As most of you are aware by now, Groundspeak rolled out some cool new features yesterday. We were really excited to check out the new toys and think that most of the Geocaching.com community was as well.
Shortly after coming back online the massive volume of server requests from the new features started tripping “throttling” triggers and brought the site down to a crawl. The Lackey’s were right on it and within an hour or so the site had, for the most part, settled down.
Since we are a little late with our article (crazy holiday season!) we are just going to look at the biggest changes, do a quick rundown and review, and take a glimpse at what is on the horizon. Pop over to CacheMania.com to get the new features in detail (with pictures!)
The beta maps are probably one of the things that got a lot of people most excited. To access the new “Maps Beta” you have to click on a link above the current map. One of nice features is that they have eliminated the 500 cache limit, so basically you can look at every cache in the world at once (helps when looking in congested areas). Another handy feature of the map is the ability to search by location, so no more having to drag the map all over the place to find the right city. What, not a fan of Google Maps, well now you can choose between Google Maps (Road Map, Terrain, Satellite, Hybrid), MapQuest, OpenStreet, OpenCycle, and Bing Maps. Also, it is now easy to share the map you are looking at by copying the link in the side bar. Now you have to remember, this is still beta (translation = not perfect). One of the biggest limits the map currently has is that it does not show your finds, it just shows all caches. Another limiting factor is you can not filter the cache type. Most of this will be sorted out in the next update.
Groundspeak’s recent acquisition MyGeocachingProfile.com (MGP) has now made it possible for Geocaching.com users to have fully integrated statistics tab on their profiles (meaning you do not have to update a third party site with your latest finds). Currently they do not offer all of the same stats that MGP did and there is no ability to edit what is shown. You can however turn the stats tab completely off by visiting “Your Account Details”. It is my understanding that more stats will be added to this in the future (and maybe a way to edit what is shown). One thing that had people quite concerned yesterday was that when you look at your stats page there is a link to the cache nearest to and farthest from your home location along with a distance. I was not worried because my home coords are not set to where I live (whole different story) but this was a problem for many. Those two stats (in that much detail) is only visible to you on your statistics page, take a look at a friends stats and you will see the difference. So there is no need to worry!
The thing that we love the most from this release are favorites. This is Groundspeak’s answer to a cache “rating” system but instead of a pick-a-number system that will get averaged and diluted over time, this is an actual count of how many people enjoyed the cache (a real number!) Jeremy Irish, President and CEO of Groundspeak, tweeted that “170,000 favorites applied to geocaches in less than 24 hours”, looks like we are not the only ones loving this feature. Your personal profile now has a section under the stat bar with information regarding how many favorite points you have remaining and how many caches you need to find until you get another point. Cachers will be awarded 1 favorite point for every 10 caches found. When you visit a cache listing you will now see a small box with a blue ribbon and a number (clicking on it will show who has added the cache to their favorites, which is super helpful when trying to evolve and improve your caches). The number of favorite points was also added to the list when you seek caches. To add one of your favorite points to a cache click on the link in the right column (under the log find/watch cache section). Clicking on the lists section (formerly ”watch list”) of your profile will allow you to see caches you have awarded favorite points to (this is also where your watch list is now). There are a couple little tweaks that we would like to see made (like being able to run pocket queries based on the number of favorite points). Overall, just in case you missed it, we love this new feature.
Our overall impressions…well, we are impressed. There have been whispers that these updates where in response to Garmin’s new OpenCaching.com, which is not the case. It is our understanding that these new functions have been in the pipe for some time (anyone who works in the tech field know that these things are not built overnight, usually) and just shows that Groundspeak does have their eyes set to the future. Besides tweaking and improving the new features and updating some of the old ones, the one big thing they have mentioned that is “coming soon”, communicate with geocachers in real-time using Geocaching Social. We can’t wait to see what 2011 brings but if this latest update is any indication things are looking bright. Check out the Geocaching.com release notes posted in the forum.
While you are checking out the new features, make sure you also check out the Groundspeak Holiday Card!