Panbo

ActiveCaptain 2010, huge things?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 26, 2010
ActiveCaptain_X_Vero_Beach_cPanbo.JPG

My longtime admiration for Jeff and Karen Siegel, and their creation ActiveCaptain, has started to lean dangerously toward jealousy!  They've spend many months cruising from Maine to Florida and judging from their blog and the latest AC newsletter, they've not only been having fun but also writing code and making deals the whole way.  Version "X" of the interactive cruising guide is really taking shape, and other developments coming soon do indeed sound "huge"...

More specifically, the Siegels report that they've been "working with major marine electronics manufacturers to incorporate ActiveCaptain into their products. Expect to see some exciting developments here including offline storage of all marker data with synchronization when an internet connection exists."  I believe that means that the AC database, which is getting richer every day, will become part of the primary navigation tools that we also use to plan routes, check weather, etc..  Frankly, I'd hoped to see ActiveCaptain integrated into Coastal Explorer along with the professional ACC guides, as the title of that entry hinted, and maybe that can still happen as I don't think the Siegels will make any relationship exclusive.  At any rate I'm really looking forward to seeing AC integration in the flesh wherever it happens, as I recently noted in a Yachting "Where Are We Headed" piece:

A particular peeve of mine is the poor point-of-interest (POI) information available on electronic charts, which is where you really want it.  While it's near impossible for one source to keep up on all marina details, for instance, let alone comment knowingly on their quality, we now know from the likes of online Amazon and Yelp reviews that a community of marina users could conceivably succeed at both goals.  The first MFD or charting program that incorporates a blossoming community cruising resource like ActiveCaptain.com will be appreciated.

Of course AC, which has been evolving for a long time, covers much more than marinas.  Check out the bigger versions of the screen shots above and below and you'll see how Hazzard markers have now been added to Marinas, Anchorages, and the various specific Local Knowledge markers like bridges and ramps.  Plus Version X adds an optional NOAA raster chart layer, better filtering, and more.  Actually this browser view is pretty darn useful as is, and isn't it likely that it will be even more so on the new Apple tablet that we'll learn about tomorrow?

ActiveCaptain_X_w_hazzard_marker_cPanbo.JPG

Comments

A little nostalgia: I spent the Christmas of 1978 anchored in Vero Beach and took a long wander around that "uninhabited" island seen in the top screen. We found the biggest, brightest colored spiders I ever hope to see plus a wonderful, though unoccupied, squatter camp. It even had an airy tree house bedroom with mosquito netting and a barbecue rotisserie powered by cached rain water.

Posted by: Ben at January 26, 2010 8:03 AM | Reply

I am an early adopter, one of the larger contributors, and continue to highly recommend this product. I want to ask you all to contribute and make it better.

I found it a great winter activity to go into the product and update reviews of all the places I visited. Gosh it brings back fond memories as I write the reviews.

For the places I enjoyed visiting, it's a great way to reward the locals for making my visit enjoyable.

For the places I had issues, it's not that hard to put in some fair comments, or just choose a lower rating and say "it's ok" to set reasonable expectations for fellow boaters, but then tell fellow boaters about things to do nearby that can make the trip more fun for family members that need a break from the water to enjoy things on land.

And if your on Long Island Sound, or anywhere up the coast to Maine, please do it for me. I want to plan my next trip soon. The guide books are all filled with fiction. I really want to read what you have to say.

Jeff probably dosn't want me to say this ... but if you only have a little time, just write the reviews. The prices, number of available slips, and all that stuff we can figure out on the internet. The reviews are priceless when accessible by a map interface. It's just terribly difficult to learn if a place is worth visiting, and what to do when I am in town any other way.

Thank you x 3 in advance for writing some reviews to guide myself and your fellow boaters in the community.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at January 26, 2010 6:02 PM | Reply

Something smells wrong here, so let me get this straight... Active Captain takes data that the community has provided, out of nothing more than the greater good of building an open and community-base database, then they turn around and sell that data for money?

Posted by: Scott E at January 26, 2010 9:50 PM | Reply

Wow Scott, that sounds like eBay charging to let people sell other people stuff. Can they do that? Oh, wait...

Posted by: Norm at January 26, 2010 10:48 PM | Reply

Scott E:

cf. Yelp, YouTube, Angie's List, etc, etc. Look, it's not like that "open and community-based database" sprang out of the ether. The Siegels risked time and money building the site, and there are ongoing costs for development, hosting, and bandwidth. "Crowdsourcing" has become a legitimate online business model, and users don't seem to mind that in the process of improving a service that they use, those who built the service in the first place reap some benefit.

But it's not just the founders who benefit; I suspect that only about 1% of ActiveCaptain's users actually contribute content (that's a typical percentage for crowdsourced sites), so most of the "community" are in fact freeloading on the goodwill of a few active members (like Dan). Again, that's okay. No one's being forced to contribute. And if you don't like it, you can always start your own *non-profit* open and community-based database, right?

/afb

Posted by: Adam at January 27, 2010 3:00 AM | Reply

Who said ActiveCaptain is selling the data? It's possible, which is fine with me, but relationships with companies developing charting software and multifunction displays are potentially going to help ActiveCaptain, and its existing users, as well as those companies.

As an ActiveCaptain participant I do care about the promise that the data will remain forever freely accessible on the Web, and I trust the Siegels 100% on that score. Their business model seems to revolve around purely optional purchases like the smartphone software ActiveCaptain sells and the relatively new online store (where discounts are based on data contributions).

In the newsletter I linked to above there's also mention of "A new way for marinas to offer co-operating deals and savings. This is unlike anything that exists in boating today. Wait 'till you see it." Personally I wouldn't mind if the ActiveCaptain site sold regular advertising, but I think the Siegels have a more progressive concept of opt-in promotions that are worth opting in for.

The bottom line, I think, is that Jeff and Karen -- by dint of prior hard, smart work in other fields -- are enjoying the opportunity to build the community resource they'd like the cruising community they're part of to have, with the secondary goal of making it self sustaining in non-obtrusive, even positive, ways.

Posted by: Ben at January 27, 2010 8:45 AM | Reply

"As an ActiveCaptain participant I do care about the promise that the data will remain forever freely accessible on the Web, and I trust the Siegels 100% on that score."

It's fine to make a profit on advertising or sales of data packages. It would just be good to have a legal guarantee such as a licence for contributions that ensures the data stays free such as Creative Commons Sharealike, which even permits commercial exploitation.

The current licence for user contributions appears to be:

"Content you send to us, whether via e-mail, forms, messages, ideas, and/or suggestions, becomes our sole property"

Posted by: max stirner at January 28, 2010 6:23 AM | Reply

Leave a comment