Ep 66: BIG geocaching events

Large geocaching gatherings such as Mega- and Giga-Events draw hundreds and thousands of attendees throughout the year. We checked in with Emily W., HQ’s Community Special Events Manager, to learn more about big events, including Block Parties that are now being planned for 2025!

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. 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
Ep 66: BIG geocaching events
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Ep 65: EarthCache program with the GSA’s Matt Dawson

As the EarthCache program celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the Geological Society of America (GSA) and Geocaching HQ are suggesting some new guidance for EarthCache owners. The GSA’s Matt Dawson is here to chat about the new guidance, as well as his thoughts about 20 years of EarthCaches!

Read more about the new EarthCache guidance in the Geocaching Blog.

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. 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
Ep 65: EarthCache program with the GSA's Matt Dawson
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Inside Geocaching HQ transcript (episode 65): EarthCache program with GSA’s Matt Dawson

(link to podcast)

0:00:00.0 Chris Ronan: Hey everybody, this is Inside Geocaching HQ. I am Chris Ronan, aka Rock Chalk, one of the 90 or so lackeys who works at Geocaching HQ in Seattle. And this is the podcast where we chat about things that are happening inside HQ, and today I am very happy to share a conversation with Matt Dawson. Matt works at the Geological Society of America. And has been intimately involved with the EarthCache program for many years. You may know that EarthCache is a program of the GSA in partnership with us at geocaching.com and other partners around the world. We get a lot of feedback from geocachers about EarthCaches. It is certainly a beloved cache type, but we do hear often that some EarthCaches can become pretty complicated with a long list of logging tasks, and so in recent months, we have been crunching some numbers about EarthCaches to see if the data backs up some of that feedback that we have been hearing. We shared some of our findings in a new post on the Geocaching blog. I won’t rehash all of it here, but we did find that EarthCache descriptions are a lot longer than they used to be, and EarthCache finds have decreased steadily as a percentage of total geocache finds back in 2011, for instance, EarthCache is made up about 14% of all geocaching finds.

0:01:47.1 CR: Today, it’s 6%, numbers like that concerned HQ and the GSA enough that we are making suggestions to EarthCache creators including that they try not to exceed three logging tasks and a photo that they list logging tasks at the top of the cache description, and that they just try to generally keep in mind that EarthCaches are meant to assume that finders have only a basic knowledge of geology, and as Matt Dawson says during the conversation that you’re about to hear, that less is sometimes more. So without any further ado, here is my chat with Matt Dawson from the GSA.

0:02:36.6 CR: Okay, well, Matt, let’s start with what is the GSA for people that are listening that might not be super familiar with it, and especially if you live in another part of the world outside of the United States. What is the Geological Society of America all about?

0:02:52.4 Matt Dawson: Yeah, well, first of all, thanks a lot, Chris, and the folks at geocaching.com for inviting me here for this discussion today, I’m really glad to be able to chat about the EarthCache program with you. And I’ll just quickly introduce myself and say a little bit about my organization, GSA, and my name is Matt Dawson, and I work at the Geological Society of America. The Geological Society of America is a membership-based organization with thousands of members all around the United States and around the world, we provide support for the community of geoscientists and help support their research through scientific publications and conferences. And we also support the professional growth of geoscientists at all levels of their career, from college student, all the way up through seasoned veteran geoscientist. And we also provide support for a lot of students through research funding, internship and work experiences, fellowships, grants, scholarships, and other various forms of support. And of course, we are also involved in public outreach to an extent, and the EarthCache partnership is one of the center pieces of our public outreach.

0:04:10.6 CR: It’s based in Boulder, Colorado, correct?

0:04:13.5 MD: That’s right, yeah, yeah. Although we are a global society, we are based in Boulder, Colorado, and that’s where I’m situated and we have staff in various places around the country. And we also have a Washington DC office as well.

0:04:29.9 CR: Yeah, and my niece and I got to visit with you last year, and that was fantastic to get to visit the building. You have some really fun examples of geology around your building and various specimens and stuff like that and it was super cool to be able to do that, and then we went out and found EarthCache together, which was really neat too.

0:04:51.5 MD: Yeah, some of the early EarthCaches were developed around GSA headquarters by various GSA staff members. And in a town like Boulder, you know there’s gonna be really great… A town with a name like Boulder, you know, there’s gonna be a really great geology in the area, so we are really proud to be the hosts of a number of really nice EarthCache locations.

0:05:13.3 CR: You’ve been at the GSA for as long as I’ve been at Geocaching HQ, and I think probably a lot longer, so how long have you been there and… Yeah. Just kind of what’s your day-to-day like there?

