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.

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