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Not Your Average Geocacher

Shelley Mitchell may not be your average geocacher but the American is an expert on what constitutes one, having just completed a survey on player traits.

The Stillwater resident (GC handle: sshelle) undertook her Predicting Total Caches Found Using Geocacher Provided Statistics poll this semester as part of her PhD studies at Oklahoma State University.

One hundred and 65 players filled out an online questionnaire to help Mitchell determine a formula to estimate their total number of finds – though the details of 25 respondents, each with a tally of more than 5000, could not be used “to prevent large skewing of the data”.

Her study asked seven questions, concentrating on each player’s age, number of finds plus trackables logged. And, according to her analysis, Joe or Jane Geocacher is a 41-year-old who has logged nearly 1250 hides and 355 trackables in the 34 months since they took up their hobby.

“The most surprising result (to me) was the age of most geocachers – between 30 and 52 years of age, with the average cacher about 41 to 42 years old.

“Average difficulty/terrain didn’t vary as much as I had expected. I looked up the cacher with the greatest number of finds  – California’s Alamogul hit 60,000 in the last fortnight – and his statistics for average difficulty/terrain (1.73/1.58) weren’t far from the average.

“The only people who had higher numbers were those who don’t typically search for or log caches with lower levels of difficulty/terrain.”

Mitchell found herself in barely charted territory with this project, as not all geocachers play the game the same way. “The only study I could find on caching statistics (•Shoyleva and Johnson, 2011) looked at data from January 1 to November 16, 2010. During that time, 99,864 players (almost 15 per cent of cachers) only logged one find but four cachers logged more than 7000 finds. About one per cent of all cachers (8437) were active every month in that timeframe, with 39 per cent of cachers (263,972) active only one month.”

This great diversity in volume and frequency of geocache finds creates a long upper tail to cacher distribution, she says.  “Since not all geocachers log their finds online, some inactive cachers still have an account, and some user names represent more than one person, it is difficult to determine how many people are ‘really’ involved in geocaching, and therefore the statistics of the average [active] cacher.”

She persevered, though, using multiple regression to derive a formula that could predict the total number of caches per player. However, Mitchell admits her equation only accounts for “about 42 per cent of the variables that contribute to the total number of finds”, as “age, average difficulty and average terrain provided no significant prediction”.

In case you’re interested, her formula is: Total number finds = 517.671 + 10.268 (# hides) + 11.512 (# months cached) + 0.175 (# trackables).

If Mitchell attempted the study again, she would broaden her collection of player demographics. “To find the other 58 per cent of predictors [missed by the formula], I would probably look at things like: retired/working/student status, level of education, number of kids, socio-economic status variables, etc.

“To really get a feel for the average cacher, I’d have to have everyone’s data and their age (the active cachers, anyway) … and there are like five million cachers.”

Mitchell has since presented her project to her university tutor but has yet to receive a grade.  “Obviously, I’m hoping for an A 🙂 While this study didn’t lead to a good prediction formula, it still showed some interesting information. Thanks to all of you who took part.”

BY THE NUMBERS

The results of Shelley Mitchell’s geo-poll (minus the outliers) are summarised below. Range and median were figured for each statistic because of the extreme diversity, to give a truer picture of the average cacher’s stats.

*To find out where you rank internationally as a player, Mitchell suggests using a statistical website such as CacherStats.
•Shoyleva, K and Johnson, DKN (2011): Cache me if you can: rational addiction to the leisure activity of Geocaching, Colorado College Working Paper 2011-04.

3 comments

  1. Alan

    “California’s Alamogul hit 60,000 in the last fortnight”

    Wow. WOW. That’s a lot of caches! I had a look at their GC profile, and at a rough calculation, that works out at an average of 18 a day, every day for the 9 years they’ve been caching. How did they find time to hide 647 themselves!

  2. James Finger on Facebook

    They cheat… they are a team that hide, find and log separately on one account. Not to take away from their amazing numbers, but it is a group effort for sure!

  3. AndrewRJ

    Well it looks like I may have been one of the 25 that was going to “skew” the data.

    Other then total number of finds I wonder how much deviation the 25 of us could possible have made.

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