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Topic: Bicycle Touring [change]
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


If you have a question that is not answered here or in the Help Index, then please contact me.

Table of Contents


About the website

Who are you?

My name is Neil Gunton, and I am the founder, developer and administrator of this website.

What's this all about?

This is a community website dedicated to Bicycle Touring, with content from many different people from all around the world. You can read more about the website on the About page. You can also read about my plans for topicwise (the expanded topics website) in the Topicwise Overview article.

Why are you doing this?

It started out as a hobby, a simple journal of my own bicycle trip across America back in 1998. I then decided to allow people to post their journals, and it just grew from there. I continue to do this because I think it's a good thing to have in the world. As the years have gone by, I have expanded the website code to include other topics.

How did you make this website?

It is implemented using wholly Open Source tools. I am a software developer; all the application-level code on the site was developed by me. See the bottom of the About page for more details on the tools used.

How can I help?

There is a Donation page where you can help keep the website up and running. Running a site like this takes quite a bit of time and money, so everything is appreciated.

You can also help by supporting the sponsors who purchase ads on the website. By visiting their websites and making use of their services, you will be helping this site - especially if you remember to tell the sponsor where you saw their ad. The more people they hear are coming from this website, the more likely it is that they will renew their ads in future.

Why should I donate?

Developing and maintaining this website takes up a lot of my time. Many people assume that this is just a hobby for me; it's true that's how it started out back in 2000, but now I find myself spending more and more of my days administering the server, fixing problems, helping users, policing spam and other abuse, developing new features etc. It's difficult to do this while still having to pay rent, buy food and take care of the other necessities of life. You, the community, can help me by making voluntary donations, either occasionally or by signing up for a regular subscription (through paypal, or through a bank that supports scheduled automated payments by check).

The website will always be free to use. This is an attempt at a new way of doing business - I provide a useful service, and in return people who use and enjoy the service pay me whatever they are able and willing to. Nothing is coerced, and everybody is happy! If you cannot afford it for whatever reason, then no problem - enjoy the website!

How much should I donate?

People frequently ask me how much they should donate. Another comment is that I should post some kind of "suggested donation". I don't think this would be a good idea, because there really isn't any "right" amount. It's whatever you feel like! If you can't afford it, or simply don't feel like it, then the right amount for you is actually zero, and that's perfectly fine with me. Some people will donate, some won't, but it's not any kind of competition to see who's the most worthy or righteous. Some people are on a fixed income, or out of work, or students, or sick, or simply not having much in the way of "spare cash" at the moment... whatever, it really doesn't matter. If you feel like contributing then it's very much appreciated, and if not then no worries! Some people give $5, some $10, or $20, or $50, or even more. There is no "right" amount - it's whatever is in your heart. Thanks!

Why don't you sell merchandise - T-shirts, mugs etc?

People also frequently suggest all kinds of things that I could sell - stickers, mugs, T-shirts, jerseys and so on, in order to raise money for the website. My response to this is that I don't really want to be in the business of selling trinkets; it's just not something that I find attractive. I already run the website, and fulfilling orders of merchandise would require more workload - keeping track of orders, packing materials, postage, returns... it's not trivial. I am in the website business, not the T-shirt business. Sorry if that seems unreasonable, but my other thought is this: It's always very easy to suggest things that other people should do. Consider for a second if you were doing something like this, and someone suggested doing something completely different in order to help support yourself. It sort of implies that what I'm already doing (running the website) somehow isn't worthy of support in its own right - I need to do more on top of that in order to make a living. I don't agree with this; I think that I provide a service by doing what I am doing - providing the website as a service to all. This is what I'd rather be doing, not packing boxes. That's not to say that this isn't a completely understandable suggestion - it's just not one I personally find attractive.

Why don't you charge for use of the site?

Another big suggestion that people send my way is that I charge users to post journals. I will never do this; I want the site to remain free and open to all. I believe there is far more goodwill to be gained through letting people have free and open access than there is to be had from trying to squeeze pennies from people simply in order to host their journals. Besides, this business model would be very fragile - the Web is such that it would produce pressure for some bright kid to make their own website which does pretty much what this one does (at least on the surface) and then make it free. On the Web, there will always be someone coming along and trying to undercut your business model. So by making this site free, I pre-empt that whole thing. I feel much better simply having people pay me whatever they think the service is worth, than trying to enforce a system of coerced payments.

Finally, a system where people have to pay to have their journals hosted here would inevitably result in many journals being unpublished simply because their authors were unable or unwilling to keep up payments over time. What about 10 years down the road? Who wants to still be paying after that amount of time? It would be very sad to have to unpublish works that should really be up for posterity. All in all, I think the voluntary model is best in the long run.

Why not just support the site through ads?

