Sunday, 14 November 2010, a social media?

About 2 weeks ago I posted a functionality request called ‘follow my friends’ geocaching adventures’ on the website. Basic idea of this request is that I want to get an e-mail digest of the logs of my geocaching friends. This way I am updated on the adventures of my friends, so we have something to talk about when we meet or call and I get inspiration for my own geocaching adventures from the positive experiences of my friends. If they had a positive experience finding a geocache, I would like to have that experience as well and will go out and try to find the same cache.

From this idea, I have thought a little bit further down the road. Geocaching claims to be a game with a strong sense of community as you can read on the homepage. I asked to myself: “Can the geocaching platform not only have a sense of community, but actually contribute to peoples lives by making the platform more social? To answer this question, let’s first define what ‘social’ is. According to Wikipedia social media is described as following: “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” According to this definition, is already some sort of social media. Geocachers can publish caches and other user can find them and publish their experience in a log. Other users can watch caches and read the logs of other peoples. This is graphically represented in the picture below.

But is this information highly accessible? No, at this moment it is not. On the website there is no feature which informs you about new caches in your area. The website always waits for your action. Many websites in the geocaching community have built a solution for this issue and keep track of and inform you about the latest additions. In contrary to caches, you can be actively informed about the latest logs on certain cache by using the ‘watch cache’ feature. But, as mentioned before, the information in a log is not only interesting for people who are watching a cache, it is also interesting for people who want to be informed about the adventures of a certain geocacher.

My simple request increases the accessibility of information. But it does not increase the social interaction. You can receive the log in your mailbox, but you cannot respond to it. For example if a friend of mine has, to my opinion, experienced a great adventure, I want to let him know. My friend, or other people, can respond to my message which gives us interaction.

This interaction is great opportunity for the website. Why? Because if you can interact through the website with other people in the community, even expand your social network by interacting with people who are not on your friends list, the geocaching website has not only a sense of community but actually has an added value to peoples lives, by being a platform to expand your social network. It will not only be a fun game to play, but it helps you meet other interesting people in a fun way as well, by meeting online and searching for a geocache in the woods together.

There are many platforms to interact with your friends and meet new friends online, like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. A geocaching social network will never become as big as these names, but it will be far more interesting for geocachers because it has that extra dimension to it. Meet online, go out there and find that cache, together as friends.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Growing pains of geocaching related websites

A few days ago, the webmaster of was questioning whether he should continue the site or not. On there has been no activity at all recently and is struggling with decreasing number of donators. What is going on the world of geocaching related websites?

Like any other organisation, geocaching websites go through different phases as they grow. This process is described in theories. Interesting is, because the process has been described, the growing pains could have been predicted and thus prevented.
Let’s see what the problem is according to one of these theories, the theory of Greiner. This theory states that each phase ends with a crisis. The phases can follow in a random order but this is the most common sequence:

Looking at the youngest website,, in its first year after the release it has already passed the first phase. New, creative tools have been made and a leader has described a clear vision to be followed: ‘Give the geocacher tools to find the most suitable cache listing according to his needs, without setting rules or influence the available geocaches.‘ is now in phase 2. More and more tools have been added to the website and the amount of work is getting too much. Also the criticism that comes with executing a vision became almost too much for which was the reason for questioning the contingency of the website. A vacancy for a new programmer has been put on the website, which has not been filled yet.

To go through the autonomy crisis, a lot more is needed than a programmer to get the work done. The key will be to activate the user base. This can be done by involving small groups of users in the design of new tools on the site or giving them a specific role in the organisation, like forum moderator. When the user base is activated and involved, they will help globalcaching to get the work done by using their network to find the resources to make their design reality.

Most important however is to secure the contingency of the website. If the current owners stop their work for the website, their must be someone who can step up and continue the work. If the contingency is not secured, the user base cannot be activated. Nobody wants to put his precious efforts in the hands of a single person.
About I can be short. There has been some creativity which resulted in some interesting tools, but for further growth a vision is needed which makes this website stand out from the rest. A leader is needed who can create and execute such a vision. is more complicated. This website already exists since 2002 and already has a significant organisation. As I already said before, the number of donators is dropping which is a sign of a crisis. Other indications are that no new tools have been developed recently and volunteers are leaving there position in the organisation pretty quickly for various reasons. Shortly said, the new middle layer of the organisation is failing to deliver results because either they are not capable to do so or the top of geocaching is in their way and worrying about the details. These are symptoms of a control crisis.

