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OX Opens Up: Part One

Finally … OpenCaching.com has opened up about its past, present and future. In the first of three interviews with It’s Not About The Numbers, a Garmin spokesman explains the creation of this often controversial listing service.

It’s been the question on everyone’s lips for over a year … Why did Garmin borrow the name of an already established network when it launched OpenCaching.com?

Just what was wrong with GarminCaching?

According to one of OpenCaching.com’s leading software engineers, everything.

The OX team member – who wishes to be known only by his first name, Chad – explains that the popular community choice was never an option.

“We wanted a name that reflected our main philosophy behind building the site: openness. We didn’t want to make a ‘Garmin’ site that might make people think the site was only for people using Garmin GPS devices.”

Nor did the GPSr maker realise that decision would cause such international resentment when it launched its rival listing service in December 2010, he claims.

“Obviously, we picked the name well before the site publicly launched. At that time we picked the name, OpenCaching.us did not exist. The only site using the phrase opencaching, that I was aware of at the time, was OpenCaching.de. That site seemed very localised, was only available in German, and it seemed that ‘.de’ was very much part of its identity.”

Proponents of the grassroots OpenCaching service operating in 14 countries have previously denied the company’s assertions that it discussed its chosen moniker with network representatives before the controversial launch.

Even one year on, the topic still raises the hackles of many geocachers  – which is what brought It’s Not About The Numbers to interview Chad in the first place. After publishing an opinion piece by former Geocaching.com volunteer reviewer Nick Brown summarising OX’s first year of operation, the Garmin site approached us about telling its side of the story.

Unfortunately, Chad – who can often be found online using the moderator handle TrailTech –  did not answer all of our questions as fully as we would have liked. But those he did reply to offer some interesting insights into the OX environment.

Chad has been with the company since 2006 but says some of his OpenCaching.com colleagues “were working at Garmin before the first geocache was ever placed”, while others have joined the team only recently. “Before working on OpenCaching.com. I worked on geocaching features on the Garmin handhelds (Colorado, Oregon, Dakota etc). After working on geocaching firmware, and with geocachers, I had several ideas for how the experience could get even better. So, when the OpenCaching.com project started, I asked to be part of it.”

Garmin’s decision to launch OpenCaching.com was similarly easy,  he says; it wanted to improve the game for everyone.  “We see a world of opportunity for geocaching. Geocaching is a great hobby. It gets people outdoors, it allows friends and family to spend time together, it brings people to beautiful places they wouldn’t otherwise see, and it gives technophiles an excuse to buy some really cool toys.

“We want to see the geocaching experience become even better for those who are already caching, and we want to make it incredibly easy for new people to start caching.  One goal is to make caching streamlined for someone who caches every day and to make it less intimidating for a family who only goes out a couple times a year.

“Geocaching can get less complicated, less intimidating, and more fun by having a website that: let’s you download as many geocaches as you want, provides easy website to GPS integration, and continues to listen to users.”

He admits, though, that the company had anticipated a possible backlash over its OX launch.
“We knew there was a chance, yes. Ultimately, we decided that if we could effectively communicate our goals to the community, then most geocachers would see that competition can be beneficial to the activity and its future.”

However, when queried as to what he thinks Garmin should have done differently, Chad replies: “Ask me again in three years. I feel like we are still just getting this thing started. If we were to start all over again, we would have had a review system in place from day one. We thought we could follow the Wikipedia model of having people report violating caches and remove them. We added the peer review system just a couple of weeks after launch, and it was a definite improvement.”

He says the site’s early launch allowed the OX team “to start getting feedback” from the geo-community as soon as possible. “We launched OpenCaching.com with the bare essentials, and a couple of sprinkles to show how we thought we could be better. Then we started listening to feedback, and we started watching how people actually used the site. We knew OpenCaching.com could go a hundred different ways, but we wanted to go with the community.

“If we had developed the site in isolation for another six months or a year, we would have started with more features and they would have been more polished. But I don’t know if they would have been the right features. We would have been developing based on what we thought people would do, and how we thought they would respond. Instead, we were able to change and prioritise based on what was actually happening.”

Among those initial changes were:

  • Introduction of the peer-review system to reduce the number of inappropriate geocaches.
  • Removal of the site’s ‘Log A Cache’ page and relocation of ‘Pending Logs’ – aka field notes – to a dropdown menu at the top of the page. “We don’t get emails from confused users about this anymore.”
  • Automatic pocket query updates: “We noticed that most people download caches from the same area over and over again, so we decided to make that really easy (zero clicks required). Now, when you go to OpenCaching.com, we look at the queries you have already downloaded to your GPS. If those caches have been updated, or new caches added in the area, we update your GPS automatically.”
  • A bigger OX guidebook to answer members’ questions.
  • Verified finds: “We heard a common theme was that people wanted to be able to prove that they had really been to a geocache and weren’t ‘armchair logging’ … With new firmware, Garmin handhelds combine your location and a code from inside the geocache (a number, a QR code, or communication with a chirp beacon) to create a digital signature that proves you visited the cache.”

“That’s just a few examples of things we were able to do based on the feedback from the geocaching community.”

It should be remembered that the development of OX’s site and community “are on a path”, he says. “Of course, there are about a million things on the site that we want to make better. We always wish we were further down the path, but we are happy with the path that we are on.”

But enough with the serious tone, let’s hear about the juicy stuff. Like whether the bad blood between Garmin/OX and Groundspeak is as bad as it’s perceived by the geocaching community.

According to Chad, the answer is no. “Not at all. Some people want everything to be a soap opera. Garmin handhelds still work well with Geocaching.com and that isn’t going to change.

