Tosh

Groundspeak is on well on it’s way to curtail any creativity or initiative which prevents the involvement in a whole lot of red tape that makes our sport less attractive.

You’ll surely remember my enthusiasm about Greasemonkey scripts like GC vote, VIP list and GC Tour. It could be that all this be gone very soon, certainly when you read these forum posts where one states that scripts like GC Tour are illegal, since it ‘scrapes’ data from the GS servers and thus a violation of the TOS. If one asks for alternatives, one states that Pocket Queries and Bookmask lists will do the job. Excuse me, but I’ve never read such a load of crap. This nonsense is only meant to force people to have Premium Membership. But since I am a Premium Member, I wonder whether or not I’m allowed to use these scripts or not.

Let’s face it, the gc.com isn’t able to offer what GC Tour can: making a list of caches you want to tackle, export it and print it the way one wants (in an environmental way). It even doesn’t offer a proper search engine. Let’s look at the so called alternative: paying for a PM in order to use PQs and pay a GSAK license. Emptying my wallet doesn’t give me a script which does everything you can with GC Tour and left with assuagement. With all due respect for the creators of GSAK annex scripts, but I challenge you to find or create a script which does everything GC Tour is able to. I wish you good luck with it.

Even if you do have found/create a similar script, GS prevents you to fetch the latest data for a cache since it prohibits the use of scripts like RefreshAllGPX. Apparently the has been some embezzlement and the reaction is not only a ban of the wrongdoer(s) but also the demand for removal of the script. What kind of reaction is this? That’s the same as banning all cars on a road since there is an excessive use of the road. What’s the meaning of excessive use anyway? 100 cars, 10 artics, …

How far can GS go with all this anyway? The existential sentence of Groundspeak relies on our input since they don’t author any caches. Regardless from the caches by GS employees, all the work – authoring, reviewing, maintenance, etc. – is done by volunteers outside the company. All GS does is ‘host’ the data with ups and (much) downs. One asks money if you want to retrieve your (and other’s) data and even says that you can’t do it in a proper way. Something they don’t provide. Instead one launches ideas and does nothing with it: the Wherigo player and Builder (still in Alpha) isn’t updated since May 2008! Or what about an application on a device where you will suffer in your pocket, not only for getting the software but also for using it.

Let the cobbler stick to his last and focus on the main goal: hosting caching data and providing a proper and user friendly way to retrieve it for free. As long as one doesn’t come near the functionality of scripts like GC Vote, VIP List and GC Tour one puts oneself out of court and one doesn’t have any right to prohibit the installation and the use of it.

There are different solutions regarding the PQs problem. First of all, one should also provide the information about the archived caches. Secondly, one should increment the 5 PQs/day or the caches/PQ limit. An average Belgian geocacher needs 12 PQs: 10 for the caches in the country, 1 for the hides and 1 for the finds. One needs 3 days in order to obtain the information in the way Groundspeak wants you to. I read regularly that people have multiple Premium Memberships in order to by-pass these obstacles. I don’t see GS complain about any excessive use when it comes to this. So why not introduce additional membership types. There are different approaches: flat fees with limits on the usage or why not some kind of cloud membership (inspired by cloud hosting) where you pay for your usage.

Speaking of, as mentioned before things can be solved with creative solutions like Cloud hosting, grid hosting, etc. But it’s difficult to obtain any hearing. It seems to be easier to shoot the messenger. Maybe someday one even bans people – without servile obedience – writing blogs about things. I’m sure one will find a stick as excuse to beat the dog.

10 Responses to “Tosh”

  1.  Capitaine Igloo Says:

    Hello Searchjaunt,

    It is a pitty that I couldn’t make it to Leuven on saturday: we could have discussed this around a glass of beer.

    I understand your frustration very well about GC not offering the features you would like to see or need and forbiding initiatives of those that come up with creative alternatives.

    I am disappointed though that you don’t present enough the other side of the problem. Like for many things in social life, the community is punished because a few misbehave and highjack the community’s ressource. There are many examples of this (and don’t start me on people driving on bus lanes, it is not good at all for my blood pressure).

    GC must do the housekeeping and preserve the bandwidth: a few can take a lot of it and then others start to complain (and I have seen that kind of complains here too) that the site is too slow at certain times.

