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Re: [CentralTexasGeocachers] Virtuals

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  • Kevin (KoosKoos)
    Odd...comes up just fine for me. Are you logged into the GC forums? Here s the full link (though I m sure Yahoo will break it apart):
    Message 1 of 4 , May 13 4:25 PM
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      Odd...comes up just fine for me.  Are you logged into the GC forums?

      Here's the full link (though I'm sure Yahoo will break it apart):

      And the text of the post.  This is from a user, not geocaching gospel by any means:
      Here's a somewhat long post that expands on this.

      Why were virtuals created in the first place?

      In the early days, Geocaching.com was far more open to new variation in the game. Everyone was still exploring what geocaching was about. Some people wanted to have caches at location where they couldn't hide a physical cache. Perhaps there were too many muggles, or perhaps you couldn't get permission for leaving a physical container. Many people wanted to leave caches while on vacation somewhere but knew they wouldn't be able to maintain it. The idea of a virtual was born. The virtual was supposed to be specific target that you could find using the GPS coordinates, just like you found a physical cache. You would provide proof of your find by answering a question base on what you found or posting a picture of the object.

      What were the issues with virtuals?

      Most people hid virtuals because they found a place that they felt really needed a cache (i.e. they wanted to share the location with other geocachers). But sometimes a virtual had nothing special to see, it was just an easy way to hide a cache. Sometimes if a cache went missing, instead of replacing it, the owner would change it to a virtual. In order to limit the number of unimpressive virtuals and to encourage the hiding of more physical caches, the guidelines were changed to require virtuals to "be novel, of interest to other players, and have a special historic, community or geocaching quality that sets it apart from everyday subjects." This guideline was referred to as the "Wow!" requirement. It required the volunteer cache reviewers to make judgments about whether a location deserved a virtual cache or not.

      The existence of virtual caches also provided an easy way out for park managers who didn't want to allow physical caches. They were able to say that virtual caches could be placed in the park and not physical caches and still say they were allowing geocaching.

      Aside from the "Wow!" requirement, many virtual caches lost sight of the original intent of being an object to find using the GPSr. Virtual caches were place to show off a building, a park, a mountain top, or a view. Many did not even require proof of a visit to claim a find. The requirements were tightened, but not before many geocachers began to think of virtuals as a way to share interesting places to visit. Despite the change to the guidelines, the reviewers found that people kept submitting these kinds of locations. Most people were using virtuals not a substitute for where you couldn't hide a physical container, but as a substitute for the yet to be invented waymark.

      Some virtuals used a confirmation question that could be answered by research on the Internet. Some people allowed a find on these if you could answer the question even without visiting the site. Again the guidelines were changed to emphasize that the intent was to actually visit the cache site, but by the time this happened some people had discovered the joy of armchair logging of virtuals.

      Once virtual caches were allowed, the next step was the locationless or reverse cache. The first locationless caches were listed as virtuals that you could find anywhere. A locationless cache asked you to find a location that fit the cache description and post the coordinates to claim a find. Once someone had found a particular location, most locationless caches would not allow another find using that site. Locationless caches didn't really fit the model of the Geocaching.com database. For one, you had to look through all the locationless caches to find ones you could do and once you found a locationless to do you needed to check if anyone had already used your location. By the time I started geocaching, in 2003, there was a moratorium on new locationless caches while TPTB were coming up with a solution for locationless.

      The vision of Waymarking

      The solution that TPTB came up with for locationless caches was to have a separate website where users could suggest categories of places whose coordinates could be listed. The categories would be organized in a hierarchy so you could find the categories which were interesting to you. When you entered a new location it would check to see if there was already one close by. If this was the same site you couldn't create a new waymark, but you could log your visit to existing one.

      TPTB came to realize that most virtuals were really just locations that people wanted to share. There wasn't anything to find (or if there was it was just in order to have a verification question). How much better to have a site dedicate to sharing interesting locations with other people. The overwhelming majority of what got submitted as virtual caches could be submitted to one or more waymarking categories. A method to ask for verification of visits was provided for those who still wanted proof when someone visited their waymark. With that, TPTB decided that all the existing locationless caches could be migrated to waymarking and no new locationless or virtual caches would be accepted on Geocaching.com. Not all locationless got migrated, as Waymarking requires a group of users to manage each category (instead of volunteer geocache reviewers) and some locationless owners were not interested in doing this.

      Waymarking has it detractors. In addition to challenging or fun categories of some locationless, waymarking has categories that are pretty mundane – like McDonald's Restaurants and Starbucks Coffee. But because of the hierarchical organization of categories it is easy to ignore categories you think are too mundane and concentrate on the categories you are interested in.

      What about the element of surprise that some virtual caches provided? Waymarking has a waymarking games category. This is a pretty wide open area. Some of the more creative locationless cache wound up here. It is also home the Best Kept Secrets category. This category allows (but does not require) the waymark owner to provide a description that doesn't reveal everything about the location so you can still be surprised when you visit. Other categories can still be proposed to emphasize what ever aspects of virtuals you enjoyed and are not being met by other waymarking categories.

      Waymarking is also lacking in ways to download waymarks and load them into your GPSr. You can get a LOC file with the coordinates of waymarks you have selected but there are still no pocket queries or GPX format that contains the waymark descriptions. Many people also enjoy visting waymarks/virtuals while out looking for physical geocaches. Perhaps a future version of both sites will allow PQs that can return geocaches along with the waymarks in your favorite categories.

      On Mon, May 12, 2008 at 5:10 PM, Philip C. Mason <dragonscale365@...> wrote:

      The link seems to be broken.
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Monday, May 12, 2008 4:12 PM
      Subject: Re: [CentralTexasGeocachers] Virtuals

      This topic has come up once again on the Big Green forum.  This is a pretty decent post explaining some of what went on:


      I've really enjoyed the virtuals that took me to a neat spot or some historic location.  Maybe all of the really lame ones were gone before I came into the game (or maybe Central Texas cachers never submitted anything that bad).


      On Thu, May 8, 2008 at 2:44 PM, electric_water_boy <electric_water_boy@...> wrote:

      I wish virtuals would make a comeback. The few that I have done have
      taken me to interesting places. Some have taught me stuff. Some have
      challenged me (like Cybercat's virtual along the SA Riverwalk that
      stirred some comments recently). I haven't been to one yet where I had
      to worry about harming anything in any way.

      Not knowing the history, why were they taken away anyway?

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