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: Websites

Opencaching Nears its 2nd Anniversary

Intro

Well here we are. We are nearly five weeks away from the second anniversary of Opencaching.com.  I ranted and raved, for some time about the site.  There are a number of repercussions of that fateful decision by Garmin to take the step that it did. In the Geocaching website, and in the world of geocaching that we.

Where did it come from?

Really? No one knows the stories abound, and denials.  Some say that Garmin was upset about the Geomate jr. that Groundspeak pushed.  It felt that it was encroaching on them.  Others have mentioned Garmin's shrinking market in the handheld market, and thought this was the way for it to bolster sales.

In all who knows.  The ones making the decision made it.  Opencaching became a reality.  It was developed quietly, and without anyone knowing.  In fact an announcement was made to reviewers that it was in progress only a few months before it was released.  So the small company with a worldwide following was about to go head to head with a multi-billion dollar company. 

View in December of 2010I remember hearing about it and seeing the screen above on the site. I watched it pretty regularly, wondering what would happen. Who knows, the world of caching may be changing while I stood.

Given there were a number of other caching sites.  Opencaching.us (and their sister sites), Navicaching, and Terracaching, just to name a few.  However all were like garage bands.  Formed at home, maintained with love, and a few avid followers, they seem to plug on year after year. As long as their founders kept paying the bills, the site rolled forward.

However none really caught on.   Each site had their niche, and followers, but without the support they kind of moved on.  To be fair Opencaching.us (and their sister sites) were new to the scene at that point. 

The Arrival

The site arrived in December of 2010 and many cachers, and Groundspeak and it volunteers were watching closely.  I was disappointed.  Even though I like Groundspeak, and follow its site, I was saddened in the quality of the site that Garmin put out at first.  Buggy, no reviews by anyone.  It seemed to be "import all your caches, and have fun".  I wonder what they thought the reaction would be.

I remember my contacts early on.  The Opencaching network, that had been around for some time was upset in the use of the name.  Garmin mentioned that they had spoken with them beforehand, however all the websites that I contacted confirmed that they were not contacted, and the use of the anem was in bad taste.

There were no great features that stood it apart from Geocaching.com. Well awesomeness was there.  You could rate the cache on how cool it was. I did not play enough, and no one logged my caches enough to see if ratings changed based on the finders ratings.

Growth

Well the growth was fairly stable. The few surges that appears was when they had promotions.  Actually in the last 14-16 months the only significant growth was when they had a promotion.  Other than that they had very little.  They have away a few mediocre gps units, and Pathtags.

However the growth is kind of stale.  A friend of mine used to track them pretty regularly. Weekly updating me with numbers of caches listed, and caches that were unique to the opencaching sites (not copies of a geocaching.com cache.

The numbers have been about the same since the site started.  Just less than 10% of the caches are unique.  A number of those were caches that were rejected from the geocaching site for one reason or another.  I noticed a few that I rejected pop up.

They did finally add peer review.  It was needed badly or it would have become the refuse pile of caches.  Lots of junk caches were appearing, and with anarchy abounding, horrible caches are still there.

Present Day Issues

There are a number of issues that still exist.  You cannot post photos to your cache page.  Bugs still run rampant, thought they just added a few features. 

I know for some time the community there wailed that it appeared that it had been abandoned.  I personally picture a lone programmer down in a basement trying to keep things going, keep the site up, and get the money for the promotions.

We saw a number of things from them at events, and mega events. Hosting or sponsoring things.  A few of my friends report a guy at an event in an opencaching shirt handing out swag. So they are about.

There has been a move of the banned, annoyed, and grumpy cachers that traveled there to discuss caching.  The first people that jumped on board were cachers that had a history of problems with the geocaching site, and its forums.  They promptly jumped to the site and touted its greatness, and then promptly started to complain about both sites.

Changes in the Caching Community

There are a number of smaller changes that the average person will not notice.  Garmins ads have dissapeared from the website.  The geocaching website. 

This year when i started working on the Mega event our contact specifically states that we could not have Opencaching or Garmin as a sponsor.  Another reviewer put it well when they said "Why should garmin ride the coattails of our event, let them get their own."

So for are event we have to point out to everyone that they cannot "sublease" their vendor space, or tables to Garmin.  Sadly that means money and swag that could have came from Garmin is now not allowed at mega events. 

A number of people have said that they are going to give serious thought at other units. Though i am a Garmin Oregon user and love it, When it is time for me to move on I will seriously look at another unit. I may not choose it, but I will not only look at Garmin.  That is a switch because the horror of my second GPS unit made me swear to never buy another one from that company.  Now I will look at them again. It may not make much of a change, but the phrase was put to me best by another geocacher.  "Why should I support a company that is trying to tear apart a game/company that I love and enjoy."   have heard that a number of times over the last few years.

