HISTORY OF THE NSPS GEOCACHING PROJECT
Geo-what? What is this geocaching thing all about?
Geocaching, pronounced Jee-o-Kash-ing, comes from “geo,” somewhere on the planet, and “cache,” a hiding place that hikers used to stash supplies like food and climbing gear for long term use. Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for GPS users. People set up hidden treasures (geocaches) all over the world according to established ethics. With latitude and longitude coordinates posted on internet sites likeGeocaching.com, GPS users can use the coordinates to find the geocaches. All the geocacher is asked to do is treat the land with respect and trade fairly – if they take something from the geocache, they should leave something in the geocache. There will be a log book in the geocache so they can record their own visit for future finders to read.
In the year 2006, the NSPS Board of Directors and Governors considered the hobby of geocaching as an excellent opportunity to promote the surveying profession at the national and state levels. The NSPS Board requests that the Board of Directors for each state society formally endorse the NSPS Geocaching Project and request volunteers statewide to assist with program implementation.
NSPS declared that it can benefit from this fast-growing sport by participating in the establishment of geocaches that promote the career of surveying. The sport of geocaching is gaining worldwide popularity at all ages and walks of life. Internet sites such as Geocaching.com are already in place providing resources such as off-site web servers, database storage, helpful information for getting started, and internet forums for feedback. NSPS geocaches will be spread across the nation, sponsored by state surveying organizations, and maintained by volunteer surveyors. Each geocache will target local surveying-related attractions and will be part of a nationwide effort to have interest in surveying ride on the growing popularity of the geocaching sport.
The following phases describe project details as requested by the Board.
NSPS requests that each state society get individual surveyors to volunteer to establish and maintain geocaches in accordance with program details. All groundwork should be completed by the end of this year . In early March of 2007, the entire network will be published on a geocaching internet site and will be promoted on state and national levels. Inauguration events will be held in each state.
NSPS will request the National Council of Boy Scouts of America to integrate geocaching into their orienteering program with the assistance of individual surveyors nationwide. Program details will be established at that time.
NSPS will sponsor expanded national geocaching events and contests in cooperation with state societies.
The NSPS Geocaching Project became reality on December 25, 2006, with the establishment of theNSPS Geocache in the heart of the Nation. With regard to the Phase I details of publishing the network of geocaches, the NSPS Geocaching Project was presented to the general surveying community on March 12, 2007, at the ACSM-IPLSA-MSPS National Surveyors Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The creation of the Project deviated slightly from the original plans in the Phase I details of publishing the entire network of geocaches. Only a few states were already on-board with the NSPS Geocaching Project at the time of the St. Louis conference, but the existing infrastructure of the Project included a process to easily incorporate more state surveying societies in the future whenever they become ready to join the Project. The "entire network" is a continually growing system.
At this time, May 2008, sporadic interest has been expressed to use geocaching with a BSA merit badge program, but Phase II has not yet been officially implemented.
Geocaching events for Phase III have already been introduced into the NSPS Geocaching Project using the method provided by the Geocaching.com website, which is the same process for submitting new geocaches. Therefore, Phase III has successfully commenced and will continue to grow alongside Phase I.
In March of 2007, the first edition of this guidebook was published and made available for free from theNSPS website. It was called A Guidebook to Setting Geocaches for a Surveying Organization. It detailed how to promote the career of surveying by setting geocaches. The first edition explained how to set geocaches where the geocache webpages focused on three topics - the first topic being the details about the geocache, details typical of any other geocache; the second topic, a description of the site chosen where the geocache was placed; and the final topic, promoting the career of surveying. It was this third topic that included various internet links on how to contact a surveying organization. The third topic was included with the hopes that anyone with an interest in surveying would have easy access to appropriate internet links to educate and fuel that interest...hopes that the interest would eventually culminate into a license to practice surveying. Unfortunately, it was this third topic that qualified as a "social agenda" on the Geocaching.com website and led to a temporary stalling of the NSPS Geocaching Project.
In May of 2008, the NSPS Geocaching Project evolved to become a better program. Conflicts were identified, confronted and resolved. Progress with the Project had slowed to a trickle. State surveying organizations reported that geocache submittals were not getting published. Geocaches were not meeting approval due to the inclusion of the third topic of promoting the career of surveying. The NSPS Geocaching Coordinator contacted leading authorities with Geocaching.com to see how to resolve the conflict. Although the presence of NSPS on Geocaching.com was deliberately of a non-commercial nature by design, promoting the career of surveying on the geocache webpages constituted a "social agenda". The Geocaching.com website does not express favor nor disfavor of a specific social agenda, but, since Geocaching.com policies prohibit social agendas from geocache webpages, inclusion of the third topic on geocache webpages put a halt to any new publishings. NSPS and Geocaching.com worked together and came up with a solution that would lead to the continuation of the NSPS Geocaching Project that complied with Geocaching.com guidelines.
The solution to the "social agenda" conflict was to remove text from geocache pages that promoted surveying and to place that text in another area of the Geocaching.com website, known as aprofile page, which would still be accessible through the internet. Since the promotion of the career of surveying on a geocache webpage was a heavy topic of the first edition of this guidebook, the guidebook had to be rewritten to express the agreements reached between NSPS and Geocaching.com. The resulting guidebook is this second edition, now entitled A Guidebook for Establishing a Geocaching Project for a State Surveying Organization, In coordination with the NSPS Geocaching Project, 2nd Edition.
