00:14 Chris Ronan: Hello everybody, welcome. This is Inside Geocaching HQ from Seattle. I am Chris Ronan, one of the Lackeys who works for HQ, my geocaching username is Rock Chalk. Thank you for taking some time to listen to our podcast. This is our final reviewer chat. We have gotten to hear from many reviewers from around the world during this series of conversations, and here we have four more community volunteer reviewers to chat with: Private Curb from South Africa, that’s Bruce, Bunjil, from Victoria, Australia, Pete and Helen, Keystone AKA Dave, who reviews Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Geohatter or Paul, from the UK. So let’s get to it.
01:11 CR: I’d like to start by hearing some stories about how a few of you started as community volunteer reviewers. Bruce down in South Africa, how did it begin for you?
01:22 Bruce: Well, I joined geocaching in 2008, a colleague at work introduced me to it and we used to go out at lunchtimes looking for new caches. The end of 2012 or 2011, our current Africa reviewer, Fish Eagle, was wanting to step down. And so Rodney took over, and 2012 was our first South African Mega, and he was just finding it very difficult keeping up with all the new caches that were being published. The community were basically looking to the reviewers for advice on where to put power trails and whatever else. So I think it was Rodney who put my name forward and sort of fast-tracked it. So I came in April 2012 and the Mega was in October, it was a great success.
02:16 CR: We have Dave, reviewer name Keystone, reviewing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. You have done this for 17 years.
02:25 Dave: That’s right, I’ve been at it for quite a while, and it’s wound up now being one of the more senior citizen reviewers, at least in terms of tenure. I started way back in 2003. At the time, I covered Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia all by myself. And fast forward to 2020, it now takes seven reviewers to cover the same territory because of the fantastic growth of geocaching. But I’ve kept my hand in with the Ohio team and the Pennsylvania team, and have given over wonderful West Virginia to one of my teammates.
03:10 Dave: It’s been very interesting watching the growth of geocaching over the years and I love reviewing today as much as I did when I was surprisingly asked in 2003 after going on a camping event with another reviewer sharing my tent with me and I had no idea he was a reviewer. And it turns out that was an audition and I got the phone call the following week.
03:39 CR: Pete and Helen down in Australia, I believe 2013 is when you got started.
03:45 Pete: Yes, we got started in November 2013. I can’t remember how many caches we’d actually found when we started, but we got brought on by the reviewer, Ministro, who was looking after Victoria, and I think he was looking after the ACT, and I think his wife was looking after Queensland. And the workload got a bit heavy, so we got a tap on the shoulder and here we are now seven years later.
04:12 Helen: That’s 10 less than…
04:15 Pete: Yeah, 10 less than Dave. But the area we review is the state of Victoria.
04:21 CR: And Geohatter, Paul, you review the United Kingdom and you’re part of a team there, and that must be nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other during the reviewing process.
04:34 Paul: Yeah, in the UK and Ireland, we have our own forum that we bounce things off each other about… And then obviously, anything that’s bigger than us, we will come to you guys in the HQ. It is nice having that sort of… Even though we are part of this global community, it’s nice to have our own little private group where we can bounce off particular UK and Ireland issues. And then anything that sort of affects everybody, we can go to the rest of you guys and say, “This is going on.”
05:08 Bruce: Well, for us as well, we also have an internal WhatsApp group for the Africa reviewers, and the joy is that because we speak with one mind, nobody’s been able to play us off one against the other. So if I say no to a cache and they go to Rodney and say, “Well, won’t you do it?” He says, “Well, this is what the guidelines say.” And we both… We all stick together so nobody can actually put a division between us in that.
05:40 Paul: We call that reviewer shopping.
05:42 Paul: We’ve had that happen to us, despite the fact that each of us has our own distinct areas that we deal within the UK, people have tried to come to another reviewer and say, “So and so says this, and so and so says that,” and trying to play us against each other. I’ll go, “Well, that’s their thing. Go and speak to them, it’s got nothing to do with me.” [chuckle]
06:08 CR: I don’t think I’ve heard that term before, that’s pretty funny. Well, given how many hours you all spend volunteering to review caches, I would fear that there could be a tendency to maybe get a little burned out on the game because you spend so much time, so much of your free time volunteering like that, and then in turn, maybe not playing as much, but each of you loves to geocache, which is such a great thing, and certainly is positive for the reviewing that you do, too.
06:39 Helen: You see what sort of people have decided to put out. You get it from the player’s perspective, and what they think or what other people think is important, and whether it takes you to interesting places or not. The change in mystery caches, even in the time we’ve been doing it is just incredible, where you can get your information, where you can hide coordinates in photos, and none of that was around when we started.
07:05 CR: And Dave, I mentioned before that you’ve been reviewing 17 years and playing even longer. How do you feel about how the game has evolved during that time?
07:17 Dave: Well, I think change is good. And for the people who complain that there are too many roadside park and grabs and not enough hikes, my answer is always, “Learn how to use the filter and search tools.” Those caches are still out there and they’re still being hidden. In my territory, Johnstown and Altoona, Pennsylvania area, up in the mountains, they’re very into hiding ammo cans way back in state game lands and state parks and state forests. Those caches are still being hidden. You just need to apply some filters to find them, and the tools that the site provides to do that have improved greatly over the years, so it’s just as easy. There’s more caches now of that type. There’s more caches of every type. And for the people who might not be able to do a 10-mile hike up a mountain, those park and grab caches, those cemetery caches, the historic marker caches also serve a great purpose so that geocaching can cater to more people and a more diverse audience, which ultimately I think is great for the sport.