0:05:24.4 MD: Yeah, I’ve been at the Geological Society of America since 2010, and currently I work as the assistant director for our Center for Professional Excellence. Our Center for Professional Excellence is a relatively new initiative that supports the growth and the excellence of geoscientists throughout all stages of their career, from when they are an undergraduate student, all the way up through a senior geologist or even retirees. And some of the programs that I deal with most directly are things like, for example, our graduate student research grant program, which provides funding for Masters and PhD level students to carry out research within all different areas of the geosciences. Some other programs I’m directly involved with are the Scientists in Parks Program, which is an internship based program in partnership with the National Park Service, who is also one of the original partners for the EarthCache program. That program provides internship opportunities for students and recent graduates in all facets of the scientists on all facets of the sciences, including geoscience, and then we also have a GeoCorps America program that’s a partnership with other public land agencies like the US Forest Service and the US Bureau of Land Management, and that provides paid work experiences for students and recent graduates, specifically in the geosciences.

0:06:50.7 MD: Areas of soil resources, hydrology and water resources, conservation of national forests and the geological resources that exist within them, so those are some of the key programs that I work with, there are some others as well. And of course, the EarthCache program.

0:07:08.7 CR: Yeah, so you’ve been there for more than half of the EarthCache programs live, so let’s talk about the EarthCache program. And before we… Well, I guess at the beginning of this, we should make sure to mention that a number of people have worked on this program over the years, but Gary Lewis is somebody in particular that we should mention because Gary is kind of… I guess you’d say the father maybe of the EarthCache program, right?

0:07:32.4 MD: Definitely. Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. I think most people would consider Gary Lewis the father of the EarthCache program. Gary, who’s caching name was Geo aware. He was the original Geo aware. There are many of us now, but Gary created the first EarthCache in 2004 in Australia, and that’s EarthCache one and it was a geologic exploration of a location called Wasp Head on the Australian coast exploring some really neat erosional features and looking at the geological history of the rocks in that area, and their EarthCache Program started really with that first EarthCache placement in Australia. But it was born out of discussions at a GSA annual meeting, one of our conferences that brings together geoscientists from around the world, but there’s a conversation about how to get the public more engaged in earth science and the possibility of doing that through connections with the geocaching community, and from there the idea of EarthCaching was born.

0:08:41.6 CR: And I know I still see Gary’s name occasionally on Facebook that he leads EarthCaching tours and stuff like that, so he’s still very involved in that, even though he’s not at the GSA anymore. So why is the EarthCache program important to the GSA? Why do you feel like the program is valuable to the organization?

0:09:00.6 MD: I think the EarthCache program, like I said earlier, GSA considers it one of its key ways of generating outreach about the earth sciences to the general public. The EarthCache program has brought tens of thousands… It’s actually, I suppose millions now, people have had earth science education experiences through this program. It also helps people have an experience of what it’s like to be a geoscientist in a very small way through the logging tasks, and this is something I’m sure we’ll get to later in this conversation. But the logging tasks really are an important part of EarthCaches for GSA, because that’s what encourages people to think scientifically about their surroundings, going a little bit deeper beyond the just wow factor or the scenic nature or the natural beauty around them, but by engaging with and providing answers to the logging tasks, people really start to think a little bit like an earth scientist would. So that’s something that’s really important to GSA. Another reason it’s important to GSA is because if its global and international nature, there are EarthCaches all around the earth, so it’s not just something that’s limited to the area around Boulder, Colorado or the United States, earth caching is popular in many countries around the world.

0:10:25.1 MD: There have been EarthCaches events globally, like official international EarthCache events and other events that have focused on earth caching that shows that it really is a global and international phenomenon, because of course, there’s earth science everywhere, right? That’s, again, one of those things that’s illustrated through the EarthCache program. The EarthCache is at really well-known and special locations like the Grand Canyon in the United States, for example, where some of the popular tourist destinations in Iceland. But there are some folks who can find EarthCaches in their neighborhoods as well, so again, it just goes to show people that earth science really is everywhere, and it’s a part of our everyday lives.

0:11:09.3 CR: Yeah, and that’s something that I know when you and I went out and found an EarthCache there in Boulder that we were discussing, what it is that ideal you hope a geocacher gets out of their EarthCaching experience. And that the one that we found was actually I think it may have been one that Gary placed many, many, many years ago, and it was very, very simple.

0:11:33.0 MD: That’s right. That’s right.

0:11:34.8 CR: And as I recall, there was maybe even only one logging tasks, and you had said something that stuck with me, I think you said you could see that this could be maybe fleshed out a little bit more, but this is a great EarthCache because it was just so simple, you saw something, you learned a little something about it, and you walked away knowing a little bit more, and really that’s what you would like to see if somebody get out of an EarthCache.

