SCUBA EARTH – Of Social Networks and Divers
PADI’s SCUBA EARTH; an innovative and monumental achievement in web tools and social networking for divers. Using a Facebook account, the authour attempts to link his profile with SCUBA EARTH. The browser; Google Chrome. The web form fails to return; soon this turns into 30 days of frustration, crashed browsers, and failed scripts.
User Interaction and Technical/Community Support:
PADI’s SCUBA EARTH is actually a bit one sided when it comes to interaction amongst its’ users; another word could be labourious or mind numbingly frustrating. It is nearly impossible to do without Facebook, and with Facebook the process doesn’t fare any better. Once again the web form that is assumed to link a users’ Facebook account to SCUBA EARTH either crashes, fails to load, or pushes a Facebook error. Unless the user is already connected to the other SCUBA EARTH user via Facebook already then basically using SCUBA EARTH to keep in contact with other divers is impossible. Now to the final question: how easy is it to report all these problems to PADI and get them fixed? That depends on the users’ particular point of view. If the user is an average diver trying to report something wrong; a bug needing to be fixed, etc; then the link or page to report this is, as far as can be seen, non-existent. There also seems to be no correlation between PADI’s website and the SCUBA EARTH URL in terms of technical support; webmaster or otherwise. We haven’t spoken to PADI dive centers, and won’t make any assumptions on differing support for dive centers; and honestly differing support doesn’t make sense at all. Think about it objectively why would PADI not give tech or web support on purpose to its’ largest customer base without whom the sport and its’ subsequent sanctioning bodies would not exist; only to in turn provide its’ smallest customer base with tech support for a beta version of a web tool that seemingly doesn’t work that well for either the dive centers or the average diver. So, the only thing to do is chock it up to PADI’s simple oversight of not providing adequate tech and web support for a self-admitted “beta” web tool.
DiveBuddy.com’s SCUBA EARTH is very simple when it comes to interaction amongst it’s users; another word could be easy or a mind blowing bit of elementary. It is fairly easy to communicate with other users, and linking a Facebook account is not necessary, because DiveBuddy.com is its’ own social network. On a side note, RSS feeds and blogging are incredibly simple on DiveBuddy.com so using Facebook is almost redundant. Now, more pressing questions: how does DiveBuddy.com handle tech and web support? The founder of DiveBuddy.com is everyone’s friend on DiveBuddy.com, so contact is easy, and response is swift. SCUBA EARTH is not a different URL of DiveBuddy.com, it is a part of DiveBuddy.com on the same site, and interacts directly with the social network environment itself. There exists very little oversight when it comes to web and tech support; and for good reason; it’s free to its users, works exceptionally well, and provides a massive resource for divers to connect with one another, and research and update info on dive sites around the world.
Using PADI’s Scuba Earth:
Using the PADI version of Scuba Earth is, honestly, fatal to your senses. It’s buggy to scripts using Google Chrome. It won’t load at all on Mozilla Firefox; the word “beta” continues to scream on IE, and of course Safari, and the Droid won’t recognize the map app in the middle of the screen (Google maps; by the way. Google isn’t to blame for this, the blame should be on the person who embedded the script into the page.) After a few minutes we finally got the map to work on Safari and Droid though, so it can work, but it’s hit and miss. The map itself offers little consolation to the frustration once it is working. There are no general queries. The map does not recognize iPhone and Droid location services, and to top it all off; in order to return actual hits and markers on the map; you have to place a query search. That’s right, no manipulation of the map script will give you markers or hits for other profiles or dive shops; you’ve got to actually type in a search query. You may be asking, “Well, God forbid I misspelled my query?”, easy solution: no results, so if you’re looking for your dive center on PADI’s Scuba Earth, and assumed they’re not on there, they probably are, you’re just misspelling it. We tried several dive centers native to the United States; it took at least 2 different queries to find them each time. Usage is free though; well, at least to the average person; GoSCUBACandy.com spoke to a native U.S. dive center, and they confirmed that PADI is charging the dive centers to place their info on Scuba Earth. Posting in Scuba Earth is anybody’s guess; after 30 days we still don’t know how to update query information and place social networking hits and markers. Social networking modifiers to the hits and markers are simple, but often times either cause a 404 error on the whole page, or simply reload the entire map. This problem seems more prevalent in Chrome than in IE. IE does sometime not load at all, and you can click a hyperlink to your heart’s content. When it does work, the description and sharing would be assumed based on the linking of a Facebook account. The real truth; no, sharing is not possible. Either PADI didn’t build Scuba Earth to be a native Facebook app, or didn’t take the time to make this possible even though they encourage the user to link their Facebook account to Scuba Earth. Frustrating to say the least.