The last big suggestion people keep sending me is that I should simply put lots of ads on the site and support myself that way. Well, I do already do that - see the Sponsors page for the current ads, and see the Corporate page for how to become a corporate sponsor (i.e. post an ad). I did the ads as a kind of experiment, to see if I could get decent companies which are relevant to the readers of the site to advertise here. However this is not easy; most companies are either too small to be able to afford advertising (i.e. one or two man shops), or else too big to talk to someone like me (they already have big marketing departments and I simply don't even show up on their radar). The sweet spot is the medium sized company that is big enough to afford a few hundred dollars a year for an ad, and where I get to talk to a real person, and where that person is enlightened enough to have either already heard of me or else understand what I bring to the table. It's not trivial, particularly if they haven't heard of me. Cold calling is not easy at all! And so, I have discovered that I really don't want to be in the advertising business.

Advertising is one of the revenue streams that I am pursuing, and I think it is acceptable because users of the site can simply switch the ads off if they don't like them (see the Options page). This is another benefit of running my own ads, rather than farming the task out to a third party ad network. I tried that (with Google Ads) and I didn't like the results - there were lots of completely irrelevant ads showing up on the site, which looked pretty much like spam. I didn't like it one bit. Plus, I could see it wasn't going to bring in much money at all. So I developed my own ad system (wasn't that hard) and now companies can post their ads directly with me, cutting out the third party. So I get to vet the companies and their ads, and only accept those that look authentically interesting to the readers of the site. This way everybody wins - the website readers get relevant (even useful) ads, the advertisers get an interested and focused audience, and I get revenue.

How can I cancel my subscription?

If you signed up for a regular donation via PayPal, then it's very easy to cancel this - just go back to the Donations page and look for the 'Cancel subscription' button in the subscriptions section.

Using the website

What do the gold stars () mean?

These signify journals and articles which have been featured on the front page. You can click on the star to go to the page where the doc is featured. Features are selected weekly based on quality, so a gold star is an indication of writing excellence, and can be one way to find good reading. In the member directory, gold stars are listed next to the published count for the authors. The number of gold stars signifies the number of features they have had. You can browse the past and present featured journals. You can also browse the past and present featured articles.

What do the red, green and black asterisks (* * *) mean?

Content that is new or has been updated in the last day is flagged with a red asterisk (*), and stuff that's changed in the last week has a green asterisk (*), and a black asterisk means an update within the last month. This is just a visual aid to make the recently updated content stand out a bit more. When you see an asterisk after a person's name, this is an indication that they joined recently - within the last day, week or month respectively.

Why do email addresses on the site look so strange - for instance, 'someone at example dot com'?

This is an anti-spam measure, which stops Spambots from harvesting email addresses so easily. When email addresses are in the usual "username@example.com" format, this makes them very easy to scan for by the spambots. Thus everyone who posted their email address somewhere on the website would be at risk for getting a ton of spam as a result, since this site is a big spambot target (as I can see from the daily server logs, trust me). So, I have written code to automatically scan the web pages before they go out to browsers, and reformat email addresses to be in a form that makes them harder for spambots to spot, but humans can still read and reconstruct as proper email addresses.

Why do changes sometimes not appear immediately?

The web server has a proxy front-end, which caches (saves) web pages for performance reasons. This is because all the journals and message boards are generated dynamically from a database, using Perl scripts. Generating a page is a relatively "expensive" operation (in terms of processing time), and it helps to save the resulting HTML page so that if someone else requests the same page, then it doesn't have to be redone all over again.

Obviously if a journal is updated then we want to get the latest version of the page, and usually this happens automatically. However there may be times when you see an old version of a page or journal. This is probably because you are using an old version of a link. If you bookmark a journal, then your browser will always request the same URL, because it is saved. However the website generates new versions of URL (links) whenever a page is updated. The old links will still work, but they may go to an older version of the page. If you want to get the latest versions, then go to the "What's New" page and use the links there.

Why do the links change? Because this is the only way to bypass the old versions of pages. What the server does is to add an "mtime" (modification time) onto the end of links. The mtime is non-functional as far as the webserver is concerned (i.e. not used for anything), but it serves to make the link look different to the proxy, so that when the page is updated, it looks like a different URL and the proxy will fetch the new version.

So for example, if you look at the link for a particular journal, you will see that at the end of the link there is "v=xxx", where xxx is a hexedecimal number (base 16). The number is actually simply the version of the page. If the journal is updated, then this number will change. If you use the new version value then you'll get the most up-to-date version of the page; the old value may result in the older version. Pages are cached by the proxy for varying times, depending on when the journal was last updated. Journals which were last updated a long time ago are cached for longer, whereas journals which have been updated more recently are cached for shorter times.

All web pages have an "expiry" time, which tells the cache (and your browser) how long it can hold the page before re-getting it. So the server sets the expiry times for pages according to how recently the journal was updated. If you go to the What's New page and follow the links there, then you should see the latest versions, since the What's New page has an expiry time of about one minute, and so is regularly updated.

This doesn't really matter for most situations, you don't have to be aware of it - but it may be interesting to you if you are curious about the technical aspects of how the server works. If you'd like more information or have more questions about this, then please feel free to contact me.

Is it possible to turn off the ads?

