Sunday, July 27, 2008

Events and Gatherings

I know this is hard to believe for some of you folks out there, but there's a whole world of letterboxers we never meet. They lurk in the shadows, following our clues, stamping silently into logbooks, never to be heard from again. Well, at least until the next letterbox they sneak out to find.

Perhaps they read the message boards. Or perhaps they're reading this blog. But they don't post, they don't plant boxes, and we'll never know these people.

Which is a shame, really, because for me, one of the best part about letterboxing is meeting other letterboxers. What a strange and varied group we are! Across all ages, races, religions, and geography--brought together by this strange hobby that started on the moors of England.

So one of the earlier features I added to Atlas Quest was the ability to list letterboxing events. A place for us to mingle and meet each other face-to-face. If you've never been to a letterboxing event, you're missing out on a heck of a lot of laughs and fun!

I didn't actually put much effort into event listing on Atlas Quest. Events were still relatively uncommon, but the event code had fallen woefully behind the times and not kept pace with the plethora of events happening today. Tonight, that has changed. Welcome to Events 2.0.

The most obvious change might be all the new icons associated with events. There are quite a number of them! One whole category of icons is an event subtype, so help narrow down what kind of event to expect when you show up. Is it at a park or restaurant? Is it an online gathering in a chat room? Is it a camping event? Or is it primarily a non-letterboxing event that letterboxers are invited to attend such as tag sales or birthday parties? Now you can specify such subtypes to let people know at a glance what kind of event to expect.

There are a couple of new icons as part of the regular bunch of attributes as well, such as the meet-and-greet attribute to mark an event as specifically to meet (and greet!) an out-of-town letterboxer. There are also two different icons to distinguish between an event with a mystery date and time and an event with a mystery location. There has always been that distinction internally, but it wasn't always obvious to see.

I also retired a couple of attributes that didn't seem nearly as useful such as a kid-friendly event. Except for pub crawls (which now has it's own subtype icon, I might add!), is there such a thing? Seems like I retired another attribute, but off the top of my head I can't think of what it is anymore.

Other improvements include the ability to save events in a favorite search, which can also be used to notify you of new events listed that match your search. The event notifications had stopped with an update earlier this year due to some changes incompatible with events, but they're all working together nicely again.

There are two new features associated with events as well: potluck lists and carpool lists. Any event marked as a potluck will allow you to specify what items you plan to bring to help insure everyone doesn't show up with milk and cookies. The carpool lists allow you to mark yourself as being available as a driver or wanting/needing a ride (or both, if you're flexible!) to help facilitate carpooling to events. With gas prices so high, it's probably more desirable than ever to split fuel costs. For events you're already signed up for, you'll want to "Edit Signup" to mark your potluck and carpool options. Normally, you'll be asked for that when you do sign up, but obviously, already existing signups won't have that information.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, the event code has been completely rewritten and you'll find very few things associated with events unchanged.

The rest of the changes are rather minor by comparison. I fixed a number of bugs, including the map markers now being clickable again and tracker notes sorted by date rather than by the tracker they're in. I didn't keep a list of all the minor tweaks and bug fixes that are in this update, but you'll likely find them along the way as you use the website.

Hope you enjoy all the changes, and I'll be online fixing any bugs that show up overnight just as soon as I wake up in the morning. =) And with as large of an update as this is, there WILL be bugs. Though with most of the changes exclusively in the event section, it probably won't cause you any problems with the message boards, clues, or other areas on Atlas Quest.

Happy trails, and get yourself to an event! =)

-- Ryan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just Call Me Reverend

Well, it's official, I guess. My mid-life crises must have struck (I just turned 33, you know), because I signed up online to become an ordained minister. As always, I blame others for this strange predicament. =)

In fact, I blame AceoHearts most of all, because he's the one who suggested it to me. Somehow, he got it into his mind that I'm responsible for his current engagement with JBBK, and even went so far as to propose at a letterboxing event this last weekend. If there was to ever be a letterboxing wedding, this would be it!

And he e-mailed me this crazy idea that maybe I could preside over the ceremony. It's a crazy idea--the fool!--but it got me curious about the whole idea of what exactly is an "ordained minister." I suspect most of us have seen that episode of Friends when Joey becomes and ordained minister, but that's just TV, right? He was probably joking, anyhow.

But out of a morbid curiosity, I started doing some Googling about what exactly is an ordained minister and what does it take to become one?

The answers I found were shocking. Just click a few mouse buttons, type in your name and address, and presto, you too can become an ordained minister in mere seconds. No classes, no tests, absolutely free.

So why not? I filled out my name and address, clicked submit, and I am now an official ordained minister, and can legally perform marriages. Well, there might be some other hoops I have to jump through before I can do an actual wedding--crossing T's and dotting I's and such, but in theory, it seems that I really can legally perform weddings in most of the country.

After filling out my information and clicking the submit button, a window popped up with the "receipt of credentials"--mostly just proof that I submitted the form--and it says:

This is to certify that the bearer hereof
Reverend Ryan Carpenter
has been ordained this Monday the 14th of July 2008 11:15:22PM
and has all rights and privileges to perform all duties of the Ministry.

So there you have it. It's official. I'm a revenend. An ordained minister. And folks, this ain't no episode of Friends!

Now you're probably wondering if I actually plan to preside over any weddings.... I can only imagine that a fool would want me to preside over their wedding, but hey, I'll give it due consideration.

So what did you do for your birthday. =)

Back in April of 2001, I read a small blurb about letterboxing in Backpacker magazine. It was hardly a mention, with probably less than two inches of type. Little did I realize how that blurb would change my life. I met Amanda through letterboxing. I started Atlas Quest and somehow managed to scratch a living off of it. And now.... it's led me to this. Becoming an ordined minister.

Where will letterboxing lead me next.....?