0:12:03.0 MD: Yeah, that’s exactly right. I am a big believer that in many cases, less is more, and thinking back to that EarthCache that we visited, it had a very, very tight and focused lesson on the types of rocks visible right at that location, wasn’t trying to teach the entire geological history of the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, it was just very well-focused and you left knowing a little bit more than you did that morning. And again, it also just got you thinking like an earth scientist and realizing that our science is all around you. And also, I think a good EarthCache inspires people to want to learn more about an area, and they don’t need to do all that learning through the EarthCache itself, they could do that learning by visiting local parks or museums or learning centers or looking online at some other resources like their local their state geological survey, for example, most states in the United States have a geological survey or an organization like it that can provide really good information about one’s local geology. And there are organizations like that around the world too, but yeah, I’m a big believer that less is more and keeping things simple can deliver a better lesson and a better experience.

0:13:24.3 CR: Yeah, and that’s kind of what prompted in our conversation here today. Well, one thing being that it’s recently the 20th anniversary of EarthCaching, and so I thought that would be a good reason for us to talk, but also that HQ is gonna be publishing this blog post where we make some suggestions for people specifically for EarthCache owners as they’re constructing EarthCaches, after we had not just looked at some statistics about EarthCaches, but also that we in HQ, and I’m guessing you also get feedback about EarthCaches over time, and some people say to us that, I feel like I had to write a dissertation in order to get a founded on this EarthCache. And it’s tricky, isn’t it? To find that balance between, you wanna create something that people can learn from, but you also don’t want it to be so overwhelming that people don’t even bother trying to read it and learn from it.

0:14:19.2 MD: That’s exactly right. A geology dissertation is for graduate school, and we have lots of members who are graduate students working on dissertations right now, and EarthCaches are not meant to replicate that experience, they are really intended to get people interested in and excited about geology, especially the geology around them, the geology where they’re vacationing or the geology where they live. I like this new initiative that we’re working on now, and that you’ll be describing more in this upcoming blog post, because I think it brings the EarthCache program back to its roots in a way where it really is about raising awareness of the earth sciences and getting people excited about being outside, which I think is very well aligned with the goals of geocaching in general.

0:15:06.1 CR: When you visit an EarthCache or even when you and I went out and he found one, what makes a good EarthCache in your mind?

0:15:15.9 MD: Yeah, it’s a really great question. And some of the things that I look for in an EarthCache are what is the cache owner trying to help me to learn? What is the lesson they’re trying to get across? Personally, I prefer EarthCaches that are not attempting to address the entire geological history of an area, but instead have a really good focus, and maybe it’s teaching about a specific type of fossil that you can see in a road cut there before you, or it might be discussing a certain type of mineral that occurs within the igneous rocks in the outcrops of an area that you’re visiting. I really like to see a very well thought out and focused lesson that’s not really all over the place, and it’s just really clear what is being taught and there could be other things that you might teach there, but they don’t all need to be crammed into the EarthCache. I think sometimes somebody might be better off creating multiple EarthCaches, maybe there are two or three different things you can see at a location, but maybe focus on one here, and then perhaps a few miles away, there’s even a better example of this other feature that you want to teach people about, and you can create a different EarthCache that focuses solely on that without trying to cram multiple topics into one location.

0:16:41.5 MD: I think this would make for a better EarthCaching experience. I also look for EarthCaches that are unique and are highlighting something a little bit different that you don’t hear about all the time, and EarthCaches that highlight a feature that you can’t really see in a lot of other places. So uniqueness is really important to me as an EarthCacher and also a clear and focused lesson. Those are a couple of things I look for personally when visiting an EarthCache, and although I don’t really review EarthCaches on a regular basis anymore, except occasionally where I’m called upon to provide a little extra assistance here and there, but when I was a more frequent reviewer, those are the things I looked for as a reviewer as well.

0:17:29.3 CR: For somebody out there who has never created an EarthCache before, and I’d even put myself in that category because it feels a little overwhelming sometimes that… ’cause I’m not a geologist, and most of my interest in earth or my experience with earth science or geology comes from my experience with EarthCaches. So for somebody like me who might think I’m not qualified to put out an EarthCache, are there any tips or any guidance that you would give to somebody who might have some interest in creating an EarthCache, but isn’t really sure exactly where to start, even if they have maybe identified something that they think could be a place for a lesson?

0:18:14.6 MD: So for somebody who’s just getting started out with creating an EarthCache. I think one of my biggest pieces of advice would be to really trust your reviewer, and I think I’ll use this as an opportunity to acknowledge and thank the team of International EarthCache reviewers or the Geo awares who make the EarthCache program possible. I see them as a really fantastic resource to the community, they really like publishing EarthCaches and working with cache owners to help them to create the best EarthCache listing that they can. So that’s one piece of advice I would offer is to definitely rely on their expertise of the area, because they’ve likely published… I don’t even wanna put a number on it, but many, many EarthCaches, and they’re gonna have good familiarity of the area and can help guide you in the right direction if help is needed with your listing, because it’s very rare that a listing gets published immediately once it’s submitted. There’s usually a rough process of revising, editing and making sure everything meets the guidelines. So that’s one piece of advice I would give. Another one would be, I guess to go back to my statement earlier about less being more, and don’t try to include everything about the area’s geological history in your EarthCache listing.