Yes, you can turn off the sponsor ads (which are shown at the top of many pages on the site) anytime by going to the Options and unchecking the 'Display sponsors?' checkbox, then click 'Set options'. You need to have browser cookies enabled for this to work. There is no penalty for doing this; it's simply a courtesy feature for users who really dislike ads, or for when you're using a smaller display (e.g. laptop) and need the screen real estate. The rest of the site will function exactly as before.

You can still view the current website sponsors and donors anytime by clicking on the Sponsors tab in the main navbar. Since the ads help to support the website, it would be great if you used them to find good companies when you're shopping for stuff. Unlike most sites, which use large, generic ad networks, this ad system was developed by me specifically for this site, so you won't see any spam or inappropriate content here. The ads themselves are personally vetted to make sure they are relevant to the community, so the ad quality should be a bit higher than usual. There is no "click counting", so I don't gain anything by having people click on the ads. However if you do end up buying something from one of these vendors, then it would help if you mentioned where you saw their ad. Then they'll know the ad is useful, and will be more likely to renew in the future. But - to get back to the original point - turn them off by all means, if it makes your experience of the site better; there's no negative connotation to doing this.

I tried posting a link to a pic on another website, and it doesn't display. Why?

Remote image link blocking is something I implemented in the server config to stop bandwidth leaching - that's where people embed images on other websites (using the IMG tag), which are actually hosted on my website. The images are embedded in the other web page, and so look like they "live" on the other site, but they are actually leaching my bandwidth since the image is loaded from my server automatically every time someone loads the other site's page. It's something that can be a problem if the other website has a lot of traffic - it saps my resources and slows down the server. The solution is to configure my webserver to detect images being linked from abroad (via the 'referer' http header, if the referer is from crazyguyonabike then it's a locally linked image, if it is another site then it's being remotely linked), and simply forbid those requests.

This is a policy that many webmasters implement, at least the ones who pay attention to their bandwidth and have the ability to do it. Most users aren't even aware of the issue, as far as they are concerned they just copy and paste an image, they have no idea what's really happening. So I don't really blame anybody, it's just one of those things I do in self defense to keep other sites from randomly destroying my bandwidth.

It's better if people simply post the clickable link to the web page in question (not the image, the actual surrounding page where the image lives). Then they get to see the context and browse the rest of the journal if they so wish.


Registering

Why register?

Registration is free, and gives the following benefits:

  1. You can post and edit your own content - journals, articles, forums, reviews, classifieds, resources, pics, maps etc.
  2. After an initial wait period, you will be able to participate in the ratings (the wait period is to prevent abuse).
  3. You can post a profile bio, including pics, to tell people about yourself.

Basically, registration creates an id for you on the website, which is like a passport to being able to create and edit your own content. This is purely a mechanism that allows you to do stuff - if there was no registration, then there would be no way to tell that you are you, when you come back to edit your own journal. When you log in, you enter a username and password (which you choose at time of registration) which identifies you and allows the website to let you edit your journals, but not anybody else's.

You do not need to register if all you want to do is post on the guestbook of a journal that you are following; just enter your name and email on the posting form. But if you do register then you'll be able to edit and delete your own posts, and also add pics and maps if you want to do that; also, when you are logged in, your name and email are pre-filled in for you on the guestbook posting forms, which makes the whole process much faster and more convenient for you.

Some people are paranoid about the whole concept of registering, since they worry about getting spam or having their personal information sold to marketers, or being "tracked" or scammed for other purposes. Please be assured that I will not release or sell your email address or other private information to anybody (unless there is some kind of legal requirement that forces me to do so - but I won't ever do it for marketing or other profit-driven motives). And I will only track someone's activity on the website if they are being a nuisance - otherwise I have absolutely zero interest in tracking anybody... trust me, I have better things to do than watch server logs all day long! The only reason some websites do user tracking is for marketing purposes, and I don't do any of that. You can read more about all this on the Privacy Statement page.

How do I register?

Click on the Register link on the left side of the front page. Also see the main Help section on Registration for more details.

How do I log in once I've registered?

Once you have registered, a confirmation email is sent to you. This contains a special verification link that you need to click on in order to verify and activate your account. This is necessary to ensure that you are able to receive email from the website, and also to discourage spammers and scammers. You only need to do this once. If you don't see the email within a minute or two, then check your spam filters and bulk mail folders - it may have been diverted by your email provider.

To log in, click on the Log in link on the home page. Alternatively, you can click on My at the top of the page, and you'll be taken directly to the login screen, where you enter the username and password you chose when you registered.

I forgot my username or password!

Go to the Login page, and then look to the right of the password box for "Forget your username or password?". If you click on this link, then you will be asked to enter the current email address on your account, and your username and a new temp password will be automatically sent to that address. If you no longer have access to the email address on your account, then contact me and I will try to help. Tell me whatever you can about yourself (including, ideally, the last email address I would have on record for you), so I can find you in the database.

I reset my password but still can't log in.

If you used the 'forgot password' option described in the previous section and are still having problems logging in, then there are a couple of things that could be causing this.

First of all, remember that every time you use the 'forgot password' option, a completely new password is generated and stored in your account. This means that if you use the 'forgot password' option repeatedly, only the last one is valid, since it overwrites all the previous ones.