After the NSPS Geocaching Project had been active for a year, other issues had come up that needed to be addressed to make for better understanding of how to best use this program. This second addition adds to the first to present guidelines for the whole Geocaching Project from start to finish, rather than just setting geocaches. This edition answers questions such as why to have a Project, how to structure the Project at the state level so that it continues to grow, and how to go about implementing the Phase III details of holding events that bring together geocaching and surveying.
The purpose of the NSPS Geocaching Project is to promote the career of surveying as a viable career choice. This project directs its efforts to people who use GPS for recreational activities. Geocachers already know about using location-based technology. These people, geocachers, are running around the outdoors with hand held GPS receivers and tracking down coordinates to find something hidden there. Once in the area of the coordinates, they transition from using a GPS receiver to using evidence on the ground to help discover the whereabouts of what they are looking for. Tracking down coordinates will lead them to the most unusual places that the typical person never sees. They get to see wildlife in native habitat. Exploring some coordinates may take them to land marks that they otherwise would not have visited. Any surveyor can see that this sounds a lot like going out to do some surveying. NSPS is grabbing the opportunity to get with geocachers and talk surveying.
Since the commencement of the NSPS Geocaching Project there have been a few surveyors who have expressed confusion as to why the Project exists. Some may say, "Yes, but these geocachers aren't really surveying. They are not licensed, and their GPS devices are just a cheap toys compared to real surveying." One surveyor, when asking about the NSPS Geocaching Project, didn't know how a surveyor could seriously consider being involved with geocaching. "I do this stuff (surveying) everyday. I can't seriously see myself being interested in going geocaching." Questioning like this has come up a number of times. The idea, however, is not to go geocaching for the sake of going geocaching, but rather to reach out to the geocaching community and educate them about the existence of a career that is very similar to what they are already doing. Geocachers do not use GPS to make a living, but they do use GPS receivers for recreational activities. They're doing activities similar to surveying, and they're doing it just for the fun of it! The popularity of geocaching has been skyrocketing for a few years now, since geocaching first started, with no slowdown expected soon. That is what makes geocaching an attractive target for promotional efforts directed to the career of surveying.
The National Society of Professional Surveyors has additional programs to promote the career of surveying.
TheCertified Surveying Technician (CST) Program gives credit to technicians who have not yet obtained a license to practice surveying but have achieved certain levels of competency that merit certification. NSPS offers tests for certification as CST Level One through CST Level Four, which gives recognition to surveying technicians as they make the journey to licensure.
The Trig-Star Program focuses on introducing the career of surveying to high school students with trigonometry competitions around the nation. The Trig-Star competition starts at the local high school. The top winner of each participating high school advances to the state competition. Each year high school students compete for the Trig-Star championship in each state.
The Student Recruitment Program is to help primarily high school students across the United States learn more about the many career paths available to professional surveyors.
This NSPS Geocaching Project works in coordination with these programs by introducing the career of surveying to geocachers, people of the general public who use GPS receivers for outdoor recreational activities.
Geocaching works with hiders and seekers. Some players will set geocaches in hidden places; other players will attempt to find the geocaches. Phase I information is separated into two main sections. The first is the process of establishing the infrastructure of the Geocaching Project by a state surveying organization. The second part is setting geocaches for the surveying project.
The NSPS Geocaching Project works nationwide because of the collective help from the individual states through state surveying organizations. Each state surveying organization is to set up its own Geocaching Project. As more and more states come on board with the NSPS Geocaching Project, the influence of the National Society of Professional Surveyors will get stronger and stronger.
The state geocaching project can start from the brainstorming of a committee or from an individual. Perhaps it is the President of the state surveying organization who wishes to assign this endeavor to a Public Relations Committee, or maybe a member of the state's Board of Directors wants to have a separate committee created specifically for the geocaching project. However the topic comes up, one of the subjects discussed will be, "Who is in charge of the project?"
Of course, anyone with a strong desire to make things happen, however possible, will be the most likely person to run anything. From experience, it has shown that the best person to coordinate the geocaching project is someone who has some knowledge of what surveying is, and also has some knowledge about geocaching. The easiest way to get a geocaching project off the ground is to have a geocacher lead the way. Most of the aspects of this project are common knowledge to the geocaching community. If no one can be found who is willing to run this and already knows about geocaching, then the next best person is someone who is willing to run this and is willing to learn about geocaching.
The Geocaching Project Coordinator manages the project as a whole. This person (or committee) networks with the surveying community and with the geocaching community. Tasks with the surveying community may include informing a Board of Directors about the activities of the Geocaching Project, whether these are completed tasks, ongoing projects or goals for the future.
The position of Web Manager is best given to one person. This is the position that will have the most impact on how well the Project develops. The duties of the Web Manager might or might not be included with the duties of the Project Coordinator. Managing the geocaching project will involve creating an internet account with a geocaching website and maintaining that internet account. The web manager will probably be the one to set out the first geocache for the surveying organization, maybe even the first few. These will serve as examples for other people,geocaching project volunteers, who will do the labor of physically setting other geocaches while the web manager uses the internet account to get those other geocaches published on the internet.
Example web managers:
The web manager and project coordinator for Kansas is a surveyor who has been well experienced at geocaching, having found a few hundred geocaches and set many geocaches using a personal Geocaching.com username. The web managers for two other states are motivated surveyors who are involved in surveying leadership but had no previous knowledge of what geocaching was when their Projects were started. After learning about the online details, the coordinators also took on the tasks of web managers and got those projects going. Another state has a web manager who is an experienced geocacher and is the daughter of a surveyor who is the project coordinator for the state surveying organization.
