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The Geocaching Powers That Be Have Disappointed Me!

As much as I feel like I have been finding a lot of positive aspects surrounding Geocaching through my research, I have to say that I found myself disappointed tonight in the way in which the actual company of Geocaching.com (owned by Groundspeak) is run. A few days ago, I had posted a question to the “Forums” section of www.geocaching.com, asking people why they geocached, who they geocached with, and what they got out of it, stating that I was interested for a university course I was taking. A day later, I received an email from a Forums maintenance person, saying that “polls” are not to be posted on the forums without permission; he gave me an email address at Groundspeak to contact in order to ask for consent. I just received a response today, stating that they will not allow my survey on the forum, even though I stated it was for educational purposes. I thought most companies are usually happy to help out for the purpose of education, so I was disappointed by this response and thought I’d share it with you.

On the plus side, though, the original contact was helpful and directed me to a thread where someone had already asked those reading, “Why do you geocache?” If you guys want to check it out, there’s some great posts in there that help to show the physical socialization aspects of the game. I had asked him if it would be okay to simply post “Why do you geocache?” to the forum, but he steered me away from this course of action, stating that getting permission is the best route- I guess he was already jaded by my ulterior motive of education :-( .

Do you guys have problems when asking companies for information for educational purposes when doing any sort of research? Did I just go about this all wrong? I usually receive pretty positive responses when I mention the research is for school, so I thought this would have been the best route to take. But I guess not!

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  1. Ryan 16:09, Feb 11th, 10

    WOW. That’s amazing for some reason. I wouldn’t expect such restrictive measures for such a simple question. Did you tell them the specifics of your “educational purposes”? Or did you simply say it was for educational project?

    This was one of my favorite posts:

    “Why do we do it? Because it’s awesome! haha.

    My husband & I love being in nature and we love being outdoors and I’ve always wanted to be a Goonie and hunt for treasure We get to spend time together, get exercise, and be a part of something that people all over the world are a part of.

    I think your concluding questions depend upon two key factors, who and how they ask and what’s the overall purpose in how the information can be used. Companies are very private in my opinion (this is debatable). However, companies are businesses and they want to protect the business. I am unaware if geocaching makes money/non-profit but you have to be careful with things. But education is different – I would tend to side more with you.

    I admire you contacting the company and really digging around and trying to find the answers. Great effort and great job with what you were able to find. I’m actually inspired to try it one day. Thanks.

    I think that geocaching is something that can be easily attractive. I think we all have something inside us that helps us to search for something in life. Whether everyday we are searching for something small or insignificant or searching for that job or that beautiful woman/handsome man – we are always searching for something. This is why I think this is so appealing to its members/hunters.

    When I try it out, I’ll let you know what I find :)

  2. HoniehLayla 19:16, Feb 11th, 10

    Time is Money.. well today.. DATA is money..

    I’m sorry that you were discouraged by this people in “cubicles” but don’t let that get you down. At work I was researching a topic, and every page I found asked me to pay for the research. At time’s the fee was well in the area of 10-15k. Unfortunately no one is willing to give anything away, and if you that type of “poll” was initiated they could charge you for using “THEIR USERS” for that information.

    Nonetheless – people suck.

    I read through the comments on the link you posted and I must say there was a similarity running through all the posts, that being, “we do it for the adventure.” There might be a rift forming between the mass of online users out there who are in need to combine their PHYSICAL social lives with their ONLINE social lives. This brings me back to our previous classroom discussion on Meetup.com. New media is enabling people to not only connect online but also in physical personal setting.

    One major reason I do not engage in Facebook suicide is because I would lose track of all the events that I’m being invited to.. silly I know, but I use it as my social calendar at times.

    Geocaching in some respects is the same way. This helps users, seek the adventure thrill, be outside and enable them to be social in the online and physical context. I’m very interested in this topic and actually wouldn’t mind trying out an adventure myself!

  3. Jimena 23:59, Feb 11th, 10

    Whoa. I’d never thought that an activity that is so strongly based on user-generated content, and of course on word of mouth, would be so zealous of its own information! As we’ve said about ther cases (your experience with your clients and mine with cultural instutions),corporations are afraid of losing control. I guess that goes on in all kinds of companies! Bad move. As Ryan says, too restrictive for such a little risk.

