Friday, December 09, 2011

Garmin vs. Groundspeak

In case you missed it, there's been something of a Goliath vs. David business battle going on between Groundspeak, the small Seattle-based company that owns and manages, and Garmin, the large company that makes the best (in my opinion) consumer GPS devices and has attempted to get its own geocaching listing service -- -- off the ground. One of my fellow reviewers, Nick Brown, who is a reviewer in France, wrote this very insightful article about the whole mess. It's worth a read. What do you think? Have you used

Friday, November 11, 2011

What about specific publication times and dates?

I had a nice email conversation with a geocacher last week who was asking about getting several different cache published at specific (but different) times and dates. I'd like to share my response with you here so you can see how I like to handle these situations. Keep in mind this may not be the way other reviewers prefer to handle things.
Here's how the review process normally works: When you create a new geocache page, please don't "enable" it until the cache is in place and ready to be published. That way I can publish new geocaches in the order they were received whenever I happen to be online and doing my volunteer reviewer duties. When I click on the "publish" button, the cache page goes live immediately and is searchable by other geocachers.

Normally I can't guarantee a specific publication date and time unless a group of new caches are being placed for simultaneous timed release in conjunction with a geocaching event cache. The reason for this is because it's not a simple matter for reviewers to program a timed release, so we like to have a "critical mass" of several caches to all be released at the same time and same day in order to make it an efficient process to set up.

The exception that I make to this process would be when a geocacher asks me to check to see if a location is acceptable under the proximity guideline. That is, check to see if his or her prospective location for a new geocache is at least 528 ft. from existing geocaches and physical waypoints of other multicaches and mystery/puzzle ("unknown") caches. The reason I would do this is when the geocacher wants to create a special cache that requires advanced preparation, such as a special multicache or puzzle cache. In that case I may ask the geocacher to go ahead and submit the cache page with the final coordinates, but include a reviewer note to let me know that he/she wants me to check whether the coordinates are OK for a cache placement.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Clowning around with the big guy

That's me with Jeremy Irish (right), president and one of the founders of

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New caches are not "enabled" by default

In case you missed the recent change to the online cache submittal form, when you submit a new cache, it is no longer enabled by default. In the past, when you submitted a new cache, there was a check box at the top of the form to enable the submission. By default it was checked. Now the same check box is farther down on the page below the coordinate entry box and it is NOT checked by default. Until you check this box, your new cache submittal will not show up in the reviewer's list of new caches to review. So far, I have seen postings or received emails from a handful of geocachers who were wondering why their new caches were not reviewed after several days. But I don't think this has been a big problem for Iowa geocachers (probably because the average Iowa geocacher is better at reading instructions than the average non-Iowa geocacher). However, it is apparently a bigger problem for some geocachers elsewhere, as evidenced by a recent string of postings in the forums.

Monday, October 17, 2011

IGO's annual Hike N Seek event

I’m a little late in blogging about it, but I wanted to report on the great time I had at the annual IGO Hike N Seek event, which was held Sept. 23-25 in Elkader. I drove to Elkader after work that Friday evening and arrived in time to set up my tent in the city park before heading over to the local movie theater, where the IGO organizers had arranged a special screen of “GPS: The Movie.” I have to admit I wasn’t impressed with the production values, the plot, the acting or the writing. But other than those deficiencies, I thought it was an OK flick. What I did enjoy was gathering at the theater with fellow geocachers, some of whom I haven’t seen for awhile and some of whom I had not previously met. It was a nice, homey little theater and the popcorn and wine were quite tasty. Saturday I joined the rest of the Iowa geocachers at the city park shelter for the instructions for the competition (which I did not enter) and the downloading of coordinates into my GPS for the approximately 100 new geocaches that had been hidden by several area geocachers. The new caches were well-placed and I appreciated the cache owners’ cooperation to submit them throughout the summer to give me plenty of time to review them and resolve any issues before the prescheduled mass publishing that Saturday during the event.  After caching during the day, we reconvened Saturday evening at the park for grilling, potluck picnic food, and door prizes. Mary (my wife) was scheduled to leave town on Sunday for business travel, so Saturday night after the potluck dinner I decided to pack up my tent and head home so I could spend the remainder of the weekend with her. My thanks to all the organizers, cache hiders, donators and geocachers who attended this great event.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

River Action launches geocaching program

I've been working with organizers of the Geocaching on the RiverWay program to publish their series of geocaches. Some are also listed on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. You can find a list of these new caches at their website for River Action, and read a news release about the program. As an avid kayaker and part-time kayaking instructor, I'm happy to see efforts like this to get people better acquanted with the Mississippi River.

