Peer Review is Flawed

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for a long time.  I saw something today that propelled me to the keyboard.  I’ll start by saying I love the idea of peer review.  It’s a transparent process that hopefully will allow more and better caches to get published.  I fear that is not what is actually happening over at

I saw a forum post today that talked about peer review so I bounced over to and had a look at the review queue.  The first listing I looked at had a score of -126.  I thought perhaps this was a poorly executed cache so I looked at the listing.

Peer Review of Opencaching geocache OXZTMNT

Peer Review of Opencaching geocache OXZTMNT

Is the geocache in the water

Is the geocache in the water

In reading the reviewer comments all them them used the same option: From looking at the map, it looks like the coordinates might not be correct. Please double check them.  Well how bad are those coordinates?  I did what you would do and looked at the map.  I zoomed in as close as I could and sure enough the cache looked like it might be in the river.   Then I looked at the scale on the map.   Based on that scale the cache is about 5-6m in the river.   I don’t know about you but at best I get 3m accuracy on my GPSr and in most cases it’s closer to 5m.   Add in the fact that the arial imagery may be off slightly doesn’t that make it it more likely that this cache is in a tree than in the water?

Why do I think the cache is in a tree?  Well because the cacher left a reviewer note that said “small pill bottle in hole of tree about 61/2 feet high”.    To be fair I don’t know if the reviewer note came before or after the cache was reviewed.  In either case wouldn’t it be prudent to revise a vote if there is a better understanding of the cache placement?

While I like the idea of peer review for geocaches I think the process at is flawed.  That’s the nice thing about dedicated reviewers at  We may not always like their responses and we should have better transparency of who the reviewer is but at least they are reviewing caches based on experience.  The appeals process at also seems to work.  My preference would be a combination of the two processes.  I’d like to see a minimum standard for peers before they can review.

Opencaching Tipping Point

The phrase tipping point refers to the point in time when an idea spreads on its own, organically. It is the point where attitudes change and the general population starts to move in a new direction. A little over a year ago Garmin introduced Since that time Garmin has offered promotions and incentives to get geocachers to use their site. Is it working?

According to FirenIce the opencaching site has about 20,000+ geocaches.  I haven’t confirmed this with Garmin but I’m not worried about the accuracy for now, you’ll see why shortly.   If we assume that each cacher on has placed 2 caches that works out to about 10,000 users.  That might be a bit low so let’s say it’s 20,000 users.   Groundspeak claims that their site has about 5 million users.

According to a recent study the tipping point for a new idea is adoption by 10% of a given population.   I’m not scientist but that number feels about right.  Roughly  1 in 10.   So if we are to accept Groundspeak’s numbers that means that 500,000 geocachers would need to adopt a new idea before it spreads on its own within the caching community.

Using the assumed figures I’ve listed above it would appear that is about 480,000 users away from tipping.  The questions now are:  will it take 500,000 users in order to make tip and what kind of growth rate does Garmin need before they lose interest in the project?

Is It Just a Game?

Some people have said that I’m hyper, others have said that I’m aggressive, I don’t know if I’m either of those things but I do know that I’m easy going about geocaching. This cannot be said for some people.

There are a few things that I might get excited about when it comes to geocaching, one is spoilers in the logs the other is geocache quality. Those two are hot buttons for me because they affect how other people are forced to play the game. If you want to read the hint before you get to a cache, fine by me. That’s not my style but I’m playing my game, not yours. I am not to excited about seeing hint in the log that’s for sure. I’m not a fan of that because it’s hard to avoid. If you put out poor quality caches either by choosing a less than worthy location or by using an inappropriate container then that affects all who play the game.

What I’m not going to do is get worked up by someone “cheating”. In this respect geocaching is like golf. If you cheat in golf you are affecting your game play not mine. If someone wants to hack a Where I Go cartridge, go ahead. If someone gets the final coordinates from a friend, go ahead. Just keep that information to yourself. I’ll play my way and you play your way. As long as what you are doing isn’t affecting how other people get to play then I’m not going to make an issue out of it. One caveat here. Doing things that adversely affect the general public’s perception of geocaching does get me excited and not in the happy face kind of way. I want to keep playing for a long time and that won’t happen if we aren’t courteous to those who also use the spaces we do.

