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Mind blowing alternative to GPS Coordinates


Original Post
B L · · New York, NY · Joined May 2015 · Points: 54

Just came across this today and my mind is blown - thought it may be handy for climbers looking to communicate bizarre locations without a ton of numbers.  
https://what3words.com  translates every 3m square into a combination of 3 words. They also have an Android app (no idea about iPhone).

e.g. 51.520847,  -0.19552100 ←→  ///filled.count.soap

I don't work for these guys and I get nothing for recommending them.. just thought it was cool and wanted to share

Nut Tool · · Portland, OR · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 0

With copy/paste and "inserting a link" nowadays, I haven't found sharing coordinates to be cumbersome at all these days. Interested to hear more opinions tho.

John Clark · · San Francisco · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 422

Ah yes, I remember that one time I climbed that thing that starts at filled.count.soap and then did this epic traverse to wank.ass.idea which is right next to who.dun.it . Or, you know, we could stick to a really simple system based on this crazy new thing called a map and that is totally logical.

John Sherman · · Sheboygan, WI · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
B L wrote: Just came across this today and my mind is blown - thought it may be handy for climbers looking to communicate bizarre locations without a ton of numbers.  
https://what3words.com  translates every 3m square into a combination of 3 words. They also have an Android app (no idea about iPhone).

e.g. 51.520847,  -0.19552100 ←→  ///filled.count.soap

I don't work for these guys and I get nothing for recommending them.. just thought it was cool and wanted to share

So this website empowers me to trade coordinates which follow a simple pattern, are printed on my maps, and are easily entered into a GPS for a system with none of these benefits?


edit: beaten
Jennie Matkov · · West Chester, PA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 40

Of course it isn’t efficient but it’s really fun, and would be a perfect way to complicate a good scavenger hunt clue.

Really though..it would be great if they had a way to reverse lookup a location, as in you could input \\\unicorn.heart.flipso and get the corresponding map coordinates.. That way if your brain hates remembering numbers you just remember 3 words and you can find something to the accuracy of a 3m square. 
**ETA: Oops, this is possible. Just have to type /// into the search bar before the 3 word phrase

Jeremy S · · Southern California · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 45

I remember seeing a TED talk on that. Seems very practical for robots, but not for us peeps. At least Lat/Long is interpretable forwards and backwards.

jackscoldsweat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 5
Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 368

The thing I hate about this is 2 places could be right next to each other and you'd never know (because the words would be completely different).

B L · · New York, NY · Joined May 2015 · Points: 54

One interesting point is Mongolia is going to try it for mail because a lot of homes are too rural to have addresses.
https://what3words.com/news/government/mongol-post/
Personally I've mistyped gps coords a number of times. Much easier to spot a typo with words. Also 3 words are much easier to communicate verbally should the need arise. Ever told someone your phone number on a call or in person and have them repeat it back to you incorrectly.. maybe they switched a couple of the numbers up? Also gets around the duplicate street name problem "there are 271 First Streets in California."

John Sherman · · Sheboygan, WI · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
jackscoldsweat wrote:
Here's some more insight/perspectives. just before the taco died. :(

JCS

I really don't see any insightful perspectives there honestly. The person who made the comparison to domain names is ignoring that IP addresses don't follow a useful pattern. 66.39.28.147 might get you SuperTaco, but 66.39.28.148 or 66.39.28.14aren't necessarily going to be Mountain Project or any other climbing site. The only pattern is that IPs in the same range probably have the same host or ISP, which is useless for web navigation. Meanwhile, Lat/Long or UTM follow an easy to understand pattern that is in itself useful for navigation, can be obtained using thousands of devices from hundreds of manufacturers, and can be determined with nothing more than a topo map.


