QuietJourney Discussion Forum:
A Collection of Information,
An Informational Collective
Philip J. Deloria
S.I. Mailbox no. 45
First Nation peoples have been using the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and Quetico Provincial Park (QPP) waterways
as transportation routes for many centuries. Today, aluminum, Kevlar
and Royalex canoes manned by paddle sport enthusiasts and canoe-campers
represent the lion’s share of visitors to the area. This Region, located
in the liminal zone between the United States and Canada and straddling
the border between Minnesota and Ontario, is now a vacation destination
for well over 200,000 people every year. The BWCAW alone boasts over
12,000 miles of canoe routes that span thousands of lakes with innumerable
portages (land trails over which canoes are carried) linking
one to the next(Wilburs. Boundary Waters Chronology). The parks draw
still water paddlers as well as white water enthusiasts.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) proscribe strict regulations for
use of the parks including reservation systems and daily entry point
quotas that restrict the number of people who may enter the park from
any given entry point on any given day. There are regulations what may
and may not be brought into the parks (glass bottles are out, foods
must be packaged in reusable plastic bags, etc.). Outboard motors are
not permitted on many of the lakes in the BWCAW and are not permitted
anywhere within QPP. The management agencies also restrict the number
of people who can travel together Maximum of nine people in four watercraft)
and often impose fire bans due to dry and/or windy conditions. The fire
bans are especially critical management concerns because a 1999 severe
windstorm blew a great number of trees down. These dead and dried out
trees now pose a considerable fire hazard.
Visitors might spend as little as 1 day in the park, but
often stay for a week or more. For those who wish to enjoy an extended
canoe camping experience, the proper preparation, adequate knowledge
of wilderness survival skills, and navigational know-how are critical.
Acquiring the skills and finding the requisite information to plan a
successful trip can be daunting for a novice canoe camper. Merely navigating
the websites of the park authorities and guaranteeing compliance with
management regulations is a great challenge. Learning how to properly
outfit a canoe, how to pack light enough to travel the distance you
intend, and how to ward off hungry bears in a slow berry season can
take years of research and/or many trials accompanied by countless errors.
Last year my wife and I decided to plan a 7 day six night
vacation in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We had spent
an earlier vacation canoe camping in the Sylvania Wilderness Area in
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (something of a BWCAW in miniature)
and had enjoyed ourselves immensely. We had been collecting gear and
honing our skills for some time and felt that we were ready to tackle
a more significant challenge. In our preparatory research we came across
the website www.quietjourney.com
(QJ) whose Webmaster maintains a discussion forum that treats all thing
related to the BWCAW and QPP. Members of the forum share information,
experiences, stories, and techniques in the posts that they contribute.
These posts serve as organizational memory for the members of a community
that has formed online and is composed of geographically dispersed individuals
who share a love for the parks. This paper will focus on the manner
in which the QJ discussion forum has created a virtual community with
shared values, how it acts as an organ of collective memory for that
community, and challenges that the creator of the collection has faced.
As a means of analyzing the QJ discussion forum’s collection
of informational resources I examined the content provided through the
forum, conducted an interview via e-mail with the creator/web-master  , and held phone interviews with my cousin and
uncle who are also BWCAW enthusiasts and have used the resources available
in the collection.
My examination of the collection contents took place over
a period that began in the spring of 2005 and continued until August
(in preparation for the trip my wife and I took in late August) and
for a period that lasted from October of 2005 until December of the
same year (for the purposes of this paper and in preparation for a possible
trip in the spring of 2006).
The e-mail interview that I conducted with the creator/web-master
of the site, Dave Bintzler (AKA db on the QJ discussion board), was
completed in December. The entirety of the interview is reproduced in
appendix A. I wish to acknowledge a debt of kindness to db for his careful
consideration and honesty in addressing my questions.
The interviews that I conducted with my cousin, and his
father, my uncle took place over the phone and included dialogue regarding
their use of the collection, their thoughts regarding the value of the
information made available by the collection, and their feelings about
the nature of the community that has grown up around the collection.
The observations that emerged from my consideration of
the collection will be presented in the paper in three distinct sections.
