/ Winter Conditions Threads - How Should They Run?

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We have had a few problems with the Winter Conditions Threads lately so I wanted to start this discussion thread to see how people think they should run.

In the past we have had single threads for big areas - Lakes, Scotland, N Wales - which have ballooned into massive 6 month epics with hundreds of replies, most of which were no longer relevant. We have also had some threads from local climbers who often run their own blogs, on specific areas in Scotland. Apart from the fact that the single threads have become very unwieldy by this time of the year, resulting in long download times to mobile devices, and difficulty finding the relevant reports, there haven't been too many other problems in previous years.

This year we have had problems due to some trouble makers who have been turning every conditions thread in the Lakes into a debate on ethics and other topics, or just causing trouble because they can. This has been incredibly difficult to moderate due to the fact that people seldom tell us where the reply is they are reporting abuse and it takes ages for us to find the comments and comb the rest of the thread to find the context.

Hence we at UKC would prefer to stop having big threads because they difficulty in moderating, and the download times for people on mobile devices, and the lack of relevance of much of the content.

The alternative is too replace them with shorter dated conditions threads and encourage people to post to the latest one for each area. The obvious choice for this appears to be the 'official' conditions threads from people like Mike Lates, Mike Pescod, Paddy Cave and Ian Stewart. Anyone can post their own reports on these threads if they wish but the people we have contacted have agreed to do regular updates hence they will be creating new updated threads on a weekly or biweekly basis.

There seems to be some objection to this although I am not sure why at the moment. There are obviously areas that aren't covered by the 'official' reports like North Wales, but these can easily have a single dated conditions thread if that is what people want.
Let us know your thoughts on this thread please.

Thanks

Alan
Andy Can - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hi Alan, One week limits to threads with an overlapping day or two. Great idea. Go for it. Thanks.
Bob on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Maybe time limit them in the same way that "Down the Pub" are. It would possibly need a new forum ID but you could link it behind the scenes to the winter forum.

Each new thread title would need the date appending to it if it didn't already have one so "lakes conditions" would become "Lakes conditions: week ending 17th Feb"
An alternative would be for the system to create the threads automatically each week, one for each area - in the case of the Scottish ones the initial post could include links to the SAIS reports.
Comments could only be added for seven days from the start of the thread then the thread is closed for comments but not deleted so that you can look back at previous conditions.
Wesley Orvis - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Monthly conditons report, closed at the end of each month.

Cheers Wes
mattrm - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

The big threads are daft. Mainly cause you get people starting threads that are more relevant to this week as well. When this years big thread for Scotland was started quite a few people pointed this out to the thread starter, but his response was 'well it's what we did last year'.

Something like:

Jan/Feb North Wales Conditions
Feb/Mar North Wales Conditions

If UKC were to take the initiative and start these threads, then I think that would work well enough.
French Erick - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I don't only the threads on here to make judgment. I'm lucky enough to usually go out loads myself or know enough folks that do (like this year).

However, I'd say for people that are unlike me, a 1 week thread is a bit short to get the big picture for certain routes.
It is worth reminding that not all route come into nick overnight.

Here is my suggestion. Do a monthly one like someone else suggested earlier. But bring a link to the previous month as the first post of the new month. That way, people can read through if they so wish. Labour intensive, and I am not volunteering but... it's only a suggestion.
Andy Moles - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I think as a user who wants to browse conditions reports from different areas, the best possible structure would be to have conditions threads pinned at the top of the winter forum, with one official thread for each area (I guess you could break it down into maybe six broad areas or something).

At the end of each week lock the thread but leave it visible to float down the forum and have a new one pinned at the top?
Solaris - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

A good suggestion, and thank you very much to those who are posting reports.

I suspect that apart from the unwieldiness of long threads, the real problem is rudeness. So I'd suggest giving your new approach a try whilst combining it with a focussed moderating effort (and perhaps an updated form for reporting abuse so that people are asked to identify the thread, the username, and the time of the post).
sbc_10 - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hello Alan,

Agreed that big threads became unwieldy and unnecessarily bitter.

Here's two suggestions.

#1 Weekly / fortnightly, starting on a Monday and finishing on a Sunday night. Most of us are not outdoor professionals and have to plan trips 2-3 days ahead, the weekend being our release point.

#2 Have a dedicated "Winter Conditions" folder on the photo's. No rating or stars, just pictures of how the snow/ice is/isn't piling up.
Deleted after a month.

That's my tuppence worth.
Cheers.


Hardonicus - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hi Alan,

How do you propose to go forward maintaining the Kinder Downfall thread?
Big Lee - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Moles:

Sounds a good idea. Pin them to the top if possible.

Maybe split the conditions threads into the six SAIS regions?

Using the 'official' threads sounds a good plan but I don't think it is currently clear that these are for general conditions reports from lay people as well. Hence why there are often tandom threads developing. Need to maybe reword the titles to make clearer?

Also, a week might be a bit short for some venues where conditions are slow to form (eg Creag Meagaidh). In fact some regions like this might not even need threads freezing?

