The Eureka Moment: Challenges

Jeremy Irish: CEO and Co-Founder of Groundspeak

By Jeremy Irish,

To me, the core geocaching experience is the “eureka moment” when finding a cache.

The word, Eureka, comes from the ancient Greek εὕρηκα heúrēka, meaning “I have found it.” I love this word. It represents that elated feeling of discovery when you move a few leaves to discover that container in the woods, or reaching under a park bench to extract a magnetic key holder. It is a sense of accomplishment and marks the end of a successful journey.

Finding a geocache is fun and rewarding, but I’ve always been frustrated of the limitations of a geocache. As a physical object, some places are inappropriate for placing a cache. They can’t be hidden close to each other to reduce confusion, many locations have to be regulated by land managers, and some locations just can’t support a hidden container. But there are lots of cool and interesting eureka moments in the world. So how can we get people there without a cache?

We tried this before. Our early attempt was to support virtual caches, which weren’t geocaches at all but unique locations on the world for people to discover. The best of those virtuals still exist today as grandfathered listings, but there was a time when virtuals were hard to qualify. The biggest reason was that we were applying the guidelines of geocaches to virtuals, which required a reviewer to publish them. No one could determine what the subjective threshold for what was a virtual was and wasn’t, so the constant angst resulted in the retiring of virtuals. For years we have focused on the core game of geocaching, but have always wanted to find a way to bring virtuals back.

Click on the image for a preview video of "Geocaching Challenges"

Spring forward to 2010 when we added the feedback section of our web site. It became quickly apparent that the community wanted virtuals back as much as we did. However, knowing the history of virtuals, we couldn’t just flip a switch and have the same process again. So we sat in a room and tried to distill the idea of virtuals into one sentence. The result was “go somewhere and do something.” This evolved into Geocaching Challenges.

Find a location of interest and challenge someone to take a photo or complete some kind of task unique to that location. Make it fun! Take a picture of yourself holding up the Tower of Pisa. Pull statue Lenin’s finger in Fremont (Seattle). We’re looking for the community to define the best challenges in the world.

We also know in the early days that there won’t be many Challenges, so we’ll be issuing Worldwide challenges daily. For those old timers, these challenges will be like the old Locationless caches. For example, we’ll challenge you to take a picture of yourself on a boat, kissing a frog, or dressed like a pirate. We’ll be using our feedback site as a way for the community to suggest Worldwide Challenges.

What are the guidelines for issuing a challenge? Unlike caches, there aren’t any official guidelines. Instead, you can rate challenges with thumbs up or thumbs down, and there are reporting tools available in the case that a challenge is inappropriate or unavailable. We’ll be tweaking these tools and introducing new ones as the activity grows, to ensure that the community can collectively decide what is appropriate, and what isn’t. For example, there is no 520’ guideline and Challenges won’t be blocked from being issued at Disney World, or even a pub.

There will be some restrictions at the start. To reduce the growth during the early days, only Premium Members can submit challenges. Premium Members will be limited to creating a Challenge once every 24 hours. Our hope is that we’ll be able to open this up further once we tweak our system to address the feedback we get from the community.

We’re also releasing a whole new set of mobile applications for Challenges, on the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7. We expect that this new activity will be primarily accessed through these free applications, though we’ll continue to support GPS devices.

I’m very excited about Challenges, and look forward to seeing what the community can do with the new concept. I also look forward to constructive feedback on how to improve the activity and make it a part of the core geocaching experience.


Jeremy is the president and co-founder at Groundspeak, the company that started Geocaching.com, Waymarking.com and Wherigo.com. He lives in the Emerald City (Seattle).
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  • To me this almost seems like ALR’s are coming back, but without the geocache involved. So will all Challenges get “published”?

  • Robbeh

    Can follow your explanations, but please count completed challenges apart from geocaches! Such like “username (found 500/placed 3/completed challenges 34). Challenges are no geocaches! Thank you!

  • tozainamboku

    Call them challenges, waymarks, virtual caches, or wonderts they’re all the same thing.

    We will wait and see if the no review, limit to one per day, rating, and reporting tools will prevent these from having the problems the previous incarnations had. I can guarantee that the community will come up with ways of using these that you haven’t dreamed of (and you may not like). And counting them in the find count, is sure to raise controversies. I can’t wait for all the threads on “Why was my Challenged Completed log deleted?”

  • Blue Folder70

    Foursquare meets Gowalla meets Geocaching. Nice idea, but please totally separate from total gc finds. You know there will be a Challenge created for everything…every Disney ride, every tree…

  • Anonymous

    Since challenge creators don’t have control over the logs, you will never see a thread about how a user’s completed log was deleted, unless the log was inappropriate in some way and reported by the community.

  • Anonymous

    There is no review process, though the community can rate each challenge and report them when they are inappropriate.

  • [sarcasm]I can hardly wait for the first challenge power trail…[/sarcasm]

  • danielwest76

    As with everything there will be a learning curve as things are implemented. I must admit I was unsure when I first saw the teaser videos. The more I read and hear about them I do see that they’ll have potential. At the end of the day they’ll be as good or bad as the cacher that sets the challenge. In many ways that’s no different then the current selection of caches available. 

