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September 29, 2015

The End of Geocaching as I Know It

Some time earlier this year I hit a tipping point and decided I would not renew my geocaching.com premium membership that I've had since a little while after I started. That point has come and gone and I'm no longer a premium member now.

Perhaps the title is a bit misleading as I'll likely not change my geocaching participation habits much at all. I still go out and find caches at much the same rate I have been over the past couple years. Even if it is a little more difficult to get the data out of the website now.

As for why, even at the quite minimal cost I don't feel I'm getting enough value out of it and I'm growing increasingly frustrated with the way Groundspeak operates and no longer want to support them in any way.

When I started, premium membership was just a few added bonus features, it wasn't necessary for every day use, just some luxuries to help things along. It made sense, pay a few bucks, get a few perks. That's rather changed now, both as geocaching and the website have evolved, membership has gone from a luxury to a near requirement. The current website operation and your interaction with it are quite crippled without membership. I'm really not a fan of this model, but have continued along more out of necessity than desire to have membership.

Some of my decision also stems from state of geocaching today and my lack of enjoyment of such. When I started geocaching it was a geeky reason to get outside and try something new. That quickly exploded into engaging in exploration, being outdoors, being active, finding new challenges and trying new activities. The social aspect showed up a few years later and become a very important component. And a little while later the ability to volunteer, flex some technical muscles and engage in the bureaucratic side added another component. The novelty wore off, but those aspects made it more than worth while. Today, a lot of that has vanished for me and greatly diminished the enjoyment. There rarely seems to be any new exploration. It's all to common to find myself showing up at the exact same spot in a park I've visited many times or partaking in the same activity at the same venue. The poison ivy, bugs, scrapes and bruises, dirt and sweat all seem to weigh heavily against enjoying nature. Even the amount of exercise has diminished as it's all too easy or required to drive from parking lot to parking lot. Finding a nice walk to a cache takes a special effort. The challenges involved in the activity seem to have stretched from fun and accessible to difficult and time consuming, to arduous, expensive and life altering to impossible. They just aren't worth it, not only has the difficulty increased but the rewards have decreased. Social activity is the biggest hold out, but even that has diminished to a great extent.

As for Groundspeak, I'm really not sure of how they operate internally, if there's reasons why things work as they do, but that's just not an excuse, as a customer I've had enough. Time after time, the decisions being made seem to be obviously wrong, I certainly don't agree with the majority of them. Hindsight proves this out, as after a couple years, several of these "mistakes" have been reverted and backed out, but not until after causing much grief. There seems to be a pattern of rolling out a feature or change out of the blue with a dubious need or want. All the while failing to deliver bug fixes, promised changes or feature requests that have been outstanding for a very long time and are highly requested and desired by participants. I know of bugs that have existed for over a decade that just don't get addressed, despite being continuously reported. There also seems to be a lack of respect for ideas and people. I know I've been insulted and banned by Groundspeak personnel for requesting a bug to be fixed. A series of little things have built up into a massive pile over time. It's just too much effort and frustration to deal with all these things on top of just plain participating. I no longer want to invest the effort and I'm certainly not going to pay any more money to have that privilege.

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