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OpenCaching.com One Year On

OPINION PIECE

First, the disclaimer: my name is Nick Brown and I have been geocaching at Geocaching.com under the name of sTeamTraen for nearly eight years. I’m also privileged to have been a Groundspeak volunteer for part of that period, but everything written here is my own personal opinion and has not been approved, solicited or even read by anyone else in the community or at Groundspeak.

I’ve been watching the OpenCaching.com site with interest for a year now, partly because, many years ago, I used to work for a company which decided to do exactly what Garmin did in 2010, namely, deciding one bright morning to park its tanks on the lawn of its biggest partner. (The results were, to say the least, unfortunate.)

As far as I know, the Groundspeak/Garmin partnership was never a formal corporate tie-up – beyond specific projects such as the addition of geocache icons to GPS devices or integration of the Wherigo player – but it’s clear that both companies gained from their relationship, which had symbiotic elements. It makes sense for the biggest GPS manufacturer to work with the biggest geocache listing site.

I don’t know how big Garmin’s handheld/outdoor market is, but I’m going to guess that in 2008 it was about twice as big as they had probably forecast when making long-term plans back in 2001 or so. That extra doubling, or whatever, in size is entirely due to geocaching – an activity which emerged from nowhere, cost Garmin practically nothing in R&D and marketing, and has probably resulted in more revenue for Garmin than it has for Groundspeak. (In 2008, pretty well every geocacher had forked over $150 to $400 for a GPS unit; some proportion of those might have bought one or two years’ worth of Premium Membership on Geocaching.com at US$30 and/or a couple of travel bugs.)

Then, the geocaching device market – of which I’m guessing Garmin’s share was 85-90 per cent in 2008 – began to change. Smartphones with GPS capacity started to appear. Sure, you wouldn’t want to go caching in the deep woods with one of these do-not-drop devices but for FTF hunters in the city, they’re pretty handy (so I’m told; I might even get one, some day).

Also, Groundspeak teamed up with someone-other-than Garmin to produce the GeoMate.Jr. Now, it seems to me that the main use of this GPS unit is as a present for your kids so they can follow an arrow too – in other words, it’s an extra, very low-end device that Garmin wasn’t going to sell anyway – but apparently, this ticked Garmin off too. They saw Groundspeak clearing US$7 from every smartphone app sold, versus a big round $0 for themselves, and they weren’t getting any revenue from the GeoMate Jr either. So, like a jealous would-be boyfriend who has misread the nature of his relationship with a girl – he imagines they’re going steady, she keeps showing up with other guys – it seems that somebody at Garmin decided to teach Groundspeak a lesson.

Of course, Garmin has always made out that its listing service is some kind of “community-driven” initiative. First, there’s the name: “OpenCaching” – perhaps only “FluffyKittenCaching” would have been nicer. There was already a loosely-coupled network of other Opencaching sites in various countries, run on a non-profit basis by volunteers. Garmin claimed to have had “some great discussions” with these sites but they’re the only ones who remember those conversations. Score -1 for Garmin, who should perhaps have realised their initial target market was people who don’t like Groundspeak, many of whom were already on the grassroots Opencaching sites, so alienating them was a poor idea.

Next, there’s the propaganda: “Caching should be free”, “Driven by the community”, yada yada. The usual stuff you hear from large companies in this social media age: “We’re on the side of the little guys.” Really. “Corporate jet? What corporate jet?” (One of the truly bizarre features of the low-level, undeclared PR war between Garmin and Groundspeak has been how Garmin, a $3 billion company whose headquarters are located in a tax haven, has portrayed itself as being just a bunch of philanthropists, up against an unnamed, faceless, evil adversary that wants to steal all your cache data. When did Garmin’s president and chief financial officer last go into a dunk tank in front of the customers?)

It seems pretty clear that OpenCaching.com (OX, for short) has been set up with one aim: to bring Groundspeak to the negotiating table. There is no other plausible reason for Garmin to have set up the site with no revenue stream – they even provided free smartphone apps in the first couple of months, thus making it easy to use OX without buying a Garmin GPS. If OX can take 15-20 per cent of the caching traffic, goes the reasoning, Groundspeak might have to sit up and take notice; and it would probably be an interesting test of Groundspeak’s business model and easy-going corporate attitude if its de facto monopoly of the geocache listing market became less solid. So, Garmin made it extra-simple (give or take all of the design errors and bugs; it took me about 10 minutes to find how to create an 8-digit OX cache code, for example) for people to upload their caches and existing logs from Geocaching.com, in the hope they would stop using that site altogether.

This was always going to encounter some “chicken-and-egg” issues, given the huge installed base of caches (and cachers) at Geocaching.com – indeed, it seems to be legitimate to ask what percentage of people who will ever become geocachers have not yet tried geocaching, because this will determine how big the overall market can become – but it might have had a chance of working, had Garmin actually investigated what real geocachers want.

What they *don’t* want is a site with a lot of AJAX (Web 2.0) technology which looks great but doesn’t quite work – most geocachers have learned to be fairly undemanding about slick functionality, which has historically not been Groundspeak’s strong suit (although they have caught up a lot in the last 18 months or so); nor do they want to know that one cache is rated 0.1 difficulty points more than another (what does that even mean?).