0:19:38.8 MD: Don’t approach it as like, I wanna make an EarthCache, but where should I do it? It should almost be the other way around, like you come across the location in your travels or in some reading and you get inspired and you realize, Wow, this place would work, this would be a great place to create an EarthCache, and if you encounter a location like that and get inspired I think that makes things a lot easier because already you… If you’re inspired by it, other people are likely to be inspired by it as well, and it’s really just a matter of you serving as their guide and helping them have that same experience that you had, and just picking a simple, straightforward lesson, decide what it is you want somebody to learn when they visit your EarthCache location.

0:20:28.6 MD: And do your research, you don’t need to become an expert in the area’s geology, you don’t need to write a dissertation or to have done extensive research, but get yourself well-versed and use the resources that are available. There are a lot of great resources out there about earth science. Earlier I mentioned organizations that are commonly called geological surveys, here in the United States, we have the US Geological Survey that serves the country as a whole, but most, if not all states have a geological survey or an organization like it that publish geological maps and reports and other sorts of resources about an area’s geology. Sometimes it can get a little bit technical, but there are often resources that are really designed for wide consumption by the greater public. And here in the United States, there’s a publisher called Mountain Press and other publishers, better kind of like them, that put out really good books with maps and background information about about the geology of in different states and regions. And again, there are the equivalent of these sorts of resources in other countries around the world.

0:21:45.6 MD: So identify what those resources are. Local universities can also be a great resource, many, many universities have geology departments or earth science and environmental science departments, and they may have some information online or have public presentations periodically about various topics within the earth sciences. So get yourself educated. But again, don’t feel like you need to have a master’s degree or a PhD in the area’s geology before creating an EarthCache. The program really is designed for the general public, and somebody who is relatively new to earth science, I think is well suited to making an EarthCache because they’re kind of exploring and learning alongside of the folks that are coming and visiting the location too. So don’t be intimidated.

0:22:34.4 CR: Well, you’ve inspired me, and those are some great tips. So kind of as we wrap up here, I think we can talk about this program forever, but in respect of your time, again, looking back 20 years at this program… And I know you weren’t there for the very beginning, but you’ve been there for most of it, it must be… I don’t know, there must be a lot of pride that comes for the GSA, and as you mentioned, the so many reviewers that have… The volunteers that have helped over the course of the years that when I look at that map and I see all those dots all over the world that each one of them representing a really interesting lesson about geology and earth science, it must be a really great feeling for you and everyone else at the GSA.

0:23:23.5 MD: You nailed it, it’s an awesome feeling, and I’m always blown away when I see how many EarthCaches there are, and where they are and how they really are anywhere. And I wanna give a big thanks to you and the other folks at geocaching.com for being so supportive of this partnership over the years and for helping to make EarthCache program what it is today. It’s also been amazing to see how far geocaching has come and the progress it’s made over the years. And again, there are geocachers and EarthCachers everywhere. GSA holds professional conferences in the spring, regional conferences and a large national, really international annual conference every fall, and before traveling to those events, I always go online and look up what EarthCachers are in the area, and then we publicize those to our members who are attending the conference and without fail, wherever our events are taking place, there are some really great and interesting EarthCaches in those areas, whether it’s Anaheim California, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Vancouver, Canada a few years ago, and just great EarthCaches everywhere. I’m always impressed by what people in the community are coming up with.

0:24:36.3 CR: Well, here’s to another 20 years and yeah, and it’s always great talking to you about EarthCaches and really appreciate your time with us and we’ll look forward to seeing where the program goes from here.

0:24:50.5 MD: Well, thanks a lot, Chris, and again, thanks for inviting me to join you in this conversation today, and thanks again for all the support that you and your colleagues at geocaching.com have given to this great source of earth science outreach over the years. Thank you.

0:25:08.1 CR: That was Matt Dawson from the Geological Society of America. You can read more about the EarthCache program on the GSA’s website, and we’ve got that new blog post out this week on the Geocaching blog about the EarthCache Program, and those suggestions that we are making to EarthCache creators. Remember, if you’ve got an idea for our podcast or any feedback about it, we are all ears via email at podcast@geocaching.com. That is podcast@geocaching.com. Thanks again to Matt Dawson for chatting with me and on behalf of myself and all the other lackeys at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.

Ep 64: New logging flow on Geocaching.com

HQ recently released a new geocache and trackable logging experience on Geocaching.com. Jessica and Ari from HQ’s Product team are here to talk about what’s new and improved!