Friday, September 09, 2011

SuperGoober: One of Groundspeak's Featured Cachers of the Month

Congratulations to SuperGoober (Jeff) for being named one of Groundspeak's Featured Cachers of the Month! This is a well-deserved recognition. In addition to what The Weasel wrote to nominate him, I'll add my two cents. SuperGoober is a super choice. I have corresponded with him many times over the years as he asked questions about unusual and creative caches he was thinking about placing. He has hosted lots of geocaching events and has been a leader in working with land managers to create special educational events that call attention to public lands and geocaching in general. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with him on one of his "The Seige" cache hunts that he has organized. I’ve always found him to be super courteous and super friendly, even when he asked me for advice about how to deal with occasional poor behavior on the part of other geocachers. A true geocaching leader and gentleman. Two thumbs up.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Listen to show #330 at 25:55 for Sonny and Sandy's discussion of my email comment. While I enjoyed Sonny's humorous rebuttal, I don't agree with his disagreement. But it was fun to be included in this week's show.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time for a cache clean-up and a thank you to Nomex

You may notice that a number of caches marked with Needs Archived logs (or SBAs, as they used to be called) are going to be archived within the next few days. Every so often I enlist help from fellow reviewers to clean up these inactive geocaches where the owners have apparently gone AWOL. One of my go-to reviewers for this assistance has been Nomex. He is once again providing this valuable volunteer service to me and to all Iowa geocachers. Thanks, Nomex! By the way, if you visit Nomex's profile page, you'll see he has listed a bunch of helpful tips for submitting new caches. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

Website update coming Wednesday

Get ready for a new look and experience on beginning this Wednesday, May 4. will go offline for four to six hours on the 4th beginning approximately 8 a.m. Central time. Lackeys will be upgrading the database server to improve site performance. Groundspeak will also be releasing the latest website update, which includes a sleek new design and interface for the homepage. Here's a video sneak peak of what to expect.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Seed caches

For some time there have been caches called seed caches that contain lots of small cache containers -- usually 35mm film canisters -- with instructions that geocachers who find the "spawn" or "mother" cache should take one of the seed caches and hide it "to keep the game of geocaching going." However, Groundspeak has instructed reviewers that seed caches constitute an ALR (additional listing requirement) and therefore reviewers should not publish caches that require or even encourage people to hide "spawn" caches. I think this is a good idea because too often, the seed caches obtained from mother caches were placed in less than ideal locations with little thought going into them and little maintenance provided after the hide.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Lexicon of Geocaching

Whether you're a newbie or an old hand at geocaching, here's a nice resource to look up terms that may be unfamiliar. As I looked at the list, a few were new to me. For example, DPM --  really? Never heard of that. Also, the whole "ringbone" thing, that was news to me. It's fun and fascinating to read these entries and learn more about the game.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Questions and Answers about Geocaching

I receive a number of questions from geocachers asking about specifics of getting caches listed on Most of the time I can answer their questions right away. Sometimes I have to consult with my fellow reviewers and/or the lackeys at Groundspeak to be sure I'm giving the correct answer. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the recent questions I have received, followed by my responses. I changed the text slightly in some of these to protect the privacy of the email writers. 

Hey Ken!
We were wondering what exactly the rules would be if we had a cache that had a micro SD card in it so that cachers could simply insert it into their phone and save a video or  photo to log their find. I'd think that that would be perfectly fine, but would we also NEED to have a paper log? It would be no trouble to include one, it's just that we think it would be a little cooler/high tech if it was only the SD card. Geocaching is a high tech sport/hobby/obsession and with the huge increase in popularity of smart phones or phones with cameras, this would be a really cool cache.

My Answer:
Thanks for your inquiry. It's cool to hear that you're thinking up new ways to make geocaching fun. As you have guessed, yes, you would also need to include a paper (or similar substrate) logbook that geocachers can sign. Using the SD card would have to be clearly marked as optional. In the past, geocachers have hidden USB drives in caches in hopes that geocachers would need to plug them into their laptop computers to obtain final coordinates of a multicache or unlock a code to find a puzzle cache, but Groundspeak has not allowed those to be a required part of finding a cache because of the potential for someone to introduce malware to the storage device. That same reasoning would apply to an SD card. 

Hi Ken,
I was wondering if you could tell me the coords for the GCXXXX cache stage that is too close to the cache I placed today GCYYYY (40ft up a tree).

My Answer:
I'm not allowed to give you the coordinates of the second stage because you would need to find it on your own, but I can tell you that you would need to move your cache at least 290 ft east of where it is now to be at least 528 ft from stage 2 of GCXXXX. If you know the owner of GCXXXX, you may wish to ask him for the exact coordinates of his second stage. Thanks for working that out with him.


A geocacher could not find 3 of my caches and he took it upon himself to replace them. I take great  pride in maintaining my caches. They are almost all local and as soon as someone says it needs attention, I am right there to do it. If there are several dnf's listed in a log I go out to check on it. Just because he didn't find it, does that mean it isn't there? That decision belongs to the owner. I went out and replaced the containers he left with my own and my own logs. Only one of these caches had a dnf before Sunday and it was only 1 dnf. I replied to him about replacing the one cache and he mentioned in his reply to me that he had also replaced the two others. He did not log that in his log entries. I would never have known he did that unless he had told me in the email. I deleted all 3 of his logs. What do you think of this and is there any way you can mention to him that it is not acceptable to do this?