In the first portion of the paper, I will discuss the fact that the
QJ discussion forum has created a virtual community that represents
a geographically dispersed yet socially unified population. In the second
portion, I will explore the collection’s role as an organ of collective
memory for the community that has grown up around it. Finally, in the
third section I will treat the challenge involved in funding a collection
that is offered to the world as a freely available resource.
Wilderness paddlers are often of a curious sort. These
are the men and women whose idea of a dream vacation has nothing to
do with pińa coladas sipped at seaside resorts, but rather involves
an arduous and sometimes harrowing journey through high waters and hard
terrain. The dangers that face these intrepid voyageurs include
forest fires, hungry bears, swamped canoes, amorous moose, biting insects,
twisted ankles, and rushing rapids. These are the tribulations that
paddlers are willing to face to escape the pressures of today’s fast-paced
technological/industrial age. The rewards they reap for their efforts
include solitude, quietude, a sense of achievement and independence.
The people who gravitate to the BWCAW and QPP are more often than not
seeking to escape the societal and communal pressures that they face
in their day-to-day lives.
In the field, when a wilderness paddler sees another party
on the horizon they are likely to make a wide berth to avoid encountering
them. This has less to do with anti-social tendencies and more to do
with a desire to preserve the sense of isolation that the wilderness
environment can afford. Meeting between parties most often occur on
the portages when they pass one another between lakes. Sometimes
brief conversations will occur, sometimes they won’t (it is hard to
hold a long conversation with a canoe balanced on your head). Again
I would like to stress that the reason people are drawn to wilderness
canoe camping is that they wish to feel independent and isolated.
Of course, once the experience is over and the paddler
has had his or her share of solitude; once s/he has returned to a society
dominated by those who envision Cancun as the ultimate vacation destination,
s/he may begin to feel deprived of community. They might ask themselves
“Where are the others like myself who value peace, tranquility, “lunker
lake trout, and clothes that smell of pine smoke? I know that most
people I tell of my experience in the BWCAW either shake their heads
in disbelief or exclaim what a perfectly horrid experience they envision
it to be. Paddlers can begin to feel downright lonely in the corporate,
academic, or blue-collar environments to which they return after their
all too brief respite in the wilds. Such a paddler’s heart cries out
for community. The QJ discussion forum answers this call.
Dave Bintzler posted the first message to his nascent QJ
forum on May 2nd, 1999. He created the forum as an e-mail based BB and
in a later incarnation as a YaBB-based (yet another bulletin board),
more graphical interface. The YaBB incarnation dates to c. October 6th,
2002 (the date of the last post made to QJ).
There are graded levels of involvement in the forum. Anyone
may visit the forum and peruse the contents of the publicly displayed
messages. Such visitors are termed “lurkers”. While not often actively
discouraged, lurkers are somewhat looked down upon by the other classes
of patron, the members and the Inukshuks. Members are those patrons
of the forum who have registered. They have the ability (and are of
course, encouraged) to post messages and start topics. Becoming a member
also allows a patron to instant message any user online or to leave
messages in a drop box for those offline to pick up later. This privilege
is a means for the members to have conversations in which they can share
information that they would rather not have posted for the (unregistered,
lurking) world to see. This helps to counter some of the more flagrant
examples of what Kollock & Smith (1996) have termed the “free-rider
problem (p. 110). Provision of these benefits gives “lurkers an incentive
to register and to contribute. Among members there are distinctions
made based upon the number of contributions made to the forum. Inukshuks
are members who have made a donation, the origin of the name and the
role of the Inukshuk is described by db:
Mistakenly called "cairns" by some, "Inukshuks"
are the stone figures built to resemble humans. They are the little
stacks of stones often found alongside Canada's highways.
Originally built as landmarks to aid in navigation, the Inukshuk
has been adopted by QuietJourney as a symbol to remind us of our dependence
on each other. It says, "I've been here before and here's a good
Many people have shared with QuietJourney over the years. That
"sharing" has made this virtual campsite the valuable resource
it has become so "Inukshuk" seemed like a fitting description
for those visitors who share that little extra. (http://www.quietjourney.com/inukshuk.html)
In addition to db, there are 10 other Inukshuks who act as moderators
for the nine distinct categories under which topics are posted (see
Appendix B The “Put-In”). The forum now boasts 636 active members
(of which 102 are Inukshuks) and a post made by db on October 18,
1999 at 02:03 indicated “196 unique visitors (lurkers) in a seven
day period. (db. (1999). Well Matt, here’s the deal.)
