The weekly email newsletter for the Boulder Group, the GPS, will cease publication after the week of the 2016 Annual Dinner on November 12, 2016.
This was my suggestion to the Boulder Council at the September meeting, and the Council agreed to this action. This is being done because the GPS is no longer needed in this era of social networking, where individuals have access to many channels to find out about local events. Nonetheless, the GPS filled an information need for many years, and I thought it appropriate to summarize its history as best I could before ceasing its publication.
The origin of the GPS
The GPS was started years ago, long before social networking became such a pervasive aspect of our online lives. It’s evolution spans the time from the earliest use of the Internet, well before the sophisticated interconnected websites that form the social networking landscape that we know today.
Before the GPS started, the Boulder Group had created a small website for itself in the mid-1990’s, using the free Boulder Community Network (BCN), a humble website which still exists today at bcn.boulder.co.us, which is still free for non-profit, community use. This static site did not reach out to anyone however, and someone had the idea to use email to send out weekly news about the group around the later 1990’s. That someone was Don Walker, who at the time was the editor of the Compass, Boulder’s monthly newsletter. At that time, the Compass was still printed in hard copy form, and manually processed and mailed from the Clubroom. It was usually a simple, four page, black and white document, but printed on one piece of paper, folded like a newspaper. For quite some time, Sheila Delamere, the long-time Clubroom manager back then, handled this task almost single-handedly, though she usually had some help, folding the several page black -and-white 8.5 x 11 pages in half that were sealed with adhesive dots (as flyers are done today), and taken to the post office for mass mailing.
It was around this time that Don had the idea of starting a weekly email version of the Compass, which he called, naturally enough, the GPS, as a more modern version of the Compass. At the time, the use of email by any organization to convey messages was quite innovative, and something very new to most people. I have no record of how the distribution list was first created and maintained, but I suspect it was quite small, and probably done by word of mouth. In those early days of the Internet, it was a much more trusted environment, and the GPS editor would have been quite sensitive to avoid sending the GPS to anyone who did not want it. The technical production of the GPS was simple: create a Word document and cut and pasted it into the body of the email, the method still used today; but the method of distribution did improve along the way.
When I joined the Boulder Group around 2002, I had just graduated with my master’s in telecommunications from CU Boulder, and eager to start having a life again, after enduring several years of graduate school while working as a programmer. After completing Advanced Mountaineering School my first year, and making new climbing friends within the Club, I was asked by Don if I would take over being the editor of the Compass. I seem to recall it was over a few beers at the newly opened Southern Sun…how could I refuse? I wanted to help the Club, and I did enjoy writing.
After passing on the editorship of the Compass, Don then passed on the editing of the GPS to Danita Dickinson. Though no real record was kept of its history, I know that Brenda Leach was the editor for a time in later 2000’s. By this time, I had become involved with improving the Boulder Group’s website, and serving on its Council. I had persuaded them into paying for a Clubroom computer and hosting the website at a real Internet Service Provider (ISP), instead of the limited BCN. With the help of other volunteers with IT skills, the Boulder website grew into a website with real functionality; and one of those features was the change the subscription method for the GPS. It was not very difficult to turn this into a self-subscribing service using the well known open source Mailman utility, which is still in use today on the Boulder website at cmcboulder.org.
After Brenda Leach, other editors would serve for a time before turning over the responsibility to someone else. I am probably not remembering them all, but I know that Blake Busse, Jim Ilg and Roger Hedrick all took a turn, all of whom still reside in Boulder. But with the explosive growth in social networking, the GPS has outlived its usefulness, and people have many other sources of current information, both within the CMC’s own publications, and the many other sources for local information on the Internet.
And here was where I learned some of these historical details…over a recent pleasant dinner at Efrain’s in Lafayette…