More marine POI review sites, will one dominate?
If you followed my PS’s to the ActiveCaptain entry, you know that the site got quite a drubbing on certain forums and newsgroups, much to the amazement of people like me who actually know AC’s proprietors. Oy! But those threads did lead me to check out some other sites that allow cruisers to create/review POIs for each other. I was somewhat familiar with Marinas.com, but didn’t realize that it has by far the best aerial photography of my homeport I’ve seen anywhere, in fact great photography of ports and lighthouses all over the planet. Registered users can write reviews of marinas but there’s no way to correct marina data, which is too bad as a lot of it is flawed. For instance, the flat statement that “The Camden Yacht Club is private, but may be able to offer reciprocal privileges to members of participating yacht clubs” is flat wrong; the Club is welcoming to all cruisers.
SkipperGuide is quite the opposite of Marinas.com; it’s very light on content, so far, but users can potentially add almost anything they want, in “wiki” fashion (which it is). In fact, it’s possibly too ambitious; whereas SkipperGuide attempts to cover the whole world of cruising, starting without even a flawed database, it’s going to take a lot of user input to make it seem at all useful. Check out Annapolis, for instance. On the other hand, this site—like the interesting online waypoint, and more, manager POI66–integrates with Google Earth. Are there other sites like this? Will one become the “ebay/Amazon” of marine POI reviews?
I read with great interest this review from Ben in regards to activecaptain.com and gave it a try. I am very impressed, have become a quick fan and frequent contributor, and want to encourage you to do the same.
I can see how active captain is going to quickly put an end to me shelling out $100+ a season for updated marine facility guides which contain mostly outdated information. (Ever try to go to a Restaurant or West Marine location in a guide book, that is no longer there?). It also might be, after a future release, a very painless way to get USCG notice to mariners information either automatically or thru volunteers providing local knowledge.
The web-site is a “community web-site”, much like the Wikipedia on-line encyclopedia, the content is created by community members, not commercial interests. To work it needs postings from people like us about our experience at each marina and anchorage. I have been making entries myself, each only takes about 10 minutes.
Some things I like about active captain:
1. When other people make an entry that is wrong, you can change it (that’s YOU who are reading my PANBO post right now!), everyone is an editor and the accuracy and relevance of the information goes way up! The marina owners are going to hate this … ask Microsoft, who is unhappy with their Wikipedia entry, and cannot get their view of themselves into the Wiki database to stick, because the community controls it. Likewise if a Marina or local restaurant provides high prices or poor service, it will be on-line for all to see, if they improve things, the same.
2. Once you create a review, you can edit it (text and all) without creating a new entry. Ever diss someone and come to regret it later (Larry on google ?), or make a review and then find on a repeat visit things have improved, and you want to change your original review (text & all). I don’t know about you, but I feel much more comfortable making a negative entry, for example one I made for Danford’s in Port Jefferson, knowing that if on repeat visits I don’t experience the same problems and/or other review writers tell me my experience was abnormal, I can update my review to be positive again. (Ben � how about a feature like that on Panbo ?). In a marine guide, you are very unlikely to read a bad review, and the uniform positive reviews doesn’t help the reader to distinguish between what I will really experience in a marina by reading the guide book.
3. Reviews carry a rating on the captain who made the entry. The rating seems to vary on how much you contribute that turns out to be accurate / accepted into the database. This gives more weight to the active members, and kind of forces the marina owners to just fix what’s wrong rather then attempt to post good reviews of themselves.
4. Support – I have been very happy with the support. Granted virtually nobody needs to get support, everything is pretty self explanatory, but as a software professional I tried to push the limits of the web-site I found some inconsequential things (e.g. in an anchorage suppose to be depth in feet, or a comment), I got responses the same or next day, and saw the software updated the following week. This is very far above the call of duty.
Enhance your marine experience, save a tree, and get honest information about your destination, and go to http://www.activecaptain.com and be an editor to what has unarguably established itself in four short weeks, the ultimate on-line marine guide that is open to all of us being the editors!
And … if you had a good experience at Danford’s in Port Jefferson, post a review, if my comments are not supportable by the experience of others, I will revisit it.
Some of my reviews:
South Minneford Yacht Club, City Island
(3 stars) Not fancy, very workable and deep entrance, 2007-02-03
Captain: b393capt, Huntington, NY (1030)
The staff did everything we need, and the location is perfect for visiting some of the outrageous restaurants on the south end. Due to the arrangement of slips, it is easy to maneuver inside the marina even with a 46 foot sailboat with 9 foot draft. Only 3 stars, as I recall my daughter complaining about bathrooms not being clean.
Cedar Point Yacht Club
(5 stars) A Small Boat Racing Sailor’s Dream, 2007-01-28
Captain: b393capt, Huntington, NY (1030)
Wish I lived here !! This facility is home to at least 6 classes of one design racing sailboats, with a multi acre facility for dry storage and launching for racing fleets, and modern construction docks for cruisers, all nestled in a quiet and scenic multi-million dollar residential community. For a small sailboat sailor this place has more than everything, it is absolutely gold plated, built from the ground up to support sailing enthusiasts getting on and off the water efficiently, as well as having a great club atmosphere. A cruising family might view the same facility as not quite gold plated as it�s missing some amenities that normally go with 5 star ratings (e.g. no restaurant, no swimming pool, no shopping), but even they will recognize Cedar Point is extremely clean and what is here for them is very well done. Although no restaurant, the yacht club building has a 2 story wrap around outside deck with a bar & grill that serves a tasty assortment of food in addition to burgers and frys. There is also a sandy beach, perhaps to rocky for swimming, but great for lounging, and a well equipped kids playground near the club house. Not sure of weather? The dock master is constantly keeping tabs on what’s happening, keeps his eye on a PC with doppler radar displays, and frequently provides announcements to the various sailing fleets over the VHF when weather is iffy.This is a residential neighborhood, getting to anything in town takes a 20+ minute taxi ride that first needs to wind through gorgeous, but narrow and stop sign challenged roads.By sea be very careful on the approach and don’t follow the smaller sailboats!! It is too easy to believe the water is deep enough for you, with numerous shallow draft sailboats being free to sail outside the channel markers. Leading to the marina is 1/2 mile channel ending in a lazy 90 degree bend that is mandatory for you to follow closely, but of no significance to the numerous local sailing craft that can maneuver in 4-5 foot waters. Cut corners .. and you will have the joy of an audience of many dozen professional sailors witnessing your grounding. There are no dedicated transient slips but if your lucky to catch a temporarily available slip, and your a racing sailor at heart, you will really enjoy a visit and leave wanting for many improvements in your home marina in both facilities and friendly atmosphere.