Like many online communities, the QJ community has found expression
outside the virtual realm. When asked to illustrate such occurrences
I didn't know anyone who's ever posted on QJ before QJ. My wife
has had great fun explaining my occasional absence with: "He's
meeting some guy(s) he met on the Internet at some hotel/bar again."
Meeting members in civilized locations is nice but it's not the quite
the same as a rendezvous during a trip.
I've camped a night w/ Jimbo and tripper for a short, planned
rendezvous because I had good reason to shake both of their hands.
As a result of that and this board I've paddled with tripper on a
more difficult trip neither of us would risk solo. It turned out pretty
well. DD was asked to become a moderator specifically because he disagreed
with me about something we both thought was important. Mutual respect
goes a long way.
Other paddlers have paddled together due to this and other forums
with mixed results that seem to have to do with the same reasons they
post. Read people's posts long enough and it's pretty easy to assume
what a trip together might be like.
There is also Canoecopia in Madison, WI. If you don't know, it's
a rather large annual canoe camping sale/show with some good seminars
put on by a single store. People from this and other BW/Q forums get
together there as a group that weekend. Someone even makes name tags
and gets a meeting room. I watch for certain individuals if I go but
I avoid the group get-togethers. (Interview, db, Q2)
One of the posting categories is called “Rendezvous in the Boundary
Waters and Quetico
A place for paddlers to get together. Where are you going and when
or when can you go and where do you want to go? This is a forum for
people to come together and put the knowledge that they have built collectively
into practice. Baym (1998), describes some of the parameters of the
imaginary threshold that define an online groups transcendence to community:
The members of these groups creatively exploit the system’s features
in order to play with new forms of expressive communication... to
create otherwise unlikely relationships, and to create behavioral
norms. (p. 51)
I would argue that this collection and the forum it provides
Much in the way a public library can bring a community together to share
and explore the QJ collection is acting as a locus for community and
Before the advent of the QJ forum the only community for
many BWCAW/QPP enthusiasts outside the parks were the coffee shops,
outfitter’s headquarters and diners in the outlying communities that
cater to the tourist populations swarming to their region every season.
It was difficult for these enthusiasts to communicate and to share information
about the most interesting routes to take, what sort of gear was the
best, how to avoid bears etc. Paddlers were forced to rely on outfitters,
guides, and the authors of wilderness adventure books for information.
More often than not a novice’s first journey into the boundary waters
resulted in misery and woe. Without guidance, even someone who has made
more than a few voyages can run into trouble. A bad trip in the BWCAW/QPP
can be truly heinous. It was just such an experience that led to the
creation of the QJ discussion forum. Dave Bintzler (db) describes just
such a trip into QPP and his resulting interest in creating the discussion
My first clueless Quetico trip was an independent study course
Fine Art Photography. Tom Uttech was the professor. I loved
it enough to do it again with a warmer bag and better gear the next
year. I followed up with a few more 2-man trips until the trip we
grossly overshot our presumed abilities. Timing matters. Spring can
be awful fickle and unforgiving. I'll never forget paddling out at
the end of that miserable trip saying never again, never again...
Finding it hard to stay away, I retooled and reworked my ways of doing
things. After a dozen or so more years of practice, I was quite content
with my knowledge but since I had already used up most of the available
info from the people I knew, I created the site hoping to find better
ideas from other people's trials and errors. (Interview, db, Q1)
As I see it, and apparently, as db envisioned it, the primary purpose
of the website is to act as a source of information for a community
of people who loves the BWCAW/QPP and wishes to enjoy it in a more informed
and responsible way. The central statement on the homepage of the QJ
website states “This site is inspired by canoe trips into Quetico Provincial
Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness... and paddlers who
share their ideas and information
(Bintzler. (1999). QuietJourney). On the site (as here if you are reading
the electronic version of this document) the word information is a link
to the discussion forum.
