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Another Cacher’s Geocaching Manifesto

September 12, 2010

If you’ve seen the movie Jerry Maguire then you’ll distinctly remember part at the beginning where Jerry idealistically and somewhat arrogantly writes his ‘manifesto’. He distributes it to his colleagues and promptly loses his job. As all American movies tend to do it all worked out in the end and Jerry’s method of handling clients was proven to be superior.

Well, the writer of this manifesto is no Jerry Maguire.

The writer outlines 8 issues he has with Geocaching. Some of them are quite valid and I agree with them. Others are downright ludicrous and even someone as idealistic as me can’t abide the thinking.

Pretend It’s the Cacher’s First Hunt: This is the first and most important tenet of my list.  If you read nothing else beyond, please read and take this first note to heart:  Your geocache’s page should be written with the new cacher in mind.

To a certain extent I agree. But what about the experienced cachers? I found that once I had made 50+ finds I was bored by the kiddy caches and wanted something more challenging. Like any sport or hobby there needs to be varying levels for those of varying skills or experience. If I was to alter his words I’d suggest cachers try to make their listings as clear as possible and every once in a while try to remember the newbies by putting simple one out there. It would be a real shame for geocachers to follow his first point – it would be the dumbing down of geocaching.

Experience and Tenure Is No Excuse for Being a Jerk: When I was a wet-behind-the ears geocacher with fewer than a dozen finds, I was confused by the description of a cache that had nothing to do with the hide.  After two trips to the site, I found it despite the lack of information, and in the log I wrote something to the effect of, “Thanks for the hide, but don’t understand description.”  My log was unceremoniously deleted by the owner, my find nullified, and my spirits quashed.  I even wrote the owner asking what I did wrong, and got no response.

This is one point of the manifesto I wholeheartedly agree with. Unfortunately I have ‘met’ a number of cachers who fall into this category and they make the experience unpleasant. However, in a similar vein to my point above in any sport or hobby there are a small percentage for whom it is all about winning, all about being the best. They are typically those suffering from some kind of inferiority complex, often small man syndrome, and you might have first met these guys as bullies in the school yard. Like school yard bullies it is best to ignore them and they will likely go away.

The Description Should Be a Description: The first field a cacher is going to read is the description.  Maybe the administrators of geocaching.com weren’t specific enough when they named that text box.  When they say, “Description,” they mean “Description of the geocache” — not “Description of what you were doing and who you were hanging out with on the day you decided to hide this altoids can in the woods with no information for those looking to find it.”

Perhaps a little picky this point but I don’t completely disagree. A lot of cache descriptions could be significantly better and getting rid of meaningless text could be useful. However, sometimes the story IS interesting and sometimes it adds to the experience. I also find this point a little hypocritical given he has just spent sometime ticking off the bullies for trying to run the game ‘their way’ rather than respecting the fact that people do things differently. If you don’t like the cache description don’t find the cache!

There’s a Hint Field.  Use It: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a hint that reads something like, “It’s not what you think.”

As I said above, I think this is a little picky. There is a lot of pressure on cache owners to make their caches easy to find. Those cachers unable to find a hard to find cache will undoubtedly moan about it in the logs, to the owner or to others. Adding a throwaway hint in the hint field is sometimes a good way of pacifying those people and making it clear that is all the help they get. The manifesto writer needs to take his own advice and communicate, rather than suggest everyone should met his high listing standards.

Georgia Style? Oklahoma Style? How About Plain English Style?: Now, if you don’t know what I’m talking about; good.  Please don’t ever learn.  This is another example of how long-time enthusiasts of the geocaching hobby forget that not everybody is a cache hunting veteran, well versed in all of the insider slang, lingo, and shorthand.These hiding style descriptions are counter to their intention.  Rather than give information to those who need it, you’re only giving info to those experienced enough to know the secret code — the very ones who probably least need the extra help finding your hide.

Refer back to my reply to manifesto point number one!

If It’s Tiny & In The Woods, More Info, Please: If you’re hiding something in a wooded area, and it can be obscured by a leaf, you’re not giving away the farm by letting us know the general area to look.

He’s right, many hard to get to caches in the wild do not have clear instructions. However, that’s why we have GPS coordinates and searching is part of the fun.

Why is Normal so Abnormal?: You know that little size chart that describes the size of your cache?  Micro, small, normal, etc.?  Ever wonder why they call the third size up, “normal” or “regular?”  Because it’s supposed to be the normal size for a cache!  Small is a little smaller than the normal, and micro is a tiny thing that’s nothing more than a container for a log.  In fact, I’d be willing to make the argument (however unpopular) that anything smaller than “small” (I’m looking at you, micro and nano), isn’t even a “cache,” based on the definition.  It’s a “hide,” but not a “cache.”  A cache is a storage place for treasure — your strip of paper where I sign my name is not treasure.  Every time I’m signing a micro/nano log, I feel like I’m writing, “I found your container, and signed here to indicate that there’s nothing in it.  Yay.”  Now, before I’m lynched, let me say that I do appreciate the time and effort that goes into hiding any cache, even the tiny ones, but every cache hider is also a cache hunter, and I’m sure they can agree how much more rewarding it is to find a cache that has stuff in it.  In the area where I live, if an ammo box pops up as a new hide, it’s cause for celebration.All I’m saying, is that “normal” should be the norm, not the exception.  Who are you trying to impress by hiding three dozen bison tubes and zip-lock pouches?  Is it just for the numbers?  Or to provide low-hanging fruit for hunters wanting to run the numbers?  Now, I have found a few very good micros, but on the whole, they’re uninspired and derivative.  I’d personally rather find one ammo box (or cache of comparable size) than a dozen micros.

In this point he becomes a man after my own heart and quite clearly makes the point that cache containers are much too small and often misrepresented. Yes, I do tend to take my own advice and don’t bother finding if I don’t like the cache size. It does really bug me though to trek all the way out in the bush to sign a tiny log book in a 200ml systema. In this case BIGGER is BETTER!

Geocaching Isn’t Your Own Private Game: With this last point, I will bring my list full circle.  Both formal and informal geocaching groups have sprouted up worldwide, and that’s great for those involved, but there are drawbacks to that sort of compartmentalization of a globally public hobby, and I’ve seen the results.The members of these groups get to know each other so well, that the name, description and hints for geocache hides start to become little inside joke references to private information.   Almost as if the entire hide is a wink, nod, and broad smile between two or three individuals.

Not something I’ve come across much but I do tend to find the ‘in-jokes’ in logs a little frustrating. Probably a good piece of advice not to make things obscure.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 10:33 pm

    Hi, cumby. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis of my article. A lot of counterpoints swimming in my head, but too many to type with this phone keyboard.

    Suffice to say it sounds like we would get along well in the caching world if out hunting together.

    Cheers,
    No-Jerry-Maguire 😉

  2. November 20, 2010 9:26 pm

    For the last point: I have seen it. There are these “Name That Cacher” caches that you need to know people in your local geocaching community to do. At first I hated them too, but once you start going to events and meeting people it becomes much easier and fun. I found my first “Name That Cacher” last weekend.

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