ET Phone Home … or NDOT

ET didn’t phone home he called NDOT.  I have it from a reliable source that the Nevada Department of Transportation has been pressured into allowing the ET Highway cache series to return.  The local businesses saw a material impact to their business as a result of the influx of geocachers.

While the ET Highway series are not my favourite kind of geocache I find it very interesting that geocaching can have a meaningful impact in a local economy.  I did some research last year and one community that was part of a geocaching trail saw a $250,000 direct impact as a result of the geocaching trail.

It will not be long now before geocaching is used by local economic development departments as a way to drive visitors.  The key will be to place quality caches.  The temptation to do it cheaply or without the proper experience will be very strong.  There is no doubt that organizations will be placing caches for their own purposes.  I just hope these organizations hire an experienced geocaching consultant.

If there are any tourism or economic development departments out there I’ll be happy to discuss your project with you ;-)

Opencaching on other Platforms

Opencaching Smartphone ApplicationWhen opencaching.com was launched I figured it was a way for Garmin to create demand for their GPS receivers.  Today’s announcement of iPhone and Android apps for opencaching leave me wondering what Garmin is up to.   Gregory over at Toronto Geocaching has posted a first look at the opencaching application.  The app looks good but why would Garmin give away a free application on other platforms?  Garmin is investing heavily in the opencaching initiative.

So not only do we have competition in the listing space, now there is competition in the software space.   More and more people are first being introduced to geocaching via smartphones.   Why not get them acquainted with the brand early so that converting them will be easier later.

The idea that you can hide a cache using the app sounds like a good idea but I have my reservations.   Ah ha …. now I get it.  This is exactly what Garmin wants.   Opencaching suffers from a lack of unique caches.  Opencaching.com is a useful site but it is overshadowed by Groundspeak’s dominance in the quantity of listings.  Garmin might be prepared to forgo some added revenue today in order to create greater value (eg more unique caches) for tomorrow.  If Garmin can reduce the friction of getting caches placed that will be good for them long-term.

You know geocaching has gone mainstream when the largest device manufacturer is giving away software and services in order to protect it’s core market.

Virtuals Come to Opencaching.com

I haven’t been caching long enough to remember virtual caches.  I’ve talked to some folks who have and there are mixed feelings about this type of cache.   The geocaching community does seem to be excited about them though.   Opencaching.com has introduced them virtual caches to their site.

It may be easier for opencaching.com to introduce virtual caches as the site lacks a formal review process.   In the Garmin press release they mention that virtual caches should have “a cool search or do” component.  This is equivalent to what was called the “wow” factor when geocaching.com had virtuals.   Getting consensus on “cool” or “wow” is what leads to contentions.   My idea of cool might be different than yours.  Who will be the arbiter of cool?

Geocaching.com is currently working on virtuals and will be reintroducing them shortly.   It will be interesting to see how the different review approaches  affects the acceptance and popularity of this type of cache.

Finding Kid Friendly Caches

Based on the calendar Spring is here. It hasn’t felt that way for the last week! Now that summer is approaching more people are getting outside to enjoy some geocaching. I’ve personally introduced caching to a few families and have others contact me by email. How do you introduce someone to geocaching? For most of us it involves a group outing of some kind where you take the interested party or parties on a cache hunt. Through that experience the uninitiated learn about various cache hides and hopefully will get a sense of what they might like to look for.

Here are some things to look for if you are introducing a family with children to geocaching:

  1. Pick regular or large container sizes.  Kids like to exchange swag.  It’s the treasure they are after.  Be sure and bring ample amounts to trade.
  2. Look for a group of caches in a neighbourhood park or a local conservation area.  Don’t make the trip to the caches so long that the kids get bored before they get there.  Shoot for 3-4 caches in 1-2 hours.  Longer trips are possible but you might want to save those until the muggles turned geocachers get a little hooked.
  3. You probably don’t want to try for anything to difficult either physically or hard to find.  Save the 5/5 for an adventure day.  Build up the difficulty once the new players have demonstrated an understanding of how to find a cache.
  4. Look for attributes that indicate this cache hunt won’t pose too much of a challenge for younger players.  Here’s a few attributes I’d look for:
    1. Recommended for kids
    2. Less than an hour
    3. Short hike
    4. Parking Available
    5. Restrooms nearby (the little ones don’t always think in advance)
    6. Winter Friendly, these tend to be off the ground reducing the amount of leaves that need to be moved thus keeping everyone a little cleaner.
    7. Stroller Accessible if the kids are very small
    8. Parking available, road-side parking is not ideal for kids
  5. Search for “kid” in the cache name, this isn’t a sure fire way to find kid friendly caches but it can help.

If you are the kind of person that likes to introduce people to geocaching you might want to set up a bookmark list of the caches in your area that you’d recommend for newbies.  A little preparation in advance makes it a lot easier later.

Something Different

Yes you’ve reached CacheMania. I’m trying out a new theme. What do you think?