Walking Tour Needs You

The LEATHER & LGBTQ Cultural District is moving forward on developing a Walking Tour of our special neighborhood, and we invite you to join in the project.

How You Can Help

The easiest way to get involved is to  attend a meeting of our Walking Tour Subcommittee.  The next meeting is set for Wednesday, December 2, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Join via Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88470691792 or call 1-408-638-0968 US and enter Meeting ID: 835 7030 8076. You can view the proposed agenda here.  All are welcome to participate. (RSVP, if you like, at https://www.facebook.com/events/389750672437634/. ) 

But if Zoom Meetings are not your thing, we can still use your help, in three important ways:

1. Help us evaluate software.    Go to our Walking Tour Platform Options spreadsheet, select one of the platforms listed there and “check it out”.  You might just explore the vendor’s Website and get familiar with the features, or take it a step further and try out one of their tours.

Some vendors have tours that can be viewed without visiting the real-world location; others have “geolocation” or “Augmented Reality” features that can only be experienced if you travel to the site.   Do what you can.  If you wish to “buy” a tour for testing, we can probably reimburse you if you check with us in advance.

If your review shows that this particular platform option is clearly unsuitable for us, put your name in Column C, the word “No” in Column D, and very briefly explain why (in Columns P, Q or R).  This will help save others from wasting their time with it.  Otherwise, go ahead and fill in whatever info you can on the spreadsheet.  If you are impressed by special features or a nicely-designed interface, let us know.

There is a column on the far right to add your own comment to a review done by someone else, If you want to insert a new line and add your own review, feel free.  the same applies if you discover a potential platform vendor that we haven’t heard of yet.

If you need guidance, you can read the “Platform Option Research” section below to better understand what we are looking for.  However, feel free to disregard all that and just give us your personal impressions.

Deeper research is possible:  Search the Internet for reviews, maybe even use a “free trial” account to make a tour of your own home or something.  Do as much or as little as you like, and share your thoughts, either in the spreadsheet, or at a meeting of the Committee, or in an email.

2. Contribute “content”.  This is a tricky area, so please understand:  Our final product will need to be carefully scripted, meticulously checked for historical accuracy and rights ownership, and professionally produced.    So anything you contribute now has a very good chance of NOT being used in the final tour.  We may ask you to rerecord the audio, for example, or give us permission to edit your material for length, etc.    BUT we would love to have your content now, if only on a draft basis, so that we can build a “proof of concept” tour.  And you might contribute a gem that brings our tour to life!  Here are the kind of things we are looking for:

          • Photos from your personal archives.  These will be most usable if:
            • They show the interior or exterior of a significant SOMA location, business or event;
            • You have full rights to the picture and are willing to give us the right to use it;
            • There are few or no identifiable people in the picture who might be hard to contact;
            • You are certain of the date and location when it was taken
          • Brief audio or video clips
            • This could be just you telling what you know about a place or event;
            • Or it could be an interview with an important community figure;
            • Or audio or video capturing an important or interesting event that took place in SOMA.
            • Be sure to include names, dates, and any other info you can.
            • It will be most useful if we can authenticate it in some way, and/or obtain rights if applicable.
          • Written notes
            • Describe a particular location in your own words.
            • Offer a personal recollection, or a “little-known fact” about a place.
            • Ideally, it should all be information that can be verified or authenticated by our historians.
            • If it’s just your own recollection, we may still include it, but only in the “myths and memories” category.
            • If so inspired, you could also write a very brief essay on a side topic, perhaps inspired by a particular location on the tour, that could offer greater insight into Leather Culture to our wandering tourist.  Keep it under 2 minutes — the time it might take to walk one block.
          • An unusual resource
            • We already have access to the main books and articles about SOMA.  Please do not just do a Google Search and send us the results.
            • But if you have – or stumble across — an unusual historical reference — a saved clipping of your performance at a long-closed bar, a program from the CMC Carnival, or a passing reference in a book we probably have NOT seen, please share it.
            • Provide any info you can that may help us authenticate it:  Titles, authors, dates, publishers, etc.

      We have created a repository on our GDrive to store these materials.  If you have a lot to share, please write to me and I will give you credentials to let you upload your content directly.  Or you can simply send your items to “WalkingTourContent@sflcd.org”.  Be sure to include your contact info.  Unless otherwise indicated or otherwise restricted, all submissions become property of the LEATHER  & LGBTQ Cultural District.

