Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Here's the Pitch
DrC mumbles something supportive but wholly incoherent.
There is the sound of stataco typing as I bang away at the laptop for a few minutes punctuated periodically by, "Yes... yes!... YES!!!"
Now DrC looks up. In retrospect, I suppose my vocalizations were suspiciously similar to something more interesting to DrC than immigration regulations. "You okay?"
I nod vigoursly and start copying and pasting like a mad fiend. "Two '10 jumpers blogged it."
DrC's eyes narrow as he parses this out, "Two of the boats puddle jumping this year wrote about the immigration requirements in their blogs."
"But how do you know it's true?" he asks.
This stops me absolutely cold. After 20 years, there are few moments in which I feel that my husband and I are not in sync. Even rarer are there times where I feel the man is living on a completley different plant. And now, here in this little kitchen in suburban New Zealand, existence shimmers like a Scobby retrospective into two distinctive planes of existence. In one, research is conducted in libraries and with government agencies. Academics and intellectuals ponder the evidence, write their results, and dispense their knowledge in academic journals and printed books.
And then there is where I live.
In the world I live in, the wisdom of the crowds is almost inevitably better than the research of any individual. This is the world of Wikipedia, Yelp, Facebook, Digg, slash dot and Twitter. This is a place where when I want a Word template for product planning, I can simply ask the hivemind, and four arrive within the hour in my inbox. Now that doesn't mean the crowd is always right. The crowd can make monumental errors; lolcats comes to mind. It also doesn't mean that you should take as writ that everything you read on Wikipedia is correct. It's not. We all know that. However, I'd take a Wiki entry over most static books as a starting point. Start poking the referenced resources at the bottom of the entry, and now you're getting to some serious solid research.
I'd also take a blog entry from a fellow cruiser over a 10 year old cruising guide. Every time.
It's not the author's fault. I find the whole concept of cruising guide authorship challenging at best. Even if the area about which you are writing is your favorite haunting ground, there is no practical way to visit each marina and anchorage every year to update the book. For parts of the world that are practical to visit only as a way point on a much longer, non-replicable journey, such as crossing the South Pacific or transiting the Panama Canal, there is no way at all that the author can maintain the accuracy of the content. Sure, the charts may stay essentially the same. Information about the facilities, paperwork, or local ameneties are too fluid to maintain.
This is why I have been monitoring with such glee the introduction of tools such as Active Captain and Wikitravel. I really want these efforts to succeed. There are, however, two problems with these resources:
* South Pacific - So far, no one has really started contributing to the South Pacific part of the map. Since this is where we are going, I feel like we're stuffed.
* Portability - Neither company/project has come up with a way to copy the entire database down to a local laptop, let alone print the relevant bits. Cruisers halfway across the Pacific have lousy Internet access.
So here I am, pouring over the three "must have" cruising guides for our Puddle Jump, and at least once every 10 minutes I slam them down on the table and retreat to Google. And when I can't get my question answered by the experts, I find that Quest or Tenaya or Ken and Cathy answered it. Browsing the blogs of this year's jumpers, I'm able to answer even the most changeable, challenging questions. All it requires is hours and hours of browsing, reading, trolling, and googling. And a constant connection to the Internet.
"What the hell are we going to do when we get there? No Internet." I've leaped past explaining to my husband his ludditic handicap; Twenty years has at least taught me that much.
"Write a book."
And at that moment, my lover redeems himself and proves why I used his genetic code to make the girls, "Well, put it online. Give it to next year's folks to maintain."
Wow. That could work. I could crowd source it. I could make it interactive. It could have a user forum and downloadable pages and people could print it using an on demand printer if I put into a PDF format and I could add links and there would be amazon affiliate links and a twitter feed and a faceboscr.a.bajkafd.cvja....*cough*
So rather than do anything useful for the rest of the day, I do what every good social media wonk does, I go buy the domain.