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Groundspeak Weekly Newsletter – August 24, 2011

What’s that in the geocache?

One of the original geocaching guidelines is “take something, leave something.” This means that when you find a geocache containing swag, you are welcome to take a piece of swag as long as you replace it with something of equal or greater value. Trackables are the exception to this rule.

Trackables are geocaching gamepieces owned by geocachers. Each individual Trackable is etched with a unique tracking code and given a goal by its owner. The goal may be to travel to another country or to visit as many beaches as possible. Trackables are placed in caches to be picked up by other geocachers, who help move them to their goals. If you find a Trackable in a cache – identifiable by the tracking number and often the text “Trackable at Geocaching.com,” please remember that this is someone’s property. They placed it in a geocache because they want to see it travel! You are welcome to take the item from the cache as long as you are willing to help it on its journey by placing it in another cache. You do not need to put anything into the cache when taking a Trackable, since you will not be keeping the item.

To find out what a Trackable’s goal is, you can look up the tracking number here or on one of Groundspeak’s mobile Geocaching Applications. If you are interested in owning your own Trackable, check out the selection at Shop Geocaching.

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“Butterfly Garden…” GC1HA96 GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK August 9, 2011

Butterfly Garden at the Changi Airport

Geocaching.com users Orangefizzy & Buntoro worked to receive permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to hide this cache. Butterfly Garden @ Changi Airport T3 Transit (GC1HA96) is placed inside the Changi Airport.

The geocache delivers adventurers to a micro-ecosystem. You hear the crash of a cascading waterfall, see more than 200 species of tropical plants, and watch more than 1000 free-roaming butterflies flutter from flower to flower.

You can experience the tropical oasis, and log the difficulty one, terrain one geocache, between international flights. Some geocachers even use the cache to build anticipation for their own travel through the Changi Airport.

Butterfly Garden at the Changi Airport

One cacher who logged a “Found it!” wrote, “Since we booked our flight to Bali half a year ago, I watched this cache nearly once a week. And today was the day and I found this great cache together with my beautiful wife. A really perfect place to relax, watch the butterflies and find a cache.” More than 500 geocachers have logged a smiley on the cache at Geocaching.com.

Butterfly Garden Geocache

While the cache has been approved by the landowner the cache page still advises discretion. It reads, “Workmen and contractors probably do not know the existence of the cache and are unlikely to understand it.  So please be mindful to maintain stealth at all times.”

Continue your exploration of some of the most engaging geocaches from around the world. Explore all the Geocaches of the Week on the Latitude 47 blog or view the Bookmark List on Geocaching.com.

 

 

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The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011 – A Lackey Report from Wisconsin

Editor’s note: Groundspeak Lackeys are traveling thousands of miles from H.Q. this year to share smiles, shake hands and make geocaching memories at more than a dozen Mega-Events worldwide. Sandy Barker, a.k.a. Sandy, attended the Mega-Event The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011 in West Bend, Wisconsin, USA. Sandy has been geocaching since 2001 and a Lackey since 2006. This is Sandy’s account of The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011.

 

Sandy from Groundspeak

 

by Sandy

When I was asked if I would attend a Mega-Event this summer as a representative of Groundspeak, I said two things, “Absolutely!” and “I’d like to go to Wisconsin.” I had never been to Wisconsin, but have developed a love and appreciation for the Midwest, so happily put my hand up to attend The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011.

My journey started early on a Friday morning – 4am Seattle time – which I can only blame on myself as I had booked the 6am flight to Milwaukee. Still, I don’t mind flying and caught up on sleep as I traversed the country – and I would need it. I made my way from Milwaukee to West Bend later that day, checked in to my hotel, and then headed over to the event’s HQ, where I met Craig and MJ, the event’s organizers. They had commandeered the beautiful Regner Park, with its own beach, pond, seating area and buildings, perfect for such an event.

Community welcomes geocachers

The Cache Ba$h H.Q. was a hive of activity, with volunteers from the Wisconsin Geocaching Association working side-by-side with members of the town’s Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce had done a brilliant job promoting the event and as I drove through the town I saw signs everywhere welcoming geocachers.

