, a new site aimed at creating a online, social-network aware, live tracking system using
Buddy Beacon api.
I tried using Instamapper once before without much success, so I was intrigued by Social Hiking's efforts.
The system, which is currently in alpha and open for testing, integrates Twitter, Twitpic, Viewranger GPS tracking, and other social networking tools. This allows you to post from the trail, and have tweets and twitpics assigned to a map. Your trail progress can be followed live on the Social Hiking website.
Here's the map of the "hike" I just got back from:
As you can see, my tweets and photos are tagged and geo-located. The nice thing about this is that it also includes responses to your tweets (if you choose), making it truly social.
You can view a more detailed map, with elevation and distance data here:
Setting up the system is still a little clunky, but this is not really any fault of Social Hiking. It requires three logins - on Viewranger, on Buddy Beacon, and on Social Hiking. I found integration between Viewranger and Buddy Beacon to be a little confusing at first - it's not entirely clear what settings need to be made, and takes a little fiddling until beacons are being sent and received, and the Social Hiking site is able to locate your position. Once it's up and running it's a piece of cake, and www.socialhiking.co.uk takes care of everything in the background.
This means that once you're sure everything is working, you can just head off and let things get on with it in the background. You can choose to set Viewranger to automatically upload beacons at set periods, or manually send them yourself. This is great; on this little walk I just let Viewranger auto-update my position. The disadvantage with this, of course, is battery drainage. Viewranger works in the background, so the GPS will drain the phone battery much faster.
For longer trips, manual updating is the way to go. You could choose to update just enough to provide a good trace of the route, turning Viewranger and the GPS on only when needed.
Twitter integration is automatic. You tweet, and it's on the map. Simple. The same for twitpic.
I really enjoyed using Social Hiking. It was fun to tweet while out, and communicate with friends and followers. In fact, I picked up several new followers on the way, which I think validates the concept of social hiking.
In recent weeks, I've very much enjoyed following
who has been posting from the trail. It creates a great feeling of being there in spirit. Social Hiking shows great promise in taking this new development further. I'd love, for example, to see short video files integrated into the auto-tweeting system.
I'm planning on trying it out again while in Lapland next week - where I just found out I'll have something else very exciting to play with!