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 Tag: Maps

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.

 

Oldest Active Caches in Germany

At the request I have added a page for the oldest active caches in Germany.

Currently I am Finishing out 2001, So I should get all the caches listed from the start to 2001. Once again (as with my other lists) I will add those that were placed in 2001, but were published in the first week or two of 2002. If you was placed in 2001 but published in February, it will not be listed.

 


View Oldest active geocaches in Germany in a larger map

Maps - We Love Maps

I just added a map to my oldest active geocache page.  I am still updating it, but thought you would like a peek.

This is all the caches that are active up to Nov 30, 2000


View Year 2000 of Geocaching in a larger map

For more info go to /oldest-active-geocaches/

Geocaching update, Febuary 1

Today was the date of some new updates for those that were interested.

Maps

You can see below some of the filter options:

There are plenty of map options.  I really like the topo option.

 

rsz_map2

rsz_map

The two shots show some of the difference if you sit down and use the filters that are available. 

The upper map is everything on. I then turned off the caches that I had found and that I own... then shut off puzzles and events.  That leaves me with a good list of what I can go after, tonight on the way home.

Favorites

You can also now click on the blue favorites ribbon in a search or on the cache page.  It will tell you what percentage of premium members that have found the cache have listed it as a favorite.   I would personally like that a sortable column, but  this is an improvement.

It does make a bit of a difference  The top ten and their %

48 - 8%

Virtual Cache Bryce Canyon National Park- Inspiration Point by Team Family Affair (GCHQMX)
45 - 10%

Traditional Cache Tour of Duty (TBs) by CoolCache (GCR206)

 

34 - 17%

Virtual Cache Angel's Landing by Iskander De Toquerville, Pipeline & Percible (GCG2ZP)
32 - 12%

Earthcache Delicate Arch by Lord Mot, Baby Girl and Littlefoot (GC177KB)
31 - 4%

Virtual Cache Arches National Park- Balanced Rock by Team Family Affair (GCHQFJ)
25 - 12%

Earthcache Zion Narrows by Coach Steve (GCZ5YD)
24 - 9%

Earthcache Avalanche on Wall Street- Bryce Canyon NPS by LuvWahoo (GCZCME)
23 - 9%

Virtual Cache Arches National Park - Delicate Arch by GunniGirl (GCJG49)
22 - 10%

Virtual Cache Golden Spike by Seth! (GC6FD7)

21 - 8%
Virtual Cache Temple Square Virtual Cache Tour by Scout Master (GCHZZ1)

 

In fact.. the highest % with those over 10 votes

22%a three way tie

Traditional Cache Galileo 400 by lesdubois and son (GC1TYC9)

Unknown Cache EYE'S OF A UTAH GEOCACHER by MomtheCook,cashnhubby & Rubberpaws, ArticScarab (GC1FAM4)

Traditional Cache Fat Man's Misery by Heidi, Jared, Autin (GCFE7E)

 

The most popular % wise (with those 7 votes or higher)  In fact this was the only one over 30% with over seven votes.

78% - 7 votes

Unknown Cache Pining for Evergreens by MOCKBA (GCJVJY)

Statistics

You can list out your milestones.  You can have the website generate them, or you can correct them yourself.

 

Needs maintenance

I think this is new.  Now when you do a search, or go to someones profile there is an info column.  In the past that column mentioned if it had geocoins, or travel bugs in it.  Now it will also show the premium member icon, and an Icon for Needs Maintenance.  So you will be able to see before you go if it needs maintenance.  If I look for one that needs maintenance, I may take a few things (logs, container), or not go at all.

 

Enjoy

Stats, Maps, and Favorites.

They have been discussing these changes for some time, in some cases for a long time.  Ideas were tossed around and off they went.  Then a few months ago the reviewers had a sneak peak at some of the ideas, and others we were told what direction they were going.  More ideas were tossed around, and now we are coming to a culmination of what I would imagine is 6-8 months of work on the projects.

All of this is subject to change, and barring a massive collapse of the system, or finding a huge bug that has been undiscovered we will get a number of fantastic new changes to the site.  So without further discussion......

Stats

There will now be a new page on your profile.  It will house geocachings new stats page.  This will be a compilation of a number of the commonly gathered stats.  There are plans to make more additions to this, but this is the initial roll out of the information.   You will be able to hide your stats if you wish, but the default is a planned "on".  It will be tied to the Premium Member feature, and I am seeking more info on that.  I should know soon. 

The stats page will look very familiar.  We see many of those out and about now.

Maps

This is really cool, really cool.  Did I mention it was cool?  When I first heard of it and saw the link to a movie I kind of ignored it.   After hearing how cool it was I went and actually pulled up the video.  A photo/screen shot cannot really do it justice. 

The biggest change....... wait for the drum roll please...... No more 500 cache limit.  Actually the limit will be infinite.  You could (in theory) see all the caches at one time.

The maps are larger, and far more dynamic.  Zooming in and out looks very smooth.  Much more than the one we use now and especially when you get to 400 caches now it is very choppy, but with 3000 it looked smooth.  :D   woo hoo.

Favorites

This is a huge change for the site.  Where the other steps make the experience on the site very useful.  This is a game changer in how you may actually look for caches.

Based on the number of finds you will get a favorite point. 

These will be earned by finding caches.  Woo hoo, finding caches give you points.. everyone likes that.  Except now a you will be able to award points to your favorite caches.  

The problem with many averaging systems is people.  I may rate a persons find high because he is my friend, or I love all power trails so I rate them high, or mountain peaks, I may even love LPC caches, or quick finds.   Other people may hate my cacher friend, power trails or LPC's, and only love those that challenge. 

In essence votes start to cancel others out.  You never see a 1 star or a 5 star.  or even a 1.5-4.5 if many votes are given.  they tend to all end up in the 2-4 range, and over time a 4.5 star cache degrades, and cache quality also.  The system quickly becomes useless.

Now you can take the points that you earn, and donate them to your favorite caches.

On a cache page you will have the ability to add your favorite points to caches, and take them away.

Voila simple and clean.

You will be able to go to the page and see who liked the cache.

Your page will tell you where the points are, so you can go back and reclaim points if you find better caches, or when you realize that a LPC, or nano cache is not really your favorite.

Last but not least you will be able to sort by favorites.  Look for those that others found most excellent.

Hopefully you get the idea.

Wrap up

Premium member.  that is the magic word that I did not mention much.  Most of these functions are going to be available to premium members only in varying degrees.   Premium members will be able to give favorite points (to avoid spamming the site with fake logs, and likes).  I do think this is a game changer.  You can only give them to caches you have found.  So once a cache is found you can mark it as a favorites. 

So start dusting off the cobwebs from your mind.  Think of the best caches you have visited, so you can mark them, and then you can find them on the new map while checking your fantastic stats.

(Screenshots used were courtesy of Groundspeak)

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