Life as a Geocacher

Caching and Reviewing

This is made up of stories from my caching and my reviewing.  It is a collection of those along with comments and thoughts.  Photos, and maps of some adventures and lists of some of the oldest caches.

Filtering by Category: Groundspeak

Cache Submission Update, and Guidelines Update

Well we have another rollout of new things at groundspeak this week.  There are a few changes this week and a few things that might interest some people. 

Cache Submission Process

Well, we have a new process to submit caches. As of now this is in Beta and people can try it out as an option. 

As a reviewer we see a lot of dumb submissions.  Some that are simple errors and some that repeat over and over. So the new process is a step to help clear up some issues that seem to repeat on a regular basis.  There has been a lot of internal testing to get this going, and to get the Beta out to everyone.

There are a few things that it can help clear up.  When you enter your coords you have to "see it on a map" before continuing. Many people place caches and are off by a few hundred feet to thousands of miles. I get a handful in the middle of the ocean a few times a year.

It also will also help with additional waypoints, and getting it submitted.  If you are listing a new cache.. try it out.

Guidelines Update

There are a number of new updates, to the guidelines.  Nothing huge, but wording corrected, and things to help us solve problems.   Here is an overview of a few of the changes that may effect people.

Logging of All Physical Geocaches

Other than documenting a Challenge Cache, physical caches cannot require geocachers to contact anyone.

Listing guidelines that apply to all geocaches

Cache pages cannot require, and should not strongly encourage, the placement of new caches.

and about vacation or distant caches.

Document your maintenance plan in a Note to Reviewer on your cache listing. This should include contact information of the maintainer.

Additional Listing Guidelines that Apply to Specific Geocache Types:

A traditional cache consists of at least a container and logbook and is located at the posted coordinates. For all caches types that have multiple stages, physical elements (tags, containers, or any physical additional to the location) must be added to the listing as Additional Waypoints.

Enjoy all.

 

Groundspeak responds about C:geo

I have heard a number of people complain that groundspeak personally is working to destroy other apps.  Especially with this change in  maps.  It has bugged me because with my work as a moderator, and reviewer, Groundspeak has never mentioned doing anything to hurt another program.  Even in the day when they asked me to moderate and pull non-geocaching.comapps out of forum listing.  They were more worried about internal affairs then the work of others.

Today tBryan at groundspeak posted this note to C:geo

At Groundspeak, we have been contacted by a number of users who are angry about the impact of recent geocaching.com site changes to C:Geo users. In the spirit of transparency, here is some additional information that will hopefully help clarify what happened:

For what it's worth, our decision to remove Google maps from our site had nothing to do with C:Geo. The loss of functionality from the Cgeo application was an unintended consequence of our site change and the site change was made out of necessity due to Google's new License fee policy for Map use. We simply removed the Google maps from the site and replaced them with Open Street Maps where our former Beta Maps existed. We didn't realize that it had affected C:Geo until we were told by customers, and we certainly didn't do it with any intent of harming the application or negatively affecting geocachers.

We have offered C:Geo (and many other developers in the geocaching community) a royalty free license to use our API for the purpose of building and maintaining their app. This means that we are not asking them for any money, and they are welcome to keep their app free or charge for it. If they choose to use the API, it is fully supported and we won't likely have any similar issues going forward when we make site changes. We currently have over 100 third party developers who are either testing the API or actively using it to develop applications for geocachers (see www.geocaching.com/live and scroll down for a list of active third party api-enabled applications, including other Android apps). The offer to C:Geo stands and we'd be happy to work with them going forward. I believe we can work with them to provide a variety of functions that will ultimately make C:Geo better and more stable (at least as far as geocaching.com site changes are concerned). There may be other issues with implementation but we are happy to work through them with developers. If you ask any of the other API-enabled developers, I believe they'd happily confirm this.

Although the API is provided royalty free for the developer, there are some usage limitations. The most notable one is that basic members are limited to viewing the full details of 3 traditional caches per day. Trackable functionality, viewing basic details or caches and other features are virtually unlimited. Hopefully the basic functionality is enough for users to get started geocaching. It also allows developers to innovate, using geocaching data, with no upfront cost from Groundspeak and a built in user base. Premium Members have almost unlimited access to all cache data from geocaching.com via the API, using any API-enabled applications that they own.