But they do want some very basic things which OX does not provide. They want to be able to put an image on a cache listing page (amazingly, this is still not possible); they want full notification of the logs on their caches, and control over those logs; and they and their kids want trackable items, when so far, all we’ve been shown is OpenCaching.com pathtags featuring Opie, their slightly scary mascot. (Memo to Garmin: Signal is green because that’s the colour that frogs are in nature. What happened to Opie the squirrel in your lab to make him turn blue?)

Another thing that cachers on OX are discovering they don’t want is “peer” review. That’s meant to be “peer” as in “person of equal status” – to which I would just comment that Groundspeak volunteers are geocachers too – but in practice, it also allows anyone, worldwide, to “peer” (ha ha) at the cache, including its co-ordinates and then find it before it’s been “published”. (So if you’re crosslisting a cache at OX and Geocaching.com, wait until the Groundspeak reviewer has published it before you submit it to OX, because as soon as you do the latter, the entire world can see your traditional cache’s co-ordinates. In effect, “publication” at OX just means “moving from the public review page to the searchable database”.)

The OX review process is full of holes; caches get rejected because the description is too long, or too short or whatever the reviewer’s personal prejudices are. There is no professionalism or code of ethics; anyone can be a reviewer, even if they created their account yesterday and have never found a geocache, and it seems nobody can ever be removed as a reviewer. So hopeful new placers sign up, cross-list their caches which have already been reviewed and published at Geocaching.com, and are surprised to find that somebody who lives 5000 miles away is leaving negative votes and comments like “I can’t understand this description, because it’s written in German”.

As a volunteer reviewer, I know how complex the dialogue can be between a cache owner and a single reviewer; how is the cache placer meant to deal with the concerns of 20 reviewers, all with different reasons why they think your cache can’t be published? Garmin’s entire review model is fundamentally broken because it’ s unscalable; the fact they don’t seem to have noticed this yet is probably because they don’ t have the numbers of caches being submitted which would cause their system to break entirely.

So how has the worldwide geocaching community accepted OpenCaching.com? Have they rushed en masse to join up, cross-list their caches, and then, finding a paradise of freedom, proceeded to abandon Groundspeak and list all of their caches at OX? 

Well, let’s see … OX has just two really cool features.  One is that you can pan and zoom the map, and download a GPX file of just the caches you’ve selected -Groundspeak, we want this.  The other is that you can download its entire database.  So that’s what I’ve been doing, every week for the last year, watching how it evolves.

After a year – I’m writing this on December 4, so it’s only 362 days since the OX site launched, but I hope you’ll forgive me for this approximation – the total number of caches that have been listed at OX is just over 22,000.  Of these, a little over 10 per cent are either archived or currently unavailable and so don’t figure in these downloads; today I was able to download 19,658 caches.

Now, of those active caches, 2433 have OXZ**** codes, which means they may be unique to OX.  (When you upload a GPX file with a cache from Geocaching.com, OX changes GC12399 into OX12399, give or take a few bugs.)  However, just over a thousand of those caches have actually been crosslisted from Geocaching.com, either because the owner didn’t check the right box when pasting the description, or because the cache had previously been refused by a Geocaching.com reviewer.  OX’s peer review process cheerfully accepts caches located in US National Parks or other off-limits areas, or even 15 feet from another cache – there are a few cases in the database of the same cache being listed twice at the same co-ordinates.  Is your Groundspeak reviewer a stickler for all those pesky “guidelines”?  Come to OpenCaching.com, where caching is “free”!

The bottom line is that after a full year of operation, people have created fewer than 1500 new caches at OX.  I don’t know what the numbers are at Geocaching.com but I’m going to guess more than 300,000 new caches have been listed there in that period.  That’s 200 times as many.

Even more spectacular is the difference in logs.  Geocaching.com is currently running at around 5 million logs per month.  The total number of unique logs at OX – that is, logs which are not copied from Geocaching.com, even if the caches are crosslisted – is less than 10,000 (it’s probably closer to 5000 but it would be a lot of number-crunching to determine, so this is a safe upper bound).  That means that OX has no more than 0.5 Found logs per cache per year, compared to 30 or so for Groundspeak; and combining the numbers of cache with the logging rate, it’s possible to state that cache finders are at least 6000 times more active on Geocaching.com than OpenCaching.com. 

Put another way, OpenCaching.com has a maximum of 0.016 per cent of the market among cache seekers, and probably closer to 0.010 per cent.  I wonder what Garmin’s target figure was a year ago when the site was launched?  Did someone pitch a 0.01 per cent market share to whoever was being asked to provide the budget money?

I think it’s time Garmin realised that their site is going nowhere.  Since their latest promotion to attract new caches, which ended in October and barely attracted half the number of caches needed for Garmin to award the top prize, they have had the leanest month for total new cache listings since their site started, with a net increase of only 300 “new” (again, mostly crosslisted) caches in November 2011. 

Meanwhile, Groundspeak continues to expand its product offering, and it seems like every other weekly newsletter from Seattle features some new geocaching-friendly features in a GPS from a manufacturer that isn’t Garmin.  (On the handheld device front, Garmin continues to miss the point spectacularly.  In May this year, they released the Montana series; the 650t must be the only $699 consumer handheld device of any kind on the planet without either WiFi or a SIM card socket.)

