Inside Geocaching HQ Transcript (Episode 26): Mystery at the Museum, Virtual Rewards 2.0 update, 20th Anniversary Celebration, geocaching etiquette

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00:13 Chris Ronan: Hello everybody, welcome to Inside Geocaching HQ, our podcast from Seattle. I am Chris Ronan, my user name is Rock Chalk. You might know me from my breaking news reporting on HQTV. And if that doesn’t make sense now, it will in just a few minutes. On this show, we will hear from two of my fellow lackeys, Cindy Potter is back for an update on Virtual Rewards 2.0, as well as news about next year’s 20th anniversary celebration, and to talk about our recent blog articles on geocaching etiquette. But first, Brigitte from the marketing department is here to chat about Mystery at the Museum, which begins on July 11th. Here we go.

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01:06 CR: Well, Brigitte, you’ve been here at HQ for how long now?

01:11 Brigitte: Two-and-a-half years.

01:11 CR: And you avoided the podcast until now.

01:14 BC: I did manage to do that.

01:15 CR: You did manage. That was impressive. Some people… I think your fellow teammates on the marketing team, Annika and Audrey, they’ve both been on at least once, each of them, maybe multiple times, and somehow you’ve managed to just stay on the outskirts.

01:31 BC: Is this a new record?

01:33 CR: No, there’s lots of people that are still hiding in corners and closets, and… In fact, Mario just walked by. Mario is one of our engineers, and he came in and asked what was going on, and I said, “Oh we’re doing the podcast, and he was very interested, and I said, “We’ll have to get you on here sometime.” And he said, “Oh no, no, no, no, no. I can’t, I couldn’t do that.

01:54 BC: Well, I’ll have to get some tips from him on how he’s avoided it. [chuckle]

01:58 CR: I think he avoids it by not making… It’s not like I can tell that he’s hiding. He comes in, he acts interested, and then he just demurs, and goes off.

02:11 BC: Interesting.

02:12 CR: I told him that our French Canadian listeners would be very interested to hear what he has to say, as a person of French Canadian background. [chuckle]

02:22 BC: Well, you’ve got a half-French Canadian sitting on the other side of the table right now.

02:27 CR: Really?

02:28 BC: Yeah.

02:29 CR: Well, now I don’t have to talk to Mario. [chuckle] You’ll just…

02:31 BC: [chuckle] He’s off the hook.

[chuckle]

02:33 CR: He’s off the hook now. Well, okay, so you’ve been here for two and half years. What kind of things do you do at HQ?

02:40 BC: I’m on the marketing team, and I do product and content marketing, which primarily involves sending the weekly Logbook Newsletter to premium members, and the Geocaching Monthly Newsletter to our free players. And I work with our product teams. Any time they have any updates or new features, help communicate those.

03:01 CR: So you are in the know?

03:01 BC: I like to think so.

03:03 CR: Most of the team… Yeah, and people that… Even if they haven’t heard your… Heard of you until now, or heard your… Certainly heard your voice, they almost… They do kind of know you, whether they realize it or not. They’ve read a lot of stuff that you’ve written and put together.

03:16 BC: Yeah, that’s true. There’s a lot of people who get things that I’ve written in their inbox every week.

03:21 CR: That’s a little creepy. That’s, uh…

03:22 BC: Yeah it is, when you say it like that.

[laughter]

03:26 CR: Okay well, today we’re talking about Mystery at the Museum, the new summer… What are we calling it? A promotion, a challenge? What’s the correct terminology for what we do during the summer time?

03:39 BC: We kinda go back and forth between either a summer promotion or a summer souvenir challenge.

03:43 CR: Okay, so one of those things, this… [chuckle] Mystery at the…

03:45 BC: Yeah, promotion. [chuckle]

03:47 CR: Right. [chuckle] Mystery at the Museum. What is it? Give us the scoop on this promotion.

03:53 BC: Mystery at the Museum is themed around the biggest jewel heist in history. So we’re asking geocachers to go out and act as detectives, search for clues, by finding geo-caches. And you’re trying to recover these stolen gems before you can return them to the museum vaults. But of course, there is a snag, because the vault combination was changed by the thieves, and they…

04:17 CR: There’s always a snag.

04:18 BC: There always is. You know, can’t make it too easy. [chuckle] And so, the code to the vault has been hidden throughout the campaign, so geocachers will have to discover what that is as they move through the promotion.

04:31 CR: You mentioned clues. What are clues? I mean, I…

04:34 BC: Clues?

04:35 CR: [chuckle] I’m not a moron, I know what a clue is. What are clues in relation to Mystery at the Museum? [chuckle]

04:40 BC: That’s a valid question, because clues are new to geocaching and they’re essentially a digital artifact that is placed in a geocache. So it’s not a physical item, like a trackable or a swag would be. But when you log certain geocaches, you will acquire a piece… Or a clue, which is a digital icon that will fill in on the Mystery at the Museum page.

05:02 CR: So, for people that might be used to… There have been a few times in the past when the leader board has been used for the summer promotions. This is a new thing, this is a new way to do it. Leader board, not involved. We’re using this new thing, and calling it “clues”.

05:17 BC: Yes, yeah. So leader board is not involved this time around. I’m sure it will be back in the future, but Mystery at the Museum has a, it’s… A whole new landing page, and all new clues.

05:28 CR: Well, it sounds like a big project. When does your team start thinking about what’s gonna happen during the summer?

05:36 BC: Well, we’re always trying to dream up what’s next, but the main summer planning usually starts at the beginning of the year. That’s because we’ve now had time to see how the past campaigns from the prior year have done, any feedback from the community, and we can start figuring out what’s next, and how to up-level that. So definitely beginning of the year, and it gets more and more ramped-up the closer we get.

