Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Geocaching Event Guidelines

My thanks to a fellow geocaching.com reviewer, WGA (from Wisconsin, aka GrouseTales) for posting this in the WGA forums. The information is timely and helpful, so I thought I'd post it here.
I hate archiving caches or events, so here is a little info to consider when planing any events/classes. It seems like a timely reminder since spring is coming soon, I hope :-).

Main points to consider:
# Geocache events are open to all geocachers AND organized by geocachers.
# Fees charged for events need to be justified and close to actual costs. You can't charge a fee unless it costs money to host the event.
# You can't charge a fee that would be used as a forced donation. If you want to ask for voluntary donations, feel free to pass the hat. In that case, don't list a fee on the cache page.

Event Caches
Event caches are gatherings that are open to all geocachers and which are organized by geocachers. After the event has passed, the event cache should be archived by the organizer within four weeks. While a music concert, a garage sale, a ham radio field day or town’s fireworks display might be of interest to a large percentage of geocachers, such events are not suitable for submission as event caches because the organizers and the primary attendees are not geocachers. In addition, an event cache should not be set up for the sole purpose of drawing together cachers for an organized hunt of another cache or caches. Such group hunts are best organized using the forums or an email distribution list.

For geocaching events that involve several components, such as a day-long group cache hunt that also involves a seminar and dinner, only a single event cache covering all components should be submitted.

Event caches should be submitted no less than two weeks prior to the date of the event, so that potential attendees will have sufficient notice to make their plans. Events are generally listed no more than three months prior to the date of the event, to avoid having the listing appear for a prolonged period of time on the nearest caches page and in the weekly e-mail notification of new caches. Exceptions are sometimes made for events that are designed to attract a regional, national or international group of geocachers. Contact your reviewer if you wish to set up such an event, which may be listed up to six months in advance.

Commercial Caches / Caches that Solicit
Commercial caches attempt to use the Geocaching.com web site cache reporting tool directly or indirectly (intentionally or non-intentionally) to solicit customers through a Geocaching.com listing. These are NOT permitted. Examples include for-profit locations that require an entrance fee, or locations that sell products or services.

Charging a fee for an event may fall under "caches that solicit", if somone is making profit off of the geocaching.com website. Even if those profiting are not a "commercial" business.

Example A:
Geocacher organizes a pizza social. Fee of $8.00 is charged to cover the actual cost of food. No probem.

Example B: Geocachers organizes a pizza social and charges $20.00 a head. $10.00 for actual cost of food, and $10.00 will be donated to the WGA. This event could not be approved. It's using the GC.com to solicit money. The event could still be held, just not published on the internet.

Example C:
GrouseTales hosts a "Printing on Paper geocaching class". He gets a room free at the library, but charges each person $10.00 to attend. All money collected will be donated to the friends of the library foundation. No Dice! This event can't be listed because it uses the GC.com to solicit (money for the library).

Example D: (similar to C)
GrouseTales holds the Printing on Paper class at a local restaurant. It costs $50.00 to reserve the meeting room. Printing costs are $20.00. Is it allowed to charge people money to attend? Yes. You would be able to charge enough money to recover the costs of the event. $7.00 a head would cover the cost if 10 people attended. Say 3 people show up, should you charge them $23 each to attend. Probably not. If you cant afford to take the loss, you probably shouldn't be organizing the class to begin with.

Example E:
GrouseTale's Hummer dealership is going to give a class on geocaching. No fee's charged. Can this event be listed? No. Events are open to all geocachers, and ARE ORGANIZED BY GEOCACHERS. Fee or no fee, events are are organized by geocachers.

There seems to be a lot of grey area with the events. No one is trying to discourage having events, but they are mostly designed to be social events. Some classes and other events fall into a grey area. Other times when fees seem excessive, the event will need the OK from the powers at groundspeak.

I see many reviewers around the country are having some questionable events submitted. Hopefully some of the info here might might help event organizers with future planning.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Creativity in Iowa

Last October I had an out-of-state geocacher launch a personal attack against me because I didn't approve a listing for a cache they placed in Iowa (magnetic sign on an electric utility box). I politely wrote why I could not approve it because of safety concerns for geocachers who might grow accustomed to searching around dangerous areas for caches if they were to fin this one. Anyway, the geocacher (from Texas) accused me of being on a power trip and claimed I was the reason there were no creative geocaches in Iowa. Well, I have to say that I would put the creativity of Iowa geocachers up against anyone. The latest example of that is this one by Iowa Tom that just got listed. It's caches like these that make this a great state to go geocaching. Don't believe it when anyone tries to say otherwise.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How to use the Additional Waypoints feature

One of my fellow reviewers, gpsfun, posted this "cheat sheet" about how to use the new Additional Waypoints feature of the geocaching.com website.
For those who cannot seem to master the entry of additional waypoints, here's a cheat sheet I created. It has been sent to one geocacher so far as a test.