In each case, anyone who wants to lead the way (or even a small part of the way) with a geocaching project for a state surveying organization can get lots of help, tips, nudges and ideas from the NSPS Geocaching Coordinator via emails and phone calls.
The Project Coordinator (and/or Web Manager) is to seek Geocaching Project Volunteers across the state to set geocaches for the Project. This is the method to delegate the efforts of setting geocaches to others who have agreed to maintain "their own" geocache.
Each volunteer is encouraged toregister with a personal username on Geocaching.com. One of the options of a geocaching account is to put geocaches on a watchlist. If a volunteer has a personal username, or his or her own Geocaching.com account, that username can have selected geocaches put on a watchlist. Any logs that are posted to a selected geocache are also forwarded by email to each username who has that geocache on a watchlist.
So a volunteer will do the actual hiding of a geocache and forward the geocache details to the web manager. The web manager will use those details when submitting the geocache on-line. After the geocache is approved and becomes available for the entire world, the volunteer will use his or her personal geocaching username to put the approved geocache on a watchlist. Then anytime someone logs a message, the volunteer will instantly receive an email copy of the post. When anyone posts that the geocache made a nice ending to their day, the volunteer will get the message; and when someone posts that the geocache container is cracked with soggy contents and a soggy logbook inside, the volunteer who agreed to maintain the geocache will instantly get the message that something needs to be done to fix the geocache and keep the positive messages flowing. Putting the geocache on a watchlist is the fastest way to let someone know when maintenance is required.
It is highly recommended that interested individuals check out the “Getting Started” section on the Geocaching.com website for very helpful information.
Register with Geocaching.com. Pick a good username. The password for the surveying organization's username should be known by the web manager and someone else with the surveying organization, at least the president of the society.
TIP: A good idea for the web manager is to first register for a Geocaching.com account for a personal username before registering for an account for the surveying organization.
At the top right corner of theGeocaching.com home page is the text “you are not logged in [log in here]”.
Select the “[log in here]” text to start the registration process.
Then, under the login button on the screen,
select the option for “Create a new account – it’s free!”
(Notice that it is FREE.)
In the form provided, enter in the appropriate places the first and last name of the person who will be responsible for managing the geocaches on the internet. Enter a valid existing email address for the person managing the geocaches on the internet where notices will be sent, such as administrator comments, who found the cache, and questions and comments from seekers (possibly future surveyors). When the form is completed and submitted, Geocaching.com will send an email to the address provided. The email to be sent will be the final step in validating the account.
Enter a good username to use with this account. The geocaching username for the surveying organization should be chosen wisely. The overriding goal of the geocaching project is to promote surveying to the public, so the username should reveal the society’s name. The organization may not be known nationally by just the initials, so the complete name should be used.
As an example, the username registered on Geocaching.com for the Kansas organization is “KSLS – Kansas Society of Land Surveyors”, thereby revealing the whole name for the national recognition and also the initials KSLS that the organization uses on the local level. Remember what name gets submitted. Punctuation is allowed and the names are case sensitive. Watch those "space" characters, too. Logging in with a name of "KSLS- Kansas Society of Land Surveyors" or "ksls - kansas society of land surveyors" will not work.
Choose a password that will be remembered and that can be given to organizational authorities in the event that someone else has to take over the duties of managing the geocaches on the internet.
Discussion came up about giving the password for the account to each person who wanted to submit a geocache for the state surveying organization. That is a possibility, BUT keep in mind that the password is like a set of keys; if everyone has the keys, access to the account is not very secure. Each person with the password has the ability to change the password to something else. If everyone has the keys, one person can lock out all the others.
Final validation: Finish filling out the form and submit the form to send the information to Geocaching.com. Soon afterwards, an email will be sent to the email address provided. This email has a link that will finish the registration and validate the account. After validation, the registration is complete.
After the account has been validated, TRY IT! Go to Geocaching.com and log in to make sure that registration was completed successfully.
The organization should not be used to log geocache “finds”. If people gather for events and find geocaches, individuals should log “finds” under THEIR OWN registered personal usernames. If the organization sponsors a geocaching event, it is the individuals who find the geocaches, not the organizational group as a whole. The organization’s username is used only foroffering the geocaches that are sponsored for the surveying-geocaching project, or for sponsoring geocaching events to promote the surveying-geocaching project.
The question came up in discussion as to whether or not the username for the surveying organization would be better with a "premium" Geocaching.com account. Premium features come at a price, allbeit a very low price, but the benefits offered to premium geocaching members focus on FINDING geocaches. Since the surveying account should not be used for finding geocaches, there isn't a valid excuse for getting premium benefits for the surveying society's geocaching account. However, for the individual who wants to find geocaches using a personal geocaching account, purchasing premium membership has amazing features that are worthwhile.
After successful registration of the geocaching username for the surveying organization, the project coordinator or web manager needs tosend an email to the NSPS Geocaching Coordinator and include the registered username for the state geocaching project. This username is referenced in other places to help with the rest of the NSPS Geocaching Project.
The NSPS Geocaching Project works mainly with two different types of web pages, one is theweb page for a geocache (called a cache page) and the other is a web page for a username, called the profile page.
Each username on Geocaching.com has a webpage where "personal" information can be presented. Information on this page is called the Profile. Individuals with personal Geocaching.com usernames use the profile page to give a personal touch to who they are. One geocacher may have profile information that has a picture of him or her at a favorite destination. Another geocacher may use the profile page to list lots of statistics about geocaches found, such as the oldest geocache, the top 10 favorites, a map of states visited, and any number of other ways that statistics can be displayed to show that this cacher has been around. Only registered users of Geocaching.com who are logged in can view profile pages of other usernames.