Not sure what to do about Snowdonia. There seems to be 100 posts before there are even any conditions. Maybe a UKC generated new thread on the 1st of each month?
Ronan O Keeffe on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Paginated threads. Last twenty or so replies displayed by default only. Bandwidth, load times, relevancy issues sorted.

If the software this site is built on can't do that then time to migrate off it (easier said than done I know).
crayefish - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:
Is it possible (programming-wise) to have a thread where post older than a week or two are automatically deleted? That way the thread is only ever a week old while the thread itself does not need to be restarted all the time.

EDIT: Ronan beat me to it!
Post edited at 09:44
martinph78 on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I like the idea of pinning the thread to the top of the winter conditions forum, that would make it easier to find, and linking to the previous weeks thread/relevant SIS forecast etc as the first post would be good. Not sure if weekly or monthly is better. Maybe keep it flexible, based on the conditions and how much they are changing/how big the thread gets.

As for the trouble causers, I guess you'll always have them. Maybe give them their own thread where you just leave them to vent their frustrations! Or add a report button to each post, rather than each thread? That way we could click report for the user and comment that we think is causing a problem and it would link the mods directly to the relevant post?
drmarten on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Definitely a good idea to have them pinned at the top of the thread. A fortnight probably as short as I'd want it, with thought going into the overlap - conditions on the 31st of the month may be very relevant to those on the 2nd of the next month for example.
Whatever you do, they are very useful.

Thanks for the suggestions. I wasn't proposing at this stage to make any technical changes hence the options for auto-threads and sticky threads isn't something we will be persuing now. We will file those ideas away though.

For the rest of this winter I think we just need to establish some sort of regular system by dating conditions threads where possible, and making a point of trying to post on the most recent one. I will try and help by closing the older ones to replies.

I will also write to the 'official' reporters and get them to invite other people's responses on their reports to try and clarify that.

Thanks

Alan
In reply to Andy Can:

Agree with weekly threads pertaining to a particular district as conditions can change so quickly. Perhaps it is best to limit the number of threads as long as anyone can post (sensibly).Also should restrict reports to people who have been " on the spot" rather than speculative comments from valley etc.
These threads can be of great practical use.The fell top advisor from weatherline does a good job but winter climbers need more specific info such as the presence or absence of ice, and /or neve, the conditions of buttresses, and the state of turf
Wesley Orvis - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Bob Bennett aka Last Thursday:

Also should restrict reports to people who have been " on the spot" rather than speculative comments from valley etc.

Well said Bob, this would solve all the issues imo.
In reply to Bob Bennett aka Last Thursday:

A lot of the suggestions made here are actually down to people posting responsibly, and there isn't much we can do about that.

To summarise, the general suggestions seem to be:

- Shorter term reports concentrating on a single areas, preferably smaller areas although in the case of the Lakes and N Wales, 1 thread will probably suffice.
- 'official' UKC reports for certain areas are to be maintained but they are open for all to post on.
- unofficial threads on other areas are welcome but please include some text in the report (i.e.. not just a link to a blog post) and a date in the title
- try and check for current threads before posting to avoid starting too many duplicates.
- please keep other discussion about ethics off these threads if you can.
- please feel free to email the moderators to close threads in favour of newer ones ( we will not spot these ourselves so would appreciate some help).

... that's about it for the moment.

Alan
James Thacker - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH: UKC is a discussion forum, better to have a conditions server where you can post conditions.

stuart58 - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to James Thacker:
i think it should b conditions only threads 3 or 4 ie snowdowia scotland lakes other . people shouldbe mature and not ask questions or writte stupid comments . only report genunie conditons, ie mike peascod, helvellyn ranger, etc. delete every fornite or so. i know this is a forum but a conditiond area would be best .

kyaizawa - on 18 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Weekly...?? You're likely losing relevant and useful information about route/area conditions...?? A way of reducing thread sizes would be reducing area size, rather than reducing the time - so for the Lakes for example, split it down into smaller sections like in the guidebook.

As for rude people... leave them at it and stop being so sensitive??
tripehound - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:
How about items dropping off automatically after two weeks, so there are always 14 days of information available
Martin W on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> For the rest of this winter I think we just need to establish some sort of regular system by dating conditions threads where possible, and making a point of trying to post on the most recent one. I will try and help by closing the older ones to replies.

It would help if your "this thread is now closed" post could include a link to the next thread, and the first post of the next thread (which maybe you could start?) could link back to the last closed thread. That way at least people can easily navigate back and forth between the threads if they want to get a longer-term view.