Second, make sure your browser is not set to remember form input (where it pre-fills in forms for you). This is supposed to be helpful, but it really ends up tripping people up when it comes to passwords, since the browser will "helpfully" fill in the old password for you - however the password box doesn't show what's in it (usually it just shows asterisks), so it's not obvious to the casual user what happened. Someone who is not all that familiar with computers might not realize that what's been put into the password box is not right - they tend to assume that "computer knows best", but in this case it's not true! Your computer is remembering the old (now invalid) password. So if your browser is doing this, you need to make sure you clear whatever's in the password box before entering the new one. Actually, you really should turn this feature off, since it causes more problems than it solves. If you never have to remember your passwords when you go onto websites, then you will tend to eventually forget those passwords - whereas frequent use tends to help you remember them more easily. It's really a case of "use it or lose it". So please turn off this feature in your browser, if it is currently enabled.

The other main reason for not being able to log in is that you never confirmed your registration in the first place - when you register, it's essential that you click on the link in the confirmation email, since this is what activates your account and enables you to log in. If you don't do that, then you will never be able to log in, no matter how may times you use the 'forgot password' option.

The final reason why people tend to not be able to log in is that their browser is not passing cookies for some reason. You need to make sure that your browser has cookies enabled (most do these days) - and also that there are no weird "security" modules that might prevent it from setting cookies just for this website. If you are having very strange issues, then it might be worth downloading and trying out an alternative browser, to see if this is in fact a browser issue. Usually people seem to have problems with Internet Explorer, so if you're using that (a bad idea in general anyway, because of all the security vulnerabilities associated with it) then you might try downloading either Firefox or Opera - both excellent browsers which are very easy to install, and are usually faster than Internet Explorer, and with better features and fewer security issues to boot.

If you are sure you confirmed your registration, and have tried different browsers, and are still having problems logging in, then by all means contact me and I'll try to help - but to save me time, please do make sure to try these ideas first. In almost all cases, it's one of the issues outlined above.

How do I logout?

Click the Log out link on the left side of the home page. Alternatively, go to My in the navbar, then click on the Logout button.

How can I change my password, email, bio etc?

Go to My > Account. Here you can change your username, real name, password and email address. If you want to change your profile (bio) then go to the 'My' page and you'll see buttons there for editing the profile.

How can I delete my account?

Go to My > Account and scroll down to the bottom of that form, you'll see a 'Delete account' link. Click on that, and you'll be taken to a page which lists all the content that will be deleted if you confirm the operation. It's important to realize that this is immediate, complete and irreversible, so don't do it hastily, especially if you have significant content posted on the site! For your security, this action requires you to enter your password again. Please think twice before deleting in the heat of the moment - it's easy to be impulsive and then regret it the next day.

Also please note that if you registered with your real name but now just don't want it to be visible to Google, then there's no need to delete your account - it's possible to edit your name under My > Account. If you do this, then you can even retroactively apply the change to past posts, which will erase any connection to your real name. If you do this then please first read the section in the Help on Real Names vs Pseudonyms.


Journals and Articles

What's the difference between a journal and an article?

Journals are personal diaries that describe tours or other events that occur over time. Articles are more for timeless reference pieces that do not usually relate to a particular timespan. Functionally they are identical, except that journals have some additional information relating to dates and possibly distance (for tour journals). So for a journal, you can set the start and end date for the journal as a whole, and set a date (and possibly distance) for each page. Other than that, journals and articles are pretty much the same in terms of functionality. They are distinguished mainly because journals and articles just seem to be distinct types of document - one describes events that actually happened in the real world, whereas the other covers everything else.

How do I find a journal by someone I know?

If you know the name of the author, then go to the Directory (click on "Directory" in the top navigation bar). You should be able to find the person by their first or last name, or username.

How can I contact a journal author?

Authors can be contacted through their journal guestbooks. Each journal gets its own guestbook, which is simply a message board dedicated to that journal. You can post messages here which will be seen by the author. Authors are usually automatically notified by email when someone posts a message in any of their guestbooks.

When you're reading the journal in question, click on the "Guestbook" link in the navigation bar at the top of the page (the navigation bar is the colorful menu of options which is at the top of every page on the website).

Please note: If you don't get a reply to a message you posted in a guestbook, then don't write to me (the webmaster) asking if I can get in touch for you. Any message that you posted in the guestbook will have already been forwarded to the only email address that I have - namely, the one that they registered with. So if the person didn't reply then there's really nothing more I can do. There are hundreds of journals on this website, and I really do not have time to chase down authors for you. Also, I do not give out people's email addresses.

I can no longer find a certain journal - what happened to it?

If a journal is left in an unfinished state for more than a couple of months then it is treated as "abandoned" and will eventually be "unpublished" (hidden so that only the author can see it). Before we get to that point, I try to contact the authors via their registered email address (which is usually the only contact info I have). I ask if they are planning on finishing. If I get a response, then they get more time - I know that everyone has busy lives, so that is not a problem. But if I get no reply, then the journal is taken offline.