A good look at the middle layer is advised. Are they able to translate the demands of the community into solutions which fit into the vision of the top of the organisation, or are they only executing the vision of the top of the organisation without looking at the community? This is really important as the middle layer is the link to the geocaching community and they are the only ones in the organisation who can react to changes in the community.

Also some attention is needed for the top of the organisation. Are they making sure their vision is executed or are they executing their vision themselves? In other words, are they able to let go the details into the hands of the middle layer and trust on the creativity of the middle layer to execute the vision of the top of the organisation?

All geocaching related websites in The Netherlands are struggling at this moment. All of them have something good about them and I hope for the geocaching community that they will get out of the problems so that they can offer us useful new tools and we can keep on using the big amount of information on the forums.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Garmin Oregon; Trashbin or...

First I would like to thank someone. I would like to thank the guy who was telling something about his weird hobby Geocaching at the television show 'Kopspijkers' back in 2005. Finding tupperware boxes with help of million dollar satelites, that's weird! But wait a minute, this sounds like hiking, navigating and challenge. I like those things! This sounds like something for me! Thanks man, for this great addiction!

A few months later I bought my first GPS. Let's see if geocaching is something for me. It had to be cheap GPS because I did not want to spent a lot of money on a hobby I did not even know I liked. So I bought my first GPS on ebay and it happened to be a Garmin Etrex H.

Now, 3 years later, Geoaching appeared to be something I like a lot. So, I treated myself with a new, more advanced GPS last Christmas. First I was looking at a Garmin GPSMAP60CSx but this one is missing the Wherigo functionality, a very promising new trend in Geocaching in my opinion. When I read about the Garmin Dakota and Oregon series, I was sold. The Dakota is also missing the Wherigo functionality but the Oregon had all the options I wanted.

There are a few different versions of the Oregon. The 200 is the most basic version. The 300 has an electronic compass added, the 450 has detailed maps added included and the 550 has a camera but not the cards.

The first test for my Oregon was 'Van de Kaart', a recommendation. According to the description, this cache is not very easy and various options of the GPS need to be used. All I need for a good test! It was January 2nd and the first thing I discovered is that it is very hard to use the touch screen with gloves. The next thing I discovered is the accuracy of the Oregon. I found all waypoints within 2 meter of the GPS indication. With being used to the avarage accuracy of the Etrex, something like 20 meters, this was a major improvement. I do not like searching but I really like finding. Now I could tell whether the waypoint information was hidden on the trashbin or on the restplace right next to it. This will save me a lot of searching without finding! I would never have found a difficult cache like 'Van de Kaart' with my Etrex.

Another big improvement compared to the Etrex is the map. When you enter a new coordinate you hit the 'view map' label and you can immediately see whether the new waypoint makes sense or not. Now, I can immediately see whether I made a miscalcalculation or a typo so my waypoint appears to be in the water or on the other side of a river, which has happened a lot in the last 3 years.

Using the Oregon is very easy. I never needed the manual (is a manual included anyway?) for 'Van de Kaart', which includes a cross projection and multiple different date notations. There are also some strange things, like it seems that the Geocaching module of the software is only written for traditional caches. The additional waypoints of multicache are loaded as seperate waypoints and not as child waypoints related the the geocache. Also creating a new waypoint for a multicache is not very straight forward and is only possible from the main screen. What I also have not been able to do is getting the geocaching dashboard active when navigating to a normal waypoint. This dashboard is the most usefull dashboard because it is the only one with the map and compass active in a single screen. If somebody has managed to achieve this, please let me know!

Another missing thing is the danger area option, which is used in more and more caches recently but I was a bit lucky I did not need it for 'Van de Kaart'. Hopefully this will come in a software upgrade soon. For software upgrades, by the way, use the Microsoft approach and install the upgrade when the first hotfix is available which fixes all the issues in the new version because the bugs can be very disturbing. Another point of concern for me was battery usage, but allthough the Oregon is using more power then the Etrex, you can easily spent a day caching on a single pair of batteries.

