Episode 59: Geocaching goals

Have you set your geocaching goals for 2023? Need some inspiration? We rounded up HQ Lackeys Mackenzie, Alexis, Colin, and Jessie to chat about their geocaching goals and the tips they use to achieve them.

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher. If you use an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts, you can access the RSS feed here.

A full transcript is available here.

Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Episode 59: Geocaching goals

Episode 47: 20 years of geocaching with HQ co-founders Jeremy Irish and Bryan Roth

Besides being the 20th anniversary of geocaching, 2020 also marks 20 years of the partnership between Geocaching HQ’s three co-founders. In this Inside HQ podcast, Jeremy Irish and Bryan Roth share stories from HQ’s early days, talk about what makes the game and community so special, and look ahead to the future.

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher. If you use an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts, you can access the RSS feed here.

A full transcript is available here.

Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Episode 47: 20 years of geocaching with HQ co-founders Jeremy Irish and Bryan Roth

Episode 46: Attributes, searchable D/T grid and more with Nicole J.

Nicole from HQ’s Product Team stops by to talk about several recent projects, including new attributes, searchable Difficulty/Terrain grid, cookies (sorry, not the edible kind), and more!

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Stitcher. If you use an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts, you can access the RSS feed here.

A full transcript is available here.

Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Inside Geocaching HQ Podcast
Episode 46: Attributes, searchable D/T grid and more with Nicole J.

Inside Geocaching HQ transcript (episode 46): Attributes, searchable D/T grid and more with Nicole J.

(Link to podcast)


00:15 Chris Ronan: Hello there. Welcome, this is the Inside Geocaching HQ, a podcast about what’s happening at HQ in Seattle. My name is Chris Ronan. My Geocaching username is Rock Chalk. I am one of the Lackeys who works at HQ, and on this episode, I chat with my fellow Lackey, Nicole, from the product team. If you are a long time listener of the podcast, you may remember Nicole coming on in the past to talk about her role on the Community Volunteer Support Team. Her amazing skills are now with the product team where she and her colleagues have released several interesting things in recent weeks and months, which we will discuss right now. Let’s do it.


01:04 CR: Okay, Nicole. Well, I was looking, I think you were last on the podcast about a year-and-a-half ago, and at that time you were the Community Volunteer Support Lead, and some things have changed, you’ve been doing different things since then, so maybe we can start by just talking about what you’ve been doing since then and what your current role is at HQ? 

01:26 Nicole: Yeah. Hi, Chris. Good to be back on the podcast. Thanks for inviting me back. As you said, I was a Community Volunteer Support Lead, and then I transitioned into a product management role, so for the last year, year-and-a-half almost, I’ve been working with web developers and designers to create cool new features on the website and also some more business-critical projects. I actually have an upcoming change in my role, I’m gonna be more involved in the mobile world; I’m going to soon be the product manager on the mobile team as well.

02:03 CR: So that’s a pretty big change from the last time that we were talking to you, but I would imagine that you bring a lot of what you learned on the Community Volunteer Support Team and with working closely with the community into these roles that you have had since then, and certainly what you will be doing on the mobile team.

02:23 Nicole: Yeah, I’ve definitely learned so much being on the community team and working with volunteers, it has been… That was really bittersweet leaving the Community Volunteer Support Team because I have loved supporting the volunteers and being less involved with reviewers has definitely been a little bit of a drawback for me on an emotional level, but it’s been still really rewarding to work on the product side and support the community at large.

02:49 CR: So there have been a number of very exciting projects that you and the teams that you’ve been working with have released over the recent months, and we’ll go through a few of those things. I think one that is among the most visible is the new attributes that were launched at the end of August, and along with that, people can now search or filter for attributes on the website and on the mobile app, but as far as the process of bringing new attributes into the game, how does that even begin and what all goes into it because I think if I didn’t work here, I might think that it’s just a matter of loading a couple of images into a database somewhere and naming them and then saying, “You’re good.” But now that I work here, I realize this is a massive project that involves a lot of people and a lot of teams at HQ and outside of HQ as well.