Feel free to use it as-is or modified to meet your personal style. I will appreciate suggestions, clarifications, or corrections.

Recording Additional Waypoints

1. Sign in to your account on Geocaching dot Com
2. Display your cache page
3. There is a Navigation section at the top right of the cache page where a "waypoints" link will be seen; click on that link.

4. First, you may choose a waypoint type - Final Location, Parking Area, Question to Answer, Stages of a Multicache, and Trailhead.
4a. For a complex cache, you could have entries for the parking area, trailhead, questions to answer, stages of a multicache, as well as the final location.
4b. For a traditional cache, you might want to enter the parking area and/or the trailhead.
4c. For a puzzle/mystery cache or a multicache, it will be necessary to make an entry for each stage and for the final cache location.

5. After choosing a waypoint type, you may enter a name for it. This can simply be parking, stage one, stage two, final, or whatever you choose.

6. Next is an entry field for a waypoint lookup code. As it says on the Waypoint Collection page, STAGE1 or FINAL are good names for the lookup code. You may use anything you want, but each entry must be unique - you cannot have two waypoints with STAGE1 as the lookup code.

7. After that there is an entry field for a prefix code. Unless you have something special in mind, you can just use AA for the first waypoint entry, AB for the second one, etc.

8. Next are the entry fields for the waypoint coordinates, which are completed in the same manner as the coordinate entries on the edit cache page.

9. Finally, there are three choices for how the waypoint should be displayed.
9a. Show all information for this waypoint, including coordinates - this should be chosen for parking waypoints, trailheads, and in those cases where the geocacher is being sent to a location to gather information or to answer a question that may be required to determine the final cache location.

9b. Show the details of this waypoint but hide the coordinates - I do not have a good example for this choice.

9c. Hide this waypoint from view except by the owner or administrator - this should be chosen for intermediate stages of a multicache or a mystery/puzzle cache, as well as for the final cache location.

Hope this helps.

Dead week

After a flurry of a geocaching activity last weekend, this has been a slow week for new cache submissions, undoubtedly because of the weather. It's usually pretty easy to predict when there will be a boat load of new caches to review -- whenever the weekend weather takes a turn for the better. Nice (or at least relatively "nicer") days always seem to spur geocachers into placing those caches they've been meaning to hide for awhile.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Busy weekend for February

A look at the activity
There was an unusually high number of caches in Iowa submitted this past weekend. Here's a look at my log of posts:

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A thank-you for a cache denial

IowaAdmin's Geocaching Blog
It's rare that a geocacher will thank a reviewer for turning down a new cache listing, but that's exactly what happened yesterday. When I recently reviewed a cached placed in the Scott Wildlife Management Area, I posted a note to the owner asking if he had received permission from the Iowa DNR. In the meantime, I archived the listing. Yesterday the cache owner emailed this to me:

"Greetings, Ken the IowaAdmin ---
This is to let you know that I did not receive permission to place my geocache in the Scott WMA. I actually had a friendly chat with the local land manager. He patiently explained the reasons for denial of permission to me. We continued talking about geocaching and he suggested a number of possible sites in western Mills County. I'll check these out. So, I withdraw my request for approval of this cache.
Thanks for keeping this geocacher out of trouble."

It's so nice when everyone helps make the process work like it's supposed to, and we all do our part to protect and promote geocaching by being courteous and respectful.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Before you place, make sure where nearby caches are

The 528 ft. rule
This evening I had to post a note to the owner of a cache who placed it too close to an existing cache. The geocaching.com guidelines say that new caches should be at least 528 ft. (0.1 mile) from existing caches. If it's not, the owner should let the reviewer know a pretty darn good reason why it should be allowed. For example, if one cache were on top of a bluff and the other at the bottom of the bluff, it's possible that they could be allowed to be closer than .1 mile apart.

A geocacher once asked me how much leeway I allow on the 528 ft. rule. My answer was, unless there are special circumstances that the cache owner can describe, I stick to 528 ft. Why? First of all, I don't make the rules. Second, if caches were allowed to be closer, there's a chance geocachers could find the wrong one if it's a difficult hide. Besides, if geocaching is about bringing people to new locations, what's the point of bringing them to 3 different spots in the same park that are only 200 feet apart? Also, if you are the owner of the existing cache, wouldn't you like to think that you have some "claim" over that location, as long as you maintain the cache? Otherwise, furture geocachers could hijack your coordinates and, conceivably, place theirs right next to yours.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Not sure? Just ask.

Geocachers ask in advance before placing and submitting.
Recently I received email from a geocacher who was wondering whether caches are allowed at Iowa welcome centers. I replied that I have not heard anywhere that the DOT does not allow them. Today I approved a new geocache (waypoint reference GCTA8P) at the Top of Iowa Welcome Center. This is a good example of how, if you're unsure of the guidelines, a simple email question before you place a cache might save us both time and frustration.