05:57 CR: So let’s go back to last summer. You get to the end of the promotion, which was the hidden creatures. What does the team do, in terms of looking at how the promotion went, and trying to have some… I’m sure discussion about, like you said, what went right, what went wrong. What kind of things is the team looking at to determine if a promotion was successful, and if the community had a good time with it?

06:22 BC: I think the most important feedback is actually anecdotal, coming from the community, whether they’re saying it over social media or blog posts, if they’re writing in to us. And then after each promotion, we also send out a survey to those who participated in them, to get a feel for, “Was this really challenging for you, or too easy, or did we get it just right? And then we look at all of that and try and figure out what to do again. So for Hidden Creatures, while there’s a lot of positive feedback, we asked the community to find a lot of geocaches, and we all know that quantity over quality is not always the best way to do things. So for this year, we tried to even that out with a focus on cache quality.

07:04 CR: You talked a little bit about the nuts and bolts of Mystery at the Museum, and how… It sounds like there’s a lot of people that are involved in putting something like this together. Exactly what does that look like, when you start putting these pieces in place? How many teams, how many people are we talking about at HQ?

07:23 BC: Mystery at the Museum involved almost every team at HQ. It was a big effort. And so, it really started off with the community teams, marketing of course, design, both creative and product design, and our product and engineering teams. We all got in one room, had a big brainstorm of what could we do this summer that would be new and different and exciting, but still true to the heart of geocaching. I mean, we all kinda feel like detectives when we’re out there searching for our geocaches. So the theme seemed to resonate well. And then from there, it’s figuring out, “What can we actually build within this time-frame of several months?” And from there, it’s the creative team making all the creative assets for the theme, it’s the marketing team writing all of the content, and it’s the engineering actually building out the pages that you’ll see, in the app and on the website. So we all start in one room, and then it just spreads out from there.

08:16 CR: You mention that many people at the company are involved in some way or another, but it’s not as though people are putting down everything else they’re doing and working only on one project. Everybody’s got a lot of different stuff to do, and this is just one of those things. Right? So I would think it would be a challenge to try to identify something that is exciting, but also is reasonable in with everything else that folks are trying to do with their jobs.

08:44 BC: Absolutely, it’s definitely a balance every year, trying to figure out something really cool for the summertime, but also all the other responsibilities that we have here. But I think so far, we’ve found a pretty good balance.

08:55 CR: It’s always interesting for me, as I look at social media or I look at emails that come in, or look at the blog, and listen to people talking about the summer promotion. Inevitably, you’ll get some folks that say, “This was too hard.” You’ll get some people that say it’s too easy. Which I think is probably good, that you’re hearing both of those things, because it probably means that you’re hitting it right in the middle there, but that’s something your team takes into account, right? Is trying to find a way to appeal to as many people as possible, even though it’s not necessarily possible that 100% cover everybody. [chuckle]

09:34 BC: Yeah, that’s right, this is probably one of the more challenging aspects, because we want our promotions to be accessible enough for newer players so they feel accomplished when they’re moving through the promotion. But we also wanted to have a nod to the geocachers that are more active every day, and how can we keep them intrigued and satisfied and challenged. So it’s hard to find that place in the middle, but we’re hoping… Every time we do a promotion, it’s an experiment to see if we’re getting closer to that mark.

10:04 CR: [chuckle] One of the neat things for me is to see the design work that comes out of the summer promotions, whether it’s Hidden Creatures or 31 Days or anything, and just seeing what will be on the web page, and oftentimes in Geocoins and tags and that kind of stuff. Who are the folks that put that together?

10:22 BC: Nathan and Roxie get all of the credit for designing all of the promotional assets. They’re a great duo that does a lot of the artwork that you’ll see throughout the emails and social media. They are the ones that really bring a promotion to life, in terms of how they want the art to feel, and how you feel when you see it, and the time period, and all the little details. And if there’s any hidden messages in the souvenirs, they are the ones that are the masterminds behind all of that.

10:51 CR: How much direction do you give them when you start working on the design of this stuff? Is it just the title of it, or do you give them more specifics about how the promotion’s gonna work before they go off and put their creativity to work?

11:06 BC: It varies a little bit every time. They’re usually in the room when we do our initial brainstorm for a promotion. And from there, they usually have a pretty distinct point of view already, that we love. But if there’s… If it’s a little too broad or something, then we’ll turn to Pinterest and make a Pinterest board with a bunch of designs that kind of have the aesthetic that we’re looking for, and then they’ll just take that and run, and everything turns out amazing.

[chuckle]

11:32 CR: Speaking of creative people, you had a couple of amazing television talents. Award-winning one might say? I’ve heard it said, but I don’t know, that might be going too far. I might be biased, I don’t know, but HQTV…

11:49 BC: Yes.

11:49 CR: Made its… I don’t know if it was its debut. I haven’t seen HQTV in action, but maybe it was around before. But it’s been a while if it was around before. And Gia Coin, the anchor…

12:02 BC: Yes, lead anchor.

12:04 CR: Very impressive stuff. And then you had some breaking news that was being reported.

12:09 BC: Yeah, well, we can’t forget our lead anchor in the field, Chris Ronan, also true talent. [chuckle]

12:15 CR: Your words.

12:16 BC: Yeah. No, but we couldn’t have done it without Geocoin, and our anchor in the field. HQTV was a fun idea that we came up with as a way to kind of give a sneak peak of what Mystery at the Museum might be. In the past, we’ve led people to a landing page or a blog post that had at some teaser information on it, but we wanted to do something different this time. And with the biggest jewel heist in history, it seemed like that would be the sort of stuff that would be breaking news. So, we dreamed up this video, and we weren’t sure if we would actually be able to get our in-house talent to agree to it, but sure enough, that was an easy yes.