Besides these few minor remarks, I am very pleased with my new Oregon. If you are thinking about buying one, Do not think about it, just do it!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

How to spent a weekend around CacheDorado 's-Hertogenbosch

The city of 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands is an area with a high cache density. Mainly responsible for this high density in caches is Geopatra, who has named this area 'CacheDorado'. According to him, there is a cache for everybody. But which cache is for you? I have put some recommendable caches in four groups for you; 'Point hunters', 'City walks', 'War theme' and 'Nature up north'.

Point hunters
For point hunters there is a lot to do in the cachedorado. There are a few bike routes combing multiple low distance caches: Fietsroute 2 from 's-Hertogenbosch to Drunen, Fietsroute 5 from Hedel to Nederhemert and Fietsroute 6 Elshout to Drongelen. Expect a lot, but not very spectacular, caches nearby interesting and less interesting spots.

City Walks
's-Hertogenbosch has a very nice city center and multiple cachers have taken the oppertunity to guide you through the city. Very special about 's-Hertogenbosch is that city center and nature are very close. You can best experience this in Hopman Henks version, but if you are more interested in the city walk and less in nature I more recommend Le Comtes version in combination with Jurassic Park. Off course Geopatra also has a city tour but the puzzle took me too much time so I have not found this one yet. Another recommendation is Moerasdraak, which starts close to the city center at very busy junction but after an exciting walk you end in nature with a nice view on the city.

Nature up north
North of the city center, there are some caches in special areas. Diezemonding for example, an area without any paths, 2 meter high thorny plants and cows. Another recommendation is Bovenwaard with animal skeletons all over the place and a cache with a nice plot but mainly very nice handcrafted waypoints. Unfortunately this caches is offline for some time.

War theme
South of 's-Hertogenbosch there are some very interesting war themed caches. Vughtse Heide takes you to the place where prisoners of camp Vught were shot in world war II. At Tower of Evil you can visit the museum related to the camp. Probably the best cache in CacheDorado is 'Het geheim van Elzenburg'. A war themed cache about trust and betrayal with a very, very good plot. Not war themed, but close to the war themed caches is IJzeren Man, a challenging cache which deserves its place in this post.

So, CacheDorado has something for everybody, a lot of good caches. But what it does not have is a cache that everybody likes. A cache that you have to do, which makes you come to this area. Or, is it this one, just outside the CacheDorado?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

To rank or not to rank

A fierce discussion about the FTF (first to finish) ranking was going on at the forum last week. Main topic in the discussion was the question whether the suggested change makes sense or not.

In the geocaching world, there are various geocaching FTF rankings. The Dutch FTF ranking was initiated on, but when this website changed its vision, to focus more on quality of the geocaching experience rather then quantity of caches found, the FTF ranking was removed again from the site because it did not fit in the new vision. The website took over the initiative and the FTF ranking became one of the first important tools on this website.

To me, scoring an FTF log is always a pretty special feeling. You are the first to experience the cache. The first geocacher to follow the path of the cache designer. There are no search symptoms from other geocachers, no footsteps in the snow to follow. In an FTF hunt, you might experience some extra problems as the cache designer has made some mistakes in the hints, text or waypoints. If you have put your footsteps in the snow and taken all the extra hurdles, a log on a blank log book is an extra good feeling, your name is the first all other cachers will see when they open the logbook.

I have 2 FTF's on my name. The first one was to make the first kilometres of a friends TB, which they placed in a new cache of their own. The second was in Romania, when somebody put a cache right in front of my hotel when I was on business trip. A lucky coincidence, I even found it without gpsr. So, I have done it twice but FTF hunting is not my cup of tea. I liked the extra tension it brings but I did not like the rush. All I could think of is ‘keep going, keep going, FTF, FTF’. I totally had no attention for anything else but finding the cache, I could not really enjoy the surroundings or waypoints and puzzles.

Some people put everything aside to get this extra good feeling. When a cache is published, they jump in the car and rush to the cache. It is a sport within geocaching. And like in every sport, efforts must be ranked, to see who the champion is. The current FTF list is sorted on gold, silver, bronze. The one with most FTF’s is on top. So if you finish second all the time, you will never be above someone who has made a FTF just once. The request, which started the discussion on the globalcaching forum, was to create an alternative ranking based on points, 5 for gold, 3 for silver and 1 for bronze. This means, if you do a lot of FTF hunting, you can be FTF king even if you fail frequently to score an FTF. I understand you would like to see the results of your efforts somehow but this new sorting based on points measures attempts, not success rate.

