We organise our geocaching hunts in many different ways. But regardless of our habits, how do we prioritise the geocaches to look for? What if we are quickly visiting friends in an unsearched neighbourhood, or taking a short trip overseas?
With so many new caches coming online, and less time to cache than ever before, I decided on an optimisation strategy: to focus on finding established caches that are well liked (with the odd FTF thrown in!)
Geocachers earn a favourite point to spend every time they find ten caches. Favourite points are the currency used to recommend geocaches. But it is not ideal just to count the favourite points awarded to caches by finders. For example, a hide near a popular tourist lookout may have many favourite points, but only as a small proportion of the flood of finders. Meanwhile a rarely-visited wilderness cache could be rewarded a favourite point by every finder.
It is the percentage of finders who award favourite points that should be compared. I call this percentage geocache appreciation.
For example, a geocache that receives a favourite point from every two finders has a geocache appreciation of 50%.
It doesn’t matter how frequently a cache is found. If two caches have the same percentage of finders who award favourites, but one cache has been in place for three times as long as the other, it doesn’t matter. They are both appreciated just as much.
Favourite points were not introduced as a feature by Geocaching.com until December 2010. This puts a cache placed in the first decade of the game at a disadvantage when compared to a newer cache that has had favourite points awarded for its entire lifetime. If both seem equally deserving of appreciation, the older cache may not have the numbers to show for it.
Favourite points can only be awarded by premium (fee-paying) members of Geocaching.com. That is another reason the popular tourist lookout seems less appreciated than you would expect. It will have been found by a higher proportion of non-members who cannot award points.
To create a more level field for comparing appreciation across all geocaches, it should be based only on finds made by premium members since December 2010.
The underlying assumption is that appreciation based on this limited sample of committed finders would be the same if all geocachers had had the opportunity to cast favourite points.
Ironically, basing geocache appreciation on premium member finds also makes it possible to properly compare the many caches that are presented only to premium members with caches that are open to everyone.
Geocaching.com does publish a “Favorites/Premium Log” percentage on each geocache listing page (in the Favorites drop-down list). The denominator is determined by querying the current subscription status of each finder.
Instead, geocache appreciation should be based on finders’ subscription status at the time of their finds. This historical method has two benefits. First, a favourite point awarded retrospectively to a find made before premium membership was taken out is treated as the special bonus that it is. Second, finders who have since lapsed on their premium subscriptions are not dropped from the calculation.
Geocaching.com does not present its percentage as a filter for its website search or Pocket Queries. The independent ProjectGC.com service does provide a filtered search facility to report “Top Favourite Caches (%)”, but it applies Geocaching.com’s method of calculation.
On a Microsoft Windows PC, the Australian-developed and Geocaching.com-approved Geocaching Swiss Army Knife package can be used to retrieve the data by the historical method and calculate geocache appreciation.
I have written a macro (an extension to GSAK) called PremiumAppreciation. You can find it in GSAK’s macro repository
The macro creates four custom columns in your offline GSAK database: the total log count, the total find count, the find count by premium members since 2010, and the appreciation percentage. The macro also updates the favourite point count in your database.
You can choose to update an individual cache or a filtered set of caches. Once you have the appreciation percentage for each cache, you can sort by that column and choose to visit the geocaches that have the highest appreciation rating.
Since most GSAK users do not maintain a complete list of logs for each cache in their offline database, the macro must query Geocaching.com to get all the counts. To keep its servers running smoothly for everyone, Geocaching.com restricts the rate of access to its Live API. The data for a typical cache of 120 logs takes about 10 seconds to process. This is irrespective of your computer speed and Internet access capacity, provided you can sustain a throughput of about 250 kbps (like a music server). It takes about three hours to update 1000 caches.
I hope this method helps you find the best geocaches wherever you go. And keep spending those earned favourite points!
Ron Lubensky (clickcraftsman)
Ron has been geocaching since 2011. He inevitably spends his fave points as soon as he gets them. The Australian high country hides magnificent caches. He might be there now.
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