Tuesday, 30 August 2011

After over 14.000 caches, Dutch reviewer Kruimeldief says goodbye!

And there it suddenly was: The announcement of Kruimeldief and his partner KralenFee that they have quit their reviewer post. On his, in the Geocaching world unique, communication channel: Twitter.

“Thanks all. See you out in the field someday. Kruimeldief and Kralenfee are twexit as reviewers and accounts.”

Kruimeldief leaving his post was already a rumour in the Netherlands when GeoGuy was added as reviewer earlier this year but it will still be strange to see other names in the ‘publish log’ of new geocaches. In the Netherlands we will certainly miss his thorough but fair reviewing and his lengthy explanations of the reviewing process, including the frustration that submitted caches always have to be rejected for the same reason.

Kruimeldief has also pulled the Dutch Geocaching community to Twitter, by tweeting each geocache he had published. Simply follow @Kruimeldief on Twitter and you were always informed about new Geocaches. As far as I know he was the first (and besides GeoGuy the only?) reviewer doing this, which made him very popular in the Dutch geocaching community, unless his thorough reviewing. Kruimeldief embraced Twitter as his main communication channel but he was never limited by the 140 characters. One question to Kruimel and you got at least 3 tweets back. He has passed on the tweeting habit to Geoguy which makes the Dutch reviewers very accessible for questions and answers.

For now, the Belgian and French reviewers Greensprouts and riviouveur will assist GeoGuy in reviewing for the Netherlands, until Kruimel’s successor has been found. I think it would have been nice if the search for his successor would already have been completed, so the Dutch tradition of tweeting new caches could be continued as Greensprouts and riviouveur don’t do this. Nevertheless I am looking forward to the first rumours about who the new Dutch reviewer will be. I hope the election period will be just as interesting and exciting as it was before GeoGuy was announced.

Kruimeldief and Kralenfee, thank you for giving me the largest to do list ever, TFTC!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Why most challenges are no challenge yet

Many geocachers voted to bring virtuals back but now even more geocachers appear to be against the replacement for virtuals, the challenges. The release of challenges was at least bumpy. Many people who don’t like the challenges are talking them down on Twitter, Facebook, forums and even on the challenge pages by voting them down, writing comments and posting ‘I dislike challenges’ pictures. So far, in all these comments, I have not found a single reason to dislike challenges.

Some users dislike challenges because they simply dislike change. With every change, there is always this group that doesn’t like it, simply because it is change. They need time to get used to changes; they will accept the change if time goes by. Another group dislikes challenges because challenges are not geocaches. They are right. That is why they are counted separately from geocaches and trackables in your profile. You also do not see them in the ‘hide and seek a geocache’ functionality. Simply because they are not geocaches. Challenges are something completely different compared to geocaches and they should not be mistaken.

Some people dislike challenges because they don't see a point in the first challenges which have been created. I must agree with them. I like the challenges concept, but I do not like most challenges I have seen yet. Why? Because there is no challenge in them! Yes, there is no challenge in them. I will explain. This is the definition of a real challenge according to wiktionary:

"1. An instigation or antagonization intended to convince a person to perform an action they otherwise would not.
2. A difficult task, especially one that the person making the attempt finds more enjoyable because of that difficulty."

Most challenges confirm to the second part of the first definition. They ask me to perform an action I otherwise would not have done. But they don’t convince me. Why should I perform that action? There must be a reason, I need to be convinced! Please tell me why, tell me why, tell me why!

To proof that challenges can be fun when they are a real challenge, convincing and/or difficult, I created my own challenge which confirms to both definitions of challenge. To explain my challenge, I first have to explain something about my hometown Tiel.

Tiel is in the center of the Betuwe, a part of the Netherlands with a lot of fruit orchards. In Tiel there was company named ‘de Betuwe’ which made delicious marmalade. This marmalade was so delicious that other companies which made marmalade advertised their marmalade as ‘from the Betuwe’, which is allowed because it refers to the region where the fruit is from they use for their marmalade. For customers this made it difficult to find the real ‘Betuwe’ marmalade in the shop. So the company ‘de Betuwe’ created a cartoon figure, named him ‘Flipje from Tiel’ and put him on the label of their marmalade. This worked excellent because customers now could easily find the real Betuwe marmalade by the picture of Flipje. Since then many marketing items were created based on the Flipje character, even a series of comic books.

Because of the decreasing sales of marmalade, the marmalade factory in Tiel was closed in 1993. Since his birth Flipje has been the mascot of the city of Tiel, also when the factory closed. Earlier this year, Flipje returned on marmalade pots of the company who took over the assets from ‘de Betuwe’.

