Our most important people - volunteers

Friday, Mar 01, 2013 at 17:03


A key part of what ExplorOz is about is the act of contribution. When we first launched ExplorOz in 2000, many people really didn't have a clue about how powerful and valuable the internet would become in our daily lives and for many it was considered a threat, even a fad! But the ExplorOz vision has always been that technology is a powerful and valuable tool and our job is to provide the infrastructure and environment to bring people together of like-minded recreational interests in the 4WD, Camping & Caravanning industry. Together people can share knowledge, discuss opinions, tips and ideas.

On ExplorOz live public contributions can be given in the Forum, Blogs, Road Conditions, Places, Events, User Treks, Article Reviews, Shop Product Reviews, Classifieds, Recipes, and Wildflowers.

In addition, maintenance and site admin tasks are available to members of the site who are interested in helping the free sections of the site to operate. Empowering our audience to have control in certain site areas has helped the site become one that meets the needs of the people that use it and fosters the sense of community that we all value. These members voluntarily contribute to the maintenance of Places, Trek Notes, Road Conditions, Forum Moderation, Events, & Wildflowers via site admin controls.

Here's a list of those volunteers and a description of what is involved in each task:

Forum Moderators

Management of the Forum is surprisingly a complex and time consuming task. It is absolutely necessary for us to have moderation to uphold our legal responsibilities and because we know you value having a Forum that is free from spammers, blatant sellers, aggression and inappropriate material. Day-to-day Forum management is handled by volunteers, all of whom are ExplorOz Members, external to the I.T. Beyond/ExplorOz office. Forum Moderators are not required to provide fulltime monitoring or public support. They are however, the sole decision makers in regards to the execution of moderation and they are the sole recipients of Alert Moderator feedback. Their actions are transparent and reversible as they use a group system that allows all or any of them to work collaboratively or individually. Whilst you may feel you didn't have a say in electing these members, they serve your best interests and care very much about the site's reputation.

The moderators are people just like you - they have jobs, families, problems, and priorities that sometimes mean they can't be dealing with Forum posts 100% of the time. They have loved ones (and vehicles) needing their attention at sudden and unexpected moments, but they have made a commitment to ExplorOz by giving up their time to perform an often very thankless role in light of the all their other life responsibilities.

The current Modsquad structure come into place in late 2008. Prior to this, Forum Management had been handled internally but over time it simply became too much to handle. The first Modsquad team consisted of 7 members and over the past 6 years there has been little change to the group with 3 of the current team of 6 being the originals. The longest serving moderator actually has been doing it since 2002 and is today’s team leader.

Our ModSquad team have ridden the times of change with patience & commitment and have earned our explicit trust and gratitude (plus Lifetime Membership). Whilst they take the brunt of sometimes the worst that people can show, they stand committed to the cause because as one quoted to me in an email “…we volunteer because we enjoy the site and what it brings and provides for keen travellers such as myself. It ain't always easy and can be a bit frustrating at times but I reckon we get it right and reach a good balance.”

The Modsquad Team Members are:

Bonz was the first of the moderators and was our only external moderator in the early years - early 2000's. He has coordinated many Members Trips & Gatherings. Bonz is known for his kind-nature, and his love for hardcore 4WD competition events. Find out more about Bonz on his Profile page - Bonz (Vic)

Mick O balances his work life with his passion for adventurous travels. Through ExplorOz he has made connections with others and together they have tackled some extremely remote outback areas (see his blogs). He is well known for his prolific and detailed Blogging. He is both aToyota and a Patrol man. Many readers enjoyed seeing the refitting of his 2002 3L T/D Nissan Patrol ST replacing the engine....and the gearbox....and the turbo! Mick also has Places admin access and contributes by adding new Places, updating and correcting text in Place descriptions and adding photos to existing places. Find out more about Mick on his Profile page - Mick O

