Change in Cache Guidelines

On April 4th, 2009, Groundspeak announced a change to the guidelines for cache placement.  I was notified about it by the Nebraska Reviewer, Heartland Cacher.  I haven’t spoken about it on here yet, so I thought that I’d bring it up for all of you to hear, in an effort to help spread the word.  Feel free to voice your thoughts at the end.Here is what the official cache guidelines now state:

Geocaches can be logged online as Found once the physical log has been signed.

If it is appropriate for your cache location or theme, you may ask the cache seeker to accomplish an optional and simple task, either close to the cache site (normally within 0.1 miles or 161 meters) or when writing their online log. For example, wear the goofy hat inside the cache container and upload a photograph. Cache finders can choose whether or not to attempt or accomplish optional tasks. Cache owners may not delete the cache seeker’s log based solely on optional tasks.

This guideline change applies immediately to all logs written from April 4, 2009 and going forward. Older caches with “additional logging requirements” (ALRs) are not grandfathered under the older guideline. If you own an existing cache with mandatory additional logging requirements, we request that you:

  • Cease deleting logs based on additional logging requirements.
  • Review your own cache listing to see if the ALR can be made into an optional and simple task, or whether it must be removed altogether.
  • Adjust your geocache listing by editing the text then contact a reviewer to change the cache type, if appropriate.

Let’s translate what this means for all of you.  First, what is an ALR?  An ALR, or additional logging requirement, was something that was often put on caches by the cache owner to get people to do something beyond just finding the cache.  For example, the cache may take you to a historical site and ask you to e-mail the owner a certain piece of information off of a sign, or else your log could be deleted.  This is on top of finding the cache and signing the log sheet.  Sometimes, it may ask you to take a picture of yourself in a particular location.  Sound familiar?  Well, it’s the same idea behind Virtual and Webcam caches.

This seems harmless enough, but there is a problem.  Caching is about finding the geocache, or at least that’s what Groundspeak wants to have the goal be.  Many of the ALR’s out there (and every one I’ve seen) were harmless requests that often helped highlight something about the cache site.  However, some cachers went too far with their ALR’s.

Having not seen an ALR that went too far, I can only provide the example provided by someone else in the forums:  “‘you have to milk a goat, read “War And Peace” and submit a 1000 word essay on it, donate $20 to the red cross, and eat a Durian to post a find. Oh, and by the way, just so you can get a smiley, we put a film can in in this parking lot'”

You can see how things like that are questionable at best.  Many have stated that this came down to nothing more than controlling the actions of cachers.  They felt pressured to do something they didn’t want to do.  My response:  BOO-HOO!  Many ALR’s are nothing more than a virtual with a physical cache to find.  One I recently did required the finder to find the grave of a person born on Christmas Day and e-mail that person’s name.  With only about 15 graves in a unique cemetery, it took me all of two minutes to find the answer.  That apparently was too “controlling” on the part of the cache owner, and many cachers ignored ALR’s because of that logic much like they ignore the giant blue question marks.  Repeating something I’ve said in previous posts, ignoring caches without bothering to look at them will often result in missing out on easy and interesting caches. That cache was a small neighborhood cemetery that was built like none I’ve ever seen.  It was unique, with a stone wall around the cemetery with the stairs going up to the top of the wall the only way in and out.  Think of all the cachers that would miss out on seeing this unique piece of history because of an ideal about not being forced to do something beyond finding the cache.

However, this is an example of a harmless ALR.  Not all are so harmless.  This is the same reason that Virtuals were banned.  Banned, but not completely archived.  Unlike the precedent set forward with Webcam and Virtual caches, existing caches with ALRs WILL NOT be grandfathered in.  Groundspeak has stated that they will give owners time to reword their caches, and will enforce the rule as complaints come in.