The discussion forum The Put-In (Appendix A), or QJ
forum homepage lists nine distinct categories for posts. These include:
“general Boundary Waters/Quetico Discussion”, “Current Conditions and
Trip Reports”, “Rendezvous in the Boundary Waters and Quetico”, “Fishing
Tips for the Boundary Waters and Quetico”, “Strictly Gear - Gear specific
reviews and ideas”, “What's Cooking? “Other Places to Paddle”, “Back
to Civilization”, and “QuietJourney Help”. The areas which I perceive
to be functioning most as repositories for collective memory are the
general discussion, trip reports, fishing tips, gear reviews, and recipe
portions. Those threads which have been determined to most popular have
been deposited within the General Discussion section under the topic
“The HOT Spot: Best Threads of the Forum (DentonDoc. (2004). The HOT
Spot.). This thread is essentially a link to each of the most popular
threads and is the heart and soul of the resources available at the
QJ forum. The resources here are akin to the ready reference shelf in
a research library (see Appendix B for a list of topics).
These resources function as the collective memory of
the community and for the newbie are perhaps the best resource QJ has
to offer. The fact that each and every contributing member’s posts have
the potential to wind up linked from this repository makes its designation
as the collective memory all the more evocative. Let us now turn to
an examination of some of the more interesting challenges the creator
of the forum has had to address and the implications of the decisions
he has made.
Like any collection of materials made freely available
to the public, the QJ discussion forum has had to consider how to fund
itself. The Inukshuk class of member has contributed a fair amount of
money and time to the collection. Dave Bintzler reveals how much appreciation
he has for their efforts when he states “Like I've always told forum
visitors, participation has it's own rewards and it is truly the Inukshuks
that have made this the valuable site it's become (Interview, Q10).
In addition to the contributions made by the Inukshuks db has taken
advantage of the Google adserver technology to generate some extra revenue.
I support his decision to do this 100%, and I believe that he makes
it clear that he has handled the transaction responsibly and given the
issue some serious thought. As he explains the decision in his own words:
Google is, um errr, a welcome force to be reckoned with
- much like the weather and fire. In a very real way G is an Inukshuk.
Pennies add up over a year. The ads are served only on a few of the
more time & bandwidth intensive areas of QJ. Members might scratch
their heads about that because ads are mostly served only to guests
and/or direct search engine referrals. There are visitors who I'm sure
believe the ads lend credibility and value to the site. In an odd way
I agree. Go figure... Currently BW/Q outfitter ads are filtered out
even though some pay pretty well. I'm just not real comfy selling access
to the BW/Q but it gets harder and harder for me to justify taking that
position... I'd prefer no ads of any kind but then I'd have to make
the forum pay to play. (Interview, db, Q3)
In my opinion, seeing Google ads on QJ is a small price to
pay to have the information that is made available at the site free
and open. Speaking of openness brings to mind another of db’s posts
to the forum where he describes his decision not to pay to remove the
YaBB Credit line from the site:
The code behind this board was time consuming for a self taught
hack like myself to modify and implement but it started as "open
source" (freely offered for personal use). After all that work,
paying to remove the credit link to the YaBB folks did cross my mind
but my wallet just laaaaughed and laaaaughed and laaaaughed. Even
PBS has commercials these days and since the idea behind QuietJourney
basically mirrors the idea behind open source, leaving the credit
seemed like the right thing to do. (db, (2003). Member FAQ)
Dave Bintzler’s dedication to the principle of the free and
open exchange of information is a credit to his name. I suspect that
he has contributed a great deal of his own monetary resources to make
this collection available to the world and I am sure that there are
many in cyberspace who would join me in giving him praise.
Examination of the QJ discussion forum has been a delight
to undertake. My wife and I have benefited greatly from the expertise
and wisdom of the member’s who have posted at this site. When we were
planning our trip, we used the search feature available at the site
to research the exact route we were planning. We learned all we could
about bears (my wife was quite alarmed by the prospect) and we collected
valuable information about the fishing and campsites on our route by
posting pointed questions. The information with which we were provided
helped ensure a trouble free week of wilderness pleasure (save a few
encounters with boisterous teenagers). We will cherish those memories
always. The QJ website is a resource I will return to again and again
as I plan future trips to the parks. It is a collection of enduring
value. It is a joy to visit the site when one cannot pull oneself away
from the daily grind for a moonlit paddle. The posts often read like
fiction and there is always the prospect of looking up ones old posts
to relive the anticipation with which one makes preparations and the
high one feels when fresh from the bush.
