Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Anatomy of a cat run

If you’ve visited this blog before, you’ll know that I like to run words and pictures. But did you know I can also now fake-run words and pictures?

Look at the run below. What do you think? Is it real or fake?

Shock, horror, IT’S FAKEEEEE!!!!

But wait! Before you leave in disgust - I’m not saying I didn’t actually run it. I did. It’s just that useless bloody Strava decided to ‘summarise’ my run for me into a pile of nonsense, so I was FORCED to fake this. It was like I’d written a paragraph of Charles Dickens worthy prose, handed it to Strava to publish, but instead of publishing, Strava put it through three layers of Google translate, and shat it on to my feet with a confused grin. 

Let me take you back to the beginning... T’was a Sunday evening, and I decided to plan a run by creating a kmz with Google Earth (as I always do - see the how to). The run would be a combination of ‘connect the dots’ and continuous recording.

In the kmz, I made notes of where to start recording, where to stop, and where to pause to create the connecting ‘dots’. Then, as always, emailed it to myself, and opened it in the Google Earth iPhone application.  On the public holiday Monday (no, I don't run words and pictures full-time), I was ready to go, so I headed to the start, and hit record. Switching between Strava and Google Earth, I followed the path and recorded the run.

When I was near the end, I checked the map in the Strava app, and the run looked good. It was clearly a male cat; gray, striped, 1 year old, neutered by a friend who’s a vet, seated, dorsal view. So I hit finish, saved it, gave my work of art a name and it was magically sent invisibly through the air to a big computer probably somewhere in Sweden.  It wasn’t until I had got home that I discovered it hadn’t worked:

Needless to say, this was thoroughly disappointing. I mean, faarrrk… What even is that? It’s looks like an unfinished lateral view of a shark’s torso, but not much else. Looking back now, maybe I should have just renamed it “lateral view of a shark’s torso (unfinished)” and been done with it.

But no. I couldn’t. Look, I hadn’t done a picture run in a long time, and I was happy with what I’d achieved in drawing my cat. I’d also invested about 2 hours of my life in it. 40 mins planning, and about 80 mins running. Two hours of my life, stolen by a Swedish computer.

I wrote to Strava to ask if they could revert to the original data that I had uploaded. I wonder if Leonardo Da Vinci when painting the Sistine Chapel came up against such obstacles. “Hey Leo! That angel. That one there. Look, I know you’re the genius and all, but that angel isn’t important, SO WE’RE JUST GOING TO FUCKING RUB THAT OUT, OK?”. Strava still haven’t responded.

I thought to myself, “Fuck you Strava. I ran this. It deserves to be up there for my fans to see, so God-fucking-damn-it, I’ll figure out how to upload it somehow… if  it’s the last thing I ever do”. I faked this for you, fans.

Using a free program called GPSBabel, I converted the original planning kmz (the one I plotted in Google Earth) to kml, and then into gpx format. I then had to add in some time data to longitudes and latitudes using a text editor. The horrifying end result was I could upload a fake run (a run which I actually did, but which then had the magic sliced out of it surgically with a blunt Strava hammer).

So that’s it. You can post fraudulent runs to Strava.

I think that the broader implications for Strava are a little bit shit.  If you’re someone who likes competing against others over ‘segments’, there’s the potential that someone could run or ride the segment, export a gpx, alter the time data and re-upload, cheating you out of your KOM or CR. 

Or what if you wanted to commit a crime and needed an alibi? You could fake a run of a cat using Strava to show you were somewhere else for the weekend during which a person you knew was coincidentally murdered.

There are endless uses for faking runs. The two above are mere drops in the ocean! I could probably even think of two more.

I guess the conclusion we need to come to is that you’d have to be a total asshole to fake a run unless you’re Leonardo Da Vinci.

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