Geocaching needs Garmin to be concentrating on producing great quality, affordable GPS devices, not adding lame, proprietary features such as code-based log verification which nobody wants (or uses), and tying up talented people to babysit a small handful of geocachers, many of whom seem – judging by the OX forums and one or two of their cache descriptions – to be disgruntled refugees from Geocaching.com.  I find it hard to believe that anyone who works on the OpenCaching site at Garmin derives any sense of professional satisfaction from a site which has: A. been set up with no other purpose than to disrupt another company, and B. failed even in that aim. 

I also don’t believe that the Groundspeak guys actually enjoy putting Garmin at the bottom of every page on their site which lists GPS devices.  It’s time to call a truce and have the best geocaching site and the best GPS manufacturer working together again; but it’s up to Garmin to initiate that process.

*How would you rate OpenCaching’s first year in business? Let us know in the comments below.
**The opinions expressed above are those of the author, and are not neccessarily held by the publishers of It’s Not About The Numbers. kjwx is actually a big fan of Garmin’s OpenCaching.com, though realises that having now typed those words, it makes her sound kind of greasy. 

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  1. chunkymunky06

    Ahh the Opencaching debate from none other than a reviewer. Although you have some valid points I dont think your assesment is as objective as it could be. Groundspeak is 11 years old… take those figures you have, multiply them by 11 and then lets compare. Of course the numbers are going to be in GC.coms favor, they have a decade head start. Lets compare first year to first year stats, perhaps a better method of comparison.

    Now you need to know I am a GC.com faithful, premium member, and avid cacher.(addicted is the correct adjective but I haven’t been to the meetings to be able to use that term yet) But I have witnessed first hand some rather unflattering operations by GS and those who operate on its behalf. I have no misconceptions the site was partially setup to solicit those “jilted” cachers and turn heads but hey why not? I know of one cacher personally who was unfairly handled by GS and turned to OX to list the cache in question. The cache had 13 favorite points and not one negative log when the almighty “guidelines monster” raised his head and there went one of the BEST caches in our area. It lives and thrives on OX and continues to be a local favorite. So in this case, OX was a total success in keeping alive a great adventure to be shared by all. Thats what geocaching is about right? Because its not about the numbers? I read that somewhere… 😉

    So lets revisit this in five years and see where it is. If it has gone by the wayside and long been retired then so be it. But I have a feeling this is going to be that nagging little brother that never goes away totally and shows up later holding a certain fruit in hand… Who knows.

    1. sTeamTraen

      >Lets compare first year to first year stats, perhaps a better method of comparison.
      Yes, let’s do that.

      Geocaching.com was launched on September 2, 2000 with 75 caches. On September 1, 2001, GC1A10 was placed. GC codes were hexadecimal at the time, so this corresponds to 6672 caches. Now, not every cache gets submitted for publication, and not every cache gets published, but back then, placing a cache was a big thing – I don’t think that many people spent time writing up listings which they then didn’t use before broadband Internet was widespread – and reviewers had fewer reasons to refuse caches. So perhaps 6000 unique caches were published by Geocaching.com during its first year, at a time when there were just a few hundred or maybe a couple of thousand geocachers in the world.

      Fast forward to 2011, when there are *millions* of geocachers worldwide, and OX has published around 1500 unique caches in its first year (about 300 of those, incidentally, placed by Garmin subsidiaries or resellers).

  2. Zalgariath

    I only have two problems with OX…

    1) The Stealing of the OPEN Caching Name… which has been in use by the Opencaching.ORG network for 10 years. If it had been GARMINcaching, not only would that have made more sense, and been a better marketing ploy using the brand name recognition, it would not have pissed off that portion of the community most likely to be interested in another listing site… those already leaning away from Groundspeak towards the Opencaching Initiative.

    2) The blatant push to duel list. Win free stuff for listing huge numbers or caches? There is a way to increase quality! I know OC.org can be guility of duel listing too but Garmin took it to another level. At OX they do some good work but as stated, have a number of issues. GCA (Geocaching Australia / Opencaching Australia) have NO reviewers… caches get flagged by the community if there are issues and can be removed if they are silly/dangerous etc. A working system now for 10 years 😀

    1. Mike Belanger (aka "AeroMechAZ")

      I just tried going to the “opencaching.org” site (after reading your post) and it’s been discontinued as unused.

      1. kjwx

        Try opencaching.eu, Mike. This will direct you to all of the alternative network’s sites, including the American version (opencaching.us).

      2. Cumbyrocks

        The address is opencaching.COM for the Garmin site, or opencaching.US for the opencaching network US site (not Garmin)

  3. CD

    Great assessment and a great piece. Everything from the power of being first, to lame name choice encroaching on one already being used, to poor review system, to failing to see the mutually beneficial power of partnership… It didn’t take a genius to see this coming…. Garmin’s devices are great. Their management and vision… not so much.

  4. ErikaJean

    Interesting point of view!

  5. Michael Rogers

    Great article! I agree fully with you.

  6. Tim

    Like many others, I was surprised that Garmin would steal the opencaching name. Technically it’s not stealing, but it is intentionally misleading. They basically alienated themselves from what could have been their biggest source of users.

    Their business model of making it easy to import your existing hides makes their site more irrelevant than ever. Rather than looking at a new site with new listings, you’re looking at a new site that has 98% the same listings as geocaching.com, but with the added benefit that listings on opencaching.com are likely not maintained when the caches go disabled or archived.

