Monday, 28 March 2011

Event review: ACE 2011

Yesterday I attended the ACE 2011 geocaching event. Main reason to attend this event was some highly favorited caches published during previous editions of the event in 2009 and 2010. Besides this, it is always fun to meet other geocachers.

The event was limited to 200 geocachers and just after the official starting time of 10am I arrived at the event terrain. The cantine of the camp site where the event was taking place was already pretty crowded with geocachers. After checking in I got an envelope with a consumption ticket and an empty notebook (logbook?) with the name of the event printed on it. That is always a warm welcome. While having a cup of coffee or tea, all geocachers were patiently waiting for the new caches to be distributed.

Most geocachers had done some homework and solved the puzzles already published by the event team and were now waiting for the final pieces of information to calculate the cache coordinates of these mysteries. Just before 11am the event team started distributing the first series of caches. Of course everybody was curious whether their homework was correct and started solving the mysteries. As puzzling is not my cup of tea I had not done the homework and decided to go for a multi cache, a six kilometer walk around 'Landgoed Kasteel Keppel'. I turned onto the parking area just behind team rietje-10. As we left the event terrain soon after the caches were distributed, and most other geocachers were working on the mysteries, we figured out we had a chance on a First to Find.

So off we went and quickly found the first waypoints and answered the questions. Untill waypoint 9, where we were unable to find the links of chain. Due to this we were caught up by Heanigan and team Janneke&Jip who found the links almost immediately. After this little moment of trouble it was very easy finding the cache with its empty logbook and a non registered coin for team Janneke&Jip. As FTF ranking is not important for me, my name ended up on the 4th page. Suddenly the forester turned up and congratulated us with our first find. Now that is what I call a good relationship with the area manager.

After finding the cache, it was lunchtime already so I went back to the event terrain. While I was having lunch, I finally met some cachers I wanted to meet for a long time and we had a very nice chat. Also there was some buzzing going on about a chirp signal but I did not really catch that. Must have been one of the mysteries.

In the second cache distribution round, there were no very interesting looking caches, so I decided to go for a cache from an earlier edition, 'De schat van Schinderhannes'. Allthough I did not have all the items mentioned in the listing with me, I decided to go for this cache. Luckily for me the cache owner was prepared for this and hid all the required items in the woods for people like me. At waypoint 3 I was caught up again, this time by molenzicht, roccotje and borghuis. The four of us appeared to be a good team, solving all the creative waypoints (and even found one of another cache!).

Somewhere halfway the cache my friends for this cache said: "There is another cache somewhere here for you to log." And they starting searching for it. As they were not really sure about the location they pulled out an iPhone and checked it on the web. Indeed there appeared to be a cache just 100 meters from here. When we arrived at the spot, another team was already searching for the cache and plowed almost the whole area. "These boys know where the cache is!" I tried to relief them but after looking at their puzzled faces I was not so sure about that anymore. "I can not remember this area at all." All three of them said...

After this weird incident, we decided not to join the search for the lost cache but continue our own hunt and found the cache. When I got back to the car, the other team just arrived and confirmed they had found the lost cache but it was very hard to find. I decided to stick to the event caches and there was just enough time to do one more short multi to finish the day. After also finding this cache, again with another team, I decided it was time to go home.

For this event 14 new caches were published, 4 multi's, 1 letterbox and 9 mystery caches. None of them are really award winners in my opinion, but the award winners from earlier editions and the good atmospere at the event terrain make this an event worth visiting for everybody next year.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

7 Tips for geocaching around the 3 borders area (NL, GE, BE)

Last week, I spent a few days in the south of Limburg, the most southern province of The Netherlands. In my opinion this is the most beautiful part of The Netherlands because it is unique in the Netherlands. Most of The Netherlands is flat, but this part has hills which gives you beautiful views and an attractive geocaching area. Find in this article 7 tips for geocaching when visiting the eastern side of this area, both in The Netherlands and just across the border in Germany and Belgium.

