+xReview of the Collection, Presentation and Housekeeping of Cruising Information
I have had a conversation with Jonathan Lloyd, recently returned to the UK from his circumnavigation. He said that the OCC Cruising Information had been valuable to him; he has suggestions for its improvement.
This is the latest of a number of conversations I have been privileged to have with our active members who are using the OCC Cruising Information contributed by others and themselves contributing updates.
My conclusion is that the time is ripe for an in-depth review of how the OCC collects and presents its Cruising Information. As each IT ‘platform’ change has occurred since the specially designed Cruising Information Community web site (2008) was closed, we have strayed further from the principle, established from a paid consultancy contributed by Robert Coles, that everything we have about a Cruising Area should be accessible through links from a single page – a ‘portal’ for that Area. Our stuff is now spread ‘all over the place’
as described in my attempt to show members where to find what on the web, published in the OCC Newsletter in June 2018 (copy of a draft attached – see pages 1 and 2 for what I mean by ‘all over the place’). Since then, the move to the new OCC forum, now on a separate web site, has made matters worse!
Jonathan and I discussed some of the principles that we feel must be applied if the OCC Cruising Information system is to deliver its full potential.
1. OCC Cruising Information must be “crowd sourced”, be open to the Ocean Cruising community at large and have some easy method for both members and non-members to contribute and update information.
The purpose of keeping the information open is to seek input from anyone who will provide it in order to improve the quality of the information; and this also is an attractor to the OCC web site which acts as a recruiting agent for the OCC. There has been pressure from a few members in the past that OCC Cruising Information should be restricted to paid up members. This would not achieve the above objectives and fails to implement the Value and Culture of the OCC as stated on the Homepage of the web site “Our membership as a whole has more experience offshore than any other sailing organisation and they are passionate about sharing it with like-minded people.”
2. Cruising Information should be presented in a format that delivers to the enquirer all the information he wishes to know about a Cruising Area on a ‘master’ page.
In IT jargon, this is known as a ‘portal’ for that Cruising Area. This should provide two types of information:
a. General information about a country, island or passage. Jonathan Lloyd has produced, as an example, the general information about Fiji. This is attached to this email and post.
b. Specific Information about locations – mainly anchorages and harbours.
3. Port Officer Information is a crucial source both type a and type b. information.
It is an aberration of principles 1 and 2 that this is kept separate from the rest of our Cruising Information. This appears to be the product of who is responsible for what on the General Committee rather than a logical presentation of information in way that is easily accessible to our cruising members. It may be necessary to edit out some names and addresses before this Information is moved to the public site.
4. Cruising Information on the Forum will only be used if it is easy to access.
Until recently the topic ‘Cruising Reports and Plans’ was at the bottom of the list of topics as presented on the Forum. It appears to have been recently moved to the top of the list which should result in greater usage.
5. Information should be easily accessed from icons on one map, and also via a site search engine and via global search engines.
a. We need a different colour or type of link icon to differentiate between general information and specific to location information. On the map, the master page covering general information is difficult to place; perhaps somewhere in the middle of the country it describes? Other icons need to obviously refer to information at precise locations.
b. The site search engine must be able to access for members ALL information held on the OCC sites about an area. This includes information on the Cruising Info Map, information on the Interactive Map (including Port Info), relevant flying Fish Articles, relevant members’ blogs and if possible list of members from the Club database who live there and have cruised there. This site search engine is necessarily a members’ only feature since it must address both the OPEN and PASSWORD PROTECTED parts of the site and the FORUM now on a separate site. It could include approved members’ blogs. A multi URL search engine is technically difficult, but software to do this has been available for some years.
c. We should clearly publicise the search feature on global search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo that will make those search engines find data solely on the OCC sites. To restrict the Google search to the OCC site Type in site: oceancruisingclub.org (space) followed by the place you are looking for (if more than one word, use double quotes) e.g. site: oceancruisingclub.org Vanuatu or site: oceancruisingclub.org “South Georgia”. Unfortunately, putting the forum on a separate site means that a separate search is necessary e.g.site: forum.oceancruisingclub.org “South Georgia”. It is hoped that moving the Forum to a separate site will in due course be seen as a mistake and that the Forum will be returned to the URL oceancruisingclub.org thus enabling one search action to look at all publicly available data and taking away the need for members to have multiple OCC passwords.
6. The date of the information must be clearly presented.
If possible, information should be displayed with the latest information displayed first.
7. In the more popular areas there may be too many reports, some of which are out of date.
We need to improve editorial input to review reports and delete those that are becoming out of date. Finding the right people with knowledge of the areas concerned will not be easy, but could be a task to be distributed amongst our network of Regional Rear Commodores, Roving Rear Commodores and Port Officers to either do it themselves or find local volunteers.
8. Methods for contributing information must be clearly stated and easy to achieve.
a. It is important that anyone looking at our Cruising Information can see on that page how to comment on and improve the information. This is the over-riding principle of a successful crowd sourced approach.
i. For non-members, any comment will need to be checked by a moderator before being published. A possible method is to show a Cruising Information response email address on each page.
ii. For members, a reply to a post on the Forum is effective. But even this, should be checked and georeferenced if necessary by a moderator.
iii. The ‘Submit Cruising info’ button is seldom used. It is hidden away on the members’ page menu under the unlikely heading ‘Members Details’.
b. We have a largely untapped resource in member’s blogs. Most of these are written for family and friends; but some contain very high-grade Cruising Information. We need a way to link specific pages of these blogs to the Cruising Information Map. Email exchanges with a local subject matter expert may be the best way to achieve this.
9. Exploit OCC Participation in the RCC Pilotage Foundation.
The Pilotage Foundation publishes cruising guides across the globe, see https://www.rccpf.org.uk
It welcomes contributions from OCC members both in the form of corrections & updates and also offers some appointments as Area Authors to OCC members. The OCC Cruising Information map reflects any contribution our members make to the Pilotage Foundation.
10. Prototype for Fiji.
Jonathan Lloyd has vey kindly agreed to act as editor for a prototype of a crowd sourced approach to assembling and publishing our Cruising Information implementing the above principles. He has produced an excellent ‘portal’ for Fiji containing general information and has the details of a number of ports and anchorages to supplement this.
May we request the General Committee to appoint a small number of people as a working group to implement a prototype of an improved Cruising Information system. This prototype would publish Jonathan’s information on Fiji. If the new approach is deemed successful we should implement it across all Cruising Areas. One approach to consider is to capitalise on our relationship with the Pilotage Foundation and possibly make contributions to this our primary means of providing Cruising Information. Other approaches, as suggested by our IT team, may give us a better way to go!
21st September 2019