Greg has a long career history working as an Environmental Scientist, Zoologist and Exploration Geologist. He is interested in mapping and has produced digital topo map products and digital geology map products. Our shop is a distributor of his products (Greg Harewood mapping). He is also particularly interested in birds and belongs to the ECA WA Birdlife Australia WA Naturalists Club. Greg was the first person to make Trek Note contributions to the site (back in 2001) and has used ExplorOz since it first started. Find out more about Greg on his Profile page - The Explorer

Kev is the ultimate volunteer and "can do" person. If anyone, anywhere needs help - Kev is there (and so too might be his wife and kids). Kev loves driving and thinks nothing to do over 2000km in a weekend to be somewhere. Kev has been to a couple of the National Gatherings and has organised other smaller gatherings too. Kev's personality makes him very likeable and for this reason he has made many friends through ExplorOz. He is ex-Army and has a strong sense of duty and justice. He constantly prowls ExplorOz for spammers in the Classifieds, Events, and Forum and is quick to notice and report any site errors etc. He also has an uncanny knack of remembering details and connecting facts which makes him the ideal problem-solver in the Modsquad. The problem is Kev likes Bundy and the Broncos. On a more serious note, in addition to Forum admin, Kev has Places admin access, Roads admin access, Treks Admin access and has made regular and dependable contributions to all these core content areas of the site. Find out more about Kev on his Profile page - Sir Kev & Darkie

David says camping and fishing are in his soul. In fact, I'm pretty sure he told me he stumbled across ExplorOz when looking for fishing information. He claims homes in both WA and NT but is currently in rural WA. He has had numerous 4x4s and his current vehicle has a great customised fitout that impressed people at the National Gathering.Find out more about David on his Profile page - Serendipity (WA).

Stephen is the newest of the moderators to join the team, although far from a newbie. Stephen has been a long-term Member of the site and has offered contributions to content in Trek Notes, User Treks, and Places on many occasions over the years. He has also contributed behind the scenes in an informal capacity and has taken initiative on many occasions showing his genuine support for the site, its users and our staff. He frequently coordinates group expeditions with his many ExplorOz friends (including ourselves), enjoying true cross-country remote explorations. His passions include kayaking, photography, wildflowers, and history, and he favours exploring remote pockets of the Great Victoria Desert, Simpson Desert and areas of Central Australia. Stephen was instrumental in helping Robin Matthews to get Maralinga off the ground as a tourist venture - with the first official tourist information being published here on ExplorOz. Stephen is a popular and well-known ExplorOz Member via his interesting Blogs and Forum posts.

Road Conditions Reporters

Since the dawn of time (it seems), ExplorOz has produced a unique Australia-wide report of roads/tracks access status updates. This information has been painstakingly gathered from literally hundreds of different resources. Initially handled internally, the task eventually became insurmountable until Member - Kerry Wynn (Qld) came to the rescue.

Kerry is a creative thinker with a "can do" nature and an incredible amount of energy. He has lived an eclectic life and has acquired many practical trades and life skills that continue to serve him well. He has done everything from youth counselling to machine design and fabrication and has been an ExplorOz member since 2004. A passionate Sunshine Coast Queenslander, these days Kerry is enjoying the mining boom in WA living in Kalgoorlie. Find out more about Kerry on his Profile page - Kerry.

Kerry, took on responsibility for the Australia wide road condition reports for over 7 years in addition to working for us as an Advertising Sales Consultant. During this time we also had about 25 volunteers adding local knowledge updates to areas/tracks they used frequently, plus some of our Business Members, such as Anne from Drysdale Station updated whole regions. But times changes and people move on. We greatly missed Kerry when he resigned his post some 4 years ago.

Long-term Member - Mike Fretwell from SA rose to the call for volunteer assistance to take over from Kerry in the capacity of Roads Coordinator. Together with Mike’s encouragement and support, David and Michelle revamped the report pages to ease the reporting admin task and upgraded the reporting output to be searchable and mapped – a big improvement in user-friendliness.