This system gives you a relatively accurate position with decent readability at the cost of any use as a navigational aid, requires specific software available on a limited number of devices, and ties you into a closed system that may not be around in 2/5/10 years. That may be of use to organizations with reliable power, specific needs, and control over their users' hardware, but has far less utility to individuals.
Eli W · · New England · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5
John Clark · · San Francisco · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 422
B L wrote: One interesting point is Mongolia is going to try it for mail because a lot of homes are too rural to have addresses.
https://what3words.com/news/government/mongol-post/
Personally I've mistyped gps coords a number of times. Much easier to spot a typo with words. Also 3 words are much easier to communicate verbally should the need arise. Ever told someone your phone number on a call or in person and have them repeat it back to you incorrectly.. maybe they switched a couple of the numbers up? Also gets around the duplicate street name problem "there are 271 First Streets in California."

Stop grasping at straws. If I am on the phone with someone, I can just go back in my call history if I need to call them or vice-versa. As for street names, that is not an argument because the point that is being discussed is GPS/Mapping coordinates, not addresses.

Conway Yao · · Washington, District of Col… · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 47

I'm a big fan of W3W. Just FYI, Google has their own system called Plus codes that aren't as human-friendly as W3W, but still better than a 15-digit lat/long. https://plus.codes/

Like a lot of things in climbing, W3W or Plus codes have strengths and weaknesses depending on the use-case. 

  • Trying to find how one point relates to another? Bad use-case. 
  • Trying to correlate a point against a paper map? Bad use-case.
  • Trying to communicate for the purpose of navigating to a specific location like the start of a climb, or the location of the downclimb? Excellent use-case. Another example of something like this is locating the entry point for a scuba diving site-- you don't have ANY visual landmarks in the middle of the ocean, so you have to use coordinates. 
A rare few places like the Gunks have incredible phone-based apps like the Gunks+ app that literally tell you in which direction, and how far, to walk to find a route. Like: "You are 100 yds southeast, walk →".

But for the rest of us, unless we've been there before, we have to route-find by using visual landmarks from images or textual descriptions, OR GPS coordinates. Right now there are few climbs w/GPS coordinates, even though MP supports them explicitly-- and I bet that's because recording those coordinates is a big pain in the ass. That's where something like W3W can come in.

But by far the biggest downfall to W3W is the fact that phone GPS units are not that accurate, especially in places w/poor cell reception. Unfortunately, that's a lot of climbing places. So that makes both logging, and navigating to someone else's coordinates, unreliable.

That's compounded because a GPS error of 15 feet in a flat, open field is not that big of a deal. But 15 feet of error next to a cliff edge? That could confuse you whether you ought to be at the base of a cliff or not! Imagine a crag that has multiple ledges-- you'd be confused as to whether you're on the correct ledge.

To get better accuracy, you need a device like the Bad Elf plug-in device for the iPhone, which runs $100. Then, you'll be guaranteed accuracy down to 3m, so you can pinpoint your location and the location of a climb. I'm considering getting one (also b/c it's useful to me as a private pilot) to start logging better coordinates.
Serge Smirnov · · Seattle, WA · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 368

The idea of words-based coordinates is good; the specific W3W implementation is not.  Something like 1 word each for { nearest metropolitan area, longitude, latitude } would be easy to remember, provide enough resolution, and mostly preserve the benefits of numeric representation.

Chris K · · Clemson · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 56

Seriously, just stick with UTM or MGRS. they’re freaking metric systems. Easy to understand and compatible with GPS systems and hardcopy maps and apps like Gaia or CalTopo. When you’re lost as sht and need to figure distances and give bearings, having a scaled system works best. As interesting as the coordinate system OP mentioned, it isn’t useful for actual orienteering.

I really wish people would give coordinates for MP in UTM. 

Conway Yao · · Washington, District of Col… · Joined Oct 2017 · Points: 47

For general-purpose orienteering, W3W is inferior to UTM or MGRS. Here's a better use-case, assuming good GPS accuracy:

To get to the base of the climb, leave the parking lot at the south end. Walk 200 yards to a fallen tree (approx. W3W coordinates: badger.green.tomato), then follow the faint dirt trail to the left. Follow the trail to a boulder (approx. W3W coords: shirt.column.ocean), then make a sharp left. The wall and start of the route is 20 yards ahead, near table.flower.popcorn.
Basically, the W3W coordinates help confirm that some visual landmark in the description, is actually what you see in front of you. Otherwise you'd be uncertain. "Is this the right fallen tree??"
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

General Climbing
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