I figured I'd provide an update here, given I started this topic nearly six years ago. After a couple years where life / work / kids / personal issues drastically reduced my capacity to get into the bush or engage in online forums, I've re-emerged. I decided it was finally time to put my money (or at least effort) where my mouth was and get the ball rolling on this. So I've created a forum for Australian canyoners that -- like Bushwalk.com -- will hopefully develop into a sustainable community of people whose shared knowledge and experiences can enrich our community. Below is a summary of what I'm hoping to achieve with it. I'd love it if people could check out the new forum (https://canyoning.org.au/forum/
), join it if you share the canyoning bug, and provide your thoughts on making it as strong and successful as this site has been for bushwalkers.
Imagine a community of canyoners, a place where skills, experience, knowledge and advice are shared freely. Somewhere accessible that introduces new people to our passion, ensuring they have the tools to do it safely, while also meeting the desires of more experienced people to discuss advanced techniques and equipment. And imagine it was a community capable of discussing important issues, debating points of difference, while keeping it respectful, polite, and friendly.
For several years I’ve contemplated what this might look like. There have been plenty of examples to look at, some of which seem to work well, while others fall flat. In many cases, my experience has been that they are not helpful, respectful, or effective.
In Australia, a few things have been tried. The old OzCanyons yahoo group was popular for many years, and while it was a useful resource, it had fundamental flaws. Not only did it bombarded your inbox with every post, but useful knowledge was lost in the sands of time, meaning the same arguments occurred time and again.
In more recent years, many people shifted to Facebook. Again, this came with problems, not least of which is the fact that it excludes anyone who doesn’t want to hand their personal information over to a company which has proven itself pretty untrustworthy. It also suffers from the standard weaknesses of social media: discussions are often heated and impulsive; people post without thinking; and important discussions quickly disappear, forcing people to ask the same questions over and over again.
The end result is our community has been left fragmented, disjointed, and ineffective.
I think the United States offers some interesting thoughts on how things could be improved. Not only are there some quite substantial canyoning (or canyoneering) forums providing examples of what can be achieved, but they’ve also led to the formation of a canyoneering association capable of advocating for the interests of recreational canyoners. Personally, I have found Canyon Collective particularly useful. Bogley, while very different in style, culture and approach, achieves similar things.
So what should an online canyoning community look like?
- It should be accessible, easy to find, and open to everyone;
- It should improve the skills and knowledge of canyoners, making our activities safer and more enjoyable;
- It should allow knowledge to build up over time, making it easy to access and find by new canyoners;
- People should be able to dip in when they have time and energy, and pull back when they don’t, without being bombarded with messages or missing out on important issues;
- It should be a place where we can discuss important issues and debate differences, but do so in a respectful manner;
- It should lead to a stronger canyoning community which has greater ability to advocate for our passion and the places we love;
- It should be positive and respectful, a place where people think before they speak, where they are considerate of others, and where they seek to build each other up; and
- It should have the long-term goal of leading to the creation of a diverse, democratic, and representative canyoning association.
Rather than just throw this idea out there, have some people say “I agree”, then have nothing happen, I decided to spend some time creating a rough starting point. That way you can see first-hand what I have in mind. From that simple starting block, if it’s useful, people who care about the project can take it over, using their skills to grow it into something more.
So here’s the very rough starting point: https://canyoning.org.au/forum/
Given my central goal was the creation of an accessible, respectful community, there are some key features designed to help make that happen:
- Most of the forum content is accessible to guests, so people can access important information without needing to know of its existence or being a member;
- Posting can only be done by people who have registered and understand that civility and thoughtfulness are compulsory;
- Real names are used in people’s profiles, making it harder to hide behind online anonymity to say things you would never consider in real life;
- Moderation ensures breaches of that culture are addressed, ensuring it is a safe, enjoyable place for all users; and
- It be run by a diverse group of canyoners, ensuring that it is truly representative.
I’m hopeful that this forum — or something else that provides this same outcome — will result in finally creating a more unified community of passionate Australian canyoners. By creating opportunities to share skills and experience, we can work together to build up our entire community.
I’m also hoping it might lead to the formation of a canyoning association which can advocate on issues important to canyoners. I’d love it if in a year or two I could hand this forum over entirely to the control of an elected association of Australian canyoners who could take it forward.
In the short term, can I ask a few things of you:
- Take a minute to have a look at the forum and provide feedback on how it might be improved;
- Share your own content, whether nice photos, trip reports, track notes, or useful advice;
Start asking questions, because if you’ve got one you can be sure it’s shared by many others;
- Let other canyoners know about the existence of a new forum; and
- If you share my passion for this concept, I’d love any offers to assist with moderation, design, or the technical side of things.
Hopefully this can be a starting point to help grow the community of Australian canyoners.