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 globalcaching.nl 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 geocaching.nl, 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 globalcaching.nl 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 terracaching.com 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 globalcaching.nl 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…

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