So, with this new API, one of the new benefits of a $30 Premium Membership is that all geocaching.com api-enabled apps (like those on the list referenced above, and many other third party apps currently in development) have full functionality for all Premium Members. A Premium Membership has been $30/year since we introduced it ten years ago. We have never raised the price and we have worked very hard to add value to it over the years. Hopefully you'll agree that having unlimited access to geocaching data through any application you choose would be worth the price of a Premium Membership. From our perspective, we believe we'd be providing you with fair value and you'd be helping to support geocaching.com and the associated API.

So, rather than crippling other apps and C:Geo, I believe that we have opened the door to enabling other apps with geocaching data. We believe that the results will ultimately benefit the global geocaching community, including users of C:Geo. Many third party developers seem to agree and we are excited to see what Geocaching API-enabled products and services they can build for everyone.

I hope this helps. Thanks again for your feedback.

Sincerely,

Bryan

I am sure many will not believe it, but he did put it out there.  Groundspeak is more worried about making their site better, and making sure changes do not effect the API.  There are some cool things coming out in the next few months, and I am sure they are trying to not "break" what is there when new things are rolled out.  

My two cents worth...

c:geo does not use the API.  It was their decision to make, and they made it.  There is a consequence.  Every time there is a site upgrade, programs that do not use the API are at risk of a complete crash, or breaking the software.   That is the risk they take.  Unfortunately Groundspeak gets the bad reputation for someone else pulling of maps or web pages, and gets the blame far more often than the program creators.

Maps, more Maps, and a Crippled App.

It has been a while, nearly a month or more, so it is past time that I get back into things.

The most notable change in the last month?  Maps.  Many will notice a change.  Groundspeak does not claim that these are an upgrade, but a change. 

Why the Change?

The maps came about when Google instigated a new policy that they announced last fall that they would start charging the heavy users for use of their map API.  Well groundspeak delayed as long as they could before they had to actually start paying Google.  So they dumped the maps for new ones. The change is not everywhere, but in many places.  I expect that it will expand through other services (waymarking, cache creation pages, etc).  They just pulled the heavy users at the moment.  Every cache page was pulling up two Google maps.  I had noticed a month or so ago that the smaller map high on the page was no longer Google, but did not give it any thought at that time.

The only actual statement of cost that I have heard from a lackey is that it would cost "a few million dollars" and maybe more.   I have heard numbers from different people tossing about $10,000 to well over $3 million.  The $10,000 number is the low price of licensing through Google.  Groundspeak is a very heavy user, that averages over 2,000,000 hits per day.  I would guess that on big holiday weekends, that number may be 150-200% of that number, and the game is only growing.   I will stick with the "few million dollars" as only Groundspeak and Google know what the usage is and what the costs may be.

That being said, how many users are there? and income from them? This is only conjecture at this point.  Cacherstats.com tells us that there are 165,000 cachers that have ever found over 200 caches.  There may be 5,000,000 users, but most are casual, or do not log.  I decided to say only 50% are paying members.  I am sure a few players under 200 finds are premium members, but many over 200 have left the game in the past decade, and found new hobbies. (at least around here) or are a family with many accounts and only one or two premium accounts.

So that leaves us with 85,000 paying customers. That would be $2.5 Million dollars of income.  So paying millions or even one million in fees to Google hurts the company severely.  Groundspeak has a number of programmers, Customer Service, Legal Council, server and bandwidth costs.  They have worked hard to improve the game, and laying off 1/3 to 1/2 of its staff would not be helpful to the game.

What Happened?

There are a few things to look at.  There are three main maps that were on Geocaching.com that I recall.  The old map page, the "beta" maps, and on the cache page.  Those were the big hits (I am guessing). 

Well the old map page went away.  Groundspeak had been phasing it out for a while now, and getting the new maps ready.  There was no reason for them to continue, and keeping it with a new map set would have meant reprogramming the page.  No big deal, but it was at the end of its life, so it was left to Die.  This had a side effect apparently (see below).

The Beta maps became the new map page.  In the upper right corner is where you can shift between map layers.  Personally i do like the OpenStreetMaps. 

For satellite views?  I moved to Google Earth, again.  There are instructions on how to use them here. http://www.geocaching.com/about/google.aspx  In Google earth I have KML files of Indian Lands, Wilderness areas, National Parks, and i get a cool 3D view.   Makes it easy to decide if I want to hike if I can see how high the hills actually are.  I forgot how cool this feature really is.

Open Street Maps

OpenStreetmapsI find these really cool, mostly because I find maps are cool.  Plus I get to work on them and add to them.  I always hate maps that do not have roads, or are mission places.  I went into Springville, and have added many roads, train tracks, churches, parks, etc.  It is a fun project to kind of play with.  The bright side.. you can make your maps better.

