What came before

After putting FitChat on hold last year I went back to what I like to do best: climbing. In the back of my mind I have always known I wanted to build a climbing app.

About 7 years ago I worked on a climbing guidebook app for a while. That was before carrying your smartphone to the crags or boulders became the norm. But one question has always been on my mind: what would a “perfect” climbing guidebook look like?

It would be location-aware. It would show you the climbs in great detail. It would have to work offline and online.

Late last fall I picked that idea up again & built a pretty decent prototype for a Fontainebleau guidebook. At that time I wasn’t happy with two things though: the tech I built wasn’t good enough & the economics just don’t work out.

Anyone who has worked on a climbing guidebook knows it is a long work of patience with very little financial reward. Climbers are cheap bastards. I know, because I am. And economic studies confirm this: climbers spend less than 1/5th of what a normal tourist would spend on a weekend outing.

One thing I did learn was the following: if you want to make a truly good digital guidebook you need to stop thinking about it as a guidebook but more as an exercise in vertical cartography.

In traditional cartography the goal is to make the map nearly indistinguishable from the terrain. Google Maps gets pretty close to this. But it becomes a whole lot harder for vertical features. For now, I’m dropping this guidebook app pursuit in favor of building something else for climbers.

Tags: philosophy 
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