03:45 Nicole: Yeah, that was a really fun project to work on, and as you said, it involved a lot of teams and a lot… It started out many months ago before the release; in essence, it is loading up a file and naming it, but you can’t just put it, like you don’t just put in one place there’s multiple different places. And then a lot of things that are interconnected and as all cache owners and non-cache owners geo-cacheers will know, there’re so many rules behind the scenes that need to apply, and you to make sure that all the rules for attributes are in place in all of the areas where they appear. We worked with so many teams at HQ from the web development, mobile development, the community team, the API team; almost everyone was involved in the planning and execution and release for this.

04:34 CR: And for people that may not be aware, what are the four new attributes and how did the decision come about to those four? 

04:42 Nicole: So the four new attributes are the native solution check attribute, the power trail attribute, and the challenge cache attribute, and the bonus cache attribute. And so the decision on which ones to add to the attribute list, that also took a long time; we have a lot of information from forum posts where players have asked for attributes in the past, so we took that into account. We did brainstorm at HQ, we did a brainstorm with the community team and with volunteer reviewers as well. We wanted to make sure that we get attributes that are able to be used broadly and not just locally, and there are some examples of attributes that have been asked for that mostly apply to certain regions, so we did wanna make sure to have a more broader use for the attributes. Yeah, in the end, these were the four that we decided on.

05:34 CR: Yeah, I was disappointed. The bakery nearby attribute was not added. I had lobbied hard for that one and…

05:40 Nicole: It was the close call.

05:43 CR: You say that, I have a feeling that you didn’t give it much thought, but that’s fine, but what was exciting was that not just those four new attributes were added, but that you can now filter for attributes when you’re using the website and the mobile apps as well.

06:00 Nicole: Yes, as the initial project was scoped and planned, we really wanted to make it a win for the community with Pocket queries, those who know pocket queries, they use them, but for the uninitiated, it’s often quite difficult to get into it, and then all the intricacies that come with that. And so we really wanted to make it easier to search with Pocket queries and also search in the fields on the app without… Unless you have planned it ahead of time like doing a Pocket query on your phone, I don’t know if I would even ever attempt that.

06:33 CR: So how many caches are we talking about here that have been affected by these new attributes? 

06:39 Nicole: So the solution check attribute is on about almost 90,000 caches worldwide; power trail, a little over 30,000 caches. About 30,000 caches have the challenge cache attribute, and not quite 10,000 have the bonus cache attribute.

06:54 CR: Well, that’s very cool. And then another project that is newer, the difficulty terrain grid, which is near and dear to my heart as a player, as you know. I love trying to fill up and continue to fill my D/T grid. It’s the D/T grid search. What would you like people to know about that project? 

07:17 Nicole: Yeah, the D/T grid research is a pretty neat, simple, but pretty powerful search tool, and I personally love it. I mean, when I first joined HQ and saw what a dedicated geocacher you are, you have motivated my wish to fill my D/T grid, but I’ve always found it pretty difficult and tedious to find out which caches I still needed to find. And whenever I got a list, it changed as soon as I found one of these caches, and so I’ve not filled my grid still until this day, but in testing this feature, I’ve actually filled a bunch of my squares, so I’m much closer to filling my grid. And what it is in a nutshell, on the statistics page, underneath the D/T grid, you have a button, when you click it, you see the search results of all the caches near your home coordinates that you need to find, or that you can find to fill your grid. Once you find one of those, you click the button again, you will get an updated search without that specific D/T combination that you found. You can also further filter, so let’s say I really wanna fill my D/T grid with Multi-Caches or Mystery caches, I can then further filter after clicking on the fill your grid button. I can also, if I travel, change the location and further filter at a different location if I’m not looking in my home zone.

08:36 CR: Well, I have to warn people that it’s a dark rabbit hole that you’re going down once you get involved with the D/T grid. If you get hooked on it, believe me it can consume many hours of your life.

