Click and you are running the Capitol Mile. Click and you are off-road biking at Cambridge's Cam-Rock Park. Click and you are hiking urban terrain. Click again and you are fishing.
Welcome to MyOutdoors.net. Launched in Madison this summer, MyOutdoors.net is a powerful, map-based journaling site where users can post descriptions and images of their outdoor experiences. The site also employs Google Earth technology to generate maps of users' activities, once they have plugged in the relevant GPS coordinates.
The brainchild of brothers Dale and Brian Beermann and their friend Alex LeClair, MyOutdoors.net was built in Madison but is already displaying its potential as a global resource. The site's 12 recreation categories include biking, caving and climbing, as well as hiking, horseback riding, hunting and paddling. More may be added as the site evolves.
MyOutdoors.net was conceived by LeClair, 26, an English and communication arts graduate of UW-Madison who now works at the Madison Public Library while pursuing his English teacher's certificate. 'The social networking Web sites like Friendster and MySpace were inspirations,' he explains. 'But the idea clicked when someone showed me pictures of a hunting trip.'
At a party last New Year's Eve, he pitched the idea to Dale Beermann, 26, who specializes in digital graphics. Beermann and his 24-year-old brother, Brian ' a Web programmer who develops Internet services for UW Credit Union ' both hold undergraduate degrees in computer science from UW-Madison. Dale also took a master's in computer science from the University of Virginia.
The brothers grew up in Ithaca, N.Y. 'Both of us did a lot of mountain biking,' says the older Beermann. They also skied, hunted and fished.
Dale demonstrates the site's capabilities on his Dell notebook. Here is someone's three-day hiking foray in Wyoming's Wind River range, rendered on a map in three dimensions. Beermann adjusts the perspective to bring the viewer down through the mountains and onto the trail. Clicking on a campsite brings up the latitude, longitude and elevation, along with a journal entry and a photo of the spectacular setting.
So far the site has logged about 50 entries, which include the recent Run for the Rivers 10-kilometer race in Verona, a West Virginia whitewater rafting trip and a walk across Borneo. Entries can include various kinds of information: Race registration details and start times, for example, or fishing and camping regulations. Visitors can download GPS data from the site to their receivers or import it into their own mapping software.
MyOutdoors.net has impressive potential for hosting journals and maps from people's experiences around the world, as well as at nearby events like southwest Wisconsin's grueling Dairyland Dare bike race, the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race from Cable to Hayward, or Madison's own Paddle & Portage canoe race.
The Beermann brothers are engaged in a grassroots marketing campaign and soliciting uploads by word of mouth. And they're still working on the site itself, conceiving new tools and features. Dale Beermann foresees a time when MyOutdoors.net requires little maintenance and becomes more or less self-sustaining. 'We don't want to exert a lot of control over the site,' he observes. 'We like the idea that it's user-driven.'
He hopes the site will one day generate a modest advertising revenue stream to compensate them for the hundreds of hours in time and effort invested in the project. But that is not their sole ambition. 'If we can get a few more people outside doing these activities,' Beerman says, 'fantastic.'