    Should they count as a smiley in the stats? Why not? Existing Virtuals already do. Lamp Post Caches do. 

    How easy will it be for challenges to be policed by the community? 

  • Sounds exciting! Our family is looking forward to many fun(ny) challenges!

  • St.Matthew

    Just out of curiosity, what is stopping someone from posting a photo challenge at each cache site, as to create a double count for each cache found? Is there anything to verify people completed the action challenge, or are we just going to take people’s word for it?

  • Tahosa and Sons

    Why premium members only??  I have many high quality caches that are placed in many scenic places and I don’t restrict those caches to premiums only.   Its not really open to the community in real sense of the word.

  • ElectroQTed

    Why are you calling them challenges? When I hear that word, I think of challenge caches, which are something completely different – caches with additional logging requirements.

  • danielwest76

    I get the impression that for the first little while the setting/placing of challenges is limited to Premium Members while the teething problems are worked out. It would seem that the finding/achieving of the challenges will be open to all. At least that’s how I read it…

  • Anonymous

    Yes. Accepting and completing challenges will be open to all at the start. We’re limiting the creation to Premium Members for now but hope we can release some restrictions as we learn and adapt to how the community responds to the activity.

  • I think these need to be very unusual and or places where a physical geocache just can not be placed.
    I think that power trails,quick grabs and easy geocache’s should not be a part of this.

    I know as in the beginning it will be hard to define as I have been here quite a while and have been through almost all the growth of our game/sport.
    The economy has had me for a long time and just can not get out there as much as I would like.
    This should also be a factor.

  • DudleyGrunt

    I’m not really clear on why cachers who issue challenges won’t be able to maintain ownership of Challenges they issue.  Is it primarily to prevent them from deleting logs?  I expect that this might be one of the less popular aspects of Challenges.

  • AeroMechAZ

    OK, you’re limiting the initial creators to Premium Members; How do we create a challenge, and how does one go about submitting it?  Does it still have to go through the local reviewer?

  • Frankie & Johnny

    Even WITH reviewers and supposed controls for regular type caches, while the quantity of caches has increased dramatically, the quality of caches has DECREASED just as dramatically. It is the lament of many a veteran cacher that this trend has watered down and seriously harmed the overall caching experience. Now you are going to allow uncontrolled virtuals – basically, leave it up to the cachers? Bad idea !!!!!! We will be moving from what is now the ridiculous lamp post caches (and worse) to a whole new level of mediocrity. Again, increasing only quantity but reducing quality. We really liked many of the “old” virtuals but…opening it up to cachers to create lame, “challenges” with little or no control? Get a grip !!!!!!!!!

  • Skruffymann

    how can you consider dressing like a pirate a Challenge? and go online and log that you did it? i think they could have made this a lot better. Instead issue out things more like souvenirs. Like the people at GroundSpeak issue out new challenges every month or so. these challenges should consist of a certain amount of found caches a day, a month, and things like that or award them for a challenging cache for it being 5 stars or something. i think this virtal type of cache is gonna get out of hand and bogus. BUT, i could be horribly wrong only time will tell and try it out. maybe it will be the next cool thing. i just dont think it should count towards my actual caches found count. have their own separate thing for smilys 🙂

  • Cashleigh

    Sounds like waymarks to me.

  • Skruffymann

    and i hope this doesnt turn out like the whole planking thing…

  • Sounds like a great idea.  I just did several Earth Caches and Virtuals in Rocky Mountain National Park.  They are great for locations where traditional caches aren’t allowed or aren’t appropriate.  I’m looking forward to finding some!

  • JeeperMTJ

    Geocaching goes Foursquare.

    Challenges are no geocaches, so please don´t include them in the “found statistics”. Players wanted the “virtual caches” back just because they don´t want to go through the hazzle of finding a geocache.

    This will further deteriorate the sport of geocaching.

  • Sounds really cool! Can a photochallenge also be a multi with let’s say 10 wp’s and 2 photo / challenge moments?

  • blackrattle

    I see once again that us Blackberry users are left out of the action. This also seems to bring back the additional logging requirements, virtual and locationless. These seemed to be all the things that upset people in logs and forums. I don’t see a net gain here.

  • Lizardsally

    Yep, my thoughts exactly.  These need a different name.

  • Dinoprophet

    Waymarking is finding a location that is an example of something.  This is closer to geocaching, where you have to go to a specific location.

    The Worldwide Challenges do sound like the Photo Goals category on Waymarking.  It will be interesting to see if people are willing to do those.

  • Lamp Post Action Challenger

    Action challenge: pass by this lamp posts…

  • Cuddlefish

    This has given me a huge giggle.

  • D-Buddi

    is there a way to hide the Challanges completly in my Account? I am Geocacher and that ist no Geocaching!

  • Geohatlat

    Will these horrifying things show up in pocket queries?

    This sounds like it should be a whole new website for phone addicts.