    I’d really like them to kiss and make up with Groundspeak. Early this year I was in the market for a new GPS and I specifically left Garmin out of the running and bought a DeLorme specifically because I didn’t like this move.

  7. Atlas Cached

    Zalgariath said: “1) The Stealing of the OPEN Caching Name…”

    Nothing was stolen, or they would not be using it. If you want to tell yourself this to fuel your own hatred, be my guest.

    Zalgariath said: “2) The blatant push to duel list. Win free stuff for listing huge numbers or caches? There is a way to increase quality! ”

    If you are suggesting cross listing from other already published caches does not increase quality, I can only say that, being the same identical caches from the other listing services means the increase (or decrease) in quality only mirrors what already existed on the other listing service to begin with.

    CD said: “Garmin’s devices are great.”

    Yes, they are!

    Tim said: “Early this year I was in the market for a new GPS and I specifically left Garmin out of the running and bought a DeLorme specifically because I didn’t like this move.”

    Great idea, punish yourself by using inferior equipment? I have seen them all: Magellen, Lowrance, DeLorme, none have anything to compete with Garmin.

    chunkymunky06 said: “So lets revisit this in five years and see where it is.”

    I agree, but I don’t think we’ll be doing it here. I don’t thing this blog will exist 5 years from now. OpenCaching will, however.

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Stolen no, but a serious encroachment on another established brand. It might not be stealing but it is very poor ethics and practice.

      ox.com might still exist in five years, but I’d be surprised if they were any better off than they are now. INATN might not be here in five years but that will be because we stop having the time to produce quality content and we don’t like to waste others time.

    2. Michael Rogers

      Excuse me if I disagree with your position. I am not a bought and paid for cheerleader , er, ambassador, for Opencaching.com…

      Garmin may not have stolen the name, but they sure were less than honest when they said they had talks with the established Opencaching network.

      Finally, Opencaching.com might still be around in five years, but unless they change their business model in many ways, they will be about as irrelevant as the Navicaching site. After all, what does a site that relies on cross listed caches have to offer cachers that they can’t already get elsewhere?

  8. Uncle Ruckus

    I too have been following that site for some time. It’s not a very active site. It has nothing real to offer me, but it’s members seem to enjoy it. What few active ones they is anyway. Most of the listings are just cross listed from the Groundspeak site. What I do not understand is why someone would take the time to post such a bunch of junk about a competive site that they don’t use and would never use just because they don’t like it. This bull hocky makes this site look like it is part of the OpenCaching.com site. What does it matter what site a geocacher uses? You think a man that been caching so long would know this. I hate it when a grown man cry.

  9. Zalgariath

    Yes sorry, in reference to the name I meant stolen in the ethical sense as opposed to the literal. Otherwise they couldnt have done it 😉

    I like the comparative stats of OX vs GC first years… particularly when you take into the equation the prevalence of GPS tech and users 10 years ago to today.

    Then lets look at other new Geolocation games that have sprung up in the past year. I make no secret of being a fan of the Smartphone caching variant Munzee. In just 5 months since going live, Munzee boasts nearly 40,000 new deployment and while yes, some of them are IN existing Geocaches listed on various sites, that is still a massive pile of new game pieces out in the world, on every continent, with over 100,000 finds in that time period.

    Obviously that game lends itself to rapid deployment… but there in lies its key to success. It is NOT geocaching. They took the Geocaching idea, changed it, gave it a unique fun spin and while it may not be to everyone’s liking, it’s taking off like wildfire in comparison to OX’s offering which is effectively GC.com version 2…. or 3,4,5, or 6 if you take into consideration the opencaching, terracaching, navicaching and other listing networks around the world.

    I dont begrudge Garmin for going out on their own. But when 1 year on all you have done is create a site where 90% of those cache are cross listed from the existing market leader… there needs to be a better way 😉

  10. chunkymunky06

    Ok so what could the website have done to be successful in your opinion? Not allowed cross listing? Been more tech savvy? Not cost a penny to use…oh wait nevermind. I am hearing alot of chest thumping going on but no one is offering ideas to improve it. So, it comes back to being part of the solution…or the problem. Why should one organization hold all the rights to this silly game we all play?(And please remember, it is JUST a game.) I am always grateful to have options available to me and alternatives to use in case a snag occurs somewhere. I never viewed OX to be a threat to caching, a companies propaganda campaign, or an attempt on market domination. I simply saw it as another option to use for those of us who enjoy going out and finding stuff other folks hid.

    Now as for the 1st year to 1st year stats ” 6672 caches. Now, not every cache gets submitted for publication, and not every cache gets published, but back then, placing a cache was a big thing – I don’t think that many people spent time writing up listings which they then didn’t use before broadband Internet was widespread – and reviewers had fewer reasons to refuse caches. So perhaps 6000 unique caches were published by Geocaching.com during its first year, at a time when there were just a few hundred or maybe a couple of thousand geocachers in the world.” You are going to tell me everyone in geocaching at the time hid 60 caches in that first year? I think your stats or interpretation of the info has a mild bias flavor with a sprinkle of bitterness on top. But hey, you stated in the beginning that this was your “opinion” and I respect that. Dont agree with it, but everyone is entitled to their own I guess…

    1. sTeamTraen

      >You are going to tell me everyone in geocaching at the time hid 60
      >caches in that first year?
      No. I said that there were probably “a few hundred” or “a couple of thousand” geocachers who hid 6000 caches. If there were 600 cachers then they hid 10 each. If there were 3000 then they hid 2 each. Maybe there were 10000 cachers giving this new game a go. It really doesn’t matter – we know that they were far, far less numerous than today, with GPS devices that were far more expensive, and yet they hid four times more new caches in the first year than all of the people who signed up at OX did.