08:49 Nicole: And you’ve filled your grid 64 times, I believe.

08:52 CR: It’s actually just recently, I bumped it up a little bit more. I think I’m up to 65 or 66 now, so… But again, that’s one of the things I love about geocaching, is everybody has a different or multiple different things that they can do to motivate themselves. You know, some people, it’s how many states or countries can I find a geocache in, or how many multi-caches can I find and for whatever reason, the D/T grid has resonated with me over the years and continues to. It’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving because I can just keep going.

09:28 Nicole: And you get such a diverse experience; they’re so different. So before I was testing this new feature, I think my grid looked like most people’s, that it’s very much concentrated in the lower numbers for both D and T and then sparsely in the higher numbers, but those higher numbers are often more, I don’t know, story worthy, but I’m not going to lie, I will always stop for a lamp post cache as well.

09:55 CR: Well there, you’re absolutely right. To get a T4 or T5, I never would have owned a kayak if it wouldn’t have been for geocaching and for the D/T grid. And also the high difficulty caches, the D 4 or 5, where you need to solve these very challenging puzzles and things, that’s something else that I think wouldn’t necessarily be the first thing I would go after if it wasn’t for being motivated by the D/T grid, so it is great, how it expands people’s pursuit of the game in different ways.

10:30 Nicole: And the high difficulty ones are great for just making friends because you always need to ask someone for help.

10:37 CR: That is for sure. Well, another project that you worked on that might not be as visible as these first few that we’ve talked about, but certainly has been impactful, and you might have to explain it to people and to me a little bit more, and that is the HTML cookies. For people that don’t… Let’s just start with that, what are cookies for people that don’t… I know I talked about a bakery earlier, they’re not bakery cookies, they’re on your computer, what are cookies? And then we can get into what changes have been made because of cookies and because of privacy laws and all that kind of stuff.

11:15 Nicole: So cookies are basically pieces of code that are saved in your browser, and that information might be which browser you’re using… That information might be how often you’ve come back to the page, if you’ve been there before, but that information can also be more personal about your browser behavior or other information that you might be revealing as you surf the web. And the HTML Cookies Project resulted from certain laws that have been put into place in different regions around the world that our concern was consumer privacy, and we, of course, want to be legally compliant with those, but at the same time, we wanna find a good balance and not impact players, or cache owners specifically, too much. I wanna talk about the last phase that went out in August this year, where we made a change that only affect new cache pages and new trackable pages, so only cache pages that are created after the release date will have these changes in place. What you will see, if you create a new cache page is that you cannot add an image using URL that is not part of the allowed URLs, and the reason for that is that images are often the ones that have cookies attached to them, and again, we wanna protect those that surf on geocaching.com from having their personal information collected and tracked in a way that they are not aware of or don’t agree with.

12:36 CR: So if you’re a cache owner, or if you have a trackable with a trackable page and you wanna add an image to your cache page or your trackable page, and these are new cache and trackable pages from here on out, the easiest thing to do would be to upload those images to geocaching.com and do it that way.

12:55 Nicole: Yeah, and with this project, we also made that easier; you can just use the… You go from the editors and there’s a button to add an image, you drag and drop, also selected from your computer, and then it just uploads to your cache page.

13:10 CR: And there are also, as you mentioned, briefly approved URLs approved domains where people could also upload those images and where could people find those… That list of domains.

13:23 Nicole: Yes, you can find that list in our help center. The article’s called “The Approved Domains for Images,” and it’s a list of some hosting services, geo checkers that are popular in the community and then also a couple of other domains that we’ve identified as being frequently used.

13:39 CR: And it’s fair to say that this has been an evolving process as far as trying to find a solution that works for from a legal standpoint as best as possible, while also trying not to negatively impact players any more than necessary.