For those of you with ALR caches, here’s how to change it to keep the cache active.  All additional logging REQUIREMENTS need to be changed to additional logging SUGGESTIONS.  Along with this, the power to delete logs by anyone who doesn’t follow the suggestion is now removed as well.  Cachers are perfectly entitled to come find and sign the cache without having to perform the ALR.  One good thing about this is that all of the cachers out there ignoring ALR’s now have a bunch of caches they can go find without felling “pressured” to do something they don’t want to do.  By leaving the ALR in there as an ALS, those cachers who enjoy the extra stuff can still participate.  In the above cemetery example, those cachers who just want the smiley can go find the cache.  Those interested in exploring a bit can go find that unique grave at the unique neighborhood cemetery.

The one further change involved the status of the cache. Caches with ALRs are often put into the category of Unknown/Mystery, thus earning the giant blue question mark. If you own a cache with an ALR, once you reword it you can submit to have the cache changed into the traditional that it should actually be listed as.

But wait…there’s more.  There was also a change to guidelines for Challenge Caches:

Challenge caches incorporate special logging requirements and are listed as Mystery/Puzzle caches. Typically they require the seeker to have previously met a reasonable geocaching-related qualification (Waymarking and Wherigo qualify too, of course) such as first finding a cache in every county in your state. If you are thinking of creating such a cache, please include a note to the reviewer demonstrating either that you have met the challenge yourself, or that a substantial number of other geocachers would be able to do so.
Okay, so what does this one mean? It used to be that a person could create a challenge however they wanted. With this change a cacher now has to prove that it is actually possible to fulfill the change. One way to do this is by having completed the challenge for yourself. Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say that I wanted to create a 555 challenge. A 555 challenge requires that a cacher has found 55 caches that have either a difficulty or terrain rating of 5. I have not met this requirement yet. Because I have not met the requirement, before I created the challenge I would either have to complete it myself, or find someone who has to help prove that it is completable.

Honestly, I like this change. At least this way, we can guarantee that any challenge I come across is able to be complete. This may seem like a pointless rule, but it obviously needed to be made. It did result in me rethinking a challenge I had been thinking off. Now I will need to do the research and prove that it is possible to complete.

There is a lot of discussion about this change on the forums. If you want to read some of it, then just GO HERE. At 50 posts per page, there are currently 22 pages of posts about the topic. If you get bored, some of the arguements are actually interesting to read. For most of you, this won’t change things too much for you, except for one thing. I mentioned that many ALR caches were listed under the Unknown/Mystery cache type. Also, owners with ALR caches can submit to have them changed to traditionals. Because ALRs are not being grandfathered in, this will affect the numbers for many people. The number of traditional finds will go up and the number of Unknown/Mystery finds will go down. This is an unfortunate side affect of the change in rules.

Many have stated that they will archive their ALR cachers before they alter them. Others are already changing them. So don’t be surprised if a bunch of caches show up as archived all of a sudden. It might be that the cache had an ALR on it.

Now, I might have to go place an ALS cache, just to see how many people do the ALS and how many don’t.


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4 Responses to Change in Cache Guidelines

  1. ErikaJean says:

    Maybe they should just make a separate cache type called the ALR. I personally understand both sides… but my though on the matter is that if you don’t want to do it don’t do the cache! No one is is being forced.

    Just like I don’t do a lot of mystery caches…becuase i HATE sudoku 😉

  2. golfgunny says:

    If someone tried to put an ALR on a traditional cache, without listing it as a puzzle/mystery, I would have a problem with that. Since they are supposed to be puzzle/mystery caches (or were), I’m inclined to agree with ErikaJean.

  3. tripcyclone says:

    That wasn’t the issue, as most reviewers made sure they were in the right category. The problem was that cachers were putting out ALR’s that were crossing the “imaginary line” of reasonable ALRs.

    I agree that a separate type would make things easier. The question is if this change in how Groundspeak defines the goal of geocaching…just finding a cache and signing the log…is going to lead towards the eventual banning of everything that isn’t a traditional. There is a debate in the forums over this one last time I looked.

  4. golfgunny says:

    It does seem to be a real slippery slope; greased with the likes of virts and webcams. I sometimes wish that Groundspeak would stick to running a website.

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