Is Garmin’s Opencaching Doomed To Failure?

logo_opencachingIn the spirit of keeping things fair, I thought I would go back and have another look at OpenCaching, Garmin style*.

For those that don’t know, geocaching.com (GC)is not the only listings site. Yes, it’s certainly the biggest and some might say the best but there are always those that will disagree – those that are anti “the man”, have been done wrong by either the “the man” or fellow geocachers and those that just expect the whole thing to be free**.

Other listing sites include (but aren’t limited to):

Garmin Open Caching (OC)
Open Caching UK (Ox)
Terracaching (TC)
Navicache (NC)

The distinction between Garmin Open Caching and Open Caching UK is significant. The Open Caching Network runs across the EU with many different localised sites. These are specifically run to be “open” and accessible to any player without recompense. Garmin’s Open Caching is proprietary (much like geocaching.com) but currently has no fees for premium membership. Specifically in this post I want to look at Garmin’s Open Caching.

When the service was launched (December 2010 or January 2011 I believe) I spoke about the site in the next show (show 5 – not currently available as I can’t locate the show to upload it). That same month I hid an OpenCache called Gateway to Kites Croft and it was published 30 January 2011. Well, I say “published”, realistically it went live immediately and was available for finding. And found it was. Once, about 9 days later. There’s another find from 21 January 2012 but I can’t prove that it was actually found as there’s no information on the log and the cache only has GeoSOM’s signature.

When I listed that cache there were 46 opencaches in the UK. Since then there are a few more but there’s still nowhere near as many as listed on Geocaching. Compare the two screengrabs below:

ocmap           gcmap

Click the image to see a larger version of each.  Although the GC map doesn’t give a specific number of visible caches, it is easily seen that there are far more caches on the GC map.

I guess in itself this is not a major issue. GC has been running since 2000 (almost 13 years – forgive me, it’s approximate) while OC has been available two years or so at the time of writing. My major issue (still) with OC is the peer review system.

While GC has a dedicated team of volunteer reviewers who do an excellent job of reviewing every Geocache before it’s published (and sometimes annoying individual members of the community by refusing to a publish a cache) the task for reviewing OC caches is left to the community. The main reason for this blog post is the peer review system. I was reading the OC forum, which is no less acerbic than the Groundspeak*** forums, when I found a post from a year ago:

Due to an issue between myself, Garmin, and several users here that enjoy harassing other users, I have chosen to remove all my cache listings from OpenCaching.com at this time.

Ok, one person. Toys out-of-the pram? Maybe. However, the very first response brought up the subject of peer review and the OP replied:

When reviewing a new cache listing here on OC, I simply stick to the posted rules and guidelines, and if they are met, I approve the listing. This way, we can have as many new caches as possible on OC. I have an issue with those that would vote down a cache that meets all rules and requirements, as posted, simply becuase they want to push their agenda for opencaching, and then state clearly in the review note this is what they were doing.

I contacted Garmin/Opencaching with the concern, and was informed they approved of this behavior and would let it stand.

This thread has seven pages of responses which (before degenerating into the usual personal attacks) seemed to blame everything from peer review to lack of image hosting to unresponsiveness of employees at Garmin. I am a little surprised that the thread has lasted a year and Godwin’s Law still isn’t applying.

So, my opinion? Peer Review Bad. For exactly the reason that Atlas posted in his response, if your face doesn’t fit, or you have upset someone in the forum (or even another listing site) they can easily down vote your cache listing for a seemingly valid reason. This will get your cache much less “karma” than it would otherwise.

Unless Garmin do soemthing about this fairly rapidly then I believe that the Opencaching.com listing site will always be the minority listing site. I don’t believe it will “die” as such, Garmin has spent money on this white elephant and they’re going to keep plugging it just to support those disaffected by geocaching.com.

What worries me is that members of the public that purchase a Garmin GPS product get a flyer promoting Garmin Opencaching in the box and this will be the first place they visit. Admittedly, if someone says to them “oh, you got a new GPS, tried Geocaching yet?” they will Google Geocaching and come up with the GC site first, but those that don’t will only know about Opencaching and will be disappointed.

My advice?

Try one of the other listing sites mentioned above as well as the Garmin Opencaching website.

*Nothing to do with a certain Korean “pop” star…
**Premium Membership at geocaching.com costs $US30 per year.
***Groundspeak own and run Geocaching.com.

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