[laughter]

12:57 CR: Easy might be a stretch, but it was a…

13:00 BC: Oh, well, it was…

13:00 CR: It was a yes.

13:00 BC: It was a yes. [chuckle]

13:01 CR: It was a yes, that’s right.

13:02 BC: And then we worked with our community team, who did an awesome job with recording all of the video and sound, and editing and laying over all of the assets to create a fun breaking news video.

13:17 CR: [chuckle] Okay, so when does Mystery at the Museum get going, and how long does it run for, and where can people get more information?

13:23 BC: Yeah, Mystery at the Museum begins on July 11th at noon UTC, and it runs through August 11th, so it’s just over four weeks long, easy dates to remember. You can find more information at mysteryatthemuseum.com or on our blog or social media channels.

13:40 CR: I didn’t know we had a website for… Like an actual URL, that’s great.

13:42 BC: Yeah, fancy this time.

13:44 CR: I’m surprised that was available. Mysteryatthemuseum.com…

13:46 BC: Me too. Yeah, but we swiped that one up. It was pretty affordable.

13:50 CR: Nice work. That’s really cool. Easy to remember too. I’m excited, that…

13:53 BC: Yeah. And then once the promotion gets started, you’ll be able to find it in the geocaching app, on iOS and Android and also from the dashboard on geocaching.com.

[music]

14:08 CR: That was Brigitte, from Geocaching HQ’s marketing department. Go to mysteryatthemuseum.com for more information. Next up, Cindy Potter, who is HQ’s Director of Community. We had her on a recent episode, to introduce Virtual Rewards 2.0… She’ll have an update on that. We will also talk about the geocaching 20th anniversary celebration, which is scheduled for August 15th, 2020, here in Seattle. And we will touch on the recent geocaching etiquette articles that we shared on the geocaching blog. Well, Cindy, last time we joked about how we only bring you on to talk about virtuals. We’re gonna talk about virtuals.

14:53 Cindy Potter: Oh, good.

14:53 CR: But first, we’re gonna talk about other stuff. So recently, it was announced that next year there will be a big party here in Seattle, the Geocaching 20th Anniversary Celebration. And we haven’t had a chance to talk about it here on our podcast, so let’s talk about it. What’s happening, for people that have been under a rock and haven’t heard the big news? [chuckle]

15:16 CP: [chuckle] Right. Yeah well, first off, it’s very exciting for us to finally announce it, because it’s been something we’ve been wanting to do and to commit to for a while, because the 20th anniversary is a really exciting time period. So as you said, it’s the Geocaching 20th Anniversary Celebration that’s gonna happen August 15th, 2020 at Seattle Center. And it’s gonna be similar to what we’ve hosted before, a block party, but it’s actually gonna be at a larger venue, and hopefully a venue that’s really easy for tourists. It’ll be really close to hotels and other fun things that are happening downtown.

15:52 CR: You mentioned it being like Block Party. The last Block Party was in 2015, and there was a lot of consternation about that going away, both here and then in the community. We loved having it, it was a lot of fun. The community loved to come. Maybe recap a little bit for people that weren’t around back then, or maybe they’ve forgotten why it was decided that Block Party would not happen on an annual basis.

16:19 CP: Right. Well, when we had first started it, we hadn’t really expected that it was gonna be something that happened annually, it sort of just happened…

16:27 CR: And it started back in 2010.

16:29 CP: Yes, sorry. It started in 2010 with the Lost and Found celebration. And then we did keep it going for a while, but it got to this point where it was using a lot of staff time and resources. And generally, there were new people that would come for sure, but there were kind of some regulars that would come each year, and we felt like it was probably better for us to be spending staff time on bigger things that the entire community could enjoy, and focusing on mega events, and supporting those events that are happening all over the world instead of the one that’s just in Seattle. But in the back of our minds, of course, we always knew we wanted to host an event at some point again.

17:11 CR: And of course, a big anniversary like this is a great reason to do it. Twenty years of geocaching, next year. There will be a lot of details, obviously, coming in the months ahead. But one of the things that, as we have now published the cache page as… When this runs, we will have published the cache page, that people will notice the cache type for this event. And also, we have a blog post where we’re explaining another cache type, that will be returning in 2020. Let’s talk about that a little bit, ’cause that’s kind of exciting.

17:47 CP: Sure. So we were looking at the icons that are available on Geocaching.com, and of course there was the Lost and Found event icons, before there was the Groundspeak Lost and Found Celebration, and then the Lost and Found event cache type. And both of those were brought out in 2010 to celebrate the anniversary, the 10-year anniversary of Geocaching. And I think that it was all done with good intent. We thought, “This is great. Let’s have a cache type.” But we didn’t necessarily brand it in a way that made it obvious that it could be used every 10 years. And so we’re looking at that and thinking, “Well sure, yeah, you could make a new cache type. But why would you make a new cache type, and leave this thing that no one can ever get again, when its intent was to celebrate an anniversary. So we thought, rather than having dual icons and still having something that is basically extinct, we thought it would be better to rebrand that. The Lost and Found was always a bit confusing both in English and in other languages, since we mostly find things, we don’t normally lose them in geo-caching. So I we are re-branding at that name of the formerly non-ground speak loss and found celebration. It’s going to be titled Geocaching HQ celebration, so that’s an icon that we can use every 10 years. And then for the community events, we will be taking the Lost and Found event cache type and changing that to be community celebration event.

19:21 CR: So somebody that did attend the big party in 2010, they’ve got that one next to that in their stats so if they come next year it’ll be two.