I declared that I would like to be put to work and joined the enthusiastic group registering geocachers for the two-day geocaching event. The CacheBa$h works like this; teams (of one to 6 people) register to play and receive raffle tickets for a cash drawing at the end of the event. They are also given a game card with 66 blank squares and the information – either in print or digital – to find 66 caches that are placed just prior to the event by local cachers.

Cachers had a day and a half to find as many caches as they could, and in each cache they found a stamp used to fill the corresponding space on their game card. When they returned the card to H.Q., they got raffle tickets for the prize drawing based on how many caches they found. Two caches were only accessible by boat!

"West Bend became Wet Bend..."

As we registered teams and chatted with cachers, there was a flash of lightning and then the heavens opened. West Bend became Wet Bend in a matter of minutes. I apologized to anyone who could hear me over the rain for bringing it with me from Seattle. Still geocachers are an intrepid bunch, and certainly not put off by a ‘little bit of rain’.

The next day I looked out the hotel window to a familiar site – a gray sky – and had to remind myself that I was not in Seattle, but across the country. Back at the event’s H.Q., coffee was brewing and spirits were high. It was definitely going to rain, but we’d had 700 teams and over 1200 people register to participate. As they made their way back to H.Q. throughout the wet afternoon, we were handed soggy game cards that looked more like watercolor paintings than the pristine keys we were scoring them against.

Still, the smiles prevailed. Children – geokids – as young as two stood happily in their wet weather gear and regaled stories of their adventures. That they had found ‘only’ 7 caches of the 66 didn’t matter. They’d had a brilliant time. Many teams returned with full cards, which left me in awe each time they handed the game card over the counter. The rain kept coming and we watched big kids and small kids play in the puddles that were growing across the grounds.

 

Playing the puddles
Playing in the puddles

There was a group photo planned for the end of the day, and about 5 minutes before we all gathered on the stage, the sun came out.

It was time for to announce prize winners. Craig Farrell, local geocacher and Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, was an excellent emcee, and as well as offering thanks yous and calling out prize winners, he reminded us all that next year will be the 5th Cache Ba$h and to think ahead to summer 2012.

Geokids at West Bend Mega-Event

The raffle tickets that teams earned by finding caches could win them one of the many prizes that covered a table on the stage, everything from Lackey Coins to an electric griddle. I played Vanna White, and drew raffle tickets from a barrel. This is the first time I have done this, and it is just as cool and fun as it looks.

When the bounty was handed out, we moved on to the cache prizes. Another first for me is handing over giant checks – also fun and cool. Congratulations to the winners, one of whom had also won a GPS device in the previous drawing. And congratulations to tom k. for winning the creative cache competition.

We wrapped up by acknowledging the community’s local reviewers, Becky “Bec” and Dave “WisKid”, who do a brilliant job working with a passionate and dedicated community of cachers.

The next morning the WGA hosted a pancake breakfast, and it was my pleasure to serve pancakes to some tired, but happy cachers. The sun even decided to make an appearance and all sogginess from the previous day disappeared. It was a perfect wrap up to the whole weekend of caching, fun and making new friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in West Bend. It was a privilege to represent Groundspeak and a pleasure to meet so many great people. They had come from as far as the Czech Republic and from as close as across the street. No matter where they came from, they all contributed to a highly successful, well organized and super fun event.

Thank you all.

Group photo from The West Bend $1000 Cache Ba$h 2011

You can also find a Lackey at one of these upcoming Mega-Events:

Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany – Geocoinfest Europa

Catalunya, Spain – Mega Event Catalunya

South Carolina, USA – Geocoinfest

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Announcing the First ‘Geocacher of the Month’

Congratulations to all the Geocacher of the Month nominees. The geocaching community is comprised of inspirational individuals – who go above and beyond in geocaching innovation, creativity, respect for the environment and helpfulness. Each nominee should be congratulated as exceptional geocachers and individuals. We should all be proud that each of the cachers are part of our worldwide community.