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. 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
Ep 64: New logging flow on Geocaching.com
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Inside Geocaching HQ transcript (episode 64): New logging flow on Geocaching.com

(link to podcast)

[music]

0:00:12.3 Chris Ronan: Hello there and welcome to Inside Geocaching HQ where we talk about what is happening at HQ in Seattle. I’m Chris Ronan or Rock Chalk on my Geocaching account. Thank you for having a listen to our podcast. If you have logged a geocache or a trackable on geocaching.com in recent days, then you have experienced the new logging flow that we released in early November. Today I catch up with Jessica and Ari from HQ’s product team to cover some of what’s new in that logging flow. Let’s get to it.

[music]

0:00:52.5 CR: We are talking about the new geocache and trackable logging flow on geocaching.com, and I rounded up a couple of experts on this topic. I’ve got Jessica and Ari from HQ’s product team. So before we get into all the fun of telling people about this project, we’ll start by reintroducing you to everybody. You’ve both been on the podcast at different times, but for people that for whatever reason may have missed those, I can’t believe they did. They should rewind and listen to them because they were great when you guys were on before, but let’s tell everybody what you’re doing now, what your title is at HQ and what your day-to-day is like. And Jessica, I’ll start with you.

0:01:36.8 Jessica Randall: Awesome. Thank you, Chris. Jessica Randall, I’m a senior product designer and I primarily work on the website, so geocaching.com. And my day-to-day is working with the engineers and the product managers, looking at feedback from the community, deep diving into various projects and discussions, making wireframes and workflows. That’s a very quick summary of what I do.

0:02:14.5 CR: And can you beat that, Ari? That all sounds pretty exciting.

[laughter]

0:02:18.1 Ari Mendelson: Yeah, let’s see. My name is Ari, Geocaching username is Ari54321. Folks might recognize me on the podcast from two years ago when I came on to discuss GIFT. So I actually recently moved from the community team, which is where I was when I organized GIFT a couple of years ago, but the last year and a half or so, I had been working on Adventure Lab customer support, and now I’ve moved over to the product management team. So my new position is associate product owner for the web. So that means I’m working with Jessica pretty extensively on projects, but my general role is to help team one, which is one of our web development teams, to help prioritize work that we’re working on next, so prioritizing what new features we’re going to build, making sure that bugs are fixed, and there’s a whole long list of things that I can’t remember off the top of my head, but lots of collaboration with product designers, with our community team, and yeah, helping to shape the future of the website.

0:03:24.5 CR: And so you were both very involved in this project that we’re going to be talking about today, the new logging flow on the website on geocaching.com. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, for people that maybe haven’t read the release notes, and please feel free to do that, go to the Geocaching forums, read the release notes where there’s all the detail you can handle about this project. What’s the Reader’s Digest version of what this is about and what people will find when they start using this new logging flow? And I’ll let either one of you tackle that big question.

0:04:02.4 JR: I’ll start first and then you can kind of jump in, Ari. One of the big things is a consistent UI, user interface. So behaviors are the same across the whole entire logging flow project. So that’s for geocaching and trackables, like you mentioned. And it was also about getting rid of some technical debt, which is older system code that is just part of creating products. Things get outdated and then eventually we just need to kind of take the initiative to update the code bases and put things together. One of the things that folks probably, some probably had experience with, but the logging experience was, there was an older UI and then there was half of a newer one and I think that was updated in 2017. And then there was a way to kind of go back and forth, but then there was also a different system that the trackables was on. So we really wanted to kind of clean this up and put them all in one spot, which helps us do things faster in the future and try things out a lot easier because we’re only messing with one code base. Yeah.

0:05:21.7 CR: So yeah, that’s something I’ve seen people talking about in the community a little bit is I think some people have gotten used to the fact that they could, “Hey, I can opt out, I could go back and use this,” and people saying, “Why can’t you just keep having that?” Just keep having that opt out and I can always go back to the one that I’m used to. I think we’ve talked about this before, Jessica, on the previous podcast that I did with you. But for people that didn’t hear, why is that important to not have two different systems there that, the one that, “Hey, I don’t want to change. I like what I’m using. I don’t want to do this new thing.” Why can’t we just do it that way?

0:06:01.6 JR: Yeah. I mean, there is definitely a want to keep things unchanged. There’s the phrase, if it’s not broken, why try to change it or fix it? But really it becomes because we had, there was literally three or even four, I don’t even know that much, that would be an engineering ask, maybe Ari knows. There was like four different code stacks that all of this logging flow experience lived on, so it took a lot longer when we updated something. And we’ll get more into this, but there was an example when we had the date, when you selected a date on the geocaching log and we had to update that and take that away from the new experience. And there was a lot of folks asking why, especially because it was still in the trackable logging flow. Well, that was because they lived on two different code bases. And so we could update it and were compliant when we removed it from the geocaching logging flow, and we didn’t need to for the trackable. And the goal for a product is always to kind of be in this one location, clean space, because again, it makes things move faster. We can update quicker. And so that opt-out banner, I’ll admit I wasn’t here during that time, but we’ve implemented some of that before.