It is the Profile Page where the career of surveying as a viable career choice will be presented to geocachers. This is the webpage where we get to do all of our promoting; here, we get to answer the question, "So tell me a little bit about yourself." Promoting the career of surveying is a social agenda that is not allowed on the cache page, but is allowed on the profile page. This is a major difference between what was explained in the First Edition of this document and what is explained here.
At the top-left side of the Geocaching.com website is a vertical list of clickable options. In the middle of the list is the option to click on "MY ACCOUNT" which will lead to a "Quick View" of account details. The right half of this page is the launching point for many account options. This area has options to access field notes, premium features, google mapping features, account inventory, and account options.
At the top of the right column of the page is a rectangle showing how many geocaches have been found or set by this username. (The username for the surveying organization should always have a Found number of zero. Why?) The bottom line in this box is the text, "View my profile". Clicking on this box leads to the profile page, the page that we want everyone to be able to see.
When geocachers seek any geocache, the webpage for the geocache will tell who owns the geocache. The listing for the owner is a clickable link, and clicking on the name of the owner will let the geocacher view the profile of the geocache owner. Profiles are only accessible for users who are logged in.
The profile page lists some account details, such as when it was last accessed, membership status, an email address, a home page and the all important "Profile Information". The "Profile Information" is the area that needs to have something added to it. This area starts out as a blank slate until information is added. When geocachers want to know about the "owner" of a geocache set by a surveying organization, they will look up the profile, and, if the profile page hasn't been edited, they will find...nothing useful. So the profile page needs to be edited to explain what the Geocaching Project is all about.
On the profile page, just under the username for the account, is a link, "Edit your profile". This is the link to change the information that is shown under "Profile Information". Another place to edit the profile is from the Quick View of the account details after clicking on the My Account option. The list on the right side of the page has an area called "Account Options". Directly underneath that text is the link to "Edit My Profile". Both of these options mentioned lead to a web page with form fields. These are the form fields to edit the information displayed on the profile page.
After selecting an option to edit the profile, a webpage comes up with "Edit Account Details" at the top. This is the page to edit lots of information for the account. Go through the list of form fields and edit anything that needs fixed. Verify that the email address shown is the correct one. Select the appropriate time zone. At the bottom of the list is "Your Profile Details" with a large form box. This is the spot where we add the text that promotes surveying as a viable career choice. The field accepts HTML, the computer language to write up webpages.
The following uses Kansas and KSLS (Kansas Society of Land Surveyors) as an example of what to enter into the "Your Profile Details" form field of the profile page. Enter HTML text to come up with something similar to the following for your own state geocaching project. After the example is the HTML text used to create it.
Example Profile Page:
PART OF THE NSPS GEOCACHING PROJECT
Breaking the boundaries between surveying and geocaching!
Geocachers use GPS and evidence on the ground to find and set things that are not obvious to the eye. Land surveyors also use GPS (among lots of other cool and expensive toys) and evidence on the ground to find and set things that are not obvious to the eye. Geocachers try to get the best GPS accuracy possible; surveyors use GPS equipment with accuracy that boggles the mind. Geocachers may look for NGS bench marks, whereas surveyors often use NGS bench marks and may even set some new bench marks. The two activities have many similarities.
Geocaches are being set across the state of Kansas as part of the KSLS Geocaching Project. The KSLS Geocaching Project is an effort by the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors (KSLS) to introduce geocachers to surveying and surveyors to geocaching, and to promote surveying as a viable career choice. Geocaches set as part of this project are intended to promote environmental responsibility. KSLS geocaches are intended to give a favorable impression of the surveying community by being placed at spectacular sites that relate in some way to surveying. The establishment of the KSLS Geocaching Project is an effort to tell the world about KSLS.
The KSLS Geocaching Project, by the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors, is established in Kansas in coordination with the many states in the national effort of the NSPS Geocaching Project sponsored by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).
For more information pertaining to bench mark hunting, GPS and/or surveying in general, try some of the following internet websites:
Check out the new careers website: SurveyingCareer.com
The "NSPS Geocaching Project" logo above (Thanks Wayne!) is the same logo used at the start of this document. It is available for use in State Geocaching Projects using a link from the NSPS website:
<img src="http://www.nspsmo.org/images/geo_NSPS.jpg" width="250" height="202" border="0">
Administration with the Geocaching.com website has checked the logo for copyright violation and has determined that the NSPS Geocaching Project logo does not violate Geocaching.com copyrights.
The following is the HTML source code for the above text. It is available here as an aid to the web manager in "copy-and-pasting" into other web pages. Text in red is specific to Kansas. Edit the text in red to suit different circumstances.