08:35 CR: Speaking of diverse audiences, it’s such fun to have voices here from four different continents. Bruce in South Africa, one of the continents that I have regrettably not visited just yet, it’s always interesting to hear about how the game is played in different parts of the world. What about geocaching in Africa?
08:56 Bruce: Well, when you consider, I think that Africa area-wise is bigger than continental America, and yet so few caches. So our reviewing is the entire continent plus the Indian Ocean islands, so it is a huge area. So fortunately, later on, we got our earth cache reviewer, Africa Rocks. So he does a lot of work traveling through Africa, so he mainly picks up the rest of Africa reviewing, ’cause it was very difficult to review a cache in Kenya or Egypt or whatever, when you haven’t been there to know what local conditions are like and what restrictions there may be. So at least that fell on him and it worked very well. So we consider… So Rodney and I concentrate mainly on South Africa itself. And I think there’s just 20,000 active caches in South Africa alone.
10:00 CR: There are so many years of reviewing experience here. What are some of the points that you would most like to share with geocachers?
10:09 Pete: We would just say that the reviewer’s there to help you make the best of your placement that you can. They’re a knowledge source that you need to use and make good use of.
10:23 Paul: Well, from the outset, it’s obviously, “Read the guidelines, understand the guidelines, please,” [chuckle] is what I would say to people, because that is where we have to say no, if a cache goes against the guideline. Having people understand that before they jump in makes it a lot easier on us, ’cause we don’t have to do a great deal of work to publish a cache. We just have to make sure it does comply with the guidelines, and if you’ve already… If a hider has already done that, that’s brilliant. It makes easy work that we can then enjoy just reading the description, seeing where the location is, seeing why that person has picked that location, and then thinking, “I’d love to actually go there.” And that’s one of the things I do think, obviously, it’s not a review thing, but I do tend to think, “I’d love to go there and find that cache while I’m reviewing it.” And anything else, if they really have this… Really do need guidance, then just find out who your local reviewer is, send them an email. Speak to us. We are here, not just to be there when you submit a cache. We are here to help anybody with any cache-related queries.
11:40 Bruce: But for me, the thing I’d like to encourage the community, especially the newbies, they’ve got so much enthusiasm. I always try and say to them, “Well, rather find a few caches first before you try and publish your own. Get a feeling for the game,” ’cause they’re so… After their first find, they’re so fired up, they want to try out everywhere, and they’re not always the most ideal places or whatever. I sometimes try and just mute it sort of quietly and just say, “Just maybe find a few more before continuing with this, and get a feel for it.”
12:17 Helen: Encouraging people to go to events is a good way to link them in with other geocachers, so that it’s a face they can ask a question to, not a whole lot of mumbo jumbo of words, which that’s what it is to some people.
12:33 CR: I’d like to touch on the Geocaching forums. Paul started as a volunteer forum moderator before becoming a reviewer. Dave, you have been a forum moderator almost as long as you’ve been reviewing. And on the surface, reviewing and forum moderating may seem very different, but there do seem to be a lot of similarities as far as helping to provide education about the game.
12:58 Dave: Yeah, that’s the biggest impact I have as a forum moderator is answering questions and explaining the cache hiding guidelines. I do that as a reviewer, but it’s all one-on-one, so it’s in the context of a private conversation with that cache hider. Great, now that cache hider understands the reasons why we don’t publish caches hidden underneath highway bridges, but I’ve only reached one person. If I have that same conversation in the forums, thousands of people could potentially read that conversation. Even if they don’t participate, I think one of the benefits of the forums is that lurkers, people who read but don’t post, take back the information that they gain by reading forum debates to their local communities around the world, and I rely on those people to be the ambassadors of, “Here’s the latest and greatest answer on why we don’t publish caches under highway bridges, or why the cache saturation guidelines are as they are,” or whatever the issue of the day that’s being discussed in the forums.
14:10 Dave: I know I see quotes from forum discussions repeated into local Facebook groups, I hear it discussed at events, “Hey, I read about this in the forums,” somebody would come up and asked me about it. So I still believe that it has a great reach and great purpose even if the volume of postings has fallen. And I like being able to reach thousands instead of reaching people one at a time. It’s a great resource to get answers from experts about questions, whether it’s a particular brand of GPS or how to build a Wherigo cartridge or how to set up an Adventure Lab. You can get instant answers from experts. I’ve noticed in contrast, in Facebook groups, the quality of the answer you get depends on whether there’s a person in that local community who is an expert on Adventure Labs or Wherigo. If there is, great. But if there isn’t, the Geocaching forums are a great alternative.
15:20 CR: Well, as we wind down, any final thoughts to share with geocachers?
15:26 Paul: Yeah, I just say to people out there, we may hold the title of reviewer, but at our heart, we are cachers.
15:37 Bruce: Absolutely.
15:38 Paul: We were cachers first before, we are cachers first now. We love this game and we wanna keep playing it.
15:46 Bruce: And we love the community.
15:51 CR: There you go another fun chat with a great bunch of community volunteer reviewers. You can hear previous episodes of Inside Geocaching HQ with reviewers wherever you get your podcast or by visiting geocaching.com/blog/podcast. And as always, if you would like to get in touch about the podcast with a comment or a suggestion send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. From me and all my fellow lackeys at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.