This is the system used on avforums.com for discussion threads about particular items of AV equipment eg http://www.avforums.com/threads/humax-hdr-fox-t2-hd-pvr-master-thread-part-eleven.1716114/ and it seems to work reasonably well.
Djhartley - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hi - A couple of comments -
1 - I like the idea that 'Official' condition reports are pinned at the top of the winter conditions forums.
2 - The idea that you have sought credible volunteers who can be relied on is excellent and every effort should be made to ensure these willing volunteers are well looked after.
3 - The purpose of the threads should be glean information on what conditions are actually like and not a forum for Q&A.
4 - The threads can be added to by other users only if they posting info on current conditions based upon what they have seen and witnessed ie facts & not what they think based upon what if's etc. This way the threads are kept punchy and factual and should make life much easier for downloading the threads to mobiles.
5 - Guidance on the use of 'Official' reports should be publicised to make it easy for users to get this right.
Hope this helps
In reply to Martin W:

> It would help if your "this thread is now closed" post could include a link to the next thread, and the first post of the next thread (which maybe you could start?) could link back to the last closed thread. That way at least people can easily navigate back and forth between the threads if they want to get a longer-term view.

That is easy enough to add since only a moderator can close threads. I don't want to start new threads though since it is important that the OP has some conditions report content in it and moderators can't add that.

Alan
Michael Gordon - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Djhartley:

After one of these 'official' reports is put up I don't see what's wrong with someone asking the odd question or two? After all the thread is about that area and the OP will be more likely to recheck that thread than other ones.

I think it's important to make sure that info that might be useful isn't lost, either through deletion or through putting folk off posting in the first place.
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> After one of these 'official' reports is put up I don't see what's wrong with someone asking the odd question or two? After all the thread is about that area and the OP will be more likely to recheck that thread than other ones.

I agree here. I think the threads should run as both question and answers. It is just the ethics debates we would like to keep off them.

In the grand scheme of things though it is usually pointless to try and direct threads too much, since they will always go their own way.

Alan
Dave Ferguson - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:
> (In reply to Michael Gordon)
>
> [...]
>
> It is just the ethics debates we would like to keep off them.
>
The problem is that the two often go hand in hand, when someone is reporting marginal conditions (which lets face it, has been most of the time in the lakes this year) there will naturally be some variation as to what posters think is "fair game". I think this is healthy debate, not something to be avoided.

Less experienced climbers will make judgements from these conditions reports so why shouldn't they be exposed to the ethical debate that often surrounds winter climbing, especially at the moment when winter ascents of summer rock routes is in the news.
Michael Gordon - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

> especially at the moment when winter ascents of summer rock routes is in the news.

Like what?
ads.ukclimbing.com
Dave Ferguson - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:
> (In reply to Dave Ferguson)
>
> [...]
>
> Like what?

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/new-lakes-winter-climbing-conditions-guide
Michael Gordon - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Dave Ferguson:

Are you referring to that international meet article? I can see a couple of repeats on the Ben, not a lot else really?
Blizzard - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I think the offical type postings from Mike Pescod and Co are the way to go. I think they are most informative.
highclimber - on 19 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Is it not possible to truncate threads into say 40 replies before a new page is created with its own url? It mightn't stop the issues of bad reporting but will make it easier to find the problem post.
GrahamD - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I like the idea of officially sanctioned 'conditions' threads, possibly with the UKC icon rather than the winter and alpine icon. There should only be a few of these and they can be very strictly moderated.

Then just let the other ones run, but just treat them as discussions as any other Rocktalk thread
Neil Anderson - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to Andy Can:

I agree - short threads with recent info.
Ian Carey - on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Hi

I find any thread about winter conditions useful and interesting, although finding specific information in a long thread can be a challenge. Given that winter conditions are generally very variable (apart from this winter!) I can see the benefit of a time limited thread and a week is reasonable.

How one can moderate all this is obviously a challenge - allowing free speech also means allowing rubbish. As this is a free service, I don't mind trawling through occasional rubbish post.

Is there a market for fee paying winter condition reporting?

CHeers

Ian
Martin W on 20 Feb 2014
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> I don't want to start new threads though since it is important that the OP has some conditions report content in it and moderators can't add that.

Did you have a look at the avforums.com link I provided? The moderator just creates a new thread where the first posting says "the old thread is closed, new postings here please", and provides links back to the previous threads. In fact, a single link back to the last closed thread is more than sufficient IMO. The first posting in the new thread doesn't have to contain any conditions info: if there's no new conditions postings in the new thread it's dead easy for the reader to find the last conditions postings on the old thread.
In reply to Martin W:

> Did you have a look at the avforums.com link I provided? The moderator just creates a new thread where the first posting says "the old thread is closed, new postings here please", and provides links back to the previous threads. In fact, a single link back to the last closed thread is more than sufficient IMO. The first posting in the new thread doesn't have to contain any conditions info: if there's no new conditions postings in the new thread it's dead easy for the reader to find the last conditions postings on the old thread.

I don't like that approach. I think it is vital that the OP on any thread contains information and I am not keen on single link OPs which I think are often a slightly lazy approach to using a forum.

If you are struggling with a mobile signal and have just downloaded a Conditions thread, the last thing you want to have to do is click on a link to download another one.

There isn't really a problem here anyway I don't think since it is very easy for the official thread starters to either link at the end of the previous thread, or we will keep an eye out and do it.

Alan

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