My Answer:
I sympathize with the frustration you feel about having your caches replaced by another geocacher. I had the same thing happen to me in the past. Sometimes it was done with my permission because a geocacher asked me ahead of time if it would be OK. Other times it was done without my knowledge or permission. In your case, if your caches were replaced without your permission, then no, that is not OK. In my opinion, based on what you have told me about the situation, it sounds like you did the right thing by writing to the geocacher and then deleting the logs that you felt were not legitimate. That's your responsibility as the cache owner. Regarding your question about whether I should mention anything to them, with your permission, I may post this email conversation in my blog so more people become aware of the issue. But in the long run, there will always be behaviors displayed in geocaching that you, I, or other geocachers disagree with. Neither you nor I can stop everyone from doing things they shouldn't do. But in the case of geocaching, we CAN control how much the things they do affect us -- our attitudes and our lives. What I'm saying is, you should go ahead and delete the logs and maintain your caches in the correct manner, like you are apparently doing now. But don't let the actions of a few spoil geocaching for you. 

Hello Ken,
I have a question regarding the new “chirp” accessory and the beacon attribute. First of all, I would like to know if the “chirp” is considered a “physical container”, and whether its placement falls under the 528ft saturation guideline. I would think not, since it would not be seen or handled by a geocacher.

My Answer:
Even though a Chirp is a physical waypoint, Groundspeak allows considerable "latitude" (if you'll pardon the pun) on the saturation guideline for the waypoint locations of the wireless beacons. The range of a Chirp is around 32 feet for an exposed chirp; inside objects, it's less than that, so that's why they allow them to be placed closer together than 528 ft and closer to existing geocaches and physical waypoints. So I'd say, yes you can place your Chirps closer than 528 ft, but you should probably place them at least 40 ft from each other. Does this answer your question?
 Their Response:
Yes, that answers my question. The stages I have in mind will be several hundred feet apart, so the 40ft suggestion you made is not an issue. But, it is possible the "virtual" waypoints of the hide I have in mind will be within a few hundred feet of other virtual and physical waypoints of nearby caches. I just wanted to verify if I had working room for my idea. I think you have verified that. I'd hate to set the whole thing up and have you deny it when I submitted, based on saturation rules. Thanks for your help and input. As always, you are a "wealth of information". 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

For the poker players

This is not geocaching related, but I wanted to share news about our son's recent accomplishment on the World Poker Tour. Last fall Tom (also known as TitanTom32 in the online poker world) made it to the final table of the Legends of Poker tournament in L.A. The first half of the rebroadcast was televised this past Sunday. Part 2 will be on this coming Sunday, March 6 on the Fox Sports Network at 8 p.m. and again at midnight. In Part 1 they showed the elimination of the fifth and sixth place players, so in Part 2 he will be the first one eliminated because he finished in fourth place in that tournament.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Des Moines Register blogs for geocaching

Last week Kyle Munson, who writes a blog for the Des Moines Register, interviewed me about geocaching. The interview was mainly for background because his real information came from the geocachers -- Team RSV -- who took him on a few cache hunts and showed him the ropes. You can read Kyle's column here and watch a video of their cache hunts.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fun reviewer notes

I love reading the fun reviewer notes you guys post when you submit new geocaches. For example, tonight one of them said: "Cache is ready for your blessing. Thank you!" I joked with my wife that I need to get one of those big Pope hats.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Behind the scenes with a geocaching reviewer

For the past five years -- through this blog -- I have tried to provide readers with a behind-the-scenes view of geocaching reviewing. Today Groundspeak posted a nice story on this same topic on their blog Latitude 47. Check it out. My special thanks to geocacher "swr rat" (Kevin) for the nice comment! 

Monday, January 03, 2011

EarthCache guidelines updated

If you're an avid EarthCacher, you may be intersted to know that the guidelines for that aspect of our hobby have been updated as of January 1, 2011. The biggest change is that:

"Requests for photographs must be optional. Exceptions to this guideline will only be considered if the requested photograph is related to an Earth Science logging activity such as recording a phenomenon. This particular guidelines was updated on 1 January 2011. All EarthCaches must conform to this guideline as photo requests are considered "additional logging requirements" (ALRs) and follow the guidelines set forth by Existing EarthCaches that do not meet this guideline must be updated to comply. Cache owners may not delete the cacher's log based solely on optional tasks."

And in case you weren't aware of it, I don't review Earth Caches in Iowa. They're reviewed and published by a different group of reviewers. If you have questions about Earth Caches, you can address them to