I had a discussion with a governement land manager this last week.  They have had a number of issues getting caches removed that they do not want.  Caches that they never approved, or that were removed on geocaching.com and they cant seem to get them removed on opencaching.com.  In the telephone discussion he said he discussed it with other government land managers.  Why did this get published? Who oversees publishing? How can we get it removed, how long will it take?  It had left a bad taste in their mouth, it reminded me of the stories when caches were banned from parks. 

Conclusion

Ultimately I wonder if the site is just irrelevant. No one goes there.  People banned from geocaching or want to complain seem to hang out.

Cachers post caches and get their prizes and walk away.  I have archived caches in my area (as a reviewer) that the cacher is long gone.  Yet still they sit on opencaching.com.  Of course no one has looked for them, or one person.  So they have no idea by the record if they are gone or not.

My cache is dual listed.  In two years I have one find on opencaching.  On geocaching those numbers are over a hundred to 150 (I archived it and relisted it when I made it a letterbox).  A few friends archived all or many of them when nothing came of them, and they did not want to maintain two sites.

I don't know why they keep it going.  They seem to put so little work into it, that I guess dumping 30k a year in it is no big deal for a company that size.

For me?  I will stick with geocaching.com. 

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.

 

Opencaching.com at one year

We stand at a year.  One year of opencaching.com.  Where did it come from? What is its status? and were are we going?  I thought I would take the time to look at it.

Where did it come from?

There are a few thoughts, a few ideas as to why it came into being.  Why would a for profit company make a free service.  Well to sell more GPS units.   The general consensus is that they were upset in Groundspeaks Geomate Jr.  A small device with no purpose but to push you to caches that were preloaded (later they added a device where you could add more caches to it).  In one way I can see the worry with Garmin.  Groundspeak is not a competitor.  Even though it was on the fringe, would it be the end.  What if groundspeak pushed for another, larger one.  I am sure it was a scary thought, for Garmin, Magellen, and other companies. Would there be another competitor. 

There were rumblings at Groundspeak when the Garmin Chirp (tm) showed up.  I know it annoyed Jeremy and a few others.  They had tossed the idea of something similar to them a while ago.  So having a similar product pop up was annoying.  However it was the fact that something that was really made for geocaching, was kept behind the scenes and quiet.  Who knows the reasoning, or who had the idea first, but it was odd that it was a surprise that it

Some suggest that because almost all hand held units are Garmin in geocaching circles that they jumped in to grab the market.  To keep a hold of it.  Perhaps, however there is a flaw in that.  Almost every person I know that owns a handheld GPS either has cached once or twice with it or not at all.  Cachers are a very small number.  Tens of thousands of units are sold every year.  Hunters, fisherman, back country enthusiasts, search and rescue, ATVers, scouts and governments buy those units.  Many decide to try this out, but it is not the main purpose of the their purchase.   However Garmin may have thought it a market to slip into.  Long term.

Lackeys and volunteers were slightly worried.  What would you think?  A company with $3.5 billion in sales, deciding that they want to compete.  Groundspeak does not release its number, however I am guessing they would be happy with 1% of that.

Then the name of the new site showed up.  Opencaching.com  They have said online that they did not steal the name.  That is true.  The name, and website were available, and they grabbed it. They also say they were in discussion with the opencaching network.  I do not believe that any of the managers of the websites ever said they were contacted.  In fact most stated that they were never contacted, and they were surprised.  So though not flat out wrong and prohibited, it did slap the faces of those other websites. 

Ironically, it was the people that support and push the other websites that wanted another site.  The forum discussions on those sites were not pleased in the theft or slap in the face of the Opencaching network.

What would Garmin do?  What would they come up with? A dozen different ideas were pouring out.  How would it be managed?  And would it be better?

The arrival of Opencaching.com

You could not believe the collective sigh of relief that I heard from Groundspeak employees and volunteers, when the site was released.   The money that could have been dumped into it, did not appear to have been spent.  Things were buggy, problems filled the site.  Enough that many people who went to visit, did not want to return.

Bugs are expected.  Like every site we did expect the rough edges.  However there were a number of bugs, some of them serious that should not have been in place.   These were only small issues compared to the core of the site. 

There was no review.    So a number of horrible caches appeared.  Caches in wilderness areas, forests and parks where they are not allowed, caches rejected on geocaching.com for many other reasons.  All found their way to the opencaching.com site.  To be fair, the fast majority were fine, but many were listed that should not have been.

Eventually they added peer reviewing to the site.  Then you are at the mercy of others.  Did you follow the process?  I have seen caches next to others, commercial, and other problems.  Worse people were denying things for dumb reasons.  People could not get some caches listed because someone just said no.  That happens on the geocaching.com site.  A reviewer may say no, but they are to point out the reasons, and you have an appeal.  Here it seemed final.  Some were trying to do their best in reviewing the caches, and yet some were just tossing their thoughts, without event thinking.

On another front there are many that love caching, that have been removed from the geocaching.com site with bans or suspensions.  Forums turned into how evil and horrible geocaching.com was, and bickering about the other site.  This was going to be the future.

