Cecil would probably rant about this topic because as more experienced, aka “older,” cachers have discovered there is something about people using their smartphones to cache that has led to some grumpiness in geocaching community. I hear it at events and in social media- Is it really the problem, or is the problem ignorance?
Let’s start off with “It’s a phone not a GPS.” Fine, it’s a GPS enabled device… still it isn’t designed to be a GPS, it’s designed to give you driving directions to Starbucks, and to play Angry Birds. Which means it isn’t as accurate. You can easily find the Starbucks with it, but a nano might be a bit more difficult. When I first started caching the advice given to me was when the GPS unit said you were around 20 feet away, start looking. Better yet, turn off the GPS and start really looking. This built up your “GeoSense,” but also GPS units weren’t very accurate. If you are using a smartphone to cache, the same thing applies. That also means don’t complain to the cache owner that the coordinates were off… Your phone triangulates its location partially by cell phone towers, so maybe it might be off by a few (dozen, hundred, thousand) feet. So the device you are using, isn’t the best. Like playing football with a Nerf Football. You can do it, you can still have fun, but the experience is really different when you are throwing around a real pigskin.
There’s an app for that, and sometimes it doesn’t work too well. There are a number of apps for geocaching out there, I’m not going to go into them now, each has their pros and cons. I use the Geocaching.com app (Yes, I have been known to cache with my phone- more on that later) and there are some big limitations especially for new cachers. Here’s what you can do for the most part- find a nearby cache, log said nearby cache, pick up or place a travel bug. Outside of that… not much else. What more seasoned cache owners are finding is that new cachers are logging their caches more than once. Not giving the app time to send all it’s information through the ether. I have had this happen on a few of Cecil’s caches and he does get annoyed over it.
Cecil also gets annoyed that many phone cachers have really not had any experience with geocaching- the app has opened our little hobby to some great people who just don’t know any better. They look for nearby caches and go find them. If it happens to show up on the map in a color other than green, oh well. Sadly for Cecil, he has a couple caches that are challenges, or that have specific requirements to be able to log them… The caches are at the posted coordinates, so someone logs them happily, not having met the requirements. Cecil’s Dr. Who Finale is one that tends to get this more than others. You can set the app to only show traditionals, but if you don’t know how or even that there are different kinds of caches this would not pop into your mind.
It’s a phone, and yet many of these people have no idea how to communicate. Since you can even create an account through the app many of these new smartphone cachers have no idea about messages and have probably think that any emails from GC.com are just spam trying to get them to upgrade their free account. Hence sending a note to them explaining “politely” how the game is played, and that you need to delete their log is like talking to a wall.
They’ve never seen Geocaching.com so all they do is log caches… The app does not allow you (or at least I couldn’t find it) to delete your past logs or even edit them. A limitation with the app, or the device… but still annoying. If you only cache with a smartphone and never go to the site, you may not know about how the game is played. On your smartphone you can see how many you’ve found, you can see your souvenirs so you can show off your “badges” and your numbers, outside of that… does it really matter?
Now I started off caching with an eTrex Legend, moved to an eTrex H and finally an Oregon 550. For the most part now I do cache with my iPhone and iPad, it is easier for me to log caches and keep things paperless. I know I can save field notes and log later, but I have moved to keeping the process as quick and simple as possible. Does this make me a bad person? I’m a bad person for many other things outside of my caching habits. It does allow me to understand the process that new cachers who only use their smartphone are going through, plus guessing at what information they may be missing. So as a teacher I offer this bit of advice for new Cachers who exclusively use their smartphone to cache with:
1. Learn about different cache types and set your app to display the ones you want to find (probably only traditional caches at the beginning)
2. Read the cache description every once in a while (not just the hint)
3. Check your email for friendly notes from other cachers through Groundspeak- You hopefully didn’t use your spam email address when you set up your account, if you did see #4.
4. Go to Geocaching.com and look around, watch the intro video, set up your profile, change your email address to one you really use.
5. Go to an event and meet some other cachers. They are nice and will talk to you for hours about the places they’ve been and the things they’ve seen. You’ll learn first hand about the really great caches in the area- plus You’ll get a smiley for showing up. Don’t feel bad about asking questions, we were all new to this at some point so we get it.
As members of the Geocaching community we need to understand that this is a new breed of cacher, and like dealing with a small child we need to show some patience. While there are some wonderful groups on Facebook that could help out new cachers, I have found that sometimes people in these groups can be rather rude when hiding behind a keyboard and monitor, which is why I suggest to go to an event first. Now all that said-Do I delete their logs? Yes. Do I send a note explaining why? Yes. Do I suggest in my note that they attend an event and learn more? Most definitely. Do I expect a response? No.
So did I miss anything? If you are new to caching and have a question or two send us a message, or leave them in the comments.