<center><h3><font> WELCOME TO THE KSLS GEOCACHING PROJECT </font></h3></center> <center><p><b><i> PART OF THE NSPS GEOCACHING PROJECT </i></b></p></center> <center><a rel="nofollow" href= "http://www.geocaching.com/profile/?u= NSPS+-+National+Society+of+Professional+ Surveyors" target="_blank"> <img src="http://www.nspsmo.org/images/ geo_NSPS.jpg" width="250" height="202" border="0" alt= "Image Link to the NSPS geocaching profile"></a></center> <center><p><i> Breaking the boundaries between surveying and geocaching! </i></p></center> <p>Geocachers use GPS and evidence on the ground to find and set things that are not obvious to the eye. Land surveyors also use GPS (among lots of other cool and expensive toys) and evidence on the ground to find and set things that are not obvious to the eye. Geocachers try to get the best GPS accuracy possible; surveyors use GPS equipment with accuracy that boggles the mind. Geocachers may look for NGS bench marks, whereas surveyors often use NGS bench marks and may even set some new bench marks. The two activities have many similarities. </p> <p>Geocaches are being set across the state of Kansas as part of the KSLS Geocaching Project. The KSLS Geocaching Project is an effort by the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors (KSLS) to introduce geocachers to surveying and surveyors to geocaching, and to promote surveying as a viable career choice. Geocaches set as part of this project are intended to promote environmental responsibility. KSLS geocaches are intended to give a favorable impression of the surveying community by being placed at spectacular sites that relate in some way to surveying. The establishment of the KSLS Geocaching Project is an effort to tell the world about KSLS.</p> <p>The KSLS Geocaching Project, by the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors, is established in Kansas in coordination with the many states in the national effort of the NSPS Geocaching Project sponsored by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).</p> <p>For more information pertaining to bench mark hunting, GPS and/or surveying in general, try some of the following internet websites:</p> <ul> <li>The Kansas Society of Land Surveyors (KSLS)<br> (<a href="http://www.ksls.com" target="_blank"> http://www.ksls.com</a>)</li> <li>The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS)<br> (<a href="http://www.nspsmo.org" target="_blank"> http://www.nspsmo.org</a>)</li> <li>Geocaches for all of the nation's state surveying societies, listed in the NSPS Profile Page on Geocaching.com<br> (<a href="http://tinyurl.com/5jrxzb"> http://tinyurl.com/5jrxzb</a>)</li> </ul> <p><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.surveyingcareer.com/"> <img src="http://www.nspsmo.org/images/spkr_kit_sm.jpg" width="100" height="100" align="center" border="0" alt="Image Link to SurveyingCareer.com"> </a><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.surveyingcareer.com/"> Check out the new careers website: SurveyingCareer.com </a></p>
There are two topics on which each geocache is to focus. One is the information about where the geocache is placed, and the other is information about the geocache itself. Growth with the surveying organization's Geocaching Project will be with additional geocaches. Each geocache will have a webpage dedicated to presenting the two topics on the internet.
In the past (first edition of this guidebook) each geocache presented a third topic, a section on the webpage with information that promoted the career of surveying. This information has been transferred to the profile page. Although promoting surveying is not allowed on the cache page, readers can be provided with a link on the cache page to the profile page.
Geocaching Project Volunteers who will be hiding a geocache are encouraged to read the Web Manager's process of submitting a geocache, which is near the end of the "Setting Geocaches" section. This will familiarize the volunteers as to what the Web Manager will need from a volunteer to construct a geocache webpage and finish the submission process.
Steps in setting ageocache for the NSPS Geocaching Project are the same as for setting any other geocache. They involve researching a potential site, preparing the cache container with contents, placing the cache, reporting the cache to an administrator for approval, and finally, maintaining the cache. (The shortcut to learning how to set geocaches is to FIND some!)
Most of this section explains the physical act of placing a geocache in the environment. Setting the first geocache probably will be done by the Web Manager, who may or may not be the Geocaching Project Coordinator, but eventually down the road, Geocaching Project Volunteers will the the ones setting geocaches across the state.
So this information is also directed to instruct the volunteers. After this explanation is the Web Manager's process of reporting geocache details on the internet.
So you think that you found a place to hide a geocache. Can a container successfully be hidden in this place, or will it be too easy to find? The geocache should stay hidden from those who are not looking for it. Can it stay hidden after a finder RE-hides it, or will other people easily notice the activity and plunder the cache after the finder leaves? People who know nothing about geocaching are the ones who remove containers without telling anyone.
Conditions unpleasant to the senses don’t make for good publicity. Is the area full of trash? Does it smell bad? These are choices that are best left for some other cache placer, and eventually some other geocacher out there WILL set a cache in a place like this.
Try to find places that are not on the side of the highway. Remember, you are inviting people to take a memorable journey, so make it worthy of the trip even if they don’t find the geocache. A seeker will enjoy the journey required to reach a geocache just as well as the find. That’s expected as part of the sport.
Does the area have any significance to surveying? Is there a calibration baseline nearby? Is there a magnificent surveying monument, or memorial, nearby to educate seekers about surveying? These are places well suited to the cause.
Geocaches that are part of this project will be established on public grounds and comply with all regulations by the respective governmental authority. Parks are ideal locations – city parks, lakeside camping parks, bike trail parks, etc. – but each Park System may have different regulations as to whether or not geocaching is permissible. Do the research and get it right the first time. Don’t promote any activity that will invite damaging foot traffic into a wildlife refuge or an archaeological site. Protect the environment – always.
The "secret" to a great geocache is in the place that people visit when they are after a geocache. That's what really makes the difference.
This one will take some effort and a trip to the internet.
Geocaches are to be at least a tenth of a mile apart to prevent over-saturation of geocaches in popular areas. This is a requirement. Checking on this one necessitates a visit to theGeocaching.com website. Access to a registered account is not necessary here, so volunteers can do this part. A reviewing administrator will check the geocache submittal to see if it passes the 0.1-mile test, so if you don’t do the checking first, your effort may be wasted on setting a geocache that will never get approved.
There is a place on the Geocaching.com home page to select “Hide and Seek a Cache”. This selection offers the option to enter a search for the geocaches nearest to specific latitude and longitude coordinates. Use a hand-held GPS receiver (or the boss’s expensive GPS equipment, with permission, of course) to get some GPS coordinates for the area in question (WGS84 Datum), and see if there are any geocaches nearby. Use these coordinates on the Geocaching.com “Hide and Seek a Cache” webpage.