Yet there was nothing new.  Tweaks of course.  The little radar for awesomeness, terrain, difficulty and size.  However still the same type of site, in fact there are fewer cache types.  Of course there are no Wherigo or Earthcaches as those are property of Groundspeak and GSA.  Multi, Puzzle, and Traditional, eventually they added Virtual.  There are no events yet.  When you make your cache page, you cannot place photos, or in your logs.

Caches

Ultimately what counts is the caches and their visits.  Well there are caches.  I have mentioned before there just are not many unique caches.  It has been a year, and there currently are about 19,500 caches.  If we look at caches that are unique only to geocaching.com.  To compare there are are over 300,000 more active caches this year than last.  That does not count archived caches from both sites, but it gives you an idea of the numbers between the two.

There were a few large jumps in caches.  Obviously there was a jump in the first two months.  There were 8000 that were added during that period. Another month during a contest about 4000 were added. So during the other nine months there were 8000 caches listed.

Total numbers of caches at opencaching.com

Some state those number are good, compared to when geocaching started.  Geocaching had 7,000 after the first year, so nearly 20,000 caches was good. Yet if you break out the unique caches, caches that are only on that website, you have 1500.  Not a really great number. 

I have one cache there, yet it is in the center of a populous area.  I created it on the first week.  Yet in that entire time I have had one log there.  It has been disappointing.  I have heard that from a number of others. We place caches to be found, really we place them to be logged.  If there are no logs it is disappointing. 

Another issues is people placing caches on multiple sites is that you can ignore those that are not "important".  I know of one that is gone, or has been gone for a while.  Yet still it is listed on the site.  Mostly because there are not people logging dnf's and the owner just ignores it.   That could pose an issue in the future.

Where are we going?

To be honest I don't know.  Geocaching.com will continue to move forward.  Just like it always has.  What happens to Opencaching is more difficult to figure out.   How committed are the people pushing the Garmin site?  How much money do they put into it. Technically it is not very expensive.  Server space that they already own, bandwidth, a programmer or two, free time from a marketing person. No one knows the goals or timeframe they have.

It needs to find a niche.  What that is I don't know. It can't be the place of anti-Groundspeak.  It is like being anti-Microsoft.  You have to have something that helps you stand out.  Or you just have people arguing in the corner, crying about how evil the other guy is.   Trying to find their future is tricky.

At the moment I would say they are being left behind. They have some interesting ideas, they have tried a number of different things, but eventually they need to find something that makes them stand out. They need to grow, and be unique, but I don't see that right now.

Only the future will tell.

Opencaching.com update.

Helloooooo all.

Thought I would chime in with a few notes, and interesting observations.

Opencaching.com

Not to be confused with opencaching.us .dk or some of the original opencaching crowd. I am speaking of the ones by Garmin.

It was interesting to note that this last week there were fewer caches on opencaching.com than the week before.

A friend that collects the data from OC.com  pointed it out to me earlier this week.  I did not ask him to use his numbers here so I will not toss him under the bus for all to see.  But there are a few things to note.  The site is not quite a year old.  They have about 17,500 caches, that were added.  Of those it appears 5-10% are unique.  So most of you will go out out find a cache and will find that more than 9 out of 10 are already on the geocaching.com website.

Opencaching stats. Top Total, Bottom new additions.

You can see the huge jump in cache submission when they had their GPS unit giveaway.  There was none when they did their chirp giveaway.  At least I don't see one. (I cannot remember when they did that.  

It could be that things are leveling off. It appears that way.  Most that I have talked to locally have not noticed a find on their caches. Some of the finds are imports.  You can import your finds from other caches, so they will appear.  So even logs that are there may be copies of the logs from geocaching.com.

Advertising

On another note.. there was an ad in backpacker magazine for opencaching.  The pics were sent to me.  I did find them rather funny.

If you look to the right you get the image that I was sent.  Below is the blowup. 

Yep you got it.  On a advertisement that is for Garmin's opencaching.com there is a nice picture of a GPS unit.  If you notice the GPS unit is showing a GC# or a geocaching.com cache.

Time to have a talk with your Advertising people .

Summary

I wonder what is in store.  Most people that I know of have never heard of the site still.  Or if they have they have not desire to do anything with it.  It does not bode well for opencaching. They are approaching the 20,000 cache milestone.  Assuming there are no more geocides, where people just archive all they have.

I think they may become a niche market.  Though I am not sure what there corner is. 

the Opencaching network seems very innovative.  They are trying new things and doing things that the other sites are not trying.

Terracaching has its "private entry".  You have to find sponsors, and people that trust you.  Their idea is to push the hide quality.  I am not sure that hold true anymore.

Navicache... meh... not sure.  Just being an alternative is not enough. 

Garmin has tossed some interesting ideas into the works.  I think it has pushed Groundspeak to respond faster.  In the past they may have planned Project A for January, B for March, C for May.  Now it appears they are working on A, B, and C for January, with C,D,and E lined for for Feb, March.  They are tackling more, faster, and trying new things.

All of this is good for caching.  What people will do next.. we have to see.

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