I do this because incomplete, truncated journals are frustrating for readers, who get into the story only to find that it suddenly cuts off without any explanation. This, as you can imagine, is extremely irritating - like having the last few pages of a book you're reading torn out. Naturally, they want to know what happened. Is the author ok? Did they make it? Are they still alive? So then the readers pester me, and I have to waste my own time explaining the situation.

So if a journal has been unpublished, then this generally means I have already tried and failed to get in touch with the author. If the only email address that the author registered with doesn't get any response, then there's really nothing else I can do. If they do come back then they are perfectly free to log in and republish the journal and finish it off. Be assured that unpublishing is not the same as deletion. It simply hides the journal from view, to keep the site uncluttered with unfinished works.

Please remember that there are many authors on this site, and I do not have a personal relationship with every one of them. People frequently register, create a journal, write a bit, and then simply disappear. If a journal is abandoned and all I have is an email address (which gets no response) then I really have no choice but to take the journal down. Otherwise the website would be a real mess, with lots of incomplete diaries.

Finally, please do not ask me to try to get in touch with someone on your behalf, unless it is a true emergency - I really do not have time to act as an email forwarder, and I do not give out people's email addresses.

How do I change the way pictures are displayed?

Go to the Options page. You can choose to view the pictures as thumbnails, small or large size, depending on the speed of your internet connection and screen size. For a slow dialup line you might want to choose thumbnails, because this means less data being downloaded, which means faster page load times. The 'small' option is a middle option that is good for most people as a default - it generally displays pics at around half their original size (or full size if the pics were small to start with). The 'large' option is for people with fast broadband connections (DSL, cable, T1 and higher) and large monitors. The option you choose is then set as a browser cookie.

Is there a way to navigate the journals without using a mouse?

There are hotkey shortcuts defined for the 'first', 'prev', 'next' and 'last' links in journals and articles. Use Alt+f for 'first', Alt+p for 'prev', Alt+n for 'next' and Alt+l for 'last'. Different browsers implement this behavior slightly differently; in Mozilla and Firefox, using Alt+f will follow the link automatically with the one keystroke. However Internet Explorer only puts the focus on the link, rather than actually following it. So then, in IE you need to press ENTER to follow the link. This means, for example, to go to the next page, press Alt+n and then ENTER.

There are two sets of the journal navigation links: one at the top and one at the bottom of the page. The 'first' and 'prev' hotlinks are on the links at the top of the page, while the 'next' and 'last' hotlinks are associated with the links at the bottom. This is relevant because the browser will "go" to the link in question when the hotlink is used. So when you are going to the next page, you are more likely to already be at the bottom of the page, which means it's probably better for the browser not to jump back to the top before following the link.


Forums and Guestbooks

How can I reply to someone who left a message on a forum or journal guestbook?

Click on the 'Reply' link on the message that you want to reply to. The person who you are replying to will usually be automatically notified of your reply (unless they have switched off email notifications). If you check the little checkbox which says "Show email?", then this will include your email address in the notification email that is sent to the person you're replying to. They can then see your address, and use it to contact you directly via email if they want to.

When you post a message, your email address is stored in the database, but not displayed on the website. Then, if someone replies to your message using the "Reply" option, you will be automatically notified. You can switch this off when posting by unchecking the 'Reply notifications' checkbox. If you don't see the 'Show email' checkbox while posting a reply, then that means the person you are replying to has switched off reply notifications (people do this sometimes to lessen their email load).

Is it possible to send someone a private email on the forums or guestbooks?

Yes - click on 'Reply' for one of the messages by the person you want to contact, then scroll down to the notes at the bottom of the posting form. Right at the end of the notes, you should see a link for sending a private email. For privacy reasons, you cannot see their email address; you just fill out a form with your details, and the email is sent behind the scenes to the address on file for that person. The email they receive will look like a normal email, and will be marked as 'From' you. So they will be able to reply directly to you via email in the usual manner.

Note that people sometimes change their email addresses over time, so if you try this with an older message (i.e. more than a year or two) then it's possible the email address on file won't still be valid. Also, increasingly spam filters prevent messages from getting through. So, email is not really a very reliable way to contact people these days. If you don't get a reply, then I'm afraid there's really not much I can do about it - your message has already been sent to the only email address I would have on file.

Please only use the private email option for messages that actually warrant being private - e.g. sensitive or personal contact information. Don't use the email contact system to carry on everyday discussions or reply with helpful hints etc - that is what the forums are for. When you take a conversation private, then nobody else can benefit from any wisdom being shared. More on this in the next section.

Why should I post on the website rather than use private email?

When you use email to ask a question or make a comment, it is only seen by the person you send it to. So any reply will also be private, which means that nobody else gets to benefit from any advice or wisdom that comes out of the discussion. On the other hand, if you post the question on the website, then many more will read it, and you may get answers from people who you never even knew were there. Also, when a discussion is public, then everybody gets to benefit from it. This is a community website, which means that it is largely built on the contributions of individuals like you. So it is in keeping with the community ethos to ask questions on the website (via the Forums and journal guestbooks) rather than privately via email. Shared knowledge is much more valuable than privately hoarded knowledge.