NOTE: Standard coordinate format for geocaching is degrees, minutes, and DECIMAL-MINUTES of latitude-north and longitude-west. Surveyors are so used to using degrees, minutes, seconds and decimal-seconds, but low-accuracy, hand-held receivers are pre-programmed to default to decimal-minutes rather than seconds. Decimal-minutes (to three places past the decimal) is the format that geocachers are used to using, so tolerate the units to make it easier on their part.
Enter the coordinates to get the first webpage of geocaches nearest to your coordinates. The first page is what is important. Subsequent pages will only show geocaches that are farther away. You are hoping that the nearest existing geocache is not less than 0.1-mile away. Unfortunately, it is amazing how often somebody else already had the idea and already placed a geocache at your target site. If so, find another site, and try again.
Once you have an available worthy place picked out, it is time to get a geocache assembled and to place the geocache out in the wild.
Geocache construction focuses mainly on making sure it is WEATHERPROOF – able to tolerate the elements of rain, hail, snow, freezing, strong winds, flooding or floating, hot temperatures, whatever is local to your area that may compromise the geocache (falling from the top of a steep cliff into the depths of the ocean due to being plucked out of a crevice from a curious bird?).
The typical container for the NSPS Geocaching Project will be a waterproof, clear, plastic jar. All things are to be waterproof, for survival of the contents; clear, so that the bomb squad doesn’t blow it up and look later to see who to blame; and plastic, so that mishandled dropping doesn’t break it up into glass shards sharp enough to cut someone. Label the outside of the container as a geocache with marks such as “geocaching.com” or “geocache” or put a sticker on the inside so people can see a logo from the outside. The idea is to make sure that if your container is discovered by accident, people won’t get frightened by the suspicious nature of the object and call the police. It is said that if the bomb squad gets called out as a precaution...something IS going to get blown up. Don't let it be your geocache. That would be bad publicity.
Every geocache requires a logbook. Without it, the appropriate geocaching authority will quickly disable the cache listing until your maintenance puts a logbook in the cache. A logbook can be as simple as a spiral-bound pocket pad of paper from a department store (typical) or something more elaborate like a 4”x6”, 141-page, Rite-in-the-Rain All-Weather Adventure Travel Journal.
Keep the logbook in a zip-lock plastic bag for added insurance that it will stay dry. Put the bag with the logbook in the geocaching container.
Be kind enough to add a writing utensil so finders can sign the logbook. Common writing utensils include a wooden pencil with sharpener, or a mechanical pencil, and/or a ball-point pen (waterproof ink). A pen won’t work in the winter freeze. That’s what the pencil is for, but a pen will work better than a pencil in the summer. Little children may have trouble with a mechanical pencil, but little children will have someone old enough with them. If space is limited, stick with a short wooden pencil and a small sharpener.
Along with the container and logbook, other items add a nice flavor to the geocache. Geocaches commonly have what is called a “You Found It” note, (preferably laminated for waterproofing and durability) explaining to someone what to do with the geocache in the event that it is accidentally found, or found by a person new to geocaching and is unfamiliar with what comes next. Department stores sell workable packets of laminating sheets. Prints from an inkjet printer are not waterproof and should be laminated. Prints from a laser printer will be waterproof, but lamination helps with the durability.
An Example of a "You Found It" card may be found by this link.
A complete geocache will have miscellaneous trade items in the container. Geocachers frequently hunt as families and the young seekers love to look at the goodies inside. Older seekers will check to see if the geocache appeals to adults; a good cache placer will make sure that it does. Many little items relating to surveying will fulfill this niche. Overstock of lapel pins from surveying conferences work wonderfully; include perhaps a few three-foot pocket tapes from freebie booth handouts, a cheap compass, a safety whistle and a pocket flashlight with working batteries. Add some other surveying related items. These are all items that make any geocache stand out so much more than the run-of-the-mill geocache that has typical trade items like play-dough, plastic animals and McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, all known as “swag” (stuff we all get). Keep all trade items in a zip-lock bag SEPARATE from the logbook. The bag with the bumpy goodies is the first to get holes in it, so protect the logbook.
An added bonus to the surveying-related geocaches is the concept of adding a small packet of “Did You Know” cards to the contents of the cache. These are bits of trivia about surveying printed on small sheets of paper so that the public can take them home and show them off to more people. They act like a business card, not to promote a commercial business (which IS frowned upon), but rather to promote the career of surveying. Each state organization is to gather bits of trivia about their state and print off some “Did You Know” cards to insert into their geocaches for finders to take. Suggestions: use different colored paper for different caches as a tracking method; use different bits of trivia for different geocaches, or in the same geocache; print one on the back of the “You Found It” note so that it gets laminated, stays in the geocache, and uses up blank space that is “good for advertising”.
An Example of a "Did You Know" card may be found by this link.
DO NOT put food in the geocache! Never, never, never put food in a geocache! This is an invitation for animals with noses better than ours to sniff out the cache and shred it up looking for a tasty bite. No candy bars, chewing gum, nor lollipops should be in the geocache. Bottled water may be an unsniffable choice (maybe in a desert cache?) but anything consumable should be avoided for safety reasons. Families seek out these geocaches, so keep things safe and legal; no firearms, fireworks, alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, needles, blades, nor other contraband are to be in the geocache.
