Having just completed the TransAmerica, I passed, overtook, was overtaken by, read about in guest-books and generally blog-and-twitter-stalked numerous other cyclists along the way. And I found I always wanted to keep up with how they were getting along on their own trip and where they'd got to etc.
It got me thinking (as a software developer) about how useful it could be to have some sort of 'cycle tourer tracking website'. Here's some general concepts:
- Account based (other social networking accounts could be used for authentication etc). You are in charge of what info is visible to others.
- Your profile could link to your other social networking accounts as well as your blog etc. Updates from any of these could be aggregated to your profile (twitter and facebook status updates, location check-ins etc). People could also contact (phone/email) you through your profile - according to your privacy settings of-course.
- Location updates could come from Foursquare/Facebook Places etc - where APIs permit - or directly (maybe through a mobile app etc?)
- You could view a map of a particular route and see what other cyclists are currently riding it and where they are. Or just see what cyclists are touring around a particular area.
The big thing for me is the last one - being able to easily follow the progress of other cycle tourers that I've met and see who I might bump into tomorrow etc.
The two main arguments against this concept are obvious:
- "Not another online profile to worry about"
- Privacy/security issues. How to restrict who can track where you are?
I guess if everyone used one particular location-tracking service (Foursquare/Google Latitude/Gowalla etc) then you could kind of just use that - but you'd have to have a way of sharing your details with other cycle tourers while at the same time being confident they are actually a cycle tourer and not posing as one for malicious reasons.
I could kind of envisage some sort of endorsement/joint initiative between the ACA and one of these services, perhaps even hosted on the ACA website - but the security issues still leave me struggling to see how it would be viable.
I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this. Is there a safe way of doing this kind of thing? Is it totally unrealistic? If not, how do you see it working? I'd definitely be interested in working towards a solution, if there is one!