The Uncharted

Little Finland

It really should be fairly simple. On a dark and stormy night the muses come calling, and leave a great new idea in your mind. Brick by imperative brick you design and implement a new feature, test it with care, ship it on tenterhooks, gather feedback, maybe fix some bugs… and you’re done. Time to move on to the next thing on your list.

Except that’s not quite what happens. You ship a new feature and now Heraclitus tells you the app is no longer the same. The equilibrium has been disturbed. Something has changed.

To be precise, the way people use it has changed. If the new feature was any good, then by adding it you enabled a new set of scenarios, new ways for people to use the software. You didn’t just write some code, you engaged in casual world building. There is now new land to explore and settle, towards which the wagon trains are already shambling. Far beyond the manicured horizons of solid code, at the very limits of the tested scenario map, they will surely encounter a few krakens.

On a good day, you the creator will have explored this space in your mind, perhaps even in the holy writ of specifications. Your code may this have already covered up the more dangerous of pitfalls. Your people will not lose themselves in the desert on your watch. But your users… your users are interesting people. You can always count on them to explore the uncharted edges of your world in unexpected ways.

Hopefully nobody will get hurt.

This is where we’ve been in recent weeks with Backroads. With the release of 1.0.19, we’ve largely finished enabling some great in-app tracking scenarios. You can track your location on a map, alongside an existing track file if you wish. You can save everyday tracks without even having to create a trip; they’ll automatically be stored in a calendar-like view available from the tracking page. You can also import and export these tracks, in case you want to accumulate them on a single device, or simply back them up. You can view charts showing elevation and velocity over time. You can even see your track’s elevation gain and loss, although those calculations tend to be affected by GPS noise.

The one thing you can’t do yet is share a track on Facebook. Maybe someday, when we’re all just a little bit older.

Even with all this, we’re sure we’ve missed some key scenarios and we’re looking forward to your feedback. So if you find the land falling away, universal laws failing, yourself staring into the abyss with only a GPX track to guide you back, be sure to let us know.

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