      Now, perhaps the argument is not the caches per person, but that fewer people have signed up at OX. We don’t know how many people have done that. But whether it’s very few caches or very few cachers, OX has a problem.

      Of course, if one takes the cynical view that the only purpose of OX is to undermine Groundspeak by re-hosting the same data with no Premium Membership fees for bulk downloads, then unique OX caches are almost irrelevant to Garmin. If that’s their intention, then their cross-listing effort is more important, and here they’re off to a flying start (in comparison), with a whopping 1.4% of all Geocaching.com caches cross-listed – not all of them, it seems, with the knowledge or consent of their original owner, but I have no figures for that.

  11. Beefy4605

    When OCdotcom started I crosslisted one cache to see how it would go . Almost one year later – no finds . Cache is now removed from OXdotcom .
    And lets get to these so called “pesky guidelines ” – everyone of them makes sense they only become “pesky” when they don’t suit you so in a fit of rage you go list them on another site to show that your better than a tried and tested system elsewhere ?
    Sounds like a good business model – how many other multinationals started this way ? .
    As said Garmin should be developing and producing top quality GPS units and working with Geocaching dot com to provide the functionality to provide a great experience when out geocaching.
    There really is no moral high ground for either company in this – they both need each other – they just need to realise it . Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

  12. Young Zaphod

    I joined OC.com to save my geocaching handle and lurk there from time to time. It seems the site is run by people with an axe to grind against Groundspeak. I just saw the thread about this blog post and they are bashing the messenger instead of refuting the points made in this article. I think that says a lot about the people that populate the site. Some of the biggest bashers are so-called Opencaching Ambassadors. It boggles my mind how Garmin can allow people picked to represent them at events act in such a childish manner.

  13. CraigRat

    This article is a little too biased for my liking, even though sTeamTraen has stated his past affiliations with Groundspeak. That’s not to say that I don’t agree with him on many points, but this article could easily be dismissed as FUD from the opposition.

    My observations:

    One of the biggest issue I see with their site is the poisonous nature of their community.
    The dominant mods in the forums and Ambassadors are some of the most vile creatures I’ve had the displeasure of coming in to contact with. Their forums appear to be full of bile and hate, not only of GC but of other users.
    Garmin are doing themselves no favours letting these people dominate their site. I would not let my kids on their, that’s for sure.

    Also, for one year of paid-for development, they sure haven’t done a lot, nor got a lot on the feature side of things.
    Other smaller sites have more features and have only used volunteer coding. I would have expected a lot more from them in this timeframe,
    People will forgive unfinished sites from small groups, but would be expecting a full featured site from the get-go from a company like Garmin
    And before an OX apologist says I don’t know what I’m talking about here… I do. It’s the one thing I DO know.

  14. CraigRat

    Another batch of thoughts:

    The Wakeup:
    What OX has done that wasn’t addressed in the article, was that it gave Grounspeak a much needed kick up the backside as to how they treat and deal with their userbase… the very people who create the content they make money off.

    All of a sudden a whole raft of new features came out (they say it had nothing to do with OX….sure…if that makes you sleep at night), and for a period there they actually even asked the community what they wanted…… after nearly 5 years of arguably not adding any major features to the site… but it was all coincidence! Honest!
    Those 1000 cache PQ’s you’ve wanted for nearly 10 years?? Here they are all of a sudden!
    If it served as the wakeup call that Groundspeak needed then it has done some good for a large part of its user base.

    Market Share:
    It takes YEARS for even the most locally focussed sites to get traction and sustain positive growth, the fact that OX is global means it could easily take them 10 years+ to break the 1% mark of exclusively listed caches. Serious.
    I don’t think people higher up in Garmin will see that as a very positive thing. Corporate will pull the pin once they realise it’s helped sales not one iota, maybe even hurting it.

    The Userbase/Community Mindshare:
    It’s going to take 4 or 5 years for all the Anti-GC venom and the hatred in their forums to sort itself out, and for a new generation of cachers who are not as biased AGAINST OX or GC to come on board.
    This is what we experienced when we started listing caches in 2005, there was a schism, a LOT of hatred on both sides of the fence, and it took a lot of time before those who I’d call ‘influencers’ left the game in one way or another and new people came in to the game without the biases that were there at the time of the split.

    I wouldn’t bank on it being around in 5 years time, corporations are not really known for playing the ‘long game’, but I wish them the best of luck and I honestly hope they prove me wrong.

    TL;DR: Gonna take them more time than they’ve probably got to build up a serious user and cache base

  15. Marpaut

    Très intéressant cet article, merci Nick

  16. OhmQI

    OX may have been built with R&D money, but one would imagine that the premise was that it would generate income, through sales. I would imagine that Garmin spent less and got more out of being partners with Groundspeak.

