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[ft-l] How to fully benefit from this List

It's great to see some trip reports from relatively new posters!  For a while 
there I felt like I had a near monopoly on the traffic on this List.  Now 
that things are cookin' a bit and the weather is starting to cool down, I 
thought I'd take a moment to give a brief history of this list and how we 
could get more use and enjoyment out of it as we get out there and hike our 
wonderful trails.

My buddy Jeff Walters is a website programming wizard.  He and I had exposure 
to hiking lists like this for other trails.  He set up a wonderful website 
for backpacking called Florida Backpacking Trailplace about 4 years ago.  We 
talked about the idea for a mailing list for Florida Trail hikers.  Jeff had 
the technical know how and created a List from within the confines of a 
noncommercial ISP account.  My part was to send emails to every hiker and 
Florida Trail member I knew asking them to join this new list.  I notified 
hundreds of hikers, had cards printed up, and talked it up at chapter 
meetings until we got a critical mass of subscribers.  Once we got about two 
dozen Listers, the List began to function as we know it today.  
Unfortunately, Jeff's ISP noticed the heavy volume of emails generated from 
his account and shut the list down.

Enter Ryan Brooks, who has several servers dedicated to the needs of hikers 
from all of America's great long distance trails.  He agreed to run the list 
from his servers and from the www.backcountry.net website.  He also makes 
webspace available to any of us who want to post hiking pictures or journals. 
 And he does all of this at no cost to any of us.  It is a noncommercial site 
generating no revenues at all for him.  It is a true labor of love for this 
patron whom we all owe such a debt of gratitude.

My hat is off to Ryan and Jeff who made this all possible!  


As a veteran of several hiking lists I've seen the ebb and flow, the good 
times and bad.  When a list is functioning at its best, it can be described 
as an electronic campfire, where we gather 'round and share our thoughts 
after a hard day's hike.  Some posts are informative.  Some seek information 
from more knowledgeable hikers, some share jokes and stories.  Strangers are 
introduced and become quick friends as the campfire works its magic.  And 
some engage in good natured debate about that latest piece of gear.

The true magic of any campfire is the making of new lifelong friends.  And 
the electronic variety is no different.  That is why we owe it to ourselves 
to get the word out to our hiking buddies about this list.

This list can be whatever we make it.  Anything of a noncommercial nature 
that instructs, questions or entertains as it relates to Florida hiking 
either directly or tangentially can be posted right here for your hiking 
buddies to peruse.  The more posts to the lists, the more relevant the list 
becomes.  When a list has low volume, it lacks personality.  It is a very 
democratic platform.  No one has a privileged position.  Whether you joined 
in the beginning, or yesterday, you are a full and equal member of the ft-l.  
Feel free to contribute -- or not -- as your level of comfort dictates.  I 
can't think of anyone (perhaps with the sole exception of myself!) who has 

Most lists develop a small core of active posters who generate the bulk of 
the postings with a silent majority known as lurkers who chime in only when 
they have a specific request, or a specific insight into a topic being 
discussed.  This is entirely normal and the ft-l is no different in that 
regard.  But when list volume gets low, each subscriber should consider 
starting a topic (known as a thread in the lingo) to jump start the list in a 
new direction.  Sometimes a single post will generate a dozen replies and 
spawn new threads that go in different directions.

Periodically, as subscribers come and go, it is appropriate for each 
subscriber to post a little biographical sketch which normally causes a burst 
of new list activity.  Since it is the start of the hiking season here in 
Florida maybe we could all take a moment to do that now.

Another thing we could all do is to tell our hiking friends about this list.  
Generally, the more list members there are, the more enjoyable and 
informative the list is.  Take a moment at your chapter meetings to tell FTA 
members about the list.  People who swore a couple years ago that they saw no 
need for a computer are joining the information superhighway everyday.  Each 
of us needs to get the word out.  How about a blurb giving the 
www.backcountry.net website address in your chapter newsletter?

If we can get all the section leaders aboard, what a wonderful information 
exchange the list could be for maintainers and hikers!  We already get more 
timely trail development info here on the list courtesy of Kent Wimmer in 
Tallahassee.  In many ways this list is an instantaneous statewide 
newsletter.  Let's get our chapter leadership to plug in.

That's not to say that this list is an organ of the FTA.  That won't happen.  
Early on, there was some grumbling heard from some in the leadership simply 
because this is an unregulated communication tool outside their control, and 
they feared it to some extent.  But I think as more of us understand just 
what this list is about, we find that any such fear is misplaced.  Have you 
told your chapter leadership about the list, and what you get from it?  And 
if you are in leadership at the state or chapter level, have you communicated 
your experiences to your peers around the state?  Should the list be talked 
up at regional and state conferences?

In summary, I hope I've given you some food for thought.  I guess you can 
tell that I'm an advocate for a broader ft-l membership with more active 
postings.  Cyberhiking can be a very positive force for good.  I wanted you 
all to see how this list works and how with a little effort on our parts we 
can make it even better.  I hope I succeeded in some measure.

Happy trails,

Solar Bear