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Where’s Our Frog Prince When We Need Him?

Sometimes when you kiss a frog, it just stays a frog …

Despite this morning’s fairytale start to Groundspeak’s challenges, the geo-community has rewritten its collective views about the company’s new take on virtual caches.

While some geocachers took up the challenge, many hundreds more were venting their anger online. These warts-and-all comments centred on the poor quality of the new tasks, problems with GC.com’s search function, the combined smiley totals and a lack of player standards – especially among those who uploaded images irrelevant to the task or that were borrowed from the internet.

Even Groundspeak’s inaugural Kiss A Frog photo challenge (CX3) was overwhelmingly given the thumbs down by 901 voters to 424.

As Kiwi cacher ADV put it: “I can see how these could be useful as an adjunct to geocaching in taking people to places of interest or significance where it is not possible to have a physical cache, similar to the old virtuals. However, as I expected this just opens the door to all sorts of unrelated frivolity. Kiss a Frog? No thanks, and besides, I’m just not a kiss-and-tell sorta guy.”

In an effort to combat the backlash, Groundspeak has been busy archiving unpopular Premium member challenges (bye-bye to the three challenges It’s Not About The Numbers profiled earlier) and creating a better quality of task – including its first Action challenge.

CX515 10,000 Fewer Pieces Of Litter says: “Go to a local park and pick up 10 pieces of litter. If 1000 people complete this challenge, the geocaching community will have cleaned up 10,000 pieces of litter!” But more importantly, it has already been accepted by 847 players, completed by 174 and is being well recieved with 238 to 70 votes in favour.

Another new Groundspeak photo challenge also indicates that Germany at least may be embracing the new idea. CX3B3 Meet The Lackeys of Groundspeak, which requires players to upload a photo of themselves with one of its staffers, has been published in both English and German.

The scheme’s reception here in New Zealand has been a mixed bag, though the country’s first published challenge, CX22F Slurp A Bluff Oyster, is still live.

Created by Southlander Karen Brown (GC handle: bladesedge), it requires players to snap themselves eating one of Bluff’s famed oysters raw – and “in the Bluff” if they’re really brave. Her challenge page is clear, specific and cannot easily be completed from the comfort of your sofa, which could explain its current lack of dissenting votes.

Soon after its publication, she said: “I want it to be an actual challenge lol. 1. Getting your hands on a Bluff Oyster is tricky, and 2. Not many people outside of Southland slug them back raw!”

On the other side of the country and issue, North Island geocacher Robert Holdsworth (GC handle: robnzh) has issued his own challenge to Groundspeak by temporarily disabling all 11 of his caches in the Lower Hutt suburb of Wainuiomata in protest of the new scheme.

His note on GC2KPHZ Wood On Wood Mark 2 reads: “Disabling all my caches as I do not consider it fair to those who make the effort to visit my caches having their finds devalued by people whose finds count is increased by ‘kissing a frog’ or pointing in a certain direction and burping. Logs will be accepted for finds up to and including 3:30 p.m on 19 August 2011 NZDT (not that we will be able to tell until geocaching restores dates to logs!)”

Hours later, negative and satirical comments still continue to fly across the globe via Facebook – where groups such as I’m A Challenge Virgin And Proud Of It have sprung up – as well as on GC.com’s forums and its Feedback site.

A post on Facebook by the owner of Florida’s Cache Station webstore says: “Too funny, just saw a challenge on Geocaching.com asking people to email Groundspeak telling them th challenge idea was a bad idea. So I went to accept it and it had already been archived.”

Mike Wesley joked on Facebook’s Caching Folks group that we should create a new slang term for geocaching, such as “I going frog kissing” or “Honey, I’m going frog kissing”.

And Sarah Chisholm added: “I think I will let this whole challenge thingy settle down for a while before participating. It has gotten off to a bad start and ground rules need to be set to prevent this kind of thing. I was under the impression that these Challenges were supposed to revive virtual caches, NOT locationless.”

But it was Katy King, also of New Zealand, who really caught my attention with her Facebook comment: “I added my vote to the suggestion forum thingy saying that challenges should have a co-ordinates or GPS element to them. Otherwise where is the link to the fundamental essence of geocaching?”

She was referring to the GC.com feedback issue Make Using A GPS Device Mandatory For Challenges, one of 38 currently being voted for  on the GC.com sub-site.

It has also been politely suggested I may have been a little gung-ho in my earlier post, though I still stand by my comments. Bret Prichard told me on Twitter: “I wish I shared your optimism on the new system but was expecting a true virtual/challenge replacement not this :(”

As It’s Not About The Numbers reader Eddie put it: “I wish I could share your enthusiasm, but at this stage it’s all a bit of a mess … The introduction of anything new is always going to be a bit bumpy, but the feedback over at the Groundspeak forums (and the large numbers of thumbs-down) is anything but positive at this stage.

“Hopefully, they take it on board so that those who do like this stuff can continue to do so in an organised fashion, and those who would rather geocache (eg. find caches!) can happily ignore it all.”

To be fair, change never sits smoothly and this is a work in progress. But I’m pleased to see Groundspeak backing its new product 100 per cent.

Earlier, Jeremy Irish declined a feedback request by American geocacher CraZy Cache for wholesale changes to the scheme, saying: “The challenges name will not change. I understand there will be some initial issues with challenge caches and challenges, but we decided to keep the name since it best explains the activity.

“We will not be moving worldwide challenges (or any challenges) to Waymarking. As with any geocaching activity, you don’t have to participate if you don’t like a certain aspect of geocaching.”

For those still up for a challenge, the news gets even better, though.

Earlier, this week, an article in The Fremocentrist announced that “five challenges will take place” around Seattle’s Fremont district – home to Groundspeak HQ – during Saturday’s Block Party, with puzzle piece travel tags being awarded to successful participants.

“The pieces form a circular emblem souvenir with the challenge logo on one side, and the names of the five Fremont locations (not Lenin) on the other.”

However, most revealing was the inclusion of this photograph of Irish standing next to a challenge planning board. Among the details visible to my naked eye was a series of additional challenge icons, including what appears to be the exciting possibility of a time trial option.

Maybe, just maybe Irish will turn out to be a frog prince after all – or at least some more akin to the SuperGuy hero in his new challenges icon.

5 comments

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  1. CraigRat

    We are seeing similar comments and feedback on our side of the ditch.

    Personally, I am just ignoring the whole thing, I’m not going to get worked up about something I don’t have to participate in.

    1. Dodger

      Here Here!

      1. Dodger

        I mean…

        Hear Hear!

  2. Gerard Hyland on Facebook

    A great new game from Groundspeak but, like waymarking.com and using the same logic, should be on its own website. Very little geo, and no cache.

  3. Jade Cropley on Facebook

    i don’t think the challenges should count the same as physicial finds but I do like the concept behind them

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