The QJ discussion forum provides a community where there
once was little chance for meaningful communication. The community which
the forum has created in turn creates a vibrant source of information
and the information provides a collective memory that informs current
practice, values and ensures that future generations will be prepared
to face the challenges and accept the rewards that these parks offer.
The Webmaster’s dedication to the concept of free and open access to
information and his work toward creation of a forum that fosters shared
understanding are commendable.
Baym, N. (1998). The emergence of on-line community. In Cybersociety
computer-mediated communication and community. ed. Jones,
S. (pp. 35-68).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Bintzler, D. (1999). Well Matt, here’s the deal. Retrieved December
1st, 2005, from
Bintzler, D. (1999). QuietJourney. Retrieved December 1st, 2005, from
Bintzler, D. (2002). Boundary Waters / Quetico Park QuietJourney Discussion
Retrieved December 1st, 2005, from
Bintzler, D. (2003). Member FAQ. Retrieved December 1st, 2005, from
“DentonDoc”. (2004). The HOT Spot. Retrieved December 1st, 2005, from
Kollock, P. & Smith, M. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation
and conflict in computer communities. In Computer-mediated communication:
Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives. ed.
Herring, S. (pp.109-128).
Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Wilburs, S. Boundary Waters Chronology. Retrieved December 1st, 2005,
Appendix A The “Put-In”
The QJ Forums “homepage @ http://www.quietjourney.com/community/YABB.cgi
Appendix B Topics list for “The HOT Spot”
The first trip/Advice for newbies.
advice for my first Boundary Waters adventure?
for a newbie
fees for Quetico
(general; not route specific).
much weight can/does anyone carry...
Single or double burner
side: Good outfitter experiences
tarp: Inside or out??
Footwear (by season).
First aid, safety and survival tips.
Maps and navigational aids.
maps would be best?
a good idea or bad?
Traveling with kids/scouts.
kid's first trip
a group of kids
and Canoe camping in the BWCA/Q
Father, A Son, and A Canoe
Bear "proofing" and food packs.
pack storage poll
and bear keg bear resistant food containers
Taking your DOG on a trip.
with my dog
in the Q
Appendix C Dave Bintzler Interview Questions
1.) Are you the creator of the QJ website? If so, did you start out
on your own and gradually draw in people like DentonDoc, Jimbo, etc.?
What made you decide to create it? A bit of history should add a lot
to my analysis. Perhaps you could tell me a little about your history
with the BWCAW. If not, who started QJ and how did you come to be its
2.) I have noticed posts in the past that mention real life encounters
between folks who knew each other from the forum. Do you have any good
stories about this type of encounter. How much member interaction takes
place face to face? How many folks have you met/ do you know in a visceral
way? Feel free to let the questions be a rough guide and provide any
amount of information you might find appropriate.
3.) I noticed that you have started using Google-served ads recently.
QJ used to be supported. Has there been a drop off of Inukshuk enrollment/
support? Does the Google partnership provide a significant source of
revenue? (I am in no way passing judgment here, I think Google is God's
gift to mankind. I just think that sources of revenue are important
considerations for any collection/institution).
4.) What is your day job (hope this isn't too personal, if so just
say so)? I had suspected you might be a database administrator (db)
before I saw your name in the address bar of my email client.
5.) Do you have an insider with the USFS or the Canadian authorities
that you turn to for information, or do you rely on the same resources
as everyone else? Do you know of any authorities who monitor the forum
to try to anticipate violators (I am thinking of posts where members
expressed the sentiment that rules, especially concerning entry permit
dates, were more flexible than the USFS might wish)?
6.) Do you think anyone posts deliberate misinformation to discourage
people from crowding their favorite haunts? i.e. beware bears at the
bluff campsite on Good Lake!!!
7.) I have seen a post you made that referenced "seed posts",
what are these? Why might they be a concern?
8.) Please tell me about any great challenges that the QJ website has
faced. Has its existence ever been threatened by lack of funding or
have you ever had to put it on the back burner due to external crises...
9.) Do you have to spend much time fighting spam? I have never seen
anything outrageous on the site so you must be doing a good job.
10.) Please include any other information you feel might be of use/interest.
11.) Sick of me yet?