The challenge I created, is to write a love letter to Flipje, signed with ‘Signal the Frog’, put it with a red rose in a marmalade pot (preferably of the right brand) and place the pot at the location mentioned on the challenge page, near the statue of Flipje, without being seen.

This challenge is difficult because the Flipje statue is on a busy square in the center of Tiel. The goal of this challenge is to create a mystery around the secret lover of Flipje, who over and over again writes a love letter and places it in a marmalade pot with a red rose near the Flipje statue. If you want to help build this mystery, complete the challenge!

For geocachers, the challenge promotes the city of Tiel. But it also promotes Geocaching for curious people who find a marmalade pot and track down the referral to 'Signal the Frog'.

This a translation of the first love letter I placed on the Flipje statue:

Dear Flip,

I have missed you for years,
But I have never forgotten you.
You have always been the one and only for me,
I have never tasted from another pot.
Now you are back, better than ever,
As if you have never left me.

From now, forever I will warship you.
People will talk about us,
But my love for you is unconditional.
Also when, with all these other people around you,
this will always be a challenge…

Signal the Frog

Thursday, 18 August 2011

First look at challenges!

The challenges have just been released on geocaching.com. Here are my first things about the new way of geocaching!

It was already announced earlier this week, but the action challenge type will be part of the game. This appears to be something like I described in my previous post, a go there and do something challenge. For me that is the only challenge type I need. This type can simply cover everything, like I explained last week.

The other remarkable thing is that you do not need any prove that you have completed the action challenge type. You can just say 'been there done that' and that's it. I think creating the prove by taking pictures or video taping your adventure, is the best part of the game both for yourself as for other geocachers who watch your evidence material online. A missed oppertunity!

The rating system. It appears that Groundspeak has reinvented the wheel by adding a new rating system to the challenges, something very unlike the favorites rating system. For the challenges you can already praise something before you have done the challenge but you can also vote things down. I am affraid that all the people who don't like challenges are going to vote every challenge down. Another thought is how long will it take before Groundspeak applies this rating system to Geocaches as well? I think it would be better compared to favorites...

Also noticed that the creator of a challenge is not important anymore. The only place where you will find your name as creator is at the bottom of the log list. That's a long way down. Come on Groundspeak, if I create something great, people have to know it was me!

The first new challenges. Users don't seem to know what to do with challenges. Groundspeak has placed themselves above all users by being the only one able to create 'Worldwide Challenges' which are in fact locationless. Users can only create location based challenges but without a review procedure, they simply forget this single rule of the game and start asking for actions you can do everywhere in the world like hugging your dog. I think users are right. Challenges could be locationless, but please, think of something better then hugging your dog.

Logs. The logs on challenges appear to be very short. This has been a subject for discussion for months already but on challenges it appears to be extreme. Folks, where is your story about completing the challenge?

Replies and comments. This is the feature that most surprised me. For challenges you can write a reply on the challenge itself and on the logs of users. For geocaches this is not yet possible but I hope they add it there soon. This makes the game a lot more interactive and social, something I have been waiting for for months.

Although some things could be better in the design and some other small things that can be fixed afterwards, I think the challenge will be great, like I said last week. I am very much looking forward to what my first completed challenge will be! I won't do simply everything you silly people ask ;-)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Now for real; The new virtual: Challenges!

Whoops, it turns out that Cumbyrocks and myself were wrong about the new virtuals, although we both still think it is a great idea…. But this really is what Groundspeak refers to as the new virtuals: Challenges!

Here is a small description of what challenges will be by CDJ Abuser on the Groundspeak forums:

"At GC2GA1J, Jeremy explained that the ‘new’ virtuals would be implemented as ‘challenges’. Not challenge caches (or caching challenges) obviously, but he explained that he and his team saw virtuals as a ‘go somewhere and do something’ kinda thing, and that’s what the new ‘challenges’ will be. The first released type will be a photo challenge: go somewhere and take a picture. He also explained that there will be no review system, but rather some kind of rating system, with good challenges rising to the top and bad ones falling to the bottom and (maybe?) eventually disappearing, and that the whole system was seen as an experiment on their part.”

From this piece of information I am not very thrilled about the challenges. This first challenge type, the go somewhere and take a picture, is very similar to the old virtual cache where you had to take a picture or answer a question to prove you have been at the location. I have never liked this kind of caches as there was no logging opportunity to share your initial feeling with the cache owners and other cachers. And the first reaction is always the best. I was also missing the creativity from the cache owner. Taking a picture is just too easy. With a little bit of creativity and a good hint, you can hide a cache everywhere, also in the most crowded places.