If you are concerned that a question posted on the website won't be seen, then don't be. In the case of the Forums, these message boards are watched by many different people on a daily basis. You greatly increase your chances of getting interesting answers if you post a question there. And if you are trying to contact a journal author, then leaving a message in their guestbook is the same as sending an email, since all guestbook messages are automatically forwarded to the author(s). Also, any reply posted on a Forum or guestbook will result in a notification email being sent to the person you are replying to. So there is litte danger of your reply not being seen.

The main reasons you don't see obvious email contact options for people on the website is twofold: First, I have found that many people will just automatically try to use email rather than the guestbooks or forums, which is negative for the reasons stated previously (in addition, replies sent via email tend to make the website look "dead", since the email reply doesn't show up on the website, and so it looks like nobody replied at all). Second, I have also found that when email contact forms are available, then spammers and scammers tend to find these and use them to send junk mail. So, the answer to both of these issues has generally been to disable email contact forms.

If you really do have a private question or message for someone, then you can always post a message in their guestbook or reply to one of their forum messages (using the 'Reply' option at the top of the message you want to reply to), and tell them that you would like them to contact you by email. If you do this, then make sure to check the 'Show email?' checkbox on the posting form, so that they can see your email address in their notification (usually your email address is not shown anywhere - even in this case, it will only be seen by the person you're writing to). Then they can use this to send you an email directly.


Resources

The Resources section of the site is for just this purpose. It's a database of links to all kinds of websites, travelogues, businesses and shopping. The only restriction is that these links be directly related to Bicycle Touring. To post a link, go to Resources and then click on Post new entry.


Classifieds

How much does it cost to post an ad?

Nothing. Posting ads is free. However there is a voluntary "honor system" where you can donate if you found the service useful. This would be much appreciated, and will help keep the website running.

What do I do once my item has been sold?

You can simply log in and delete your ad. You can find your ads by going to My -> Classifieds. Display the ad, then click 'Edit', then Delete. You can also make an ad hidden from public view if you want to just take it offline temporarily. Do this by editing the ad, and then unchecking the 'Visible' checkbox.


Editing Journals and Articles

What restrictions are there regarding what kinds of journals we can put up?

This website is primarily for bicycle touring journals and articles. As long as the article or journal is mostly related to bicycle touring, it's ok. Unfortunately other kinds of trip do not really belong here. Examples of journals which I would rather not see might include trips where you traveled somewhere by car and then did a little biking (but the main bulk of the trip was via car). Many cyclists (myself included) are more than a little anti-car, and so these kinds of accounts would not be appropriate here. If you do some interesting rides once you're at your destination then those trips could be put up, but people don't want to read about your car road trip. An exception to the rule is airlines, trains etc - bicycle tourists often have to transport themselves to their destination using other means, so some discussion of this stuff is perfectly fine. I just want the main point of the trip to be about bicycle touring, not some other mode of transport. Also, if you are crazy about fly fishing or some other hobby and you do a lot of it on your trip then that's ok too - but try to think about what proportion of your journal will be dedicated to fly fishing, and how much stuff about cycling there will be. Keep in mind that people come to this site expecting to find bicycle tour journals and articles! If you have any doubts or questions about specific aspects of your journal, then please don't hesitate to contact me.

How do I create my own journal?

  1. Register (click on 'My' in the navigation bar, then 'Register').

  2. Login (click on 'My' again and enter your username and password that was sent to your email address)

  3. To create your journal, click on 'Create new journal' in the 'My' journals page.

  4. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!! Please do this. You waste my time if you don't bother to read the Help I've carefully put together and then mess it up. Just click on 'Help'. It's all there.

Can I import my journal from a Word document, or from some other website?

In short, no, not automatically. It is not trivial to go from the random formats that can be used in a word processor (or some other website), to that which is used on this website. What you can do, if you want to host the journal here, is to create the journal as usual, and use copy-paste to get the text over without having to retype it. You will need to format it into the structure which this website uses - generally, one day per page. Please note that it is NOT ok to simply copy and paste a large Word document into a single page! However you do it, you will still have to upload the pictures manually.

I can't see the journal I created!

Newly created journals are probably not published yet, so they are not visible unless you are logged in and looking at the 'My' page. This is to let you create and edit your stuff in private before letting the world see it. To see the journals you have created, simply go to the 'My' page (and login if necessary). You should see it listed.

How can I change the journal title, description, start date, end date, keywords etc?

Go to your journal table of contents, then click Edit (in the navbar menu at the top of the page), then Properties. This is the same form you used to create the journal. For more details, see the help section on Editing Journal Properties.

How do I add pages to my journal?

Please read the instructions for adding pages. In summary - just go to the Table of Contents for your journal, and click on the 'Edit' link in the navbar. This will take you to the Edit Contents page, where you will see a button that says 'Add page'.

The list of stuff I just added to one of my pages got collapsed into a single paragraph!

See the Help section on Auto Format. Basically you need to set this option to 'List' when you want to preserve single newlines in your text.

I get an error message about Illegal HTML when I try to edit my page.

