July 30, 2011

Just What I Don't Need

Another social network. Although I have to admit, after using Google Plus (a.k.a. Google +, or G+) for the past few weeks, I'm really enjoying it. Maybe it's because it hasn't become overrun with celebrities, political hacks, and marketers yet. As such, there's been some high quality content being shared by people in my "Circles" (similar concept to "friends" on Facebook, or people you "follow" on Twitter).

What I also like about G+ is that you can add people to your circles, and people can add you, without having to return the favor (unlike Facebook). That way, you can get anyone's posts included in your content feed, or "Stream." And unlike Twitter, your posts are not limited to 140 characters, which allows for some quality  exchanges. It's also easy to control who receives your posts by selecting just certain circles, or all of your followers if you choose.

Another nice feature is what Google calls, "Hangouts"; which allows you to participate in a live video chat with 10 of your friends. I understand this will become more tightly integrated with YouTube, allowing you to record your hangout sessions for others to view afterward. I can envision some of the geo-podcachers out there migrating to this type of forum.

Most of the people using Google + so far are what might be described as uber-geeky. While I expect this will change over time as more people get on board, I have been enjoying a lot of the technical items that have come through my stream. I've also noticed that many of the geocachers that I've been following on Twitter and/or Facebook are now also on Google +, and I've already added 15 of them to my "Geocachers" Circle (my largest circle at the moment).

Google + is currently in "field trial", and access is available by invitation only. Although I understand that it will be opening publicly soon. If you can't wait, and you'd like to check it out for yourself, drop me a line in the comments section and I will send you an invite.

Cache On!

July 24, 2011

Having a Blast. Wish You Were Here.

I spent last week in and around Seattle on a family vacation. We did all the touristy things, including visiting the top of the Space Needle, shopping at Pike Place Market, grabbing a latte at the original Starbucks, browsing through the gigantic REI flagship store, and hopping a ferry to British Columbia (where I scored my first cache find outside the U.S.). We also did one other thing that most tourists do not do, but I highly recommend all geocachers try at some point; pay a visit to Groundspeak Headquarters and claim the cache they have hidden there. The only requirement is that you have to make an appointment ahead of time, and they will send you the actual coordinates (along with their address).

At GZ, you'll find one of the biggest cache containers, stocked full of goodies, that you've ever seen. But don't be fooled by some of the decoys on display. We got to meet some of the Groundspeak staff, who were incredibly gracious hosts, along with several other cachers from different parts of the globe. There are plenty of trade items, trackables, pathtags and geocoins available for trade and purchase in all shapes and sizes. You can get your picture taken in the photo booth, which spits out two copies: one for you and one that Groundspeak posts on their photo wall. They also have a cool big screen Google Earth display that zooms into each new cache find that gets logged across the globe, in real time.

Getting Closer 

Geocaching Timeline Display 


All Smiles

Check out more photos from other cachers here.

Cache On!

July 17, 2011

A New Type of Geocaching

I ran across this tweet this week which suggested that Munzee is going to give Geocaching a run for its money. I hadn't heard of Munzee before this, and decided to check it out. According to the website

"Munzee is a real world scavenger hunt game where items are found in the real world and captured using your smartphone. You then level up and gain rank based on your score. Points are obtained by capturing other people's munzees or when your deployed munzees are captured by someone else. Munzee is based off of the fundamentals of geocaching and adds another layer of fun to the hunt. Badges can be earned by unlocking specific achievements."

It sounds interesting, but being one of the 66% of the population that does not have a smartphone, I'm unable to try it out. According to the Munzee website, there are currently 715 total players signed up (as of this writing), and 371 Munzees deployed world wide. I couldn't tell how long Munzee has been around, but 371 deployed Munzees isn't a heck of a lot. You can check the Munzee Map to see how many are in your area. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are only three so far, which is pretty limited.

Call me cynical, but I don't see this activity posing any real threat to geocaching. People with smartphones may like to partake in both activities, but what I, and I think others, really like about geocaching is getting out into remote areas (often out of cell service range) either by bike, jeep or hiking boots, and looking for caches along trails and out in the wilderness.  Munzee sounds like a fun, urban activity, but I don't think we're going to see very many 5-star terrain Munzees. Also, it will be a long, long time before I trade in my Garmin GPS60CSx for a smartphone.

Cache and Munzee On!

July 9, 2011

I Like What You've Done With The Place

You may have heard that a new version of the Geocaching iPhone/iPodTouch application was released this week, and it included many nice enhancements, including:

  • New Advanced Search to filter by location, cache type, difficulty/terrain, keyword, exclude your finds, exclude finds for up to 4 friends, and Premium caches;
  • Sync Personal Cache Notes between the website and your iPhone;
  • Create multiple offline cache lists to plan outings; useful when you may be travelling outside network coverage;
  • Download Pocket Queries to the iPhone to view cache details, images, and map tiles offline;
  • Numerous bug fixes to address performance and reliability.

The new, advanced search feature is particularly nice. Here are some screen shots:

Filter your search by cache type if you like. Include or exclude your previous finds.

Filter by difficulty and/or terrain rating and cache size.

You can also exclude cache finds by other cachers - great for cache outings with your friends.

After you've selected all of your desired filters, hit the search button, and you'll be presented with a list of all the caches that meet your criteria near your current location. You can then save that listing to your device for later use. You can also click on the icon in the upper-right corner to see a map of your selected caches:

You can also download pocket queries to your device just as before, but now you have the option of including map tiles with your pocket query:

However, unless you have a lot of memory on your iPhone/iPodTouch, I'd advise against using this option. I downloaded a pocket query with 1,000 caches to my 8GB iPodTouch and chose to include the Topo Map tiles, which ultimately crashed my unit. This feature worked fine, though, with a much smaller pocket query.

All in all, these are great enhancements. And the ability to save searches to your device for later, off-line use is especially appreciated by us iPodTouch users.

Cache On!

July 1, 2011

Geowoodstock IX

If you can't be there in person, then follow the action on Twitter:

And here's a link to the official Blog site: Geowoodstock IX Blog.

Cache On!