The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 25: The Outdoors Club

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

An online social network for getting outdoors? This week on The WildeBeat; The Outdoors Club.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number twenty five.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Long before the current craze of web sites called social networks, the web site outdoors club dot org was connecting climbers, hikers, and other wilderness travelers. There's a wide range of outdoor activities in their calendar, from beginner classes to major expeditions, and they were doing it back when final vowels were still in fashion.

I'm talking with Tim Bui, the founder of outdoors club dot org. Tim welcome to The WildeBeat.

TIM BUI: Hi, Thank you!

STEVE: Can you tell me how the site got started?

TIM BUI: It started probably about eight years ago as kind of a little side project between a group of friends. What we ended up doing was making weekend trips and then compiling an e-mail list of the friends. Then over a period of time friends of friends would join, and we had a larger and larger e-mail list. And then in the course of a couple of years, we had so many e-mails that it just became unmanageable with e-mail lists. So then we just decided to create a web site to publish our trips. And that was back in nineteen ninety eight / ninety-nine when the internet was just started to be utilized a lot. And people that were just outside the core group of friends found it through the internet and we just started getting people that nobody knew signed-up for our events and then eventually kinda just snowballed from there.

STEVE: Tell me a little bit about how the site works now.

TIM BUI: When you come into the site you register at the site; supply it with a few critical informations such as your e-mail address, and where you live, by supplying a zip code, and then what type of things that you like to do. For example if you like to bike or rock climb; there's several categories you can select from. What then happens is other members may decide to lead an event. So somebody may want to say, "Well, I want to go hiking in the Angeles Forest." So what would happen is they would post to that, and designate where it's going to occur. Then the system will trigger e-mail invitations to everybody that has registered in the area that the event is taking place and has expressed interest in that type of thing. So if you said that, "Well, I like to hike and I live in the Los Angeles area," you'd get the e-mail invitation for the hike that somebody just posted in the Angeles Forest. You'd then go to the side and you'd sign-up for the event, and then have tools for the event coordinator to coordinate the trips with everybody so then afterwards, past the initial sign-up there's trip logistics, such as, you know, what items to bring, or if people have questions or such the site will facilitate that communication. It then has some post-trip trip reporting capabilities so that after the event you can come back and post your pictures or write-up your trip report so that it archives those information for you.

STEVE: How would I, as a new participant, know that I'm going to be safe going with that leader?

TIM BUI: I would definitely do your due diligence in evaluating the leader's capability. As a trip participant I think one of the things that you should definitely prepare for is just be aware of your environment, be aware of the trip, and not solely depend on the trip leader for all your information. What's different from this and any type of commercial event; you know if you're going through a guide service and paying them a thousand dollars to take you up the mountain, you can expect a lot of work and a lot of due diligence on the leader's part. The majority of people who just post with us are just regular members like themselves just looking for people to do something with. So their role is not really to babysit people on the mountains or really just take care of everybody there, they're really looking for company to do stuff with.

STEVE: So it's really not a service about connecting leaders and guides to participants?

TIM BUI: No, not at all. The only thing that differentiates a leader from a member is the fact that a leader just took the initiative to post the trip. Actually we don't like to use the word, "leader," we use the word, "trip coordinator," more. The trip coordinator is really the person that just took the initiative to post the event to see if anybody else like him, or her, would like to do something.

STEVE: So you started out in Southern California but now I see categories for all over North America.

TIM BUI: Yes, we started mainly out of Southern California and then just over time people found the web site form other regions, and they really liked the concept so they started little sub-groups in their region. Right now most of the activity is in Southern California. We have a little bit in Northern California, and some on the East Coast. As the club becomes more well known and there's membership in different areas you'll probably see more activities in those areas, as well as some times when a club member in Souther California moves out of the area and enjoyed it so much that they want to get it going where ever they're moving to. So that's kind of helped out a little bit in spreading the club.

STEVE: So I notice for Southern California members you charge a membership fee, but not for folks anywhere else. Why that distinction?

TIM BUI: There isn't enough activities really to justify a membership fee in another area. The majority of activities are in Southern California. For a long time we didn't charge a membership fee and the cost of operating the club and the development and also the advertising to help grow the club became a little bit of a burden on the founders. So we decided to charge a membership fee to cover those costs. The vision of the club is still to spread the grassroots effort across the nation to other areas. So just on the economic side, for other members to pay fees for a region that isn't very active would probably kill the growth in those areas. So what we're kind of doing right now is subsidize those areas until they become more active and, you know, maybe sometime in the future a membership fee will kick-in there. And what that will do is sort of be more funds to fuel more development of the site as well as more promotion in other regions to try to get it nationwide.

STEVE: So how many members are there overall at the moment?

TIM BUI: The registered number is large, it's twenty two thousand members. And I would say there's probably five to six thousand active members out of the twenty-something thousand members who have registered. And active members would be people that actively participate in the club, attend events, and lead events. Maybe ten percent of the people that participate in events will actually lead an event eventually.

STEVE: What can you say about the safety record of your outings?

TIM BUI: The safety record has been pretty good. We've been operating for nine years or so Ig guess, and we haven't had any major incidents. We've had minor injuries here and there, but haven't had any major incidents. One of the benefits of the Outdoors Club is that the trips are member-lead and they're not commercial trips. So since there's no exchange of money, you're not paying for a service or something, as a trip participant, you're basically liable for yourself. So you really need to make your due diligence and be prepared as an individual to participate in a trip.

STEVE: What stands out as having been some really successful outings that the group has organized?

TIM BUI: If you ask anybody what their favorite trip was that they attended, you'll get a range of answers based on their type of particular interest. There's a lot of events that are kind of, once in a lifetime events where people go, "I would have never been able to do this if I hadn't done it through the Outdoors Club. You know, if you enjoy being outdoors and you want exposure to new things you haven't done before, if you want to meet some new people, interesting people that also have a like mindset, it's a great venue to do that with. I think when I talk to most people what I get most out of it is the people. And also just doing things that they never would have gotten into before. The way I look at it is the club is really the people, and the web site is really just a tool that brings everybody together. A club is kind of a misleading word. When you think of a club you think of and organization with you know, a president, a director, and some type of agenda. What the Outdoors Club is is really just a community of people around a tool that allows them to interact and communicate.

STEVE: Tim Bui, thank you for talking to me today, and appearing on the show to introduce us all to the Outdoors Club.

TIM BUI: No problem. Thanks for having me here. It's been a pleasure.

STEVE: Tim Bui is the founder and developer of outdoors club dot org. You can follow the link to their site, from our web site.

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Next time -- really cool camping.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to ensure future editions of The WildeBeat. Send your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number twenty five. Thank you for listening.

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