13:54 Nicole: Yes, in the beginning of the project, as we were looking for a solution, all options were on the table, including removing the option to edit HTML completely, but we know that this would probably impact the community pretty heavily, and so I’m really glad that we found a solution where we can preserve that functionality while also be legally compliant.

14:14 CR: Well, the next thing I wanted to touch on is duplicate pages, and this is something… We had a blog post about this recently that you, I believe, were the chief architect of, and this is the topic that I think is really interesting. This notion that there are certain pages on the website where there are a couple of them, like for instance, the profile page or the dashboard, or the logging flow. And there have been others in the past where there are these two different pages that do a lot of the same things, and you may not even know necessarily that you’re using an old one or a new one, if you haven’t been paying attention. What is it about duplicate pages on the website? How do they end up being there? Why can’t we just cut one off when we’re done with it and start using the new one? What are the reasons that duplicate pages come into effect on geocaching.com? 

15:06 Nicole: That’s a very good question. So it’s starts with a new project where maybe you wanna make some updates to the website, wanna include a new functionality, or maybe we’ve been using code that is no longer best practice in the industry, like the coding best practice has changed so rapidly. And if we don’t follow that along, it will make maintaining older pages much more cumbersome and eventually impossible, so sometimes we have to make a change because maybe we’ve been using something that’s no longer supported. Whatever the reason is, we create a new page and it might have a different look, it might have a different functionality or new functionality, we always look at data when we do that, so that we make sure to preserve for the main functionality of each page.

15:52 Nicole: The reason why we don’t necessarily retire the old pages right away, and end up with duplicate pages iss that on the one hand, we don’t wanna force people off of an old page until the new one is ready. Another reason is that maybe there’s behind the scenes admin functionality that takes a little bit longer to port over to the new page. So there’s different reasons why the old one stays. We really wanna retire the old pages so that we don’t have to maintain them and have engineers work on maintenance rather than new features, and of course, we always wanna continue improving the new pages so that we make sure that we do include new features and have all the features that geocachers use on the new pages.

16:35 CR: One of those duplicate pages being the profile page, and that is due to be retired at the end of November, how do people go about giving feedback about the new page and giving their feelings about what they’re seeing? 

16:51 Nicole: Yeah, if you wanna give feedback, you can go to the forums; we have a forum post where we announce the retirement that is scheduled for end of the month, and so we will definitely assess all of the feedback that we get to plan for future additions and changes to the new profile page.

17:08 CR: Well, let’s wrap this up by talking about plain geocaching. Do you have any goals or anything that you’re working on as we near the end of the year? 

17:16 Nicole: Yeah, I probably won’t fill my D/T grid this year with the weather getting colder, but in looking at the stats page so frequently in the last couple of weeks and months, I’ve actually gotten re-motivated to fill my calendar for a second time. So I’ve already filled it once, and I almost missed yesterday, but at 11:00 PM, I remembered, and I had it on my calendar too. I don’t know how I forgot. At 11:00 PM, I said, “Come on, we have to go out and find a cache,” and so my husband and I went on a bike ride to get a find at 11:00 PM and we made it. So it is still going strong.

17:51 CR: Yeah, I would… You’re way more motivated than I am. If it was 11:00 PM, I just would have been like, “Alright, I guess I’ll just have to wait a year.” [laughter]

18:00 Nicole: What are you working on? 

18:01 CR: You know, it’s kind of hard with, of course, everybody is affected by the pandemic and we can’t quite move around as much as we like to, and once we can, I’d love to add more countries to my list, and there’s stuff like that that I haven’t been able to do that. I’d really like to, but hopefully in the next year or so, when things… We all hope get more back to normal, we can start focusing on stuff like that too.

18:28 Nicole: Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to that, in going to mega events in different countries again, that would be nice.

18:38 CR: That was Nicole from the product team at Geocaching HQ. I hope you enjoyed that. If you have an idea for the podcast, send us an email to podcast@geocaching.com. We do love hearing from you, and we hope you’re well. Take care of yourself out there. From me and all of my fellow lackeys at HQ, happy caching.