With the container and contents ready, the geocache is ready to be placed in its hiding spot. Be sure no one is watching. Get good coordinates on the location. If using a hand-held GPS receiver, get coordinates 7 to 10 different times on different days to help get the best coordinates possible. Most geocaches have coordinates established using a hand-held GPS receiver, and a seeker also uses a hand-held GPS receiver to find the geocache. Geocachers quickly discover that the receiver will get you almost to the right area, but it is a good eye that will find the geocache after you get within about 30 feet. The better coordinates that you get for the cache, the better the success rate will be later with finds.
DO NOT BURY the geocache. Anything that necessitates the use of a shovel, trowel, or anything "pointy", is unacceptable. Covering the geocache with dead branches or pieces of bark fallen off of a tree is an acceptable form of concealment. Remember, the geocache should only be able to be found by someone who is specifically looking for it.
Anyone placing a geocache will have to submit information about the geocache to Geocaching.com for approval. This is an easy internet process for theweb manager, and an administrator will receive the submittal automatically. Login will be required, and being able to log in will require having a registered username with Geocaching.com. The administrator needs to know WHO will be submitting the geocache.
After registration, login is possible. After logging in, go to “Hide and Seek a Cache”. The left side is for seeking; the right side is for hiding. The form for submitting a geocache is available by selecting the link within the text of: “Reporting a new cache is easy. Just fill out our online form to report a new cache to the website. Login is required.”
When reporting a new cache, a good tip is to find the box marked “Yes, this cache is currently active” and remove the checkmark that is already there by default. Submit the geocache listing without that box checked and without an entry at the bottom in the "Note to reviewer" box.
By unchecking the box, the cache will be submitted, but not enabled - technical terms, but it helps. Also, with the "Note to reviewer" area empty, no email gets prematurely sent to the administrator. The owner of the cache (the surveying organization) can still view the current layout of the geocache webpage. Not even the administrator can see the cache details, yet. This gives you the option to make edits until the webpage looks perfect and the coordinates are correct, each time making sure that this box is NOT checked when submitting the edited details.
The form will accept plain text; it will also accept HTML script, but be sure the appropriate checkbox is checked. Midway down the form is an area entitled "Details" that has a small checkbox next to the words "The descriptions below are in HTML". The default is to NOT be checked, so IF you use HTML, make sure this box IS checked.
Geocache details on the web should include information about the vicinity local to the geocache and details about the geocache itself.
Details about the geocache include original contents inside the container, what the container is, hints to find the geocache, coordinates of the best place for parking, and notices to steer clear of a certain yard because trespassing is illegal, but more so because Butch the bulldog likes to eat pants.
Details about the vicinity local to the geocache will tell the seeker about the memorial commemorating a Lewis and Clark event, or explain why the rocks formed at the site in the curious way that they did, or how to go about finding a spectacular bench mark nearby. This is the part that will make the difference between the average geocache and a spectacular geocache set by a surveying organization.
Experience has shown that the concept that works the best for the Geocaching Project is the quality of the geocache, the unique journey that seekers have when chasing down an awesome geocache - not the surveying stuff inside; not the promo details that used to be on the cache page but are now on the profile page; not the high number of micro-sized geocaches owned by a single account. The "secret" to a great geocache is in the place that people visit when they are after a geocache. That's what really makes the difference.
When the details are finally right, either check the box during submittal or click on “enable” when viewing the cache webpage. A "Note to reviewer" will be required before the geocache details get submitted for review. Only then, will the geocache be automatically submitted to an administrator who will look it over and pass judgment as to whether the cache is acceptable for publishing, or if it has something wrong with it – like no logbook, too close to an existing geocache, or may cause disturbances to airport authorities. If it doesn’t get approved, the administrator will explain and an email will automatically be sent explaining how to fix the situation. The review process typically takes about three days, but can be as short as twenty minutes and as long as a week. Once the cache is approved, it will be listed on the internet and available for the whole world to view.
After the first person finds the geocache, edit the geocache’s webpage to give that person credit within the text of the webpage. At the bottom of the geocache’s webpage, add the text “Congratulations to _____ for being First To Find!” inserting their username in the blank and using capital FTF letters in First To Find. It is a tradition among geocachers to race to a geocache right after it is published to be the first to find a new geocache, thereby receiving the trophy of “getting FTF”. It is a geocaching competitive status symbol that does not have a formal place for documentation in Geocaching.com, but is extremely popular in the logs and forum discussions, and adds to the popularity of the sport. By giving the geocacher FTF-credit, people know where to check back when they are recounting the story to their friends. To edit the geocache's webpage after it is published, simply choose the "edit listing" option in the top-right corner of the geocache's webpage and hit the "submit" button after changes are made. Making changes after it is published is just like making changes before it is published, except that it is a more complicated process to change the coordinates.
The trading of geocache contents eventually leaves a container full of worthless trinkets that everyone sees and no one wants. It becomes full of “swag”, stuff we all get. Every now and then, a person should visit the geocache for the purpose of ridding the container of useless swag and restocking it with those kinds of items that made it attractive on Day One. Someone associated with the surveying organization AND who is local to the area of the geocache (Geocaching Project Volunteer) needs to be designated as the caretaker of the geocache. This will ensure that the cache is hidden correctly, the contents are fresh, the container is replaced if stolen, and that the future of the cache is safe.
As an example geocache, the NSPS Geocache can be viewed on the internet at:
or by entering GCXWVE under the Geocaching.com “Seek a cache, by waypoint” option.
From the NSPS Board of Directors and Governors: NSPS will sponsor expanded national geocaching events and contests in cooperation with state societies.