The choice for the first Geocacher of the Month was difficult. A panel of Lackeys, relying on voting and community comments, could ultimately choose only one.

haksu10 August Geocacher of the Month

haksu10 is the August Geocacher of the Month. Dozens of geocachers wrote in to share stories about haksu10’s humble dedication to geocaching, geocachers and his local community. haksu10 created geocache.fi site, used by most Finnish geocachers daily. He also placed nearly a hundred creative and engaging caches. One of the most memorable is GC16QCH Haksulandia. According to a Finnish geocacher, “What makes it special, though, is that it is located at haksu10′s yard. According to the description, the cache is equipped with an electric outlet in case you need to charge anything. Call before you arrive (or just ring the doorbell) and haksu10 will make you some coffee.”

haksu10 will receive a collectors Geocacher of the Month geocoin, along with a Geocacher of the Month hat and certificate acknowledging their contributions signed by the founders of Geocaching.com: Jeremy Irish, Bryan Roth and Elias Alvord.

The other two outstanding finalists Dale & Barb and De broekies will also receive special gifts from Geocaching.com, and we hope the recognition from geocaching community for their truly outstanding contributions. We can all be inspired by reading the testimonials and comments about all the nominees from other geocachers in this blog post. Community members are encouraged to renominate those who were not awarded Geocacher of the Month.

If you know an outstanding geocacher who should be the Geocachers of the Month, send an email to geocacherofthemonth@groundspeak.com.

Every nomination must meet the following requirements. Please include your name, the name of your nominee, their username, at least one picture of the nominee and description (in 500 or fewer words) explaining why he or she deserves to be the Geocacher of the Month. Please inform your nominee that you’ve submitted them for the award. Nominations for the September Geocacher of the Month must be received by September 3rd.

Once we have received all of the nominations, we will choose the top candidates and post them on the Latitude 47 blog. You will then get a chance to champion your favorite. Our goal is to involve the entire geocaching community in this process so we might learn from each other.

 

 

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Geocaching Challenges – Thanks for the Feedback

Bryan Roth: Co-Founder of Groundspeak

By Bryan Roth,

We hear your concerns, and thank you for your feedback.  Now we are asking you to give Challenges a chance. You don’t necessarily have to participate, but give us some time to improve the feature set.  Here’s why.

For many years, the geocaching community has been clamoring for the return of Virtual geocaches. There were a lot of issues with the implementation of Virtuals that prevented us from bringing them back in their original form. When we set out to find a way to bring Virtuals back that would appeal to the community, we determined that the basic idea behind Virtual Caches was “go somewhere, do something.”

This is what Geocaching Challenges are all about. Over 99% of Challenges will be location-based Challenges created by the community. You might be Challenged to take a picture of yourself walking across the Abbey Road crosswalk or tasked to take a picture from the top of the Empire State Building. These are fun, outdoor adventures that can happen even in locations that do not support physical caches.

If a Challenge is not specifically location-based, or does not require a photo (for a photo Challenge) or an action (for an Action Challenge), please flag it or vote it down. When flagging, think of yourself as a reviewer. You wouldn’t deny a cache just because it sounds boring (though, in this case, you could vote it down), but you would deny it if it were inappropriate or did not meet the guidelines. We think the instances of locationless Challenges being submitted by the community will decrease as people come to better understand what Challenges are. We are working now to improve the educational materials within the Challenges section of Geocaching.com so that it is clear what is acceptable for a Challenge and what is not.

Worldwide Challenges are the one exception to the location-based rule. These are Challenges created by Groundspeak that are meant to bring the community together by letting us all experience the same adventure. If everyone participated, we could have well over five million geocachers hiking their local trails one day or biking to work the next day. We will generally be creating one Worldwide Challenge per day, although we may add a few in the early days to get everyone started. These will almost always be outdoor adventures.  We started with one that was not necessarily an outdoors Challenge (Kiss a Frog) because we thought it would be fun.  But, we realize that such a Challenge is not in keeping with our mission of getting you outside.  So, we have archived the Challenge effective today. We will soon be adding functionality to allow you to remove ‘Acceptance’ and ‘Completion’ logs you’ve entered, if you choose to do so.

If you think an individual Challenge is bad, you are welcome to vote it down. All users have the ability to sort by the highest rated Challenges (simply click on the column header ‘Rating’ in the search results), so voting a Challenge down will send it further down the list.

We will be updating the mobile applications, adding functionality to the API so that other developers can incorporate Challenges into their applications and services, and working to improve the website functionality on an ongoing basis.  In the interim, we ask that you to allow us some time to innovate.

We believe that, if people use the Challenges system as it was meant to be used and populate it with Challenges they think others would enjoy, Challenges will add more to geocaching than Virtuals ever did.