" is now in a "public beta" mode now, so everyone can check it out: http://www.mtbproject.com/

Compare and contrast to our trail guide. I can safely say that our trail guide has more complete coverage of Michigan trails :)
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby Loren » April 20th, 2013, 6:06 am

I had entered all the mcmba trails, but it was lost in the process...
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby c0nsumer » April 20th, 2013, 6:47 am

Loren wrote:I had entered all the mcmba trails, but it was lost in the process...


You mean in MTB Project? That sucks. :(
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby j35u5fr34k » August 15th, 2013, 12:47 am

Thank you for your hard work. My vote for mobile app!

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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby ryanmcg » August 27th, 2013, 5:18 pm

Feature request: Can I get a link to open a trail in Google Maps? Just a hyperlinked address would be swell. That way when I open it in GMaps, it shows up in the history on the mobile app later. That is all!
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Re: New MMBA Trail Guide!

Postby UselessPickles » August 27th, 2013, 5:56 pm

That feature already kinda exists. View details of the trail, then click on any detailed point of interest icon (MTB access, parking, etc). There will be a link to get directions to that spot via google maps.

We explicitly decided not to have a single location as "the" location of the trail and force you to choose which detailed POI you want directions to because many trails have multiple places that you might want to get directions to. We also chose not to make use of trail addresses because the address rarely takes you to where you want to be.
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