“Since launching OpenCaching.com, we have made several improvements to the geocaching experience on our handheld devices. These improvements are compatible with caches from Geocaching.com and OpenCaching.com. Of course, we think they are even easier to use with OpenCaching.com.”

And we couldn’t finish any OX interview without asking about Opie. So Chad, dish … Why is your mascot a blue squirrel?

“We took applications, and his resume was the best. We thought a squirrel (or is he a chipmunk?) would represent us well since they like to stash things and so do geocachers. I don’t think it should matter what colour he is, but it is nice that OpenCaching.com’s background is orange and blue is orange’s colour complement.

“Opie isn’t the name on his driver license. It’s a nickname that he got because loves to talk about how open OpenCaching is. He’s also a big fan of the movie Apollo 13, which is directed by Ron Howard (aka [American TV show character] Opie).”

Chad has since been advised by “the mastermind graphic artist who made Opie” that their mascit is blue for two reasons: “It is a subtle nod to Garmin’s main colour and because it is more memorable than a brown marmot.”

 

11 comments

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  1. Guwapo's Papa

    I sure hope parts two and three turn up soon because nothing in Part One has made me want to rush over and check what’s happening on ox.com!!

  2. James Finger on Facebook

    Im hoping they address the whole “Dual-Listing” issue >:(

  3. Pete

    Meh…

  4. Wojtek

    “The only site using the phrase opencaching, that I was aware of at the time, was OpenCaching.de.” How could they not see the others? It is true, that of all the national OC sites, “oc.us” is one of the smallest, but still, original “opencaching” brand was well established in many countries except Germany, for example here in Poland (opencaching.pl).

    This seems really unfair to the original developers! Thousands of people in Poland probably land on their site when they’re looking for opencaching.pl. It would be nice it ox.com displayed a proper information for such users, at least…

  5. Uncle Ruckus

    OpenCaching.com may be a useless geocaching site, but this worthless blog site uses OX to gain attenion. Now how stupid is that? Also there are quite a few OpenCaching.us members that use OX. Just more BS from this site. Try posting something of interest.

    1. Cumbyrocks

      MPH, why do you bother changing your name and email address? You are quite welcome to try to abuse us using your normal handle! 😛

      1. Uncle Ruckus

        I’m still confused if Not about the Numbers is a supporter of OX or not. Well, is it? I think that you done well to get TrailTech to even respond. Now a real blog site like Lat 47 would deserve a real answer, but they don’t speak about OX. I’m not thinking it is out of respect, but more along the line of common sense not to promote a competive site. From where I see it GC and Garmin had a fall out, and Megallan stepped in where Garmin left.
        So, is this site a supporter of OX, or not? This site hosts Garmin hand outs, and slaps them in the face at the same time.
        Also from what I see here is your readers are concerned about cross listing of geocaches. Why don’t you invite one of the OX members that owns cross listed caches there and get their view point, and I don’t mean one of those members that flood the site with bogus listings everytime they have a contest. Maybe you already tryed?

        1. Cumbyrocks

          Hi again MPH, great to hear from you. I see you are still confused about your identity. That’s okay, we understand if you want to continue to be known as a self-hating black man.

          This ‘blog’ has no independent consciousness and therefore cannot have an opinion about OX.com. This blog does have a number of contributors who all have, and are entitled to have, different opinions. You would need to ask them to elicit a response.

          The blog, despite having no independent consciousness, still finds your attempt to bait a response somewhat amusing.

          And to take up your suggestion – MPH, you are cordially invited to write a post outlining your views on the cross posting of caches. If we deem it suitable we may even publish it!

  6. Tim T

    I’m still unhappy with the name given the explanation. I think they had plenty of time to change it to prevent confusion and the anger from the opencaching.* community.

    By making uploading of existing caches to the site so easy, they have made the site more irrelevant. Nobody wants to sift through caches in a list or on a map, and have to determine whether they have found them previously or not.

    1. Mr.Yuck

      Of course you’re not happy about the name change explanation. That’s because once again Trailtech AKA Chad is lying. That’s a strong word, perhaps he is continuously consistently mis-informed by his superiors.

      From the article: ” The only site using the phrase opencaching, that I was aware of at the time, was OpenCaching.de. That site seemed very localised, was only available in German”

      Status: LIE. Opencaching.de has an English version, and has for several years: http://www.opencaching.de/index.php?locale=EN

      “Obviously, we picked the name well before the site publicly launched. At that time we picked the name, OpenCaching.us did not exist”

      Status: LIE: Garmin did not purchase Opencaching.com until September 2010. http://www.hosterstats.com/historicaldns.php?domain=opencaching.com The internet archive Wayback Machine shows Opencaching.com with an expired domain placeholder every month up to September 2010. (It was owned by some guy in South Carolina USA from 2003-2006.)

      Garmin will obviously never admit it was a greivious error, born out of total cluelessness. I suppose the chances of “sorry, our bad, horrible mistake, let us change the name” ever happening are practically non-existent.

  7. TEAM 360

    Good article on OpenCaching.com!
    The website has some very good features and is worth trying. Some of the local cachers and I are listing OpenCaching.com-exclusive hides in order to help it grow. After a day of caching, it’s easy to just plug in the Montana GPS and instantly download your finds.

    Just to mention: The Original Can of Beans (O.C.B., the Last Remaining Item from the Worlds First Cache) will be returning to GeoWoodstock X this year in Indiana and in cooperation with Garmin/Opencaching.com, the O.C.B. will be displayed at their table all day!

    360.

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