    Bandwith is expensive nowadays and Groundspeak beeing a commercial company that has salaries to pay they’re chasing costs. And I have a hunch that they are working on their Disaster Recovery Plan.

    The biggest problem (for me) is that GC is built on the american (liberal) model: commercial company. Only paying customer complains are (barely) heard. No view on the financial status or strategy. I prefer for that kind of activity the ASBL/VZW model. If you want to see what is hapenning to your association, become an effective member with voting rights at the general assembly. (not easy though for an international association, but there are examples in the Open Source community that work).

    The last thing I wanted to say is that 30$/20euros is not much. I pay more for some associations or magazine.

    But frustration is something that spoils the best things…

  2.  searchjaunt Says:

    Hi Captain Igloo,

    Thanks for your input. You’re right; GS shouldn’t be a commercial company, certainly not when it relies on the work of volunteers.
    At the other hand, I have to disagree that I don’t present the other side of the problem. I even proposed alternative/solutions like cloud hosting, different membership schemes for the heavy users, etc. That would compensate the ‘cost’ of hosting, which is – considering the mentioned possibilities – in my eyes not so high as you think. At the other hand, GS can – as said in the blog – save a lot of money and work force by focusing on their core business (and work that out in a proper way) and stop creating projects/ (mobile) applications for a small group of users or one doesn’t finish.

    Cheers

    Eddy

  3.  sTeamTraen Says:

    Hi Searchjaunt,

    >>You’re right; GS shouldn’t be a commercial
    >>company, certainly not when it relies on the
    >>work of volunteers.
    A couple of things in reply to that:
    1) The use of volunteers keeps caching free. If caches were reviewed by paid staff, the money would have to come from the cache placers. Want to give your Paypal details for every cache review? $4.99 per cache, and if it isn’t right first time, $2.99 for every back-and-forth e-mail exchange until it’s published?

    Actually, you might be surprised how common the use of volunteers is in the US. Many commercial companies, for example, use volunteer forum moderators. Volunteering is a whole different ball game in the US compared to Europe.

    2) Groundspeak is a for-profit company and has been since 2000. One might argue that “it would be better for geocaching if the largest, near-monopoly listing site were a collective, open-source organisation, à la Mozilla”, but that isn’t where we are.

    Groundspeak represents 3 people’s retirement funds and 30 people’s monthly rent/mortgage payments. We’re all going to have to deal with that. They aren’t going to suddenly retire, hand over the keys to the community, and live in a tent; and the database is pretty much their only tangible asset. I do not blame them for being very, very conservative in how they allow people to extract large chunks of it.

    (Personally, I think that a non-profit collective would have been torn apart by infighting after about 18 months – the open-source model is great for software development, but network operations is a whole other ball game, because there are real large bills to be paid, in cash, within 30 days.)

    >>Let the cobbler stick to his last and focus on
    >>the main goal: hosting caching data and
    >>providing a proper and user friendly way to
    >>retrieve it for free.
    “For free” may be your goal; it’s not Groundspeak’s. Actually, it’s quite impressive how much one can do for a cash outlay of $0.00 on Geocaching.com. You just can’t have their entire database, on your terms, for nothing. That’s the Opencaching model, and they seem to be doing pretty nicely. But if you want to play Groundspeak’s game, with Groundspeak’s smileys, you have to play it their way.

    >>At the other hand, GS can – as said in the
    >>blog – save a lot of money and work force by
    >>focusing on their core business (and work that
    >>out in a proper way) and stop creating
    >>projects/ (mobile) applications for a small
    >>group of users or one doesn’t finish.
    Wherigo: sure, needs some work. But the iPhone Geocaching app is a big, big success.

    Just a thought: tf your car breaks down, do you start writing blog posts about how Renault should stop making trucks and start concentrating on their core business of getting the Clio’s electrical system right? This is important – with Groundspeak you can see a lot more of what’s going on. Every year, companies far bigger than them – and of which you are a customer – waste billions on broken projects, sometimes putting the future maintenance of your car or perhaps your life savings in danger, and you don’t even get to find out about it because the cancelled projects never get publicised.

  4.  searchjaunt Says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for your input. I would like clear out things though.