  • danielwest76

    Had my first glance through the challenges…not entirely impressed yet. There’s a couple that seem to match the quality of a well made virtual, but there’s too many so far that seem to fall into the Lamp Post Cache category. Have also seen at least one example of someone logging a challenge completed that they are very unlikely to have actually completed based on where the challenge is and where the cacher is. I hope it improves…

  • Pam_crump

    I agree! I would like geocaches and challenges to be counted separately!

  • elmh

    I disagree.  Players want “virtuals” back because they take them to neat and interesting places that they would not be aware of otherwise.  Sometimes finding it can still be a bit of a hassle, if it is in an out-of-the-way location. 
     I don’t think that the “Challenge”, as I read it, will fill this need.  I foresee a lot of Photoshopping going on, as I interpret what I am reading.  
    I agree that some kind of information should be required to prove that a cacher has actually been there.  I think that each person who places a virtual should be responsible to “vet” the information and approve the “find”.

  • geogirl009

    Couldn’t have said it better myself! I am scanning through comments, and the majority of them are quite the same as what you are saying. I hope that the next mantainence session will change it so they don’t count as a cache find, because they aren’t really caches!!

  • danielwest76

    I’m seeing a lot of blanked out spots in the challenge listings that say ‘Comment Removed’. What’s that all about?

  • I like the idea but I do not like the idea of it being included in the find count. Please keep it separate.

  • Daryl Stocker (jacaru)

    Surely it is too early to be throwing toys out of prams about the challenges!Yes, I can see that people don’t like change, and yes I can see that (at first) there may be a lot of silliness around the challenges that people set. But this is something new and it will take time to build. Groundspeak have tried to come back with something for people who bemoaned the loss of virtuals, webcams etc.I haven’t quite got my head around the physical challenges yet, but the photographic ones have a lot of potential. You will be able to set challenges that take people to areas that you want to show them, where you can’t place a physical container (surely just like virtuals) and the proof is shown in a photograph. Even Earthcaches ask for photographic evidence, how often do we see the line “to claim this cache email a photograph of you holding your GPS at ……..location” Photographic challenges can be set in a similar way if you set one in the right place.Obviously with an Earthcache you are hoping that the person will learn something about the area you send them to. Can the same not be said for the photographic challenges?Webcam caches quite often asked you to do or wear something different (silly) to prove that it was actually you, so I don’t see much difference there either.As I said at the beginning, there will be a lot of silly challenges set at first, people will try to stretch boundaries, but come on, as with anything new, it will take time to settle down and be tweaked.

    As with anything in life, isn’t it better to suck it and see before making a decision. I myself like the old adage. “If you don’t like it, don’t do it” But please don’t write it off just yet.

  • EngPhil

    Meh, get rid of ’em. If waymarking is sufficiently not like geocaching to warrant its own site, then surely these challenges should be punted somewhere else too. They have nothing in common with geocaching, they shouldn’t share a platform.

  • IDIFers

    There seem to be a lot of folks who object to the new “Challenge”.  I’m willing to bet that they also object to “Earthcache”, “Cito”, and anything else that is not “Traditional”.  I personally question how well not requiring a review in order to publish will work out – but I’m sure there are very good reasons for allowing this practice.  WE MUST ALL KEEP IN MIND THAT GEOCACHING IS AN ACTIVITY FOR EVERYONE, NOT JUST THOSE WHO THINK AS I DO OR WHO THINK AS YOU DO.  The folks at Groundspeak have spent a lot of time and effort creating “Challenge” – Let’s give it a chance to prove itself.

  • TinSparrow

    Yes, this needs a different name.  The geocaching community already had a concept of what a challenge cache was, and the cache guidelines even accepted this definition and commented on it.  To call this new feature (which can be done without a GPS) the same thing, or to call it geocaching at all, is quite confusing.

  • FnE

    I would like to see challenge “finds” separate from geocache finds. Challenges aren’t geocaches.

  • cornholio

    The Jump the Shark moment!

  • Gsmx2

    Where can I found out how to set a Challenge.  I have a perfect place and have tried to maintain a real geocache there in three places, but they get muggled.  Looking forward to setting up one.

  • Anonymous

    Allowing the creators the ability to delete challenge completions isn’t sustainable in the long run, especially when you look at virtual caches. Many of these have owners who have since gone missing. It makes more sense to allow your peers to mark logs that aren’t completing the challenge as requested. This is something we’re planning to add to help the community decide whether someone completed the challenge or not.

    Regardless, a fake challenge completion shouldn’t affect your enjoyment of the activity.

  • Anonymous

    You will be the one responsible in stopping people from doing dumb things by using the tools provided to call them out. We’ll be improving and adapting these tools to address this.

  • Anonymous

    There was photoshopping going on with virtuals. It seems that people are looking at virtuals with rose tinted glasses and making them out into something they weren’t.

  • SLO Trekker

    The concept “go somewhere and do something” is great, but it is not geocaching. It is a completely different sport, and therefore should have its own web site. Let geocaching keep its focus – finding a hidden container. 

  • Anonymous

    EarthCaches don’t have hidden containers, nor did virtual caches, locationless caches, and webcam caches. However there were many people that believed going out and discovering the world is a part of geocaching, even though there is no container. So although you don’t think it is part of geocaching, many geocachers disagree with you. And so do I.