19:32 CP: Exactly they’ll be a two. And if they attended the community events, maybe they attended only one in the past, or maybe the attended none because many of them were in the US, a few in Europe, but there are many, many players that never had a chance to attend one of those events. So we’re hoping that this will feel more inclusive for the whole community and build some excitement about revisiting this kind of concept every 10 years.

19:57 CR: And then more information to come about, the community events.

20:01 CP: Yes. Yes. We don’t have that all sorted out yet.

20:03 CR: We don’t have a scoop here today for that. So the question that some folks would have, given that those two things are being re-branded and brought back, is there was also the loss on found attribute that is hanging out there that can’t be found anymore. Any discussion of bringing that back?

20:20 CP: We had a little bit of discussion, but that one we decided not to bring back, we felt like it didn’t add any value to the events. And the way it was in 2010 was actually quite confusing. It was only added to events when lackeys were attended… Attended, that was the intent anyway, and that’s not something that we felt added a lot of value. This go around. So we thought, “let’s just keep the attribute the way it is and focus our attention on making the events good.

20:50 CR: So, big party next year in 2020, here in Seattle. More information on that to come. Of course, I’m a planner, I’m already thinking 2025-2030. What’s down the road here? What’s, at least in mind right now for future parties and celebrations.

21:05 CP: Yeah, so what we’ve been talking about, is having Block Party still, so maybe doing that on the five-year mark. So in 2025, we could consider instead of the celebration event we’ll keep that for the 10 year marks 10, 20, 30, and then block party for the five so that there’s still celebrations happening in Seattle, but not every year.

21:30 CR: Well, other exciting news recently that we did talk to you about before was the virtual rewards 2.0. Can’t have you on here without talking about virtual rewards again. So how has it been going so far as the roll out has been happening?

21:45 CP: Yeah, well not as many angry people.

[laughter]

21:50 CP: But in all honesty, we take that feedback and we listened last go around to what the concerns were… And we tried to build a process that felt more fair and transparent. So there really has been a lot of enthusiasm. I think people like that they can see the criteria and everyone who actually gets one is somebody that actually had physically had to press a button to agree to it, that they wanted it so it’s resulted in far fewer complaints.

22:25 CR: Still pretty early in the process. People have a year from when the cache pages were awarded to people to have their cache submitted. So, we’re still early, but what can you tell people about what’s out there so far of what’s been published?

22:44 CP: Well, it’s coming fast. People are publishing fast, so it’s only been a couple of weeks. And we already have 650 published in 52 countries. That is a lot faster than the last go around. So I think what happened with the last go around, is there were some people that were very surprised and didn’t necessarily wanna do a virtual this time, people had some time to think about it that if they did win where would they put theirs and so I think there’s been a little bit more lead time for them to come up with their ideas so that they could get it published more quickly, so that’s really exciting. I noticed that the ones with the highest favorite points right now are in Norway and Denmark which is fun. I think last go around Germany went to the top pretty quickly but this time, it’s a couple of the Scandinavian countries.

23:34 CR: And as you said, generally speaking, people seem pleased with how things are going and certainly there were a lot of lessons learned from the first go around that have been applied and they seemed to have bore fruit to this point, yeah.

23:50 CP: Yes. That they have. And there’s also a wider geographic distribution this time and people have noticed that there’s, I think on average, 22% of the people that applied received them, but in some countries, it would be a higher percentage than in others, because there were a lot of people that applied from some countries, a lot of people that qualified and then in some countries not as many people qualified but we still wanted to make sure, they got plenty of virtuals there.

24:17 CR: And people have until… What’s the data again that people have to finally submit.

24:21 CP: June 4th 2020, yes.

24:24 CR: Right. So this will be a developing story, as we say in… I’m kind of thinking of HQTV now in my mind.

24:31 CP: [chuckle] Yes, they’re famous again.

24:32 CR: HQTV. They’re developing story. Yeah, breaking news. So the other thing we wanted to talk about was geocaching etiquette. We’ve had a couple of blog posts about this subject. One was about finding and logging geocaches and the other one about cache ownership and since I was the author of those articles, and I can’t interview myself.

[chuckle]

25:00 CR: I thought we’ll bounce this topic off of each other a little bit. You were very involved as was our team and then the reviewer community, we checked in with the world-wide reviewer community. And so basically the way this started, was that Geocaching HQ gets a lot of emails and reviewers get a lot of emails and we hear out in the community people ask us, “What do you think about “fill in the blank.” And it might be, what do you think about logging practices? What do you think about throw downs? What do you think about… And a lot of this stuff is covered in the guidelines, but some of it is covered in a way that you could maybe read a different ways or you can interpret it different ways. And so, we’ve had guidance that we’ve given people via email or what have you, but I think as we talked within our team, we thought wouldn’t it be great if we could collect some of the topics that seem most top of mind to people and that we hear about the most and that we really want to get a viewpoint or view point, our viewpoint out there about it and kind of share what we found to be best practices. And not wanting it to be as I was writing the articles and as we were talking about them during the process, not wanting it to be, “Oh, there goes HQ again telling everybody what to do.”

26:23 CR: It wasn’t about that, it was about saying, “Hey here’s what we’ve found to be… Again, best practices and… But still somehow even though if it is in the guidelines or if it is best practices still they’re being some confusion in various places about these things. And it was interesting process to… For us to start with the list of things that we wanted to cover and then going out to the reviewer, community and saying “Hey here’s what we’ve got. What do you all have? And seeing them come up with, because the game’s played in different ways all over the world and finding what are the biggest concerns in this country versus that country. It was kind of fascinating to me at least to see that there was A, a lot of agreement, but then B, there was also a lot of bringing up things that I personally hadn’t thought about or maybe here within the team, we hadn’t thought about it, it was just kind of a fun process, an interesting process, just from that standpoint to me.

