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.