See the section on Allowed HTML Tags in the main Help document.

Why can't I set my own fonts and other styles?

It is generally considered better to leave the fonts to the user's browser preferences, rather than setting them in the document. There are quite a few things to be aware of when setting fonts, such as making sure to specify alternative font families (not all fonts are available on all platforms), and in general users cannot be expected to know about these issues. They will tend to simply set whatever fonts happen to be available on their own system, and use whatever font size that happens to look good on their own monitor. The readers of the site have a diverse set of monitor sizes and resolutions, and they have probably set up their browsers to display text at a size and font that suits them. What looks good on one monitor may look horrible on another, with the wrong font being displayed, or else too small or too large.

I want this site to be more about the content than the fonts and other styles. Most people are not professional designers, and they tend to make really bad decisions, which can make the page unreadable on many browsers. Setting the font size too small, or using odd colors, or other design choices may express individuality, but doesn't make the reader's experience any better. For these reasons, the range of allowed HTML tags is limited, so that the site does not go down a path that ends up someplace that looks a lot like some of the more bizarre pages on myspace.

How do I add pictures and photos to my journal?

Please read the instructions for uploading pictures. To summarize: You have to first create pages for your journal (see above). Once the pages have been created, then you can go and edit them, and you'll see options at the bottom of the form for uploading pictures. To edit a page you previously created, you simply click on the 'Edit' option when you're looking at the page in question.

How do I add maps to my journal?

You can include Google Maps in your journals and articles, also on forum messages - in fact, anywhere you can upload a pic, you can also define a map. See the help section on Maps for full details.

Can I embed audio and video files in my journal?

I do not allow direct embedding of the javascript code from youtube and other video sites (which would put a nice embedded video in your journal page). I'm not just trying to be mean; it's because allowing users to post arbitrary javascript, images and other objects presents a huge security risk for all users of the site. Since the video javascript files are usually included from a remote site (of which there are many that host videos), there is no way to tell if that code has malicious payload that could infect users with adware, trojans, worms, viruses, keystroke loggers, or any other type of malware that the bad guys can think of. Once you allow authors to post javascript containing links to external script, then this lays the whole site wide open to all manner of cross-site scripting attacks. I'm not really worried about content from sites like youtube; the problem arises when you allow people to include javascript from any site out there. Since it's very difficult to keep track of all the possible sites where people might want to embed videos from, it's also virtually impossible to tell whether an included javascript file is bona fide.

However, I have implemented a feature that will automatically convert links to youtube videos into the equivalent embed code. So you can effectively embed videos, but not by pasting in the big gob of code that youtube gives you; instead, just post the much shorter "Link" option, and you'll see that your video appears in your journal as if you had embedded it. The reason to do it this way is because I can make sure that the embed code is clean - it's possible to extract the video id from the link you post, and then convert the link into the relevant html to embed the video in the text.

Some people want to directly upload video files to the site. These files can get very large indeed, so there is currently a limit of 50.0 MB for uploaded files. The main reason for this is space and bandwidth, both of which are expensive. I'd much rather leave the heavy lifting for videos to youtube, who has the space and bandwidth to cope. So ideally, if you want to post videos to your journal, then the best solution is to first upload them to youtube, then link to them from the journal as described above.

Uploading pictures to my journal is really slow

If you're using a dialup modem, then uploading can be very slow, particularly if the image files are large. You can try to minimize the file size using your photo software or any image editor (e.g. PhotoShop), to save the image at 72dpi (dots per inch). This means that the picture will be at the same resolution as the computer screen.

Also, remember that even if you are using a fast cable modem or DSL, then often the upload speed for these broadband services can be a lot slower than the download speed. They are designed for people browsing the Web, which is mostly a download activity. You can contact your ISP to see what upload speed you should be getting; you can also test out what you're actually getting by going to a website that has speed testing tools, e.g. http://www.dslreports.com/stest/. Finally, remember that cable modems slow down more if a lot of people on your local hub are using the internet. This depends on how your local cable company has the network set up. If you're in a large apartment building, for instance, then a lot of people using their cable modems at the same time can result in a significant speed reduction. DSL users are not usually subject to this, since each DSL line is separate.

I can't upload pics to my journal on the iPad - the upload button is disabled!

The default browser on the iPad and iPhone does not allow file uploads. This is not something my website is doing, it's Apple's crappy browser - for whatever reason, they decided to artificially restrict this functionality that has been standard in web browsers since the early 1990's. So, how to work around it? Well, the best solution is to simply use a different browser - for example, the iCab Mobile Browser allows file uploads (available on itunes here). Another way you can do it is to use the email updates option to send pics to the journal as email attachments, thus avoiding the broken iPad browser altogether. Also, see this useful article that Scott Little wrote about using the iPad on this website.

The "distance so far" figure for one of my pages is wrong

The server calculates the distance traveled so far on any particular day in your journal by adding up all of the distances for days with dates before the current one. So when you see a day which seems to have too high a figure for distance so far, it's likely that you've set the wrong date for some other page in the journal, so that other day appears to come before the current one.