The Dutch part:
When you want to explore the Dutch hills, I can be short. Just pick one of the multi caches of Pielewiele 22 and you will have a magnificent walk through the hills. Another recommendation is 'Ruprecht', a walk to a hermitage ('kluis' in Dutch), passing a source, religious statues, the track of the steam train and of course beautiful views. All of that in just 3 kilometers.

Just across the border southeast of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aken, Aachen) is a very nice military lost place with a traditional cache showing you some old tanks. Also very nice is this wherigo with a dark ending (bring your flashlight). Not war themed but in the area and worth naming is also this cache, 'Erstens kommt es anders'.

When crossing the border to the Walloon part of Belgium, I can recommend 'La Mine de Plombiere', a nice tour around the former mines of Plombieres. Very nice is the artificial tunnel of the small river Geul through the rocks. Last but definitely not least is this must visit traditional: Klenkes 2010: Ich glaube ich muss...

To do list:
Urban caching in Aix-la-Chapelle: Special Agent
Night caching in Germany: Das Geschenkdepots des Weihnachtsmannes, Nachtcache Wurm-Loch and Jagd auf Al Capone.
Just another good cache: The 5 senses

Do you have something to add to my to do list? Please write a comment or tweet me!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Not my favorite...

…cache rating system. Late December the favorites functionality was introduced on the website. If you are a premium member, you earn a favorite point for every tenth found log. You can give these points to the caches you liked most. This way other geocachers can see what you liked and put more quality in their daytrip planning.

This new functionality gives other geocachers the opportunity to make a daytrip planning based on your recommendations rather then on the information in logs only. With the current density of geocaches to choose from, any qualified information in a rating system is better then no rating system at all. That is what makes the favorites functionality look like a great new feature. I think it is a great new feature, but it is not the best feature it could have been.

Why? Because I want to see what I might like, not what other people liked. With the current rating system, I can make a list of caches in a certain area and sort on favorite points (Hide & Seek a cache --> Seek a cache by address --> enter a radius --> Go --> click on the blue favorite icon in the header row to sort). For sure this will put a good cache on top of the list, but it is still based on what other people liked.

According to Groundspeak lackey Bryan Roth in a global caching chat, Groundspeak is working on an algorithm that presents you caches you might like based on awarded favorite points by you and by other people. For example, If you and someone else both awarded a favorite point to cache A and this other person also has awarded a favorite point to cache B, which you have not yet found, you will probably like cache B because you both liked cache A. The more favorited caches you share with another cacher, the more likely it is you will like the caches the other user has favorited and you have not yet found. This algorithm would make the result of the rating system more personalised and gives me a list of what I might like instead of what other people liked, which is exactly what I want.

However as I said, it is not the best system. It only takes into account the caches I have awarded a favorite point and not the other 9 out of 10 caches. Imagine you would have a rating system which gives you the possibility to rate every found cache on a scale from one to five with one being poor and five being excellent. These are some results entered by you and other cachers in this imaginary rating system:

Cache ACache BCache CCache D
You5 pointsNot Found2 pointsNot found
Cacher 15 points5 points4 points1 points
Cacher 25 points4 points1 points5 points

If 5 points resembles a favorite point, the Groundspeak algorithm would present you cache B and cache D in random order because you all liked cache A. However my imaginary rating system would also take cache C into account and because your rating on this cache is closer to cacher 2 then cacher 1, your caching taste is more like cacher 2. So, although cacher 1 does not like cache D, this would be the cache you would most likely like because your geocaching taste resembles cacher 2. Imagine this scenario with a lot more data behind it (your amount of founds) and there will be a lot of difference in the accuracy of the results of the rating systems!

But, as I said before, any rating system is better then no rating system. So here, under lists, you will find my favorited caches. I have 5 favorite points in my pockets. I only give them to caches which really deserve them, as I do not want you to visit caches I favorited which are not really remarkable. Please also be critical as it influences the decision for my next hunt!

By the way, my imaginary rating system is called GcVote. It does not contain the described algorithm and also the usage by other cachers in my region is very low. Just like other cachers, I also prefer a Groundspead branded rating system as more people are aware of and using it. Unfortunately this makes GcVote useless. Nevertheless the best solution was right before Groundspeaks eyes but they did not take it. Shame, shame, shame.