0:07:27.8 JR: And usually it’s when we’re trying things out and giving our users some time to kind of do the transition, because I think that was ultimately the goal in 2017 was to go back and move everything back. But change takes time. [laughter] And we had different priorities. So it was just something we prioritized this last year to get that all in one location. And so the opt-out banner was seen as a feature, but honestly it was limiting because it meant that our code… Like, those pages still lived in different code stacks. So it was more complicated when we wanted to make a change. And for the folks that did use both, there was definitely inconsistency between the two. And so we’re trying to eliminate that where possible. Ari, do you have anything to add?

0:08:20.6 AM: Yeah, I think another thing that we really tried to do was take the best of both worlds from both of those old logging experiences, because there were really good reasons that some people stuck with the older flow, some people preferred the newer ones for specific features that we had added to that 2017 version. And so with this new flow we kind of combined all the best features of both so that hopefully everyone has a better experience. It’s a little bit of a change in the experience as far as, maybe the button moved a little bit or something like that. But ultimately, there are lots of new features that people hopefully will be excited about.

0:09:01.4 CR: Yeah, let’s talk about the new features a little bit, Ari. So what is top of mind for you? I mean, I don’t know, we can list them all if you want to, but what are some of the ones that you think are the most valuable to users?

0:09:16.1 AM: One of the big ones is the pinned date feature. So, for a long time, we had a sort of sticky date. So it would remember if you’re going back and logging a whole bunch of geocaches that you logged on a previous date, it would remember the date from log to log. But now the user can actually control it. So there’s a little thumbtack icon where you can pin the date or unpin it. And that allows players to customize their experience. So if they want to use that feature, they can, or they can opt out now, which caused some confusion before when people didn’t know that the date was sticky. I know I’ve gotten confused by it before. Like, “Why is it using this other date?” “Oh, I forgot I had logged this other thing.” So now I can prevent that from happening with the new pinned date feature. I’m also excited that the maximum log text is now 5,000 characters instead of 4,000. That’s great for me because I love writing long logs.

0:10:11.0 CR: Oh geez.

0:10:13.4 AM: And now I have even more space for my crates.

[laughter]

0:10:18.2 CR: Oh no, you’re killing me. You’re killing me. For people like me that were on our GPS’s, we’re scrolling through the logs looking for a little hint from somebody’s log, and we got to scroll through now a 5,000 word log to get to the next one that might have something in there that we need. So thanks a lot, Ari.

[laughter]

0:10:36.3 AM: Guilty as charged.

[laughter]

0:10:41.8 AM: I’ll send you a list of some other folks. I know they do that. So you can send us all an email with your complaints perhaps.

0:10:45.2 CR: Oh, believe me. I’ve already got the list.

[laughter]

0:10:48.3 AM: Oh yeah, that’s true.

[laughter]

0:10:53.4 CR: Okay. So yeah, so you like that. So what else do you like?

0:10:57.8 AM: Another huge improvement is in the image uploading and editing. Now users can upload images while they’re writing their log and you can go in and add all of your image details, image name. You can also rotate. So that used to only be possible after you had submitted the log, after you had uploaded the image, then you could go edit it. Now you can do all of that while you’re logging. So there’s no need anymore to open up your log and upload images later or open up your log and rotate your images later. You can do it all right when you’re submitting a log in the first place, is a lot of really great, great future.

0:11:35.5 AM: Another big thing which we just had a blog post about is we have now renamed the Needs Maintenance and Needs Archive logs. So those are now Owner Attention Requested and Reviewer Attention Requested. So that’s another… I think really closing the loop. We’ve changed that in a lot of places in the app and website, but now it’s changed everywhere. And so that should hopefully give a lot of people more clarity as to what those log types really mean, should encourage people hopefully to use them more.

0:12:02.6 CR: Yeah, we could probably do a whole episode about about that change and what it might mean for the community. I think that Needs Archives became this… People saw that and thought, “Oh, if I use this, that’s the death knell for a geocache,” and not really understanding that there was more to it. If you posted that log, it didn’t just automatically mean the cache was going to get archived. It meant… Well, it meant the same thing it means now. It meant that a reviewer was going to see it and they take a look at things. And same thing with Owner Attention Requests as opposed to Needs Maintenance. Yeah. I think that’s… I hope it’ll be a good change. I’ve seen some conversation in the community, mostly very positive. Some folks thinking, “Oh, it’s not going to make a difference,” but well, let’s see. Let’s see if it makes a difference before we pass judgment on it.

0:12:52.3 CR: And Ari, as you were talking about photos, it made me think of one of the topics that I’ve seen the community talking about, which is the limit on file sizes when you upload photo. And when this new log flow was released, the limit was five megabytes. And I think an example of how the team listens to community feedback and there’s already been some changes, and one of those is with this file upload limit. So can you talk about where that’s going to be going? Don’t know if it’s already going to be out by the time we publish this podcast, but it is going to be happening at some point.

