Groundspeak’s newest addition to the geocaching family is more than a week old. Some kinks have been exposed and people are forming opinions.
I’m giving Geocaching Challenges a thumbs down vote.Let me say that I like the idea and the premise of the challenges. I just think the execution was weak and not that well thought out. In discussions with fellow geocachers about the challenges, I’ve likened it to a bit of anarchy.
I hope to change my mind one day.
By that I mean that people have had the chance to create things they’ve wanted to for years with virtuals, but haven’t been able to do so. Some of these challenges are so silly and pointless. It doesn’t seem to mesh with geocaching.
By theory, geocaching is a game in which people have to go out and find something. Maybe not necessarily a physical box, but they have to go out and find something. Challenges, by theory are also supposed to do that. Alas, there are several key parts that make this not so. And considering Groundspeak has made the challenges a part of the geocaching site (instead of its own site, such as Waymarking), it has left open the big debate between different factions of game players.
With me, I’ve tried to like them. And I hope there will be a day when I can change my mind. Alas, for now, there’s no chance of that.
There are too many things wrong with geocaching challenges to like them.
Let’s count a few of the ways –
- Finds still counting on your overall totals, even though Groundspeak said they were going to split them.
- Too many can be armchaired.
- No checks and balances.
- No true way to verify.
- No “ownership.”
- Searching for challenges is cumbersome.
- You can’t see which challenges people have completed.
Let’s take a peek at these items one at a time.
First, the finds. Look, let’s be honest, geocaching is a game. People play it their own way. If people want to use these as geocaching finds, fine. But for those of us who think that’s silly (and considering Groundspeak has responded in saying that they were separating the two, I would think the vocal groups agree), there’s no way around it.
In regard to splitting the finds, Jeremy Irish, the president and a co-founder of Groundpeak posted this on the company’s feedback site:
Cache finds and challenge completion counts are now split out. Both are displayed on the logs unless you have not found a Challenge or found a Geocache. In that case the statistics for Challenges/Geocaches won’t be shown.
To me, this doesn’t appear to be separating them. See, when one looks at your profile, it still shows caches found/challenges completed in one number. Where is the separation? We have benchmarks on our profiles, too, but those aren’t counted in the overall number. One of the people I cache with, Brent, has done a few challenges. Here is a screen shot of his profile front page, showing what he’s done:
Note that finds and challenges are separated. This has been like this since the challenges started. So no change here.
That seems simple enough, no?
But, when one clicks on Brent’s tab at the top of his profile to see his geocaches and totals, here’s what one will see:
Though it notes total found/completed, it would appear to me that these numbers are still together and not separated, as people have been told they will be.
The little print down at the bottom shows that the totals exclude benchmarks. Why not just do the same for challenges?
This all leads into my second point — too many can be armchaired. By this, I mean that a lot of challenges can be done while you sit at home on the computer. In fact, one of the original “worldwide” challenges (which only Groundspeak can create) was to kiss a frog. Any type of frog. People were grabbing stuffed frogs, taking a photo and posting it. Within minutes of the posting, at that. It’s since been archived as the feedback was very poor.
I want to give an example from one local geocacher, Bob, who created a Brooks Chicken Challenge. It said in the description:
Residents of Oneonta are familiar with the animated neon sign outside Brooks House of Barbecue, which depicts a hatchet-wielding cook in mad pursuit of a fleeing chicken.
To complete this challenge, you and a friend need to go to Brooks Barbecue, pose in front of the sign, and post a photo of yourselves reproducing the activity the sign portrays.
Within minutes, someone not from the area and who, at that point had 80-something challenge completions (he now has 101), had posted a sign just of the sign and made some silly remark.
Already, that’s going against the spirit of the challenge.
I flagged the find, hoping something would come of it. I hadn’t checked in a bit, but it appears that or someone else flagging it or if Bob contacted Groundspeak appears to have done the trick as the log has since been deleted. That’s a good thing, though the stats for the challenge show that it’s been accepted once (the person in question still has the log on there that they have accepted the challenge), and has been completed once (though there is nobody logging that they completed the challenge).