27:23 CP: Right. I think that the community is passionate about the game and there are rules that you can’t necessarily enforce very easily, but it’s still okay for us to say, this is how the game is supposed to work.

27:39 CR: Right.

27:39 CP: So is it gonna be okay for a cache owner to track down every single person that log their cache and tell them they have to take a photo of themselves at the coordinates so that you can double check that they were actually there. No, that’s not what we’re saying, but we are saying that this is the way it’s supposed to work and being at the coordinates to find the cache. And we actually had to put those words into the guidelines recently and it was because people were confused and there was kind of the spin we were hearing in the community, that HQ says that all you have to do is have your name in the log book. So we looked at our guidelines and we’re like, “Well gosh, that’s what it says. But no.”

28:25 CR: Right.

28:25 CP: You think they think that’s all it is. Oh my goodness, that’s not a game. We’re a location-based game if we’re a location-based game. Okay, alright, we’ll add it in there. You must go to the coordinates and put your name in the log book, okay? There, we added it. And so this article kind of helps to highlight things like that, where, okay, now that part in the guidelines, but there are other things that aren’t as obvious where it’s not in the guidelines but we’re just giving examples of things that really are the way the game is supposed to work.

29:01 CR: Right, yeah, you mentioned being at the coordinates. Group logging is something that we covered in there. That’s something that we hear a lot about. We get a lot of emails about that. The people get frustrated when they see logs on their caches, where somebody says, I was here with a group, I went and found a lot of caches, then the rest of my group found a lot too. And boy between the two of us, we had a really great day right, and we wanted to point out that, Okay well, look, let’s say a group of five people goes out and all five of you spread out and find your own caches and put each other’s names on it. At the end of the day, we’re not a police force. We’re not gonna go out and do a handwriting analysis to see if it was really you that signed these logs. So yeah, maybe if your name is in the log, okay, at the end of the day, that’s probably it. But we want you to know that that’s not the spirit of the way things are supposed to be done. You’re supposed to go to each one of those caches and not… Yeah.

30:00 CP: Right, no. Exactly, but one thing I did wanna point out just so it’s clear, we’re not saying that people can’t cache together as a team and have a team name. Like for that day you might say Team knuckle heads, I don’t know why that came to my head.

30:14 CR: ’cause you’re with me here right now. Yeah. I know it is.

[laughter]

30:15 CP: No, no. ’cause I’m teenagers at home may be. So we’re team knuckle heads which no one would do ’cause it’s too long to write.

30:23 CR: TK. [chuckle]

30:24 CP: TK for the day. But to ask for the day, but you should be staying together, and doing your day together, and then just saying, in your log, we logged on the paper as team whatever, so that’s okay, as long as you’re really clear what you did together. But splitting up, we do see examples of people like they’re literally in different countries on the same day logging caches so that’s just not the way it’s supposed to work and it’s pretty hard for us to identify and enforce that kind of stuff. We have egregious cases, but mostly, we wanna get the message out that come on guys, let’s just be honest and say, “That’s not the way this game is supposed to be set up.”

31:10 CR: Another thing we hit on was appropriate logging when you can’t find a cache. We had our recent cache quality survey and one of the questions we asked was, what steps can geo-cache finders do to improve cache quality? I was actually a little bit surprised I guess, maybe pleasantly surprised that the most popular answer was log your DNFs and your needs maintenance and your needs archive when you need to. Because I think in some corners of the game, there is this feeling that, “Oh no, I shouldn’t do that”, for any number of reasons. It could be, you don’t want people to know that you couldn’t find it, or you’re afraid if you log a DNF, it will somehow lead to maybe a reviewer taking action on the cache if it’s not there and so it ends up being a… There’s just a bad feeling about using these logs and we wanted to try and to make it clear to people that you shouldn’t feel that way, that they serve a really… Well, they serve multiple important purposes, not just one.

32:13 CP: Yeah, I also was really surprised by that answer but in a way, not so surprised ’cause our community is very passionate and they do understand the game mechanics and these logs serve a very important purpose. They help the cache owner first to discover problems early in maybe the life of a cache. If there might be a problem. I know I personally on my cache cache, there’s a DNF, there. I keep an eye on it, it doesn’t mean I necessarily run over there right away, but I’ll see what’s the next log. Because there’s already an indication there might be something that it depends on what information they provide. So as a cache owner, I really appreciate this. If they don’t say anything, and the cache is in bad condition, that doesn’t serve me any good. And then the next finder gets a bad experience. So, certainly in the survey that you created about cache quality, it makes sense that the community is saying, if we’re gonna improve cache quality, we actually have to be honest about the condition of the cache and not feel like we have to pretend the cache was in good condition when it really wasn’t.

33:22 CR: Or use some code to describe it.

[chuckle]

33:27 CP: Yeah. Yeah.

33:27 CR: Another thing we hit on in the blog was preserving the cache experience for other people, to enjoy, and we specifically called out not sharing answers to puzzles and virtual and earth caches and things like that because you’re just kind of ruining what the cache owners trying to do. And again, it kinda goes it’s almost in a similar way to what we talked about being at the coordinates. It’s just kind of a part of the game, it’s just something that you wish you didn’t have to say but come on, let’s not spoil it for everybody, right?

34:00 CP: Right. Yeah. We’ve recently taken some actions to try to help make this easier. For example, earth cache owners can now have a photo requirement. And that wasn’t possible in the past. So we’re hoping that will help make it so that people don’t just share the answers online and just get to log it. But yeah, let’s go to the core of what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to get people outside and experiencing a location and honoring the cache owners that have come up with a creative idea, creative puzzle, a multi-cache, whatever it is, and treating them the way you would wanna be treated if you had created a similar experience. Treat them with respect and give them some feedback about your experience, but do do the experience.