0:13:28.9 AM: As I think probably most listeners of this podcast knows, serving the communities at the heart of everything we do at HQ, it’s what really keeps us going. And so of course, as part of a big release like this one, we keep close track of all the feedback that we get from the community. And this was really one of the biggest things that people asked me, “Why can I only upload five megabyte images now?” And so after some research, we realized we can raise it a little higher. So we’ll be raising the limit to 10 megabytes. There are a few other changes that we’re monitoring feedback for. And so as with any big project we’ll make sure that everything stays working, well, indefinitely. But listening to feedback for a little minor tweaks that we can make even after releasing.

0:14:13.0 CR: One thing I’ll point out to people if they haven’t been in the release notes thread in our Geocaching forums is that you will see that Ari is in there pretty regularly answering questions, providing some great information, and I think, again, just demonstrating that you and I’m sure Jessica and others on the team are reading the feedback there, and I have to imagine there are a variety of other outlets that you are keeping an eye on to get suggestions and feedback from the community as they are using this product.

0:14:44.7 JR: Oh yeah, I’m on forums, I’m on the social medias, I’m on Reddit. I am usually producing any sort of community feedback where I can get it. It helps my job of advocating for our users and our players and making sure that we’re building things that they can use and that they want.

0:15:05.5 CR: So you guys as players, because I know you both are geocachers as well, so as players kind of putting on your player hat, what do you like about this new logging flow as opposed to the various flows that we have in the past? Now that you’re using the new logging flow as players, what do you find that you like about it so far?

0:15:26.1 JR: I really do like the pin date. That was something I didn’t actually know was a thing. That was one of those confusing behaviors that I didn’t realize, so now seeing that, I like that. I also like being able to see a preview of our logs. That was something that lived on the older UI, but not… So I like being able to do that. And being able to format my logs, that has been cool ’cause now I can add emojis and add a little bit more to my logs when I’m logging. Those are some of my favorite things.

0:15:58.6 AM: I won’t mention the 5,000 character thing again, but…

0:16:03.7 CR: Thank you Ari for that. Appreciate it.

[laughter]

0:16:04.3 JR: As you mention it.

0:16:05.4 AM: If I casually drop it back in the conversation. My favorite… Actually, one of my favorite things as a player is going in and editing logs on my phone, because it used to be when you want to edit a former log, one of my old logs, you’d have to go into the very old page, which is not optimized for mobile. So it’s like a desktop web page. You can zoom in on your phone as if you’re looking at a big monitor, but on your tiny device. No longer. Now with the new logging flow, it’s that one consistent experience is optimized for mobile. And so when I go into edit old logs, it’s a beautiful and seamless experience. And that’s really one of my favorite experience things. I also personally love, and this is another kind of new feature we haven’t touched on yet, is we removed the report a problem feature that was part of the 2017 logging flow and that would automatically generate what we now call owner attention requested or reviewer attention requested log, which didn’t have any details in it. So cache owners or reviewers would have to look at the find log to see what the issue was. Now I can go in and I can submit those log types separately and detail exactly what the issue is that requires the owner attention or the reviewers attention. So that’s another personal favorite of mine.

0:17:27.3 JR: Yeah, one of the things that I also like, I like that if I make a log, I’ll get a message from the person that deleted it as to why. So that was something that we’ve added is the ability for a admin or the cache owner to write a message to the log owner when they delete a log if it contains a spoiler or something else. And so now we’ll be able to communicate a little bit more because maybe they just didn’t know. And I like the thought of our cache owners helping out our community and letting them have reasons of what happened.

0:18:08.4 CR: Yeah, I’ve seen people talking about that in various places too that they like that that’s there because if you had a log deleted before and you were like, “Well, what did I do? Did I say something wrong? Did I… ” And you really had no idea. And so it is really great. For me, one thing I’ve noticed is that I was just so used to the old system and I was so used to the various… It turns out, extra steps that you had to do at times, finish your log, then you’d upload a photo separately. Or like Ari was saying, if you wanted to edit, rotate a photo or just various things, it was always an extra step. And I was so used to it that it just never occurred to me that that was a big deal. And now… Or I’m looking at the collapsible sections again, never occurred to me that those were taken up a lot of real estate on the page. And now I’m like, “Oh, they’re not, I can collapse those and they don’t take up as much real estate.” So there’s stuff that as I’m using it, I’m just kind of realizing, “Wow, I was doing a lot more work before that I don’t have to do now.” And that’s a really nice thing.