    Someone is writing the cheques for the OX experiment and I very much doubt they are selling more units as a result of its existence. At some point, there has to be a ROI assessment.

    My personal opinion is that Garmin planned to OX with two outcomes in mind; the first being the obvious “It will be successful, displace GSP and we will sell lots of devices”. The second being “We’ll throw a lot of money at it; we’ll have a tiny team of guys work on the site, but we’ll keep it all manageable and limit the features and infrastructure. We’ll make it community driven. That way, if it falls flat on its face, we can hand the code over to the community, yank our trademark from the site and treat it as an open source donation”.

    I have heard many folks who are new to geocaching ask “What GPS shall I buy?”. It was not that long ago that 95% of the time I would hear the simple reply “Get a Garmin”. Things have changed. I know more and more new cachers who have bought a Magellan simply because a cacher friend of theirs told them a version of a story.

    Garmin left a gap that allowed their competitors to step in and attempt to fill it.
    Groundspeak wants growth, Garmin wants sales.
    The current day politics are what they are; it’s the economics that have had me puzzled.

  17. ziggybisch

    Je n’ai jamais mis la souris chez OpenCaching. Ce n’est pas l’article de Nick qui me fera changer d’avis !
    P.S. Nick, tu nous le traduis en français ? Merci !

  18. Echo Six Charlie

    INATN, what were you thinking having a piece like this on your site? Having a former reviewer for Groundspeak write a piece on a competitior? Did anyone expect this to be a fair assesment? INATN, you know better than to post crap like this.

    That being said, let me give my opinion too. I used to be a serious geocacher, it was my favorite hobby and it filled most of my free time. I have the most favorited cache in every city that I have placed a cache and even got one listed as The Geocache of The Week by Groundspeak! …and then things went wrong. My reviewer (NCReviewer) and I started to have constant problems, with most of the issues revolving around the 0.1 miles rule. The arguments took a nasty turn when he started to be personally offensive with me. I had become so pissed off with Groundspeak, that I decided it was time to try one of the other listing services… and that’s when I found opencaching.com

    The opinion piece above does not even come close to understanding the pros/cons of Opencaching, so I would like to give my opinion too.

    First off, I love the Awesome rating. This is so much better than anything Geocaching has. The “favorite” system that geocaching has sucks, it leaves you with 1 of 2 choices (either no points or best cache ever) and sadly, most caches don’t fall into either catergory. Could you imagine if Netflix did something like this? If I could only favorite or not movies my recommendation list would be horrible. The other problem that The Awesome rating fixes is it gets rid of the problem that come from people just favoriting their friends caches.

    Secondly, the peer review system. Let’s clear this up, there are reviewers at Opencaching.com, it’s everyone. And they do a surprisngly good job of filtering out the crap. I am not against appointed reviewers that Groundspeak uses, but they really need to do a better job. Most of the reviewers at groundspeak seem to be have been picked through a glorified nepotism system. Most reviewers were early geocachers, and clearly, most have not kept up with just how amazing hiders can be. Shockingly, to become a reviewer with Groundspeak you don’t actually have to hide caches and because of this it is obvious why so many Hiders hate their reviewer.

    Third, Commercial caches. Let me get this straight, I can’t have a cacher go into a local small business but it is ok to start up a campaign for a large nationwide insurance company, take user’s personal information and start sending them junkmail?!? I know that Opencaching is run by Garmin and I am fine with that, it is a GPS company trying to get more people to use their products, but Groundspeak is not trying to push a product, they are just selling out to whoever will pay them enough money (Geico, Jeep etc…) and sadly, making a cacher go into a local business doesn’t pay groundspeak enough.

    Last, let me just say the number issue is such junk, because… well… IT’s NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS

    1. Prying Pandora

      “Shockingly, to become a reviewer with Groundspeak you don’t actually have to hide caches and because of this it is obvious why so many Hiders hate their reviewer. ”

      This is incorrect. Significant experience with hiding and finding caches is just one of the foundation qualifications of being a reviewer for Groundspeak. Most of the reviewers set up a separate account for admin purposes and continue to play with their original account. Because they don’t play with the reviewer account, it has no statistics that show their experience with hides and finds.

    2. Cumbyrocks

      I disagree with you here ESC. The major flaw with the post was that some of the numbers were not confirmed, otherwise I thought it was a well constructed opinion piece by someone who was willing to raise the issue. He acknowledged his position at the beginning of the article, which allows those reading to read on in context. Calling it crap is a little harsh. I’m also yet to learn to shy away from the issues and have a history of posting crap like this myself, which I disguise by calling it my opinion. 😉

      Thanks for sharing a little of your story and some of your opencaching.com likes. I’m not sure that you really broach some of the bigger and more controversial issues though. My challenge to you – write and submit your own opinion piece about ox.com to us, I’ll be happy to publish it.

      My opinion is that the OX/GC issue is one of the most important events and problems in geocaching right now. If we don’t debate and discuss the issues, recognising that different people have different experiences and therefore different opinions (that they are entitled to have), then we may as well continue to stick our heads in the sand and live with the consequences.

      1. sTeamTraen

        I believe that the numbers which I quoted are true, but maybe my OX-API-fu is deficient and I’ve somehow missed 100,000 caches or something. I’m sure that Garmin will take the opportunity to correct any errors in my numbers in their interview.