For example, let's say on day 1 of your trip, June 1st 2003, you travel 60 miles, and on day 10, June 10th 2003, you travel 40 miles. Now if you accidentally set the date for day 10 to be 2002-06-10 instead of 2003-06-10 then you'll find the distance for day 10 is included in the "distance so far" for day 1 (making it 60+40 = 100 miles instead of 60), since day 10 appears to come before day 1 in the chronological order. So if you see accumulated distances that look wrong, look first for date mistakes in your journal. It's quite common to make the year or month wrong as a result of a typo. This is not an easy thing to detect automatically, since some journals have dates which are out of sequence on purpose.

How do I publish my journal?

This is done from the Properties page. Login, and go to your journal table of contents (not one of the pages in your journal, but the table of contents). Click on the 'Edit' option, then 'Properties' (under 'Edit'). Here is the same form which you originally used to create your journal. If you scroll down the page, you'll see the checkbox for publishing.

Before you can publish there has to be some content (at least one page), and you will also need to set the Categories for the journal before publishing. The option for setting Categories is up at the top, right next to the Properties option. Once you've published your journal, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. One thing that irritates me greatly is people who publish a journal with just one or two pages, talking about some big trip they are planning, and then abandon it unfinished. Don't publish unless you're pretty sure you'll be finishing (or making a valiant effort). If you don't think you'll be able to finish it, then please just 'unpublish' your journal (same form, just uncheck the box). This is more considerate to me and the people reading the site.

  2. Once the journal is all done, mark it as 'complete'. You do this from the same 'Properties' form. This sets the status of the journal, which is simply a visual cue for readers to be able to tell that it's a complete journal. This doesn't stop you from going and editing it again - you can do that any time you like.

Why doesn't my journal show up in the index when I updated it?

There is an 'Update timestamp' checkbox on the edit forms for journals. This allows you to specify when a journal will pop to the top of the journal index when it's being updated. This can be useful when you're just correcting a small typo on a largely completed journal, and don't really want it to go to the top of the journal index just because of that. It's basically a way of deciding whether the changes you are making are major enough to warrant attention of readers. People asked for this so that they could make small updates without people complaining that the journal looked like it had been updated, but they couldn't see any real changes. You can check or uncheck this checkbox manually, but see the Update timestamp section of the Help for more details on when the checkbox is checked or unchecked by default.

How do I mark my journal as being 'Completed'?

Once you have finished your journal, you should mark its status as being 'completed'. This is simply a visual cue for people browsing the website, to let them know that this is a journal that has most (if not all) of its content - i.e. no missing days or pages saying "to be done". To mark your journal as being completed, simply log in and go to your journal's Table of Contents, then click "Edit", and "Properties" in the navigation bar. There you will see the same form that you used when you created the journal. You should double-check that the start and end dates for the journal are still accurate (they sometimes change between starting a trip and ending). Check the "Completed" box, and then Save your changes. That's all there is to it! You can still edit your journal as normal even after marking it as complete - it's just a visual cue, with no functional significance.

Is there any size limit on journals, or the number of pictures we can upload?

No. Well, of course there are always practical limitations based on disk space, but for "normal" journals there should be no problems. You can have a journal with a hundred or two pages if you like, and with several hundred pictures... Obviously, it has to be relevant to the site (i.e. a bicycle tour journal or article related to the subject), otherwise it will be taken down pronto. If you still have doubts, then please do contact me.

How do I add more authors to my journal?

First, each of the other authors you want to add must be registered as users themselves. Then you should log in as yourself, and go to the journal which you want to add the other authors to. Click 'Edit' in the navigation bar at the top of the page, then 'Properties' (under 'Edit'). Look down the form and you should see a field named 'Authors'. Just add the other usernames after yours (not real names, but rather the login usernames) separated by spaces. Then save, and that's it! Any of the users you have just added can now also edit the journal. For more details, see the Help section on Editing Properties.

Is it possible to save my journals to disk or CD?

Yes, authors are able to download ISO images of selected journals, which can then be burned to CD or DVD. See the Help section on My > Downloads for more details. To go to the downloads form, log in, then go to the 'My' tab, then click on the 'Downloads' subtab under 'My'.

Help! I'm totally confused!

Please read the Help documentation carefully. There's a lot of stuff in there, but it's not hard if you just take a few minutes to get the overview. If you are really not very experienced with computers and don't know how to use a web browser and online forms, then please get someone who knows this stuff to help you get started. Above all, PLEASE read the instructions! Nothing is more irritating to me than someone calling for help who has obviously not bothered to read anything. I can forgive simple ignorance (and you'll find me quite patient), but throw in laziness and you won't be in my good books. On the other hand, if you really, honestly have read everything and still can't work something out then it may be a problem with the website (I'm frequently tinkering with new features, so sometimes things break in unexpected ways), or else the Help documentation may be out of date somehow. So if you're sure that things just aren't working according to how I say they should, then please don't hesitate to get in touch. I won't bite your head off, honest! I'm just a little tired of people doing boneheaded things, having obviously never read a word of the documentation, and then crying for help.



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