An Update from the Avalanche Center - Part 1 of 2 [Part 2]
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This update will begin to cover the changes made in the last six months or so, to the extent that I can remember all of them. The icons on the home page will serve as a guideline, going from left to right. So this "Part 1" will cover the store, the forums and new gallery, and the News section. There is also some news other than website work, and that will be split between this part and "Part 2" later in the week. After that the auction will be ending and all of the news distributed will be up to date and there probably won't be more mail to the updates list for a few more weeks.
Of course the auction must be promoted. It seems like each email or newsgroups posting brings a flurry of bidding which tapers off after a day or two. And over a weekend it really dies off. This is the way it's been every year. We got off to a good start late last week after the first round of announcements and promotion. Since then quite a few more items have been added, and the auction ends this Friday. So make sure to check it out.
While I finally got just about everything posted for bidding there are a few more things to check back for during the week. There are short-term items which are only posted for 2 days or so. Including beacons which we start at $175. So far we've moved more beacons for low prices than in the past. There have also been some camera pouches from LowePro, a few copies of the book by John Moynier, and some of the knives donated by Buck Knives. Look for more specials throughout the week, including more avalanche center shirts now.
The main page still lists items in the order received. Now that everything is posted I will work on a few listings by type of item (like Packs, which we have a few of) and by activity (like Climbing, which numerous items are related to this year). I will also be making the feature for auctioning your own items more accessible.
This is our only real fundraising event and we've gotten a lot of good things from the outdoor industry, so be sure to check it out. And remember that all winning bidders get a membership for the following year - even if you win a pair of Chums for a couple dollars.
There are a few non-website things to announce. You can now support the avalanche center by using Goodsearch as your search engine. Just go to Goodsearch.com and search for "avalanche" under charities. When you do this and then use goodsearch we get a penny for each search anyone does. It seems small but it can add up if enough people do it. You can add Goodsearch to the choices at the upper right in Mozilla, and the new IE 7 also lets you choose default or listed search engines. After the auction maybe I'll create a page with instructions, but I'm sure many of our supporters can figure it out before then.
At the top of our page to contribute:
There are several links of higher importance this time of year. One is the "Five Tax-Saving Principles" and another is the " End of Year Charitable Contribution Tip". Donations of old autos or other property is also worth looking into at the end of the tax year. As you plan your 2006 tax strategies consider these pages.
The Avalanche Store has been entirely updated for this season. All product descriptions and photos should be current and reflect this years models. Once in a while we are asked if we have the most current version of something or other. We have no inventory carried over from the past so everything you purchase from us came from the manufacturer only a short time before.
As part of the updating of products numerous industrial versions have been added. We can now supply any operation with heavy duty probes and big super-size shovels. The updating also added options for colors and sizes on products where those were not offered before. We used to email customers for the size/length info and offered only the default colors unless somebody asked for something different.
After the auction a few additional items will be incorporated into the store. Also remember that members who are logged in have a discount automatically applied to their cart and pay no shipping. We continue to match all discounts offered anywhere else and have completed numerous sales of that type so far. I don't believe there has been anything we couldn't match so far.
The second icon on the home page is for the forums. These have not been as active as we'd like, but the quality has been high. It seems in general like the more active forums are the lower the quality gets, and one of our objectives from the start has been to focus on quality vs noise.
The most recent post inquires about the nature of the avalanche hazard in Japan. If anyone has any knowledge of this please post a reply on the topic in "General Discussion".
A lot of work over the summer involved programming, and the forums were no exception. Many modifications have been added, including numerous anti-spam ones. Aside from fighting the spammers other mods show related topics at the bottom of the page when you read a topic, break up lines with over 50 characters and no space (to eliminate horizontal scrolling), offer a smoother spell check flow when posting, and resize photos (again to eliminate horizontal sprawl).
The forums have also been re-integrated with the member login and registration. When a member logs into the website they are also logged into the forums. When they register they should also end up with a forum account under the same name and password. This had worked once before, but after various upgrades and programming updates it had become broken.
I've continued to answer questions by email more often than not, but in the future I am likely to become more diligent about referring everything to the forums. This eliminates the need to answer the same thing over again, and also allows for other people to contribute to answers.
There is now a photo gallery, which is a major new feature. This does not have an icon of its own but is integrated into the forums (and also into the member logins along with them). Like many parts of the site there are some things available to anyone and additional things available to members.
Members can create their own photo gallery and manage it as they wish, including permissions. So the public can view members galleries if the owner allows it. Some galleries will retain the default, which is to be accessible to other members.
There is a public gallery where anyone can have a relevant photo added. Members can add to it directly, others can email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll be added as quickly as possible. We've gotten photos sent in from time to time but never had anywhere to put them.
Photos in the gallery can be rated and comments can be left. The gallery allows people to share avalanche related photos directly, it is not a "we'll show you this or that" one-way communication and it isn't a place where we selectively post photos. If it's relevant it can be directly posted (by members) or submitted for posting.
The third icon, after the store and forums/gallery, is for the Avalanche News section. This isn't new, but it has probably been expanded more over the last year or two than any other part of the site. You'll notice many more news stories in 2006 than in 2005 - and so on looking back further. There is an RSS newsfeed which is updated whenever new stories are added.
In addition to news stories this section has information on conferences and issues, and a Newsfeeds page. The newsfeeds page reads avalanche related RSS feeds and posts the latest headlines and summaries from them.
This section has been kept up to date and clean, so there should be few to no bad links and the section map should be close to fully current. Along with the conditions and incidents sections this one is constantly updated and worth checking frequently. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Until Part 2 ...
Thanks for your support, including your auction participation. The avalanche center relies entirely on your contributions, the auction, and store sales. We are entirely public/user supported without any reliance on government finds, grants, or sponsorships. So your help is important and appreciated.
Part 2 will bring you up to date on the remaining sections and give the auction one final push before closing day. It should come out Thursday morning.