Thursday, 19 May 2011

The chirp revolution

Last october Garmin promised a big difference in Geocaching when announcing the Chirp, a wireless beacon that sends data to your GPS.

Now, 8 months later, there are already 10 chirp caches in the Benelux! That's just over 1 each month. That does not sound like a big difference to me! There are also no chirp caches in the Benelux with over 10 favorite points. CacheFreakTim thinks Chirp is an awesom concept. I think it is not making the big difference promised by Garmin.

There are two simple reasons. The chirp is too expensive and the functionality is limited. 23$ is simply a lot of money for an electronic device that easily gets lost or broken. Also the fuctionality is limited as you can only sent text or coordinates to a GPS device. Also, the functionality is almost equal to wherigo. If you enter a specific area, you get information from the chirp. Isn't that the same thing wherigo does? Revealing information when you enter an area?

More creativity in geocaching is delivered by beautifully handcrafted or cleverly hidden waypoints or caches. Not by delivering waypoint information in an easy and technically advanced way. The key for a good cache is the element of surprise. The magical combination of surprise by a chirp has not yet been created by a cache owner and untill this has been not been done, chirp does not live up to its promise.

Friday, 13 May 2011

10 reason why your cache could be better!

1. Stick to the theme. If you make a difficult to find cache, make every waypoint difficult to find. In all other situations, make sure the waypoints can easily be found and questions can be quickly answered so the cacher can focus on the theme (eg. navigating or hiking). Also hide your waypoints in the same style, this makes them easier to find. Good. Bad.

2. Don't use wordvalues. Because they do not make sense and take ages to calculate. Simply ask for the lettervalue of the 3th and 5th character. Bad.

3. Make your cache easy to find. Geocaching is all about finding a cache (and not about searching a cache). The cache should be hidden for mugglers but not for geocachers. Good. Bad.

4. Cache size to small. If I have survived the challenge of your cache I want a decent log book to write down my experiences. Not a piece of paper asking for a name and a date. Good. Bad.

5. Take criticism serious. If a remark about your cache keeps coming back in several logs, change the situation. Bad.

6. In a forest 'behind a tree' is never a good hint. Neither is 'see spoiler picture'. Always add a good hint. If I think a cache has been ripped, I want to be sure I have looked at the right spot. Bad.

7. Perform maintenance if geocachers write a 'need maintenance' log.

8. If a special tool is needed, mention it on the cache page. Also use attributes, especially the wheelchair icon. Good. Bad.

9. Give an estimation of the amount of kilometers or the time needed to find the cache. Good. Bad.

10. Think about what your cache adds to the already existing caches in your neighbourhood. If you can not come up with an answer within 2 minutes, archive your cache.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

From stand-alone GPSr to mobile, the new homepage

While Groundspeak was upgrading the homepage, I was reading this article. The author is of the opinion that ‘ may not look as polished as its main rival’ (referring to opencaching). I already disagree with this opinion on the old homepage, I wonder what the author thinks about the new homepage.

First thing that caught my eye on the new homepage, is the ‘Go Geocaching with your smartphone’ line in the top right corner. Yes, it says smartphone, not GPSr. Spending 100€ on a GPSr is no longer needed to start geocaching. A smartphone, which you probably already have, is good enough. As I already said last year, Groundspeak is looking for ways to infect more people with the Geocaching virus. And these 5 words, ‘Go geocaching with your smartphone’, will take geocaching to the masses. You no longer need to go to a (web)shop spent 100€ and figure out how to operate your new toy. The largest hurdle is gone. People are looking for the coolest apps for their smartphone, and a treasure hunting app would perfectly fit in that category.

Second thing that caught my eye, is that the new homepage is so much more starter friendly. The old homepage was perfect for existing users with quick links to 'your profile' and the 'hide & seek a cache page'. For newbies the old homepage was hell. In the new design, Groundspeak kept the quick links to ‘your profile’ and ‘hide and seek a cache’ and added starter friendliness. The new homepage explains with a nice picture what geocaching is, there are multiple links to the start guide, explaining geocaching in more detail and there is the link to make your smartphone geocaching ready. From the old homepage, you had to go through hell and back to get the same information and get started. This new homepage is a huge improvement for starters.

Another remarkable thing that is promoted to the homepage is the ‘local organisations’ link under ‘community’. This is a big appreciation from Groundspeak for the work the local organisation have done. Groundspeak is seeing the importance of the local organisations for themselves and the geocaching community. Local organisations pick up everything groundspeak can not do themselves. Besides keeping relations with land managers, bringing local geocachers together on a forum and by organising events, local organisations are the innovators of new functionality of the website. They have the lean organisation needed to quickly build innovative new functionality and they are less dependent on their relatively small user base. So if new functionality fails, it is not such a big deal as it is for groundspeak.

Last but not least is that the new site design is mobile friendly. The menu on the left hand side was killing for mobile devices with small screens. Now the full width of the screen can be used to view the information you want to view. And as said before in this post, mobile devices are the future.

Yes, I like the new homepage a lot. It has opened the door to the new geocaching era of smartphones but also left wide open the door to the traditional era of the GPSr, as it should be. I am looking forward to the cache hiding creativity of the newbies with their smartphones but I think the smartphone is not yet ready to replace the ruggedized stand alone GPSr’s for more frequent geocaching. The new homepage fits that suit perfectly.