Mike has been a Member since 2002 and has made contributions of articles, has been a Place Administrator for years, and has contributed Trek Notes and Articles. Mike has been an active outdoors enthusiast for much of his life. He particularly enjoys hiking but a foot injury and subsequent rehab found him available and willing to take over the Australia wide Road Conditions update responsibility, and now he's stuck with it! He has also taken on a more challenging task that has taken time and effort to complete accurate. This task is to add the mapping references to each road listed in the report to enable the road status to appear in the national road map. This is a huge job that has enormous benefits to the site users. We are so thankful to have Mike and he is highly committed and reliable to manage these updates at least weekly. Find out more about Mike on his Profile page - Mike

Trek Note Writers

Whilst Trek Note contributions are never "voluntary" (we pay through free Membership, Member Money/store credits, and merchandise) we know this is hardly enough to credit the time and effort put into the work to submit them so happy to lump it altogether with the "volunteers" as its a valuable contribution done without gain.

Traditionally, our Trek writers had to submit a near perfect OziExplorer plt file (which challenged some!) plus complete a proforma template (in Word) to provide trip planning information. These days you need to upload a high quality User Trek , upload all your waypoints as Places (or edit/update existing Places) and request access to the Treks Admin to complete the text details in the proforma.

We have had about 50 people contribute trek notes but only about 10 have eventuated in published works. A few of these became regular contributors:

Phil Bianci
John Baas
Rod Watson
Stephen Langman
Greg Harewood

These days, if you want to contribute a trek note the process is really simple provided you have a clean plot file. This can be captured using OziExplorer, Trackranger, EOTrackMe (converted to User Trek) etc. We provide you with online access to the proofing site so there's no formating, no word docs etc. Easy peesy. Just contact Michelle if you're interested.

Place Administrators

Place administration is a task for checking and validating the data that has been entered by the public and going beyond the functions of normal access and modifying/editting and correcting data as needed. Some administrators enjoy working on purely their own data, others work on validating the existing content and looking for ways to improve, embellish and correct what's already in the system. A number of people have made valuable contributions using Place Admin access including :
Andrew Sander, Doug Tilley, Fred Bisseling, Gavin Woods (RIP), Ian Taylor, Kate Tyndall, Mark Grewar, Mick O, Mike Fretwell, Neile Rennardson, Phil Lewis, Rod Durston, Stephen Langman, Steve Baker.

A special mention for 2013 goes to Member - Kevin S (QLD) , and Member - Warrie (NSW), who have made significant place updates, corrections and additions to the Places system. Their work and input has been invaluable to ensuring that the Places section remains as accurate and current as possible, so we'd like to say thanks to both of them for all of their hard work.

Events Contributors

The events section is open to everyone to create and manage any upcoming events around Australia that you may know about. This system has been built to be of specific use to travellers, making it easy to plan activities for when you are on the road. Member - Dunworkin (WA) has been making regular updates to this site section in 2013, listing a wide range of unique events and activities. This information assists in keeping all regular travellers entertained on the road, thank you Deanna for your contributions.


Member - John and Val have provided ExplorOz with all-round assistance, including feedback and content that has improved and enriched the website over their many years of involvement with ExplorOz. On a trip together with Dave & Michelle (and Stephen L and others in the Maralinga Mystery Tour), they hatched a plan for developing an interactive Wildflower database on ExplorOz. Val's passion and botanical knowledge together with their commitment and communication with Dave has seen this project come to fruition with the Wildflower database going live on ExplorOz in early 2014.

Do you want to volunteer?

All of our volunteers have told us that helping us gives them a great sense of satisfaction, but this satisfaction leads to the sense of belonging. We sometimes hear complaints on the Forum about the site losing it's "sense of community and belonging". It's not like that for these people because they are actively involved in the site and they can see their efforts making a positive impact on someone elses life as well. If you want to fix something - be a part of the solution. We hope you'll all join with us and thanking our most important people - our volunteers and maybe one day you can also take up the call to help.
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