    3. kjwx

      And to be fair, OpenCaching.com was given the chance to respond publicly BEFORE we published Nick Brown’s commentary. Rather than issue a statement, the Garmin subsidiary preferred to be interviewed by INATN about its first year of business – a post which you hopefully will be able to read very soon.

    4. Bluelamb03

      Echo Six Charlie said:

      “…and then things went wrong. My reviewer (NCReviewer) and I started to have constant problems, with most of the issues revolving around the 0.1 miles rule. The arguments took a nasty turn when he started to be personally offensive with me.”

      Although I’m not as familiar with OX as some of you, I only ‘joined’ to look around and save my userID from being poached, what little I read in the OX forums agrees perfectly with ESC’s quote. Most of the OX users seem to have some serious beef with GC guidelines or the review process.

      While the GC protocols are far from perfect they have worked well and continue to evolve. In the eight years I’ve been geocaching I’ve never had a serious problem with the review process. I’ve had ‘disagreements’ with reviewers but reasonable discussion has always produced acceptable results. The disgruntled few who take their ball and go home seem to be those people who are always pushing the ‘guidelines’ envelope, always wanting something more….. and cannot develop a reasonable discussion.

      Fair enough, the 161 meters proximity rule is an arbitrary number, but it’s something we can all work with. The crap reviewers have to deal with on a regular basis from cache-owners who believe the guidelines don’t have to be applied to them, and then explode in righteous anger when told NO! is not to be believed! From my conversations with the few reviewers I know personally I don’t think I’d make a good GC reviewer, I would not have the patience to deal with the crap they put up with on a regular basis. The GC review process may not be ideal but it looks to be a better one than OX has in place.

      Thanks for the opinion piece, it’s good to know what’s out there; I hope an OX ‘ambassador’ can produce a useful rebuttal for INATN. The comments on this page do nothing to help OX at all.

      Bluelamb03

  19. Alan

    I’m not sure I agree with Garmin’s methods, but I think a bit of healthy competition is good for the caching world. Whether opencaching.com is ‘healthy’ competition or not remains to be seen, but I think, as cachers, whatever our preference, we’ll be better served in the long run, no matter which listing site we choose to use.

  20. Bob Price

    Having looked at Opencaching, it simply looks like another way of trying to do a tried and tested thing. The main issue for me is the lack of caches. Based in Cardiff and travelling around as I do, I have managed to log caches in Stockholm and Paris this year. Opencaching has zero in Cardiff, three in Stockholm and about a dozen in Paris. Not enough for me to switch just yet.

    I do find some of the overlap interesting however. Caches that I know are on Groundspeak also appear on Opencaching. It we can have people logging them on both then fine, lets then have choice of apps, sites etc for logging. However a divided community will fail if we are not careful.

  21. Edward Reid

    Geocaching is a natural monopoly. Everyone wants to be on the site with the most caches, and once there they add to the numbers. Groundspeak is far from perfect, but they’ve been generally good at not letting this power go to their heads.

    I’m thus mostly amused when I hear talk about “competition”. Another site trying to duplicate what gc.com does will fail due to this natural monopoly. Anyone who realizes this will try to do something different instead of attempting to compete.

    Edward

  22. cdcacher

    Here is my view, as a neutral cacher who has been doing this for several years, has no particular allegiance to GS (have actually argued with reviewers on occasion) and enjoy other sites/games such as Munzee:

    While it is possible that the author is biased toward GS, much of what is written here is absolutely true. Unfortunately all the opencaching.com fanboyz (disgruntled GS rejects or bannees) refuse to accept that the Garmin site is, well…really pathetic. Look, I started looking at the site over a year ago when it was first unveiled initially with interest that there would be a competitor to GS that would offer new/different things which could add to the way I play the game. And competition is good, right?? Regrettably, the site has never done that, and on the contrary, has been a disorganized, bug-ridden, featureless disaster with no plan, no direction and nothing to set it apart from its competitors. This article discussed most of the problems and spent a lot of time comparing stats to show why opencaching.com is going nowhere, here are the problems in detail:

    1) Technical/Website – The website has been a horrible mess since day 1. It appeared that Garmin got a college intern and said, “hey, we need a geocaching website to go live in 2 weeks. You’ll get a good grade if you make this happen.” Seriously…the site was a bug-ridden nightmare that most people couldn’t even log into properly for several weeks when it went ‘live’ not to mention it had almost no working features, wasn’t half as good as any existing sites, and didn’t have anything new. The ‘developers’ stumbled around aimlessly asking users what features they wanted, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of geocaching, programming and the development process. Before some fanboy flames me as ignorant or yells, “it’s a beta site!!”, I will say I have experience rolling out a website for a major financial institution among other things and a “beta” test is a limited preview of some technology for a short time by focus users so the bugs can be worked out before the code is finalized and released to the public. It is NOT for figuring out new features to add to your unfinished product, finding out your user base can’t login properly or cross-link their existing accounts, or discovering that their perosnal information is exposed to the Internet after signing in. Seriously, can you imagine if Bank of America released a “beta” website like this for their banking customers, where nothing worked right, you couldn’t do anything except look at your balance and it took months to get even basic functionality working…this after online banking has existed for over 10 years. They would probably go out of business as people would deem the company incompetent. At this late stage in the game, everyone expects certain features out of a product whether the company is new or not. If established company A has features ABCDE and F, company B can’t possibly release something that has only feature A and half of C, neither which works right and expect to grow or even stay in business. Garmin should of gotten some real developers and some real geocachers if they really wanted this project to go somewhere. You just can’t tell me that anyone who had more than passing knowledge of Geocaching was involved with this project.