      3. Suggest personnel and resources.  As noted above, we will need voice actors, video editors, copy writers, audio engineers, Augmented Reality experts, and a great many other trained and experienced folks to make this Walking Tour a reality.   We have a limited budget, so identifying folks who might possibly volunteer their talents, or give us a discount, would be our first choice.  Second choice would be professionals who just happen to be members of our kinky/queer communities, from disadvantaged populations, or otherwise good people for us to hire.

          • Provide names and whatever contact info you have, and be clear about their area of expertise, experience, etc.
          • If using your name might be helpful when we reach out to them, let us know if we can do that.

      How To Proceed?

        If you are inspired to do any of the above, we are enormously grateful.  To repeat, the best way to make this involvement a reality is to come to one of our Subcommittee meetings.  But you can also write to walking-tour-content@sflcd.org, or call or text our Walking Tour Subcommittee chair, David Hyman, at 415-652-6790.  

        Where are we now?

        Over the last few months, our Subcommittee has explored a variety of options, and has tried, with partial success, to identify the features and formats that are essential or desirable for our needs:

        • Our goal is to create a powerful  but simple way for folks to use their smartphone to explore our neighborhood on their own.
        • It should run on a smartphone, either as an app (on both Android and IOS) or as a “Web app” (requiring just a Web browser).
        • It should appeal to both locals and visitors.
        • It should be worth using more than once.
        • Using it when elsewhere (e.g. before visiting San Francisco) should also be possible, and should make folks want to visit us.
        • It should be fun and interesting for the casual user, but offer greater depth for those with an interest in the history of the Cultural District, its current activation, and its future.
        • It should, explicitly or implicitly, help the user to understand and appreciate “Leather Culture”
        • Ultimately, it should offer a variety of tours for folks with specific needs or interests; however our initial project focuses on a single tour, lasting about one hour, and requiring a walk of no more than one mile.
        • The tour will probably be tied in to the sidewalk plaques which we are hoping to install in many locations of historic interest.  (For more about the plaques , click here.)
        • It would be nice if the  app could know where the user is, either by aiming the camera at a plaque, or by using the phone’s GPS.
        • Users will be encouraged to take the tour as presented, from start to finish.  Doing so should present users with a storyline or arc.  But users who find themselves in a particular location should be able to get info about that location.
        • We expect to offer the tour free of charge; it is therefore almost essential to be able to offer some kind of value to local merchants, through simple ads, sponsorships, coupons, tie-ins,  “passport stamps” or other marketing gimmicks.
        • We must be able to edit the content quickly and easily.
        • Including links to a local event calendar or other existing online resources would be excellent.
        • MORE TO COME

        We have set a very tentative route for our first tour, walking from Eagle Plaza to 7th and Folsom (or vice versa).  The exact route  is detailed here.  Consider taking that walk yourself, keeping your eyes open and making a note of any interesting details that might be worth mentioning, or that spark questions in your mind.  Or suggest an alternate route if you like.

        Notes on Platform Research:

        • We have looked at several platforms already.  The spreadsheet records some of our observations, but can easily be expanded as we learn more about what options are available, etc.
        • Some of the companies listed offer products:  One can buy the software and build the tour on your own Website or App.  Some offer a service:  pay them so much a year and they will host the tour on their server.  Either one might work for us.
        • Some of them create apps that run on Android and IOS devices; some create “Web apps” that just require a smartphone with a Web browser.  Some can do both. Again, either approach might work for us.  (We are concerned that our content might perhaps be too adult to allow for inclusion in the Apple App Store.  this is another matter that may need researching.)
        • We certainly expect a tour to be able to include text, graphics, audio, and short video clips. Perhaps also links to web pages?  Anything else?
        • Our app should have some degree of mapping competence: vendors describe these features using various terms:  geolocation, geo-awareness, geo-alerts, Google Map linkages, beacons, etc.  Understanding exactly what each platform actually does can be a challenge.
        • We are interested in “augmented reality” features, such as the ability to aim your camera at a building and see the historical location “superimposed” over the present one.  We are doubtful, however, that we have enough relevant content to make that feature worth the cost and effort.
        • We want our tour to be accessible to folks with disabilities; any spoken text should also be available in written form, etc.  The user interface should have basic accessibility features built-in.
        • We will assume that the typical user has earbuds and is capable of safely using them while navigating city streets.  Video clips should be short, and intended for playback only at specific locations, not while walking.
        • Ultimately, we will have a lot more content than a user can absorb in one hour.  So it would be great to have some easy way for the user to tell the app if they have specific interests, or specific time constraints (or lack thereof), or to simply offer “digressions” on topics of special interest.
        • It would be of value for the user to be able to select “family friendly” or “adult” versions, and/or require age verification for adult content.
        • Translation services to convert content to other languages might be valuable, if affordable.
        • MORE TO COME