It took me a bit to figure out, but for the most part it is pretty simple.  There are a number of tutorial aids to explain how to do it. 

I am not sure if I understood correctly, but someone told me that when groundspeak gets its own tile server up and running that OSM will be set as the default.  Hopefully that is true, Mapsource is not bad, but OSM is far better. 

C:geo

When the site was upgraded and the old map page was tossed into groundspeak refuge pile for old web pages there was a side effect. C:geo the site scraper was tossed into turmoil.  Apparently from reading their website and emails from one of the people working on the project they pulled from the old map.  Getting the location and type of caches from that page.

Well with that map gone, they cannot do that any more.  The new map operates in a different way.  They are working on a fix, but they will be up to 150 feet off at times (50m), depending on your view.  It also will not tell you what type of cache is there at that location.  

You can load a PQ into it and it will work fine (I did not try that).  I pulled it off my phone yesterday in frustration.   I may reinstall it, but it is too cold to go caching right now (snow is on the ground from this last week). 

 Here is the thing. GC.com did something we were afraid for some time now. Live map was changed and old maps was also removed. c:geo relied on this old maps to get data.

In other words they felt that the old maps (the page not the Google maps) were going away.  Yet apparently no plans were in place to work on the new set.  Originally carnero (the original developer) was looking into the API before stopping development of c:geo and turning it over to a group.  The new group has repeatedly said that the API would harm the non-premium members.  So they chose not to dive into it. They

Statement on the live maps and development from them. - Here is a clip from that

In a fast, short and not good online meeting for c:geo people come up with this. Live map will come back, but it will never be the same again. It should be fast with 2 problems.
  • all caches on live map will be inaccurate (+-50m or so), depending on a zoom level
  • type of all caches on live map will be unknown
When a cache will be opened all details can be loaded, including type (traditional, multi, ...) and exact coordinates. Approximate time to implement this is something between 2-6 weeks.

Well, they made the decision.  I am going to play with other Android services that use the API.  I may review a few of them here.  I have not looked at anything other than c:geo and the groundspeak app in the last year or more.

This is from the API Statement Read more here

What would change with the API?

- c:geo only for premium members
- no support for OpenCaching or other platforms than gc.com
- Groundspeak-ads

Also there are problems with development:
- development would take 2-4 months to implement the API
- during this time there would be only access to a testing-server, no nightly-builds
- devs are using the development-build for caching
- the API requires a private key for the app. But c:geo is open-source. There are a lot of independent developers, but only one would get the key - all other developers wouldn't be able to test what they do
- c:geo no longer open-source
- only few core-developers
- much slower development

Now What?

So that is where we are now.  Groundspeak and C:geo are trying to decide what is next, people are trying to figure out the maps, and geocaching goes on.  I hope to get out and make a day of it soon. If the snow will go away long enough for me to, or I take a trip to get away.

See you at the cache, and remember to have fun.

 

Say Hello to Geocaching Challenges

Well we can say welcome to the new Geocaching Challenges.  After months of waiting and seeing what is in store we can now see the advent of the new system for handling Virtual type challenges.

What are they?

People will get them confused with challege caches.  Where there is a cache waiting at the end of the trail.  Try and meet a certain challenge and then sign the log.  However geocaching challenges are different in a few ways.  You are challanging someone to Perform an action at a particular location, or to take a photo at a particular location.  There will be a third type that groundspeak forms known as a worldwide challenge.  Perform some action anyway in the world.  (think locationless caches).

Differences you can see

 

The first thing that you will notice is on your profile page that your finds, hides and challeges are all broken out under your name.  And if you hover your mouse over challenges you see the challenges that you have accepted, completed and created.

It is a good idea so people can break down those things seperatly.  Some cachers do not want their finds "polluted" by the find count from the challenges. So this lets them see those numbers without them being combined

The next thing that pops is on your personal page that everyone can see.  This time you will see three numbers again, Those that you have found, trackables, and challenges completed.  Similar to the other without the caches placed, now you see trackable info.

I created a few challeges, but the bugs and the up and down of the website keeps me from writing more.

I will follow up soon with more info.

 

International Geocaching Day

August 20th 2011

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The magic day.  On that day will be the International Geocaching Day.  In the future the plan is that we hold it every 3rd Saturday of August.

Groundspeak has said they are making a special souvenir for everyone that caches or attends an event that day.

Contrary to some rumors there is no special Icon for events held that day.  There will be one event in Seattle that appears to have a special icon, but it will not be available for other events.   It is a one shot deal, go there and get it or miss it.

Remember to take the time to go find a cache that day, and celebrate.

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