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Meet Your Munzee Guide: Uncle Karl

Hard at work: Karl Witsman practises what he preaches in his new Munzee guide; the first book on the topic.

Hard at work: Karl Witsman practises what he preaches in his new Munzee guide; the first book on the topic.

Doing things by the book isn’t really Karl Witsman’s forte …

When the American geocacher couldn’t find a manual to teach him how to use the new-fangled Munzee app he’d just downloaded to his smartphone, he decided to write one himself. In fact, it’s almost becoming a habit for the thrice-published author.

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Capturing the market: The first-ever Munzee book.

Witsman (GC handle: Kwitsman and Munzee handle: KarlsWitsman) says he began work on Uncle Karl’s Guide to Munzee: A Scavenger Hunt For The 21st Century while still a novice at the popular geo-location game after being driven batty by its phone app.

“What is the arrow on the right for? And why does it show this map in one mode and another in another mode? I wondered if there was a book but there wasn’t – so I wrote it.

“That meant I had to learn all about it myself, which was great too. I did the same thing when I first got [computer software] Audacity for editing sound files and I wrote the first book for that.”

Despite that steep learning curve, it only took Witsman a few months to pen Uncle Karl’s Guide, followed by “another month of editing and touch-ups”.

Helping with the entire process was his wife, Donna Carlene. “She followed me around and took most of the photos for the book and still had time to write a chapter on Munzee widows, that poor spouse who puts up with us saying ‘Just one more’.”

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Branching out: Witsman captures another Munzee barcode with his smartphone.

The protagonist of his latest title, Uncle Karl, was inspired by a workmate sending Witsman a Dear Abby-style question. In return, the IT advisor answered his “whole work group in Uncle Karl’s voice”. “He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, kind of crabby but helpful. It allowed me to add some humour to the book.”

Witsman says his manual is mostly for newbies “but I also tried to put some things in to make more experienced players think”. “Like is it kosher to put a Munzee on the back of a traffic sign? In a mall parking lot? Also things about mapping and how to read the various modes. I hope that everyone would find one good thing in the book.”

For him personally, that would be the chapters called Placing A Munzee and Stealth. “I am also proud to dedicate it to my father, who passed away while I was finishing the book. He was a great inspiration, and as an engineer, he would have loved the mathematics of the GPS system.”

Though Witsman is no longer a Munzee novice – having reached level 18 since signing up 16 months ago – his new hobby has yet to catch on in his hometown of Danville, Illinois. “Sadly, there are only two Munzers in my area, and I’ve never met the other guy. We just keep capturing each other’s Munzees. I have to drive about 40 miles to find more. When I first started, the closest Munzee was two hours’ away. So I’m still pretty low on the pole.”

He’s fared better with geocaching – having first tried the sport “way back in 2002 or 2003” – but says he loves both activities. “Munzee is much better when it’s freezing out and I don’t have to fumble with a log. And I’ve always been more of an urban cacher, catching them on the way to work when I can’t get my shoes dirty. So Munzee is better for that too.”

Set in stone: One of Witsman's dual Munzee-geocache hides in a fake rock.

Set in stone: One of Witsman’s dual Munzee-geocache hides.

When it comes to his deployments, Witsman is best known for his fake rock geocaches featuring a Munzee barcode on the bottom. “People who have found them love them, even though they are so simple. I have photos in the book showing how I did it. I’m pretty proud of that.”

To date, Uncle Karl’s Guide has had limited public exposure but Witsman expects sales of his 38-page paperback and ebook will increase as Munzee’s  presence grows.

“The reaction so far has been ‘Mun-what?’ Just like when we talk about it to the uninitiated for the first time. About a dozen copies have sold since it was published in November but it’s still pretty new.”

More importantly, his work has the blessing of the game’s creators. “They were so busy that they didn’t have time to contribute to it but they were very happy I decided to write the book. We need to get the word out about Munzee. For that reason, and because I don’t need the money, I’m making very little on each book. I have been spending the proceeds on NFC tags and virtual Munzees to pump up the game. I just want to get the word out.”

*You can buy your own copy of Uncle Karl’s Guide To Munzees: A Scavenger Hunt For The 21st Century through self-publishing service Lulu. The 38-page paperbook costs US$7, while the ebook is US$4.

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