34:46 CR: Right, exactly. The other, okay, so we had one blog post about finding and logging caches and then we have a second one which should be out by the time this podcast is published about cache ownership and again, we can’t go through everything here, but just touching on a couple of the things, one of them was don’t damage the environment when you put a cache out there. And again, that’s something that came up really high in that cache quality survey that we put out there. And it’s not just important within the game, but it’s really important for how the game is perceived by the Muggles of the world and that we wanna play nice with everybody and make sure that our game is seen in a really positive light. And it’s important to be respectful of the environment when you’re obviously when you’re finding caches, but also when you’re putting them out there.

35:37 CP: Right. Yeah, if we wanna have geocaching continue to go on for decades, we have to respect that there are parks and natural areas that we wanna preserve and we don’t wanna have geo trails all over the place, so as much as possible, trying to find ways to hide caches so that you don’t have to go too far from the trail or there’s already a trail that you can use. I was really impressed that that ended up being such a high result, on the cache quality survey as well. And I think it speaks a lot to our community and the ethics that they carry. They like doing the CITO-events to give back but they also like to have our game be represented with the same values that they carry, which is that they do enjoy nature, and they wanna keep it for future generations as well.

36:26 CR: Yeah, absolutely. Another thing was proper use of the owner-maintenance log, which is kind of a personal pet peeve of mine, but just that you use the owner maintenance log every time you do maintenance and not when you’re planning on doing maintenance. Sometimes we’ll see that people will say, “Oh there will be a couple of DNFs who are in, who needs maintenance log and they’ll respond with an owner maintenance and say, “Hey I’m gonna get out there in the next month and then it turns out life gets in the way and you don’t get out there in the next month. And so, just trying to reiterate when to use that owner maintenance log, and to you… ’cause the other thing sometimes that we see, is somebody will… They do maintain their cache regularly, but they think… Oh well, you know it’s fine, it’s I see it, it’s there, everything’s good, and they just don’t post anything, or they’ll post a right note. And that, for reasons of how the website works doesn’t… It has some drawbacks too. So when you got there, post under the maintenance log.

37:30 CP: Yeah, yes. So somebody’s posted a needs maintenance. The only way to remove that attribute is to post an owner maintenance, so that’s why it’s such an important log type. But it needs to be used properly because if I’m gonna go out and find a cache that has a needs maintenance attribute on it, then I’m gonna wanna know, this might have a problem, I shouldn’t count on this one for the day, I probably should have a back-up plan if I really wanna make sure I find something with my kids or something.

38:02 CR: Right.

38:03 CP: But if they’ve done the owner maintenance, and they state what they actually did in their log, that can be really helpful to know. Oh, they replaced the containers. Well great, this is a great time to go to then because I know it’s gonna be in good condition but yeah, it’s a pet peeve of mine as well, too.

 

[chuckle]

38:22 CR: As we kind of alluded to earlier, there’s some of the stuff that can be enforced and some of it is just kind of best practice and that comes to mind when we talk about difficulty to rank ratings and attributes. It’s something that we often hear from people in the community that will say, “Hey I found this cache. I really think this is a D or a T4 or whatever, and the CO has it as a one and a half. And same thing with attributes. I went and I didn’t realize that I was gonna have to swim to this cache or whatever. There’s any number of scenarios, but… And it’s not always that the CO is trying to cause a problem or anything, it’s just maybe not being mindful of it and just kind of a reminder to people to… There’s a reason for that DT was created, there’s a reason that attributes were created in the first place, and sometimes we tend to forget that right.

39:21 CP: And we tell reviewers, that they don’t need to review for DT or attributes except for the basic wheelchair one for attributes, but at the same time, the onus is on the cache owner to just be honest with the community so that they know what they’re gonna what to expect from the experience. We don’t wanna have a beginner, for example, that’s never found a cache before, try something that’s really tricky and they can’t get it open and then it breaks or something, it’s like, “Well maybe you should have had a higher D rating on that.

39:55 CR: Right.

39:55 CP: Because it wasn’t something you just walk up to and can figure out how to open. Yeah, honesty.

40:03 CR: Yeah, well it’s gonna be interesting to… ’cause I think the spirit of this again, was we wanted to hit on some of these topics that we hear about a lot, but then also hopefully it opens a conversation and people engage on these topics and it gives them something to think about and talk about, that maybe they haven’t been talking about.

40:24 CP: Yeah, I’ve seen it being shared quite a lot of Facebook in the last few days, so I think it’s making the rounds.

[music]

40:33 CR: That was Cindy Potter, Director of Community at Geocaching HQ. You can read those articles about geocaching etiquette at blog.geocaching.com. If there’s a topic you would like us to consider for the podcast, shoot us an email, podcast@geocaching.com is the address. That is podcast@geocaching.com. We would love to hear from you. Until then, from all of us at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.

[music]

Episode 26: Mystery at the Museum, 20th anniversary, and more!

With Mystery at the Museum coming in July, we chatted with Brigitte from Geocaching HQ’s Marketing team to get the lowdown.

Plus, Cindy Potter, HQ’s Director of Community, stops by to talk about plans for next year’s Geocaching 20th Anniversary Celebration, as well as Virtual Rewards 2.0 and recent Geocaching Blog articles about cache etiquette.