    Thinking back to last class and the 4 steps of participation, it seems to me that geocaching as an activity is in between the ‘collaboration’ and ‘collective action’ stages, don’t you think? It certainly has division of labor & shared goals, but from what people´s posts on your link, there is some kind of group identity going on– even if it is not in the massive way we are used to, or for such evidently political reasons. The idea of “being part of something that people all over the world are part of”, as a member says, makes me think there’s at least potential of organized action in a larger scale.

    I love this topic! I want to go out and search for a cache :)

  4. Leslie 11:40, Feb 12th, 10

    @Ryan: I did get a little more specific with my question, just telling them that I was looking to show what physical socialization aspects are present with Geocaching, as opposed to other social media websites. I figured mentioning this might be a incentive to help me, letting the company see that I wasn’t out to prove anything negative about the site.

    Haha, I agree- the mention about being a “Goonie” is great! And, I have to say, I definitely agree with her!

    As far as companies keeping their information private, that’s always the outlook I had too. While they don’t want to just dish out their information to anyone, I usually thought that they tend to make an exception for education.

    Geocaching does make money off its users, as well as from ads placed on the site. As far as membership goes, there are two different types: a Basic Membership and a Premium Membership. While the Basic Membership is free, the Premium Membership can be bought either for $30/year or $10/3 months. So, I guess because certain users pay for a membership, maybe they feel a larger need to protect their users’ privacy. At the same time, though, if I am simply posting a survey on their forums, where I mention that it’s for educational purposes, is that really hurting anyone? It’s fully up to the users to decide if they want to answer or not.

    And with the idea of “searching,” it is something we all do naturally as human beings. A lot of our search as human being, as you mentioned, is very intangible and abstract. Geocaching gives us a tangible thing to search for and even keep track of, which I’m sure makes the game/social site very attractive to its users.

    @Honieh: Wow! That’s a lot of money to gain some information. I guess a lot of companies are looking to protect their information as much as possible, in an age where so much can be found for free on the Internet.

    I agree with you- participating for the “adventure” is definitely a common topic amongst the geocaching community. And to take it a step further, doing it for the adventure with another person or group of people, aka, sharing that adventure with others. I think that’s a good point you made and one that I was trying to explore more of- that as are lives get more entwined with the virtual world, are we going to push back and try to reconnect with the physical? I think Geocaching, as well as meetup.com (and even Foursquare) offer this. I hope to talk about this more in my concluding post.

    @Jimena: Definitely too restrictive! I haven’t thought of geocaching in that way yet- I would say that it’s “collaboration” and “collective action” to a certain extent. Maybe not in the way of changing society in some way, but it does promote a sense of unity for a common cause of a world wide community that trusts each other. Geocachers even have meetings and lunches were certain members of an area can conjugate. Geocaching.com and Groundspeak as a company also do promote two important causes: “Leave No Child Inside” (to get children outdoors) http://www.kidsoutside.info/billofrights/research.php and “Cache in, Trash Out” (promoting cleaning up the environment) http://www.geocaching.com/cito/. So, from that sense, there is a greater goal Geocaching.com (and hopefully its members) is trying to reach.

  5. mushon 11:14, Feb 13th, 10

    I think it’s an important lesson. Some companies (and to a certain degree most companies) are secretive about some info they may see as their business advantage. This obviously stands in contrast to them offering their services in public and basing their content on their users activity. Anyone can say they are students and maybe they just like to maintain this critical study of what makes them succeed/fail internal so no one else goes and outdoes their service. It’s not a very sustainable policy, but I should not surprise you that much.

    In previous classes I had students embed themselves in media environment as a user and when the community found out she was studying them and reporting on a public blog, they were pretty offended. Not to mention the fact one community actually attacked our servers to supress a travelogue. (they failed)

    this invisible audiences thing is a tricky thing, and even when you’re being sincere like you have some will be suspicious of any activity and interests that are external to the riles of engagement the social environment dictates. This is very interesting in it’s own right.

  6. Leslie 13:30, Feb 13th, 10

    @mushon: Wow that’s crazy concerning an Internet community trying to attack the class servers- what an intense response! What media environment was being researched? Glad to hear they couldn’t get in!

    Yea, I think I’ve learned my lesson. I guess I need to be a little more discrete sometimes when I’m investigating answers. I can understand the need to be wary of outsiders looking for information- it is quite hard to actually know peoples’ true intent behind the guise of the internet.