0:19:15.0 JR: Yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up. ‘Cause that is one of the things that I really strive for when we’re redesigning or like marrying two pages together, is reducing steps. And usually, yes, people, I spoke on this last time I was here, hate change. They don’t enjoy it because when you have a flow that you’re just do consistently or daily, weekly, it becomes second nature. And it’s just a rhythm. It’s like, “Da, da, da, da, da. I’m going to do it. These are my steps. I go through step one to 10.” And then when somebody takes three steps away from you and then you’re like, “Wait, now I have to go to one to seven.” Then it’s confusing. But then eventually you’ll learn, you’ll use it enough where you’re like, “Oh yeah, okay, this is cooler or this is an improved workflow.” And so that’s something that I really do strive for. I really, I enjoy it when people notice how much kind of… How much more time… Or not more time… How much more time they get back. But that’s what we’re saying, but how much time a process takes has been reduced by kind of just this improvement and how you can easily be able to find things in the future even though they may have changed a little bit, but you’ll get to it. And then it’ll become second nature again.

0:20:39.4 CR: So as you’ve both been and as the team has been watching feedback from the community in various places, what are you hearing the most from folks? I mean, we don’t have to go through all of it, but are there any themes that are coming across from the feedback that you’re seeing so far from the community?

0:21:00.8 JR: One of the things that I’ve noticed in the feedback that we’ve gotten is the fact that the submit button with a post button is now kind of not in view in the UI. And that’s because we’ve actually added in a preview section and there’s just a little bit more information in the UI. So it naturally has kind of gone below but if you collapse those kinds of previews or your trackable section it should get back up into the main view. I just thought that was a really interesting feedback that folks got.

0:21:37.0 AM: That reminds me of a number of… I’ve seen sort of a theme in some of feedback of things that seem like a worse user experience but are actually better when you consider all the different ways that people use the tool. And that’s part of what made this such a big project, which I think you probably know better than I do Jessica because you’ve been working on it longer. The logging flow is used for so many different reasons. So from a player perspective, log and finds DNFs need maintenance from a cache owner perspective, archiving of cache, disabling event announcements from a reviewer perspective, reviewers publish caches, they disable caches, they post reviewer notes. And so there are many, many, many different ways that people use it.

0:22:23.7 AM: And so in some cases like that post button example, the post button was way down at the bottom of the page. If you have 20,000 trackables, that would also be the case in the old logging flow because that long list of trackables would also push it down but now you can collapse it. So that’s a plus. But also if someone doesn’t have any trackables then that’s not feedback we’ve heard from them because it’s not pushing their post button down. And so it’s always very interesting to me to hear all the different feedback from different use cases. And because there are so many different people that use the logging flow there are always going to be little things that we missed here and there. Thankfully, we didn’t miss any major issues though. So that’s really the great news about this kind of logging.

0:23:12.1 CR: Is there anything either one of you would like people to know that we haven’t talked about about this project or maybe you can tell people how to get feedback if they’d like to do that? Just kind of any last thoughts as we kind of wrap things up here.

0:23:24.9 JR: One of the things that I’m also really proud about for this site is the view geocache log, like the details page. It wasn’t something that I was actually really well aware of before this project. I never went to go see a single logs page. I just look at in the activity feed. And so that was a fun redesign and it looks like a lot better in the sense of where things are and button management, and we’ve added just some labels to the page. And I’m really proud of that page. As far as giving feedback, we’d love to go on the forums where, like we said, we’re monitoring those. If you make a mention on social media, I’ll probably see it somewhere.

0:24:10.1 AM: In general, if you experience any bugs or anything, whether it’s on the logging flow or not, I always recommend people kind of restart their system. If you’re in a web browser, clear your cache, things like that. And if those don’t work, feel free to write in to our help center as well. ‘Cause sometimes those reports are really helpful in helping us see if there is a bug that’s widespread.

0:24:34.1 JR: Another good tip is to always make sure your browser is up to date.

0:24:37.1 AM: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. That’s part of the benefit of this release is the new logging flow is built on really modern web technology. And the only disadvantage of that is you have to have a recent web browser. So if you’ve been waiting to update your web browser for whatever reason, never a bad idea to update it.

0:24:56.6 CR: So if you haven’t used it yet, then you haven’t been logging anything the last several days. So get out there and use it, start logging your caches and your trackables, and test this new system out. I really appreciate you guys taking some time to talk about it. And I’m sure that you’ll be looking forward to hearing more about what the community has to say about this whole thing.

0:25:15.3 JR: Yeah. Thank you so much for having us. I really enjoy talking about these bigger projects that we’re on, and when we finally get to share them with the community.

0:25:27.4 AM: Yeah. Thank you so much for hosting us. Keep the feedback coming everyone. We really, really appreciate you.

[music]

0:25:36.5 CR: That was Ari and Jessica from HQ’s product team. Now we referenced an earlier episode where Jessica was on and she talked about her role as a senior product designer. That was episode 58 back in January. You can find and listen to that one and learn more about what goes into designing products like the logging flow. And if there is a topic that you would like us to discuss on inside HQ, just drop me a line podcast@geocaching.com is our address. Thank you for listening from Jessica and Ari and me and all the lackeys at geocaching HQ, happy caching.