Geocachers have a habit of checking on who owns a geocache. When the same username repeatedly shows up under favorable circumstances, that username becomes known as one that benefits the Geocaching.com community. A favorable impression of the state surveying organization gets reinforced every time a geocacher reads theprofile information for the username that owns some really good geocaches. After those geocaches have been out there for awhile, it's time to have a geocaching event! (Read "awhile" as being an undetermined amount of time until "whenever you feel ready".)
Geocaching events lend themselves well to public relations details and networking with other groups. It is a good idea before holding a geocaching event to contact local area geocaching organizations for help. Listings of geocaching organizations by state can be found across the internet. One such place is on the Utah Geocachers homepage (UTAG).
Geocaching events fall into two basic categories, events for geocachers that may or may not have surveying-related themes, and events for surveyors that may or may not involve members of the Geocaching.com community. Using one or the other or both of these categories, the number of different kinds of geocaching events is left to the imagination. Here are just a few.
Plan a geocaching event as one of the many activities of a surveying conference. Get a bunch of flags and write something on each of the flags so that they are unique and can't be easily duplicated, or use a fancy hole-punch. Have the surveying technicians compete with each other. Team them up with people from other companies or cities or parts of the state to help with crowd socializing. Each team can use a hand-held GPS receiver to track down sets of coordinates to find flags. Each team finds their own flags and the coordinates to the next flag is found at the previous flag. The first team to bring back all the flags wins. This would be a case where attendance from the general public is hindered by the cost of attending the conference.
If the surveying gathering is one such that the public is invited to attend, then use the opportunity to also invite the geocaching community. As an example, for the 100th (or 150th, or 200th, or whatever) anniversary of the establishment of a certain monument of historic significance, the state surveying organization will have a celebration. Festivities may include a re-enactment of the measuring as done back in the day, using old chains and chaining pins; a speech about the history surrounding the monument; a lunch at the local community building; and a geocaching event. Anyone wanting continuing education credit will have to pay for the certificate. Other than that, the rest of an individual's expenses will go toward a good lunch, keeping expenses to a minimum for non-surveyors. Since the general public will be invited to the nearest community building to hear a lecture about the monument's history, there will be lots of people who will get educated for free. Geocachers can sit in on the lecture with the rest of the neighborhood to learn about how things were before GPS. The geocaching event would go along with the theme of the surveying event. The geocaching event would be published as an official event through Geocaching.com and would give details about what all is going on. This would be a case where surveyors and geocachers could participate in geocaching activities together as well as have the geocachers learn about surveying history.
The geocaching community holds events every now and then sponsored by a geocacher, or geocaching group, who wants to have a gathering of geocachers for any number of reasons, typically just to round everyone up for a feast. The surveying society could sponsor a geocaching event specifically for geocachers for a purpose like this. The geocaching event would be the usual picnic-styled "meet-and-greet-and-eat", but the username designated as the host would be the username of the state surveying society. This would be a case where geocacher turnout would be higher than surveyor turnout. The attending surveyors might be limited to just a public relations committee.
Perhaps the group of surveyors and/or geocachers gather to search for a list of coordinates. At each set of coordinates is a 35mm film canister with a note inside explaining to the finder what to do next. Each finder takes the note to a designated person. The designated person will read the note's i.d. number and know where the note came from; mark out those coordinates from the list of those still-available; and give the finder a Sacagawea gold dollar coin along with a 3x5 souvenir "certificate" printed on glossy paper detailing Lewis and Clark trivia and information about the current celebration.
Which person can get coordinates with a hand-held GPS receiver that are closest to those from a high-accuracy survey-grade GPS receiver?
Be sure to have a "traveler exchange". When geocachers flock to geocaching events, it is very common to have a large collection of trackable items brought by various geocachers to show off and trade while at the event. Certain trade items have tracking numbers printed on them enabling geocachers to report that they found such a traveler; removed it from a geocache; and either dropped it off at another geocache or gave it to someone else, most likely at a geocaching event, who will then put it back in another geocache.
Submitting a geocaching event to be published on the Geocaching.com website is the same process assubmitting a geocache. The only difference is what "type of geocache" is chosen during the submission process. When creating a geocache webpage, the first field is the Cache Type. The options in this field are:
The first few choices are for types of geocaches that are hidden. The last two are the ones we are interested in for events. When submitting an event, follow the same procedure for creating a geocache webpage and select one of the two bottom choices. These choices will allow the option to choose a date in the future as the "Date Placed", being the day of the event. Submissions for events are allowed for events that will occur after two weeks and not more than three months away. Deviations from this policy are possible but highly unlikely to happen.
Most events get published using Option 6: Geocaching Event, but some events with environmental themes may qualify as the last option, Cache In Trash Out Event (CITO event). CITO events include a gathering of geocachers to clean up an area full of trash. This is an event that ties in with environmental themes like Earth Day.
Success with this project will be measured by the actions of the public, by those geocachers who choose to participate in this sport for their own recreation – and learn something when they choose to pursue a geocache hidden by surveyor, or attend an event hosted by a surveyor.
Ernie Cantu L.S. KS is a Survey Crew Chief forProfessional Engineering Consultants in Wichita, Kansas. He is the Coordinator for the National Society of Professional Surveyors Geocaching Project as well as the Geocaching State Coordinator for the Kansas Society of Land Surveyors. Mr. Cantu has found over two hundred geocaches, and wrote the contents of this document primarily from the personal experiences of setting and finding geocaches throughout the nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and through Geocaching.com by sending a message through the Profile of Username: cantuland.
Good luck, and may all your cache dreams come true.
For more information on Surveying and the National Society of Professional Surveyors visit the NSPS web site at www.nspsmo.org or the Surveying Career web site at www.surveyingcareer.com.