    – I know that commercial companies work with volunteers. I used to be a top contributor for the SAP Developers Network. But that’s not the point here. The issue is that one commercializes information – in casu cache information – one got for free. And – as you hit the – nail on the head it has a (near) monopoly with no alternatives.

    – I meant with “providing a proper and user friendly way to retrieve it for free” that GC tour provides something which GroundSpeak should provide and the author of GC Tour made it for free, thus no reason for GS to prohibit it or ask money for it if they should provide the same functionality.

    > Wherigo: sure, needs some work
    It’s still in Alpha and there were no releases for 1.5 year, which is ages in technology terms

    > the iPhone Geocaching app is a big, big success.
    That statement is as hazy as the term ‘excessive’. Do you have figures?
    How many of them are:
    – outside the US
    – pay there communication bills and not their employer
    I didn’t see any on the field yet. Not that we are laggards in BE, but the online costs are high in BE

    – Renault doesn’t say that I’m not allowed to use my car because their electrical systems doesn’t work properly. And do get to my garage to complain until the problem is fixed. After all, I paid for a working system. I also paid for my Premium Membership, so I expect the same.

    Eddy

  5.  sTeamTraen Says:

    >> Wherigo: sure, needs some work
    >It’s still in Alpha and there were no releases
    >for 1.5 year, which is ages in technology terms
    Have a look here: http://www.livestream.com/mcdm/ondemand/pla_42843913-fd73-411b-a0f2-d9d8258c2918?initthumburl=http

    There are some comments about Wherigo starting some time after 47:30 (I forget exactly where). Jeremy acknowledges that there is a disconnect between the current toolset and the people who want to build cartridges, and says that stuff is in the works. He’s even reasonably specific about the stuff: apparently there will be platform support for the iPhone and Android.

    It may even turn out that the 18 month silence may have come at a good time (aka, the release was too early). I just checked and was amazed to discover that the iPhone 3G was released in July 2008, two months after the last minor update to the official Wherigo builder. (Disclaimer: I am the author of an alternative Wherigo builder, which although unofficial has been more or less endorsed by Groundspeak.)

    In 2007 when the Wherigo platform was being defined and code written, the “obvious” hardware device was a PDA, and as a bonus, Garmin agreed to put the Wherigo player into some of their new, Geocacher-oriented devices. Now, PDAs seem to be more or less dead, and the weaknesses of the Garmin platform are becoming apparent (lack of marketing interest from Garmin; poor implementation quality; difficulty of scheduling software updates between Groundspeak and Garmin). At the same time, it’s become “obvious” that in a fairly short time, a billion people are going to be walking around with a GPS device and enough computing power to run Wherigo properly. This thing still has fantastic potential.

  6.  searchjaunt Says:

    Thanks for the link and the background info

  7.  CSG Show #23 – Case Closed :: Mrs Beasley Omnimedia Says:

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  8.  lcabral Says:

    groundspeak has a tremendous asset… Its database!
    But for usability, with the exception of google maps it seems stuck in the 90’s. It has no advances in the interface…
    That leaves me to think “Who are premium members paying to? What are they paying for?” For what I see of its development I imagined it was a mere 2-5 persons CEO+workers.
    I see no actual progress since I becamed a member (maybe a bit over a year)
    And I can say that I actually expected to be considered a hacker for using GCTour. I use it because I found out the GPX was the most suitable (only format) for my GPS application and they only provide LOC Files. Then you just start using everything else GCTour has to offer.
    GCtour is an super-excelent tool, independently of being a hack or not. It provides a lot more than just a HTML page.
    And I though that a Premium account would equally fulfill all the needs from GCTour but for the comments I’ve read it is far from true.Ĩf there were some other account types cheaper than a PM I would undoubltly pay for it but I think its current price is a bit too much for me.
    besides you can’t just start trying a new hobby and buy a PM right away, buy a GC supported Garmin (even though I already have Windows Mobile with GPS) or buy a GC supported application.

    But the end is only one… groundspeak has a super leverage… it has a 10 years database of caches… but that is all they have

  9.  searchjaunt Says:

    I completely agree.
    I hope btw that GCTour will be back available soon after the revamp debacle a fortnight ago.

  10.  CSG Show #23 – Case Closed | Centennial State Geocaching Says:

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