Open Source Geocaching Trackables

Today, I had my first geocaching experience (which was a bit of a failure, but still had a lot of fun). Doing some research, I realized that trackables supported and recognized by the official geocaching.com website and affiliated applications, have to be purchased from the Groundspeak, Inc (the company behind geocaching.com) shop. Now, as a fan of open source (although I’m an Apple fan), I am completely against this concept. I realize that Groundspeak has to somehow make money, but with more than 2.090.000 caches globally, I do not think they will go bankrupt any time soon. Geocaching has reached a point in which users should be able to enjoy it fully, without unnecessary expenses, by becoming a more open source and accessible game.

People start geocaching because it’s a fun hobby which allows them to visit beautiful places and experience a little bit of adventure. Geocache hunters spend time and money traveling around, and creating new caches for other people to enjoy. There are amazing caches out there added by some fantastic people. I believe that a lot of people start geocaching just to find and create unique caches. This, in the long run, creates profits for Groundspeak, as geocaching.com is the go-to place for new hunters.

Although there are free solutions that give players the ability to create custom trackable codes, they have two disadvantages:

  1. This free DB of trackables does not connect to geocaching.com.
  2. The trackable items have to be manually built by the players, which does not allow standardization.
  3. Users have to build the trackables themselves, by sticking QR codes to objects they want to use as trackables.

My idea was creating a new web application that would:

  1. Give users the ability to create trackable codes for free.
  2. Connect to geocaching.com
  3. Allow users to create standardized and / or good quality trackables for cheap / free.
  4. Allow digital log functionalities (for micro caches or other cases in which a traditional paper log is not ideal).

Points 1 and 4 are clear enough and self-explanatory. Let’s take a deeper look at points 2 and 3.

Connection to geocaching.com

Groundspeak, Inc will (probably) never allow external DB connections or free generation of trackable codes that can be used in their website. They make money off these. Since browser hacks are 100% legal though, A Greasemonkey (or compatible plugin for other browsers) script could change the layout of geocaching.com, adding tabs that will be able to use trackable codes from external sites.

Trackable creation

Two words: 3D printing! The app / site could use an algorithm to transform the code itself into a 3D format and merge it with predefined STL coin / dog tag template. This would allow users to easily 3D print their own geocoins, with the code engraved on them. Although I have messed around with 3D design in Google Sketchup, I do not have the necessary knowledge to create an algorithm like this, but if you know someone who does, please do contact me.

Using the Geocaching logo

Let’s face it. The Geocaching logo is cool and globally recognizable by players. But can we add it to 3D printable coins? From the Geocaching logo usage guidelines page:

Groundspeak will hereby license the Groundspeak Geocaching logo for non-commercial products and non-commercial Web sites. (…) The Groundspeak Geocaching Logo may be used only on non-commercial items. These items may include, but are not limited to shirts, hats, coins, logbooks, stickers and cache containers. (…) If the lifetime use of the design is less than 25 units, you may consider permission automatically granted.

Ok, that was easy. The app itself will not sell or give actual items for free, just a 3D design, so that 25 units part is not valid here. Any specific rules for this?

All Groundspeak Geocaching logos are to be used “as they appear” and are not to be cut up or resized or altered without express written permission of Groundspeak.

Now I’m confused. You said I have permission to print coins if they are less than 25 pieces. Am I supposed to print the coins with the logo in the size that appears on the official website (64, 150 or 300px wide)? Physical objects do not have pixels. The terms page does not make that clear, but I can always email them and ask them.

So these were my ideas. As my free time is very limited, If you can help in any way, I’m all ears!

 

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