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November 27, 2006

Introducing MTBGuru

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff — mtbguru @ 5:54 pm

As we’re starting to get new visitors, I thought it would be appropriate to copy a post here (slightly edited) I recently wrote on my personal blog, ‘Introducing MTBGuru’. It’s an extensive summary of what the web app does and can do for you – my apologies for its lengthiness but hopefully it is helpful to the folks for whom all this is new. Thanks btw NorCal mtbr.com forum members and John Gardiner from the ‘Using Google Earth‘ blog for the positive feedback!

Introducing MTBGuru

As we’re mentioning on our about page, MTBGuru is a web application for people who like to ride, hike, run – yes those types that can’t seem to stay in the house and sit still. You can upload and share GPS data and photos taken during your outdoor adventures to the site. In case you don’t have a GPS unit… those things make a great birthday or Christmas present, politely suggest it to your loved ones!

After uploading the data to the website, trip statistics and graphs such as a route map and elevation plots are generated, and photographs taken during the trip are automatically being geotagged – that is, the location at which each photo was shot will be indicated on the route map. This cartoon summarizes things:

mtbguru cartoon

What are the basic features?

  • Users create ‘trips’; GPS files can be uploaded in the GPX format, an open (XML) standard for GPS data which is now being supported by most GPS manufacturers (for instance, Garmin’s Mapsource software allows you to save track data to .gpx files). Trips can be created with or without GPS files.
  • The site analyzes the GPS data and generates statistics and graphs, such as an elevation profile of the trip, and plots the route on a map (we’re using Google maps). Multiple tracks in a single file can be identified and you can create a separate trip for each track. You can also type in a description of the trip and select whether you want to share it with others or keep it private. The site can be an efficient means to archive and manage your trips and GPS files.
  • Photos can be uploaded, either separately or in group (the latter by means of a zip-archive file). A thumbnail gallery will be generated and if the pictures were taken during the trip, the location at which they were shot will automatically be indicated on the map – the latter is enabled by comparing the time stamp in the metadata of the photograph to the timing information in the GPS data, aka ‘temporal geotagging‘.
  • Other users can view your public trips and photos and leave comments, but you have of course the option to disable this.
  • We also generate a Google Earth file, which contains the route, all picture locations, thumbnails and links to the trip and photos – anyone familiar with it knows that browsing around in Google Earth can be highly entertaining and this is probably one of our own favorite features (example: see screenshot below).
  • Earth-Tyndall

Our mission is to make all this work fast, simply and efficiently and we think we’ve succeeded relatively well compared to our competition – at present everything is not working and looking 100% as we’d like it to do yet, but most features are working.

We’ve focused on mountain biking to date, but it really works as well for any activity where you’re outside and moving around. Some examples:
the ascent of Alpe d’Huez, climbing the highest mountain in the contiguous USA, a fundraising trail run in Cupertino, mountain biking in Auburn.

Why this site?
Because we got frustrated by the familiar routine: looking up directions to the trailhead; figuring out again where exactly the fun trails are; doing extensive searches on the Web when we want to try out some new locations; messing around with GPS data in the proprietary-format tools that usually come with it; forgetting which folder we stored our pictures in; and so on.
Since we didn’t find a good existing solution for what we were looking for, we decided to create it ourselves and so we built this web app.

For the technophiles amongst you: the site is being developed using the Ruby on Rails framework and features quite a number of Ajax-goodies; we have been aficionados of the methodology and style of 37 Signals for quite a while.

And by the way: everything is free for the user (as in both beer and speech!). Creating a free account only requires a valid e-mail address (which we’ll never forward to others). You can view all public trips and data without an account as well, but you’ll need the account to create trips or upload data.
All user data is available in open format, and there are even RSS feeds available containing trip description data. We’ve incorporated some ads and we may do more in the future, as web hosting costs money. But we built this site in the first place because we’re passionate about mountain biking and the outdoors ourselves, and felt it as an itch that needed scratching.

As an appetizer, here another screenshot:


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2 Responses to “Introducing MTBGuru”

  1. Mark Says:

    Thank You

  2. » GPS Downloads + Photos + Google Maps == MTBGuru » The Ogre's Guide Says:

    [...] While on MTBR I noticed a new site out there called MTBGuru.  The site allows you to upload a GPS track and your images,  it then combines the two in a nice layout with elevation profiles and a Google Earth based map with the route displayed and clickable image icons.  All in all pretty cool stuff.  Here is the MTB Guru himself giving a rundown of the features of the site. [...]

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