Using DiveBuddy.com’s Scuba Earth:
Using the DiveBuddy.com version of Scuba Earth is smoother than PADI’s by far. First of all, the map script comes up in every browser; except Mozilla Firefox (once again, Firefox doing it’s own thing). If you do have that problem with Firefox, simply tell Firefox to allow run time scripts; it will only show this if the map script gives it problems; otherwise don’t worry about it. Netscape has a few problems with loading the map itself once a query is placed, a consolation to this is that the map still functions and returns markers and hits when manipulated. We’re unsure whether the problem is Netscape or DiveBuddy.com, and we’re not willing to draw conclusions on this, as very few people still use Netscape anymore, and Netscape always had issues with scripts that it doesn’t recognize; almost like Firefox, just with less wanting to set fire to your computer. The first query that DiveBuddy.com’s Scuba Earth gives is for the local location on the member’s profile; if the member is logged in. If not, or the user is not a member (DiveBuddy.com’s Scuba Earth is free to all, member or not; logged in or not), then it can either receive a query in the search form at the top, or manipulation of the map itself will also return results. Also the query is forgiving on spelling, auto completes with supported browsers, and returns the search and hits and markers on the map within a given radius; we typically saw 130 mile (209 km) radius around the query. Again, manipulation of the map will return a larger or smaller radius; and therefore more or less hits and markers respectively. Social networking modifiers to the hits and markers are insanely easy, and practical, to use either within the users’ own profile, or the Scuba Earth tool. Each hit and marker has it’s own description page; which is an incredibly wonderful tool for researching new dive trips.
Registering for PADI’s SCUBA EARTH:
Registering for PADI’s SCUBA EARTH is advertised as being ridiculously simple, and seemingly should be so. This is far from the truth. Using Windows 7, only Microsoft Internet Explorer works with the web form, and the human challenge. Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox were used. Chrome crashes the web form at least half the time, and the other half simply reloads the human challenge and reports an incomplete form submission error. If an attempt is made at registering manually without linking a Facebook page, then same results exist with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. So, using IE and Windows 7 or an Apple Mac product, you can link your Facebook profile directly to PADI’s SCUBA EARTH. If you don’t have a Facebook page, then you can register manually, by entering your information into the web form fields, and if you’re a PADI diver you can enter your diver ID number. PADI dive centers have profiles as well. Registering is complicated, and buggy, and people should take care not to make mistakes in the human challenge text box, the entire web form resets if you do. The word “beta” screamed to the authour time and time again while browsers were reloaded and pages refreshed.
Once the user gets through this somewhat complicated and buggy process, they’ll be able to use their profile in a somewhat innovative tool to find and research many things including dive sites and dive centers in the PADI world.
Registering for DiveBuddy.com’s SCUBA EARTH:
Registering for DiveBuddy.com’s SCUBA EARTH is done already when a user joins DiveBuddy.com, which gives the user not only access to SCUBA EARTH, but a massive social networking site that is not sanctioning body specific, and free of charge. Also, DiveBuddy.com’s SCUBA EARTH is open to the internet whether or not the user is registered and/or logged in to www.DiveBuddy.com While it has a few issues in Firefox because of Firefox’s pop-up block doing it’s normal thing, DiveBuddy.com’s SCUBA EARTH has loaded successfully on Google Chrome, IE, Safari, and even mobile applications for Droid and the Iphone’s Safari browser. Registering for DiveBuddy.com is fairly simple, and much like PADI’s web tool. Once the user is registered, they have access to SCUBA EARTH and the same features offered by PADI’s SCUBA EARTH, with a few minor cosmetic differences. Also DiveBuddy.com isn’t restricted to one single sanctioning body. It also features dive sites and reviews by the users that actually dive them.
Once the user gets through this slightly easier and extremely less buggy process, they’ll be able to use their profile in a massively open system, that features innovative support and repair; where the updates are done by the community at large because DiveBuddy.com is a complete social network with a web tool; rather than a web tool attempting to masquerade as a social network.
Images courtesy of DiveBuddy.com
Written by John Masters