Geocaching is so much better when we are having fun. Can we focus on that for a while?

Improved Geocache Navigator

Map & Menu - Geocache Navigator

Geocache Navigator is finally touch screen friendly.  Trimble has made that improvement and a few more to the latest release of Geocache Navigator.   I’ve been busy working on an upcoming geocaching event which has severely limited my available time for caching.  I was in Toronto this past week without my GPSr and decided to take advantage of some downtime and find some caches.  The ability to look up caches close to my location is my favourite feature of the Geocache Navigator software.   I’ve been able to do that since first using this app a few years ago.  Three are a couple of new changes to finding and saving caches in this new version of Geocache Navigator that I think are quite helpful.

For starters the new app is touch screen aware.  I use Geocache Navigator on my BlackBerry Torch.  In previous versions of the app the navigation buttons were touch sensitive but the maps were not.  In the new version you can scroll maps by dragging your finger across the screen.  This is much faster than the previous method.  To make scrolling even faster the app now stores a cache of map tiles locally on your phone.  In this way the application doesn’t have to constantly request map information over the air.   The ability to repetedly zoom in and then out without requesting map tiles makes the application much faster.   These features appear to be so new that the official user guide for the application does not reflect the new map features.  By default the new maps show aerial imagery.  You can switch to the traditional map view from the menu.

A brand new feature to the application is the ability to save caches to the phone.  Saving the caches to the phone saves only the cache details.  It does not save the previous logs but it does save the hint.  There are several areas that I cache in where cellphone coverage is a little spotty.  The ability to save cache details in advance makes it much easier to rely on my BlackBerry when I don’t have my GPSr nearby.  I still prefer my GPSr for outdoor use but my BlackBerry loaded with Geocache Navigator is very handy indeed!

The End of Geocaching

I am a little concerned that geocaching might be on the downward slide.   What makes me think this?  The length of online logs.   I’m noticing a trend in the logs I’m seeing towards shorter logs for new cachers.  I ran some numbers on a cache I just published and cachers with more than 500 finds wrote logs longer than 150 characters, 50% of cachers with fewer than 500 finds wrote shorter logs.   As much as I like to read longer logs the length of the log isn’t the issue.   Twitter has shown us that you can be brief and be interesting at the same time.  What this is showing me is that we have developed a geocaching culture of take without enough give.

I try and make my caches interesting.   I’ll try unusual hides, interesting places, something to make it more than a numbers run.  My only reward for doing this is to read the logs of people that find the caches.  If I spend a few hours on the creation of a cache I would hope it warrants a longer log than TFTC.  Unfortunately not all cachers feel as I do.

I know that if I do 20 caches in a day it is hard to write something unique for all the finds but I try.   I’m not concerned with the logs on power trails.  I’m thinking of caches where the cache owner put a bit of work in to the cache but the finder didn’t reciprocate with a suitable log.  How does a newbie cacher know how long a log should be?  Who is teaching cacher etiquette?

Unlike baseball or soccer or darts there are no geocaching leagues.  We don’t start out in peewee and progress up to Triple A.  It is for this reason that geocaching associations and geocaching vendors provide a critical role in the success of  geocaching.   Without these related organizations there is no one to teach new cachers etiquette or technique.   A film canister is NOT a suitable cache container where I live but where do you go to learn that?

If you are like me and would like geocaching to continue for a long time then please let hiders know you appreciate their effort by writing complete logs.   Here’s something that geocaching listing sites like can easily do:  add a character count to the log submission.   Let me sort, group or search by log length.  I don’t need favourite points if I can see the log length.   If every log for a  cache is less than 50 characters then I know it’s not is cool as a cache where every log is longer then 200 characters.    You could even go as far as showing the average log length at the top of the log entries.

If you are supporting geocaching education let me know and I’ll tweet about it.   Something everyone can do to support the geocaching community is to join their local association.  These associations and groups are great ways to learn about geocaching.