Open letter to Jeremy Irish: Challenges

Attn: Jeremy Irish (CEO Groundspeak Inc.) / Seattle, WA

August 19th, 2011


yesterday was quite a “challenging” day for me. The way the new challenges are implemented and the way Groundspeak handled the introduction really upset me.

I am a geocacher since early 2004 and I can´t remember any other decision by Groundspeak that started such a shit storm. I am surprised by the huge number of people who raised their voices yesterday – even people who seldom or never visit the forums or the feedback system. Again, I am not the usual Groundspeak basher. As a former reviewer and long time premium member I always supported Groundspeak and I love my premium membership and happily pay the yearly fee to support the site.

BUT: The way challenges are implemented on the website, the way Groundspeak handled the introduction and especially your personal reaction to the feedback suggestions made me angry.

Geocaching is an outdoor sport. It is about finding a physical container and signing a logbook PERIOD. It is not about sitting in your arm chair. You can always use Foursquare or Gowalla for a check-in.

I understand your ambition to get more projects running to attract customers. A company with more than 60 employees needs to pay their monthly bills and earn money. The smartphone geocachers might be an important part of your business plan but don´t forget about the true geocachers. Including challenges in the overall stats ruins their experience and is a big mistake.

Players surely will create some pretty good challenges but I fear the vast majority will be plain dumb. If somebody wants to complete challenges that is fine with me but I don´t want this stuff interfere with my geocaching experience. You wrote “It is staying on If you don’t like the new activity, don’t participate.” By including the stats of challenges in the overall number you force us indirectly to participate. And I don´t want to “Kiss a Frog” – you get a bad taste in your mouth doing so.

On the other hand there are other features and fixes a lot of users are desperately waiting for:

  • make Wherigo usable (2741 votes on the feedback system)
  • finish the Maps Beta
  • implement a nano cache size icon (2724 votes on the feedback system)
  • proper display of PQ on maps
  • make the website fully usable on iOS devices
  • Solved-a-mystery function (4556 votes on the feedback system)

Make the people happy and give them these features. Listen to your users! They don´t want to complete challenges while the maps don´t work and they can´t browse the website with their iPads.

BTW: Why did you remove the log date? Help us understand this decision!

The introduction of the feedback system was a move very welcomed by the community. On the other hand I feel that you don´t listen to your users anymore. This is not good. I get the impression there is TPTB who rules the geocaching world and in his opionion the users should pay their premium membership and be silent. Synchronise your agenda with the needs of the community. Remembe what happend to Digg a while ago? Don´t become the next Kevin Rose!

The deleting of yesterday’s feedbacks was plain rude in my opionion. The accompanying statement did a lot of damage and you managed to upset a lot of people. Deleting feedbacks is not a solution. As you might have noticed new feedbacks are popping up by the hour, the “Kiss the Frog” challenge gets really negative comments in the logs and the forums are exploding (at least the forums in your second biggest market: Germany). The user are very upset and will find their ways to express their concerns.

Another aspect is the whole history of Virtual Geoaches, Locationless Caches, Challenge-Caches, Wherigo and Waymarking. The community is confused from all the back and forth and doesn´t see a stragety or a roadmap behind it.

Groundspeak just got ranked 7th in Outside’s “Top 50 Best Places to Work“. Congrats! I think you wouldn’t get the same a results in a customer satisfaction survey. You are far away from “extraordinary customer experience”. Again, listen to the users and they will be thankful and give back. At the end of the day is a project with content generated by the users! Are you really going to ignore this massive negative response? Show us you are not the person outlined in this article about the history of geocaching.

Thanks for reading!

I am looking forward to hearing from you, even so I don´t expect you noticing an article on a small german geocaching blog.

Martin aka JeeperMTJ – N 50° 40 E 8° 20


P.S.: This might be a simple solution.