Now the new challenges. I like the word challenges. I think each Geocache is a challenge. A go there and write your name the logbook challenge. From what Jeremy explained to CDJ Abuser, I understand that Groundspeak is going to release challenge types. In my opinion, Groundspeak should give this to the users and only provide a platform to create and share your type of challenge with the Geocaching community.

What the challenge will be is up to the creativity of the challenge owner. It can vary from ‘take a picture’ to ‘scan the QR code’ or ‘do the Macarena dance with at least 10 strangers and post a video of it in the log’ challenge. As long as you can prove you have completed the challenge, maybe with some simple additional functionality on the Geocaching website, for example secret logging codes criteria, it is a challenge. If you see where the community has taken the Geocache since it was first placed in the year 2000, I think the creativity from challenge creators goes far beyond what Groundspeak can think of as challenge types and therefore Groundspeak should only be the platform provider.

If Groundspeak is prepared to give the creativity to the community, they could become the community leader and online meeting point for things like flash mobs, planking and other weird and less weird stuff people love to do as a challenge... Wouldn't that be great?

Monday, 8 August 2011

The new virtual?

Hold your horses on that Munzee thing I was blogging about last week. Why would you need that QR code? It is the GPS functionality of your smartphone that can be checked to confirm you are on the right location to do a log attempt on the internet! No QR code hiding, no searching, just visiting the coordinates is good enough! Wouldn’t that be great? It looks like this will become reality as it is exactly what Groundspeak is going to do with the new virtual!

At first I thought the new virtual would be some kind of Wherigo-like application that gives you a code if you get close to specific coordinates. You would need this code to log the virtual cache on the internet. However, in a Globalcaching chat session, Bryan Roth denied the link between Wherigo and the new virtual. When I described Groundspeaks move from the standalone GPSr to the smartphone in my post on the new Geocaching website layout, it looks like I got even closer to the new virtual. I only did not do the math, replacing Wherigo with smartphone.

Last week Cumbyrocks on his blog ‘It’s not about the numbers’ did do the math and described a theory which is comparable to my theory about the new virtual, but based it on the smartphone. The result is what I described in the introduction of this article. I think Cumbyrocks got very close to what Groundspeak talks about as the new virtual. Here is a quote from Jeremy from the Groundspeak forums to support these thoughts:

"In the UserVoice updates I never said that virtuals were coming back in their previous form, but instead something would be available that should capture the interest in virtuals without the baggage (such as the subjective review process).

To me, this is the most exciting project that we’ve worked on in years, but it will take some time to iterate through the idea and I know we’ll get some things wrong, but the framework is solid. We’ll be investing a substantial amount of effort with this project moving forward.

Some points:

It will be on Geocaching.com, not a new web site. It will be a separate section in the beta, but I expect it to be integrated into a joined search at some point.

Currently they will not go towards your find count, but it might at some point. It won’t at the beginning though.

It will be a visible statistic, so you will see them on the profile, on the logs, etc.

We’ll be hopefully launching with mobile applications to compliment the activity. I expect that the majority of participants will be using smartphones, but we will have components (Pocket Queries, GPX file downloads, etc) for traditional GPS devices.

The issue with to old virtual was that you needed the photo or the answer on a question to prove that you have been at the location. There was no box and no log to sign, the basics of Geocaching. Now, the internet connection and app functionality of the smartphone provides the opportunity to create a virtual box and write a digital log right from the spot!

I totally agree with Jeremy that this is one of the most exciting new projects. It gives a totally new approach to Geocaching, without going far from the basics. Without the approval process, this new virtual would be easier to create and appeal to more users to create such a cache. It also gives Geocaching a new advantage compared to rivals such as Opencaching and Munzee. Without the QR code, a virtual cache is easier to create and easier to find compared to a Munzee. And easy is the keyword nowadays. Compared to Opencaching, Geocaching will create something that appeals to a lot of Geocachers and something that Opencaching can never create, unless Garmin builds an internet connection into their GPSr devices.

Another thought is, that it was not Garmin who started the war with the Opencaching website but it was Groundspeak who are on the smartphone track for quiet some time already and put Garmin with their GPSr devices on the side of the road. To continue selling GPSr devices to Geocachers, the only option for Garmin was to start their own community, Opencaching. This also explains the messy Opencaching website, because they had to launch it quickly before Groundspeak openly embraces the smartphone as the main Geocaching attribute. But if you want more people Geocaching, like Groundspeak, I think the smartphone is the right track. Soon everybody has one and the only thing Groundspeak has to do is spread the message. Also, the smartphone opens doors for exciting new approaches to the game, like this new virtual.

Do you have your own theory about the new virtual or another remark to this post? Share them by writing a comment!