    2) Geocaching Methodology – again, it appears no one that had any real knowledge or history of geocaching was involved in this project because there was a total lack of direction and thought process that went into what Garmin’s basic tenets of geocaching should be. The reviewing process, cross-listing hides, distance requirements, cache requirements, rules, etc. were all hashed out in the forums by new resident ‘experts’, which leads to problem 3…

    3) Forums/Disgruntled Users – overall, forums of almost any site seem to attract social miscreants with no lives that congregate there with the sole purpose of spouting their self-proclaimed knowledge and superiority from their mom’s basement, knowing they can’t get their a** handed to them like they would in real life if they tried this nonsense. But this site was worse then most because it immediately offered an alternative venting place for many peculiar (and seemingly bi-polar) characters that had been banned/humiliated/called out on the GS site for various offenses, real or imagined. Unfortunately, these voices became the main influence on this new site generating thread after thread of questionable, embarassing, and uninformed (but frequently hilarious) non-sensical banter. Little effort was made to moderate this nonsense, most likely in fear of alienating their most motivated “contributors”…which there were few of. Along with this mess, major decisions on the direction of the website and the “opencaching” game were made while soliciting these contributions.

    Oh, and stop with the ridiculous comparison of opencaching’s first year with Groundspeak’s, back 10 years ago. First off, most people weren’t even on the Internet yet, there were no smartphones, limited people had a GPS and the game was just being invented. Groundspeak already did all the hard work: establishing the framework for what the game should be like, the useful features of the website, etc. All Garmin had to do was take what was existing and make it better somehow. Instead, it appeared they made believe it was 2000 all over again and began re-inventing the wheel from square 1. Not smart and entirely unnecessary.

    Overall, this whole thing has really been a disastrous venture from Garmin, which you would expect to release a professional, thought-out, finished product. It is truly sad this has turned out like this when the Munzee project, not backed by a huge company, seems to be doing quite well after half the time.

  23. Mainecaching

    The big reason opencaching got so many caches is because they offered prizes for submitting caches.

    When I started I submitted caches that were unique to the site. Then the prizes were offered and I, like so many others copied caches over from the real caching site.

    Then I saw what was being encouraged and accepted as good listings. The worst crap you can believe. The people reviewing these things are less than reliable. All in all that site is a disgrace.

    I have pulled all my listings off the site and I see where many others are being stolen by a band of college kids. For some reason they are targeting OX and not GC so far.

    Until OX gets it’s act together it will not be anything in Maine.

  24. John

    I was a huge Groundspeak fan until they got greedy with their pricing. They have intentionally held up the release of source files needed for other app devs to make programs comparable with their site in order to sell there very overpriced app. It’s $10 now btw, not $7 like it was originally listed. The approval process is total garbage. They are total Nazis when it comes to what’s acceptable and what’s not. I am all for guidelines but totalitarian rule is ruining their service. I am sorry, Groundspeak are a bunch of snotty, arrogant, greedy jerks and I hope Opencaching grows to the point where it ruins their business. Don’t get me wrong, Garmin is not any better but at least they are not a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    1. Cumbyrocks

      Hmmm, I’m sensing a little hostility there John. Your comment would likely hold a little more weight if you used a real email address and (I assume) your real name. For all we know you could be a Garmin/Opencaching.com employee, one of their disgruntled users, or (God forbid) existing in New Jersey. Feel free to reply using your real details so we can discuss more. 😉

  25. pjacko69 (phil)

    I am a newby, and would like to say how hard the geocache site is to use and not at all intuitive process, whereas the ox site is straight forward and easy to use. Yes there are bits you hardened searchers expect that are missing… What I don’t like is having to pay for the fun of it, apps and access to site. Harks back to the peoples internet and free access to info. C:geo has been cut out of access again from geocache, and i’m not paying for one of your sponser apps so OX it is. I don’t like bullies, and the numbers don’t matter, Apple are still here…

  26. GC.com volunteer reviewer

    Good article Nick. As a Groundspeak Volunteer Reviewer (as I actually am) I must say that Groundspeak ‘hate’ against OX it really looks like fear. Groundspeak makes money from GC.com and everything connected to that (gears, tbs, gcs, etc.). They obviously see OX as a threat. A big threat.
    Not allowing Garmin to be named in listings, not even allow people to organize MegaEvents with a Garmin sponshorship really means a lot.
    If Groundspeak is so confident that OX will be a big failure, why are you keep attacking it and fighting it with so much energy? Just ignore and remove that thread in RWH where we all have fun of OX.

  1. OpenCaching.com One Year On « Garmin « Geotools « Its Not About The Numbers | Géocaching en France | Scoop.it

    […] OpenCaching.com One Year On « Garmin « Geotools « Its Not About The Numbers OPINION PIECE First, the disclaimer: my name is Nick Brown and I have been geocaching at Geocaching.com under the name of sTeamTraen for nearly eight years. […]

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