Maintain Your Caches!

NOTE:  There are spoilers in this post.

replacement logIs visiting your cache every once in a while important?  You betcha!  I learned this the hard way this weekend.  I have a cache close to home.  I actually pass by it quite regularly but I didn’t think I had any reason to stop in and check on it.   The cache was placed on October 24, 2009.  I thought I was reading the logs as they come in, apparently I was not reading them well enough.

I saw a log yesterday that said the log was too wet to sign so they put in some fresh paper.    With the cache so close to home I decided to drive over and have a look.  I emailed the person that found my cache to ask if they were sure it was mine as my cache is very weather resistant.  They were certain that it was.   On arriving at the cache if found my original log book was there and it was fine.  Some more emails were exchanged and the finder even sent me a picture of the wet log.  Something odd was going on so back I went to check things out.  That’s when I discovered what had happened.

original log and containerIn looking at the online logs I see that a number of people had made comments about a damp log.  I was certain my log would not be that damp as it is in a watertight container.  I don’t know why but I did not pay near enough attention to these comments.  I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t.   When I went to look the second time I found out what was going on.  A helpful cacher thought that the log was missing, it wasn’t, so they added their own piece of paper.  Future cachers found this piece of paper and assumed it was the correct log.   The correct log is inside a plastic matchbox inside the outer container.

The lesson I learned here is that you need to pay special attention to any log that seems even remotely unexpected for your cache.  I was lucky in that this cache is close to home and I can easily maintain it.  I’ll be paying special attention to future log entries!

 

Is Garmin Looking After Your Rights?

Garmin’s latest ad for opencaching.com is turning up the rhetoric.  This might be a nice ad but I think Garmin is missing the point.   Quality caches are the best way to attract users.  Here is the ad as it appeared in the latest issue of Outside magazine.

opencaching ad in outside magazine

opencaching ad in outside magazine

Garmin continues to attack Groundspeak on the issue of price. I don’t think this is the best approach for Garmin.  Have you ever heard the adage: “you get what you pay for”?  I learned early on in my sales career that if you sell on price you will lose on price. Groundspeak does offer a free service to cachers. The $30/year premium service is a reasonable price to pay for the great value you receive.  I’ve stated before that my premium membership at Groundspeak is the least expensive item in my annual geocaching budget.  I spend more in batteries than I do on my premium membership.

Garmin continues to improve their listing service.  The recent addition of saved searches is another challenge to value of  geocaching.com’s premium service.  The ability to run pocket queries has long been one advantage of the paid service at geocaching.com.  Garmin is not letting up on their improvements.  Every month sees a new feature added to the site making it more user friendly.  This will continue to force Groundspeak to keep pace.

Garmin can have better ads.  They can even have a user friendly site.  They can do that and more but that is not what will motivate a cacher to use their site.  The quality of opencaching.com as a site will be measured in the quantity and quality of caches listed there. Cross posting cache hides on opencaching.com and geocaching.com does little to help grow the site.  The entrenched base of users at geocaching.com are not about to switch to opencaching.com because it offers 5000 cache downloads with one click.  How does that help a cacher if they can already get 4990 of those caches on geocaching.com?

Groundspeak continues to offer the most comprehensive geocaching listing site in the world.  Groundspeak has accrued tremendous brand loyalty in its 10 years of operation.  Garmin’s only hope of attracting those loyal users is to offer more or better caches than can be found on geocaching.com.  I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Photo courtesy of Brenda at SWOG.

When Geocaching Goes Wrong

ET Highway SignThe latest black eye for geocaching is the archiving of the ET Highway series of geocaches in Nevada.  The claim to fame for this series was that it had over 1000 caches in the series.  The loss of this series doesn’t really bother me from the standpoint of losing a power trail, the loss does bother me from how this will negatively affect geocaching in Nevada and elsewhere.