Knowing the situation, I also created a challenge to see what would happen. I created a challenge at Mount Utsayantha in Stamford, noting that players had to have a photo of themselves on the fire tower. Anywhere. High, low, at the top — anywhere as long as they were on the fire tower. One person (Brent) has logged it, so no armchairing has been done, thankfully.
Alas, it doesn’t matter because I have no control over the listing.
See, when one creates and “owns” a geocache, he or she has control. That means they can make sure finds are legit, can change the listing or fix something if there’s an error and basically be the person who makes sure the credibility of geocaching stays.
No so with challenges. Once someone creates a challenge, they have a short time frame to fix the page. Once someone logs the challenge as a find, however, your hands are washed of it. You don’t get notices saying it’s been logged. You don’t have control over it. Nothing. It’s now just out there. So if someone in Bangladesh wants to log it improperly, they can.
That leads to my next three points that there are no checks and balances, no true way to verify and no “ownership.”
When somebody submits a geocache to the website, it goes through a process. A volunteer reviewer decides if it meets the criteria needed to be listed on the site and approves or disapproves it, usually with reason and how one can fix the issue. If someone really disagrees with the reviewer, one can go to Groundspeak to appeal. It’s all a process.
I can’t say that I always agree with reviewers. I can’t say that I haven’t gotten mad at decisions made. And I can’t say that I haven’t been baffled with how different reviewers can be when interpreting guidelines. But, in the end, they are there for a reason. And it’s a good reason. It makes sure things follow a certain protocol and makes sure things aren’t just haphazardly thrown out there.
The only reviewers here are other cachers, who can vote thumbs up or thumbs down on a challenge. I think if there are enough thumbs down votes, Groundspeak eventually archives it. But how many thumbs down are needed? How long must it stay out there before it is archived. With so many of these things popping up, can Groundspeak keep up?
With that comes the no verification and no ownership. If things are just out there and the creator has no control, the only way to verify appears to be complaining to Groundspeak. I would imagine that they have a lot more things to worry about than someone in some tiny town in, say, the Midwest, who isn’t happy because someone armchaired their challenge.
Those complaints add up.
If the creator had a little control over the challenge, then it might be better in that it would be made sure that the meaning of the challenge was upheld. It would make it so people on the opposite side of the country or world couldn’t search for an image of the item and do a quick log.
There needs to be some sort of a checks-and-balance system or verification. Until then, anarchy can continue to reign.
The other thing that I’ve found painful is the way to search for challenges. If they aren’t Groundspeak’s worldwide challenges, then you have to put the town’s name in and it doesn’t appear to give you stuff too far from where you search. For example. the Oneonta one is the only one that comes up when I search “Oneonta,” despite the Stamford one being only about 25 miles away.
In geocaching, you can set up queries to search and see. I haven’t seen that on challenges. Also in geocaching, one can pull up a map and see where the caches are. I haven’t been able to do that with challenges. I realize that challenges are also geared toward smart phones (which is another reason it’s silly that all the challenges are linked to geocaching as not everyone has a smart phone) and you can use the app on there, but I haven’t really tried it yet as I haven’t been out of the area far enough to see what it does.
Finally, one thing that irks me is you can’t go to someone’s profile and see what challenges they’ve completed, just how many. I can see all geocaches and benchmarks someone has done, why not what challenges they have completed? What gives on that? It would be a nice thing to see what challenges friends are doing, in case you might want to do them as well. As I said, searching for caches is already hard enough. Now I can’t even check friends challenges to see if there are ones close? Seems like this would have been a no-brainer.
I do still think challenges have a chance and a place in the game. I just believe that if these had been worked on for so long, it wasn’t done with the right thought process. I will hold out hope that things become better with them. If there are some changes to the process, I think it could be a wonderful addition to the geocaching website. But for now, it just seems sloppy and poorly executed.
I hope the challenge change a bit. I really do. And should they change for the better, I’ll have no problem re-visiting this topic and giving it thumbs up. At this point, however, I can’t do it as I just don’t believe it is a good addition at this point.
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