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on iTunes, 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 Transcript (Episode 24) Virtual Rewards 2.0

[music]

00:15 Chris Ronan: Hello everyone. Welcome to Inside Geocaching HQ, Special Edition. I’m Chris Ronan, also known by my Geocaching user name which is Rock Chalk. So what makes this a special edition? Well, we’re announcing Virtual Rewards 2.0 today. You can read about it on the Geocaching blog or hear all about it, right here, right now. I am joined by Cindy Potter, who is the Director of Community at Geocaching HQ. So here we go, talking in Virtual Rewards 2.0.

[music]

00:54 CR: Well, the last time, Cindy, you were on our podcast, was this exact same subject. So apparently, we only bring you on here when it’s time to talk about Virtual Rewards. So, Virtual Rewards 2.0. Let’s talk about this project and just an overview of what this is all about.

01:12 Cindy Potter: Okay, sure. No, that’s funny that I guess I have nothing else to talk about besides Virtuals, but that’s okay. We’re very excited to announce another round of Virtuals. We’re calling it Virtual Rewards 2.0. Still using the same name but it is different. We’ll talk more about that. It’s more similar to the process of what we did for Adventure Labs. So there’s going to be a page going live either today or very soon thereafter, where people can opt in to receive a virtual reward if they meet the minimum qualifications and those will be visible on the page. And then we’ll randomly select up to 4,000 individuals by geographic distribution.

01:55 CR: So compared to the first round of Virtual Rewards, I think with any project, we try to learn from it and see if we can improve on it and make it better and certainly the process here is a little bit different than the first time around, and a lot of that is because of input, both from the community and volunteer and community volunteers and so forth.

02:15 CP: Right. Yeah. We heard what people said. There are lots of very passionate responses. We tried not to get too hung up on like does that mean we can’t ever do Virtuals again? We listen to the feedback and we did promise that we would do it differently for the future. We didn’t know if we were gonna be able to do it but we did say that if we did it again, we would do it differently so, it would target different users. So this time, we know everybody loves Virtuals, we do too, but we’re not going to try to target “top hiders” since there are challenges with doing that, this time, we’re making it more open. By our estimates, about 40,000 people worldwide would qualify for the criteria that we’ve come up with. It’s gonna be more putting the power in the hands of the cache owners that they will know if they qualify. They can see the criteria visibly so there’s not some secret algorithm like we had before and they can sort of make a promise to the community by opting in saying, “Yes I’m committed to this. I would like to make a virtual.”

03:30 CP: The last round, I think most people know about two-thirds of the people ended up making Virtuals and that felt to the community like that wasn’t enough. They would like to see closer to the full 4,000 being used. So we’re gonna see if this process helps to improve that. And so with the random selection too, it’s kind of acknowledging that this game is made up of all kinds of cache hiders and we need everybody to help participate. Yes, there’s a minimum quality of hides we’re looking for and quality of participation but it’s easier to qualify this, go around.

04:07 CR: Why did HQ decide, “Let’s do this again.” What were some of the things that contributed to saying, “Hey, it went well the first time. Let’s give it another go.”

04:16 CP: Right. I think despite people’s dissatisfaction with the algorithm, they were really happy to see new Virtuals come out, and so we thought, “Let’s just try to find another method that might work.” We also saw that the overall quality of Virtuals is much higher than your average cache that is put out so both the total favorite points, the percentage of favorite points, if you look at log length or the frequency at which they’re found is quite high. So, we looked at lots of different data and it was quite clear. Now maybe some of that is because Virtuals are rare and people like to go find them, but I do believe they do have a place in geocaching and it helps us to show something in a community that we’re maybe a box, just isn’t really appropriate at that location.

05:09 CP: The other huge factor was that the reviewers said, “The process went fairly smoothly.” We had some pretty tight guidelines but then kind of loose guidelines like not too much work on the reviewers. No standard of quality that they had to assess going in. And so they were really open when we presented them with the idea, but even more importantly, they were the ones that came up with the opt-in idea that we tried first with Adventure Labs and now we’re doing with Virtuals. We started with Adventure Labs as a test to see how it went. Reviewers felt like that’s what they heard from the community was, “Let’s make sure people really want to make a virtual and so they’re probably gonna put a little more effort in than if we had just selected them based on a secret algorithm.”

06:00 CR: Are the goals of 2.0 different from the first round of Virtual Rewards?

06:06 CP: Yeah. So they are somewhat different. Like I’ve said before, we’re not trying to identify top hiders and reward top hiders, although we’re still keeping the word reward in there because we feel that we are rewarding cache hiders in general. So yes, there’s a huge range of cache hiders and we hope we can always find fun things for cache hiders to do like we also gave some cache hiders the opportunity to do the Adventure Lab. So it’s a thank you to those cache hiders but it’s also another attempt at geographic distribution so we’re looking at, when we do the random selection, being more mindful to do it by country. So you’re competing against your peers, within your own country and we’re trying to stretch it to more countries world-Wide.

06:54 CR: We’ve talked a little bit about how things are different this time than the first time. Is there anything else about 2.0 that people will, for instance, you talked about the opt-in process and then the criteria is visible, what kinds of criteria in general are we talking about?

07:12 CP: Well. First and foremost, people might be glad to know that if you receive virtual reward last time even if you didn’t publish it, you’re not qualified or you don’t meet the criteria to get one again. So this would be a fresh set of people. So, some certain number of favorite points total on your caches, a certain number of hides. You need to have logged a cache within a certain number of months and I’m trying to think of, you need to have publish to cache within a certain time period. And I’ll be honest, this criteria is not super high. Like if you’re in a country like the US, or Germany you might look at this criteria and say, “Oh my goodness, all my friends qualify for this. Well, in some of those countries that might be true, but consider that we’re trying to make a criteria that works for the whole world. And so in some of the less active countries, we still want them to be able to qualify for virtual so although there won’t be quite as many qualifiers it’ll be easier for them to earn one.