If you fail to score an FTF, you score an STF or a TTF. But an interesting question is, how different is an STF and TTF compared to a 4th log, 10th log or 768th log? You have followed the steps in the snow of the cacher in front of you, you have maybe encountered the same mistakes in hints, waypoints or text but someone else has overcome all these problems before you and you are on the second page of the log book, which nobody reads…. There is just nothing special. So, this new ranking only identifies who has a lot spare time and is crazy enough to jump in the car at the weirdest moments of the day to try to score an FTF. Yes, there is a little jealousy on the amount of spare time, but to be honest I would not even want to be on that list.

What I do, to get the sensation of a first find, is look for a cache that is not recently found and do that cache. In the time the cache has not been found, are the waypoints still ok? Nature has used time to cover all the tracks of the people before you and there is no rush to finish before the people behind you so you can take time to enjoy the cache to the max.

Based on the logic that a cache is more difficult when it is not found a lot in the time it has been online, on also a ranking (TPS) is made. This ranking calculates points for a cache based on the number of times it has been found and the time it is online. This results in a value for each cache. The average value of the founds of cacher and the average value of a cache itself, results in a very interesting rating system, to my opinion. I have asked to copy a simplified version of this ranking system to their site. They are willing to do this and added it to their to-do list. Hopefully it will only soon!

In meantime, if you want to experience the first finder feeling, you can always do this cache, also still on my to-do list…

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Geocaching, the public secret

On may 18th, the first Lost and Found video was released featuring the 3 founders of the website. In this short video they talk about the founding of the website but also about the future of geocaching. I asked the same question to Brian Roth, one of the founders, in a chat organised by a couple of months ago. The answer was very simple, but not what I expected...

Especially for the geocaching dinosaurs (as early adaptors of the geocaching game are sometimes called), one of the exciting parts of geocaching is to be a member of this secret community searching for hidden tupperware treasures. They want to keep the geocaching community small. In their opinion a lot of new geocachers are trend followers, running for the simple caches out there to be a kilo cacher in no-time and after a few months move on to their next exciting new hobby. I must say, they have a point here. More geocachers equals more noise around the secret hobby causing more attention for cache rippers.

Groundspeak however, is going exactly the other way. For the question of the future of geocaching I was expecting an answer in the area of new features for the current geocaching community, such as Wherigo. Groundspeak however, is not focussing on the current geocaching community, but on increasing the geocaching community by reaching other people outside the current geocaching community. They simply just want more people geocaching. Off course they want to put a smile on peoples faces with their work, like they mention in the video, but also from their commercial point of view it makes sense. More geocachers means more traffic on the website, equals more income from banners and advertising.

So, if you already have problems with the large number of geocachers out there running through the forest hunting for a cache, I wish you luck for the next years. If you are waiting for exciting new developments in geocaching, you might have to wait some more time as they are not coming from groundspeak but, like wherigo, from the GPSr manufacturers. In meantime, I just look for the creativity that a few new geocachers will add to the community and try to keep away from all the rubbish that all the other new geocachers put out there...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Oh no! Not another micro!

Two weeks ago, I found the cache Pömp'n'Pöt, a beautifull 42 km tour through the hills of the South of Limburg, the Netherlands. It is most recommended by placer Orange Lion and also by myself to do this cache by bike. Because of the bad weather I did it by car, but if you do it by bike it is a though 42 kilometer with at least 3 significant climbs. The cache is located in a nice spot, but your reward after 42 kilometers hard work, is just another micro....

In my opinion, a micro after such a great tour is a real disappointment. There is no place to write down your experiences on the logroll, no travelbugs or coins to take as a reward for the work and a missed oppertunity by the cache placer to end the cache in the same high quality level as the rest of the cache. Finding a micro after such a tour simply is a big disappointment to me.

Is placing a larger cache such a difficulty? Last week I have found some caches of A&F, for example Lichtpunt and Big Brother which clearly show that it is quite easy to hide a small or medium cache in full sight. But because the cache fits in its surroundings so good, it will not be ripped. Want to see how it works? Just go out there and check out these caches! Then, observe the surroundings of your cache, be creative and put a smile on my face when I write my log.