I listened to the Geocacher Podcast today and one of the cache owners of the ET Highway series read the message he received advising him the series would be archived.   In that message he mentions that the Nevada Attorney General was involved.  It is never a good thing for geocaching when officials at that level are involved.  The cache owner was clear in what he was told but I don’t think we are getting the full story on why these caches were archived.

I’m sure it is true that there were close calls on the road.  I also believe it’s very easy for a government to use safety as the public reason for making a controversial decision.  Who can argue with safety?   I have not found any of the caches along the ET highway but I have talked to geocachers that have.   Typically the caches in this series are not far from the road.  I wonder if the cache owners received permission from the Nevada DOT to place the caches where they did?  When you read this post,  Goodbye Geocaching ET Highway, written by a reviewer, you see that  the number one recommendation to avoid issues is to get permission.  I think the combination of safety and lack of permission is what led to this series being archived.

As geocachers we have to maintain good communication with all levels of government.  It is one of the reasons I got involved with the Ontario Geocaching Association.  By and large the kind of places we want to place caches will at some-point put other geocachers on government owned/managed land.  We all know that we need permission to place a cache on private property.  Getting that kind of permission is usually not too hard.  On the other hand dealing with governments is never easy.

I”m sure the reviewers at geocaching.com will be a lot more sensitive to caches along highways.  Some reviewers here in Ontario have been sensitive to this for some time.   Thanks!  Your diligence helps minimize the number of land manager conflicts we face.

My biggest fear for geocaching is that a few cachers that don’t respect proper etiquette will ruin it for the rest of us.  If you care enough about geocaching to read this blog then you likely aren’t the kind of person that will cause problems for other cachers.  The real challenge for all of us that do care is educating the people that either don’t know better or don’t care to do better.

Planned Outage at Geocaching.com

I wonder if the planned outage for this Wednesday is related to the site responsiveness yesterday?

From the geocaching.com website:

Geocaching.com will be going offline temporarily for a site update on Tuesday, March 08, 2011 at approximately 11am PST (GMT -8). We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Garmin Coins a New Pathtag

As many geocachers know geocoins are popular items for discovery and trade.  When opencaching.com lauched it seemed like a bit of a miss that they did not have this functionality.  It probably made sense to Garmin to leave this functionality out as there focus was on maximizing the value of their devices.  It makes more sense for Garmin to do something like the Chirp which leverages their hardware.  There isn’t much value added to a device when a cacher finds or discovers a geocoin.  Garmin’s launch of the Opie Pathtag might be recognition that geocoins are a popular aspect of geocaching that opencaching.com does not support (Yet?).

opie pathtag backopie pathtag back

I have one Pathtag that I’ve never actually logged.  I received it at last year’s Geowoodstock.  The idea of an open geocoin standard is something I would like to see.  We might never see that though.  I suppose that might like letting you track your UPS shipment on the Fedex website.

For a while now I’ve been running a script in my browser that adds Geokrety support to my cache listing pages on geocaching.com.  In this way it is “kind of” open in that I can see if a cache has a Geokrety in it or not while on the geocaching.com website.    Geokrety is similar to Travel Bugs and are more popular in Europe.  I inquired about buying a list of numbers from Geokrety for use in the minting of a coin but that is not a service they offer.

As of now there is no way for an independent operation to produce products that are trackable on geocaching.com.   It makes sense for Groundspeak to get paid for making that service available.  There are costs associated with offering the tracking service.  Right now every geocoin you buy that is trackable at geocaching.com pays a fee to get a tracking number from Groundspeak.  Depending on the minting cost of the coin the fees to Groundspeak can represent 20-50% of the cost of the coin.  Starting at $2/coin Pathtags offer a much cheaper alternative to geocaching.com geocoins.   At those prices I can see them being price competitive as a signature item.  Geocachers still want to be able to track geocoins on geocaching.com.

Maybe I should ask Pathtags if they would be willing to sell some tracking numbers but let me mint my own coins?