08:20 CR: So you were here when we announce virtual rewards. You’re back for 2.0. Am I supposed to schedule a 3.0 interview in the future? I think that’s something people will inevitably, well, I will certainly ask about it over the last couple of years. Is there gonna be another round of these? And alright, now there is. Does that mean there’s gonna be another one in the future?

08:37 CP: That’s the million dollar question, Chris, I can’t answer that.

08:41 CR: That’s why it’s a million dollar question. That’s why I have to ask.

08:45 CP: Yeah, I think, we’ll see how this round goes. Hopefully, the community will feel like this is a positive change that we’ve made. I’m sure there will be things about it that they might not like. I think the tricky part people wonder if… Well, so, answering your specific question, yes, there might be another round in the future, but the other question that is even the bigger million dollar question is, why don’t you just open it all up? Why have these rounds at all, right?

09:15 CR: That was gonna be my two million dollar question later, but yeah.

09:17 CP: The two million, that’s a lot of money.

09:19 CR: Sure, short-circuit to it, go for it.

09:22 CP: So it’s possible that we will have opportunities in the future that will be limited releases. I think it’s almost certainly not likely that we will ever release virtuals, the way they were before where it was just open season. And if you think about it today, that was 14 years ago when we grandfather them, we had far fewer cache hiders back then, today we have hundreds of thousands of them and so if we opened it up today, we would end up back where we were in the dark place where basically people were hiding very low quality Virtuals and there’s not proximity rules and it was hard for reviewers to assess. Is this a good quality, is that a bad quality? And we will also wanna be careful that we are sticking to the core of what geocaching is about, which is mostly about the container and being able to sign and trade swag and stuff like that. So if we open up Virtuals too much, it seems like it would potentially harm the rest of the game but we do think that this type of limited release and keeping an eye on the statistics and how the reviewers are feeling, it’s possible we could do something like this again.

10:46 CR: Well, for people like myself, I started geocaching long after Virtuals were grandfathered. And what I see tends to be fun experiences and I think, “Oh this is great. Why would they ever have grandfathered this?” And then after you learn a little more, and especially once you talk to some reviewers who are around back then, well, what’s left are the good experiences and most of the ones that caused the problems, and caused them to be grandfathered aren’t around anymore, so yeah.

11:17 CP: Right. Yes, I’ve heard some horror stories about the dead carcass in the woods.

11:22 CR: Yeah, right.

11:22 CP: The tennis shoes dangling from an electric power line and things like that. Yeah, the ones that are left are the ones that are quality, and the cache hiders are still in the game and probably put out something reasonable in the first place. But yeah, it’s really hard to judge quality. And the way we did the last release, the reviewers didn’t need to judge the quality.

11:46 CR: Another question I hear from people sometimes is, “Okay, you’ve done a limited release of Virtuals, what about other grandfather cache types like web cam?” That’s something that I hear a lot about.

11:58 CP: We have talks about web cam, some… They have a lot more challenges, I’d say than Virtuals do and it’s harder for us to say, that they’re part of the core of geocaching. Also with the privacy laws that have come in place in the last year, a couple of years. I’m not sure about the privacy issues of having increase number of web cams out there and encouraging people taking photos and doing videos of other people. And what are they gonna do with that? So we’re not quite as enthusiastic about bringing web cams back as we have been with Virtuals. So there’s your honest answer.

12:38 CR: Well, we are enthusiastic though about Virtual Rewards. So where can people get more information and what are some of the important dates that will be coming up here in the next several weeks?

12:49 CP: Right. May 14th is the day that the opt-in page goes live, we call it an opt-in page, but you can think of it like an application page. It’s very similar to what we did for Adventure Lab. So it’s gonna be on geocaching.com/play/request/virtuals2019 and that will be open for about two and a half weeks until June first. That day we’ll close the page, so you can still see the page, but you won’t be able to opt-in anymore. And then, on June fourth, we’ll do the random selection of up to 4000 users and they will then have one year to submit their virtual for publication.

13:32 CR: Well, this will be a fun thing to watch and see what people will come up with. It certainly has been fun. It was fun the first time around, wasn’t it? To see some of the new places that people sent their fellow cachers out to see.

13:46 CP: Yes, and some of them got published really fast. In that case, I think there were a few reviewers that knew it was coming and so on their player accounts, they already had a few things going. So we’ll see how quickly this happens. I suppose in a way, when you opt-it on May 14th, maybe some people already have something in mind, so it’ll be fun to see what it is.

[music]

14:10 CR: That was Cindy Potter, Geocaching HQ’s Director of Community. If you wanna learn more about Virtual Rewards 2.0, there is a blog post all about it, just go to blog.geocaching.com. The blog includes a link to the opt-in page where you can find out if you qualify to apply for a Virtual Reward. May the odds be ever in your favor and from all of us at Geocaching HQ, happy caching.

Episode 24: Virtual Rewards 2.0

Geocaching HQ is excited to announce Virtual Rewards 2.0 to introduce another limited number of new Virtual Caches for the geocaching community. Cindy Potter, HQ’s Director of Community, is here to chat about the project.

Beginning today, an opt-in web page is available for cachers to apply for a Virtual Reward. The page is open until June 1, 2019. Approximately 50,000 geocachers around the world meet the criteria to apply for a Virtual Reward.

More information is available on the Geocaching Blog (English) (German) (French) (Dutch) (Spanish).

You can listen to the episode via this page, or on iTunes, 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.

(Minor correction: in this episode, it is said that approximately 40,000 geocachers meet the criteria to apply for a Virtual Reward. The correct number is 50,000.)