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shellbadger

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Everything posted by shellbadger

  1. I am an infrequent visitor to the forum so I missed the posts above. One of the products of keeping detailed records over a long period of time is that it is a constant source of entertainment…at least it is for me. At the heart of my record-keeping was to identify longevity strategies. Multiple iterations of the mission statements had no discernible effect…in fairness I must admit that one of six trackables meant for grandchildren in Houston actually made the trip from Lubbock, by way of Hong Kong. Based on the accumulated information, I quit dropping bugs in urban caches, choosing instead to use my own rural caches for trackable dispersal. Then, I converted all my caches to Premium Member Only. Next, I quit using the chain-to-tag connection. I had tried super glue and crimping the link to no difference. Except for a handful, since 2015 I have been using rivets to connect tags to other items (see below). In truth, the improvement in longevity is only small percentages, but I am a tool/gear junkie and this was an excuse to buy a Milwaukee power pop-riveter. In another post I showed why my criterion for missing was a trackable without retrieval, visit or a drop log for three years…discovery logs are increasingly bogus and are not worth tracking. About 95 percent of trackable that do make drops do so within one year. After that the chances of reappearance become vanishingly small…but as shown in an earlier post above, it can happen. These values were derived solely from my trackables, but I cannot believe there would orders-of-magnitude differences in all trackables released. A common way that cachers remove lost or collected trackables from their inventories is to do a fake drop. I believe this practice is more prevalent in the US than in Europe…at least in the US there are far more of the multiple-years-between-drops intervals that are immediately followed by gone-missings. Only someone who keep records would notice this trend. Another annoying, but common, US strategy is to not log a retrieval until the drop, thus, in the meantime, a cacher ducks any responsibility for holding a trackable. I originally set up my spreadsheet to look at trackable size, shape and host material, I just haven’t done it yet. Instead, I first noticed the disparity in longevity and frequency of movement between trackables in the US vs those in Europe. To convince the doubters, I have been strengthening that observation with data ever since. Finally, I have no problem with sharing a basic spreadsheet. After ten years, my active spreadsheets have grown so much in size and function as to be no value to anyone else...they are all linked to or from other files. After creating an account, my initial foray into GitHub revealed a bunch of terms and acronyms about which I am utterly clueless. I think I need to find some other way to make my spreadsheets available.
  2. It was about six years when I started getting serious about the illogical distribution of my trackables. At the time I was more focused on documenting longevity. Then, I noticed that Australia and New Zealand, on the other side of the world, had more of my trackables than any of the states bordering Texas (still true). That improbable inequity caused me to check my search functions and formulae, which were correct. Prior to that time, I had assumed trackables would move stepwise from my center, like the waves from a stone thrown in water. Naturally, I also assumed the concentration of trackable would diminish with distance, in a clinal fashion. Not true! I won't live long enough to understand a great deal about movement, there are just too many variables. I am curious, where do your Darwin-released trackable go? Is there any predictable pattern? I have had very few trackables even visit SE Asia or the Pacific islands (only Guam and Okinawa). I don't find language to be that much of a barrier, if one has patience and humility. Many Europeans can read, and also write in understandable English within the narrow context of a caching vocabulary. For those who can't, there is Google Translate...I use it almost every day. Just last week, I had a question about a TB photo taken in Denmark. I fashioned a message in English, using simple declarative and interrogative sentences, and translated it to Danish. The reply, in English, was to contact him in German, as he was a tourist. I sent English and German to him and he sent German and English to me. I had apologized for not being able to write German, despite my heritage. Then, over a couple of days, we conversed about the history of the region of origin of my German-speaking paternal ancestors in Lithuania (then Prussia). It may be a while before I generate another report. I am working up a catalog of missing trackables only, complete with locations and histories.
  3. This post is a continuation of the one of 26-Oct-21. In it I presented graphs of the last log locations (last-logs) of my trackables in the United States (US) versus locations outside the US, which are mostly Canada and the countries of Europe. The present text is a discussion of the tabulated data from which those graphs were derived. The methods for acquiring the information used here are described in the previous post, but let me state again that about 75% of the trackables under discussion have had no logs for at least three years (my criterion for missing) while about 25% are considered still active. The layout of both tables below is exactly the same, so one description will suffice. The Location column is either countries or US states, depending on the table. The Release (Rel) column is total trackables released in the respective locations. The columns under Drop Intervals are counts of trackables having last logs that fall into the specified count category. The values in the 5 column are the pool for drops five through nine, and for the 10 column, it is for drop ten through fourteen, and so on. Both tables have 51 locations with at least one last-log. In the case of the US, it is all 50 states plus the District of Columbia (Washington DC). Even Little Rhody has five. The states with the greatest numbers are California (101), Colorado (57), Florida (62) and Texas (146). These all have caches in leisure destinations, many of which, in my opinion, are frequently black holes for trackables, particularly if they are urban and not Premium Member Only. That said, some Premium Members are well short of sainthood. Thus, trackable longevity is more about luck and probability, rather than some cacher designation. I would have expected Texas to have many more last-logs, given that more than 4,200 trackables have been released there. Moreover, my definition of an old trackable is one having more than 25 drops (about five years old, on average). Texas has none, ranking it below the 20 states do have old trackables. Granted, I want my trackables to move, and even leave the state, but something about this disparity is not quite logical. All trackables will eventually go missing, no matter where they are. Nonetheless, I have believed for years that trackables in Europe move more frequently and last longer than here in the US. This, and future posts should begin to convince others. In my previous report, I suggested the longevity two trackables at Drop 55 was aided by drops (not visits only) in Europe. I thought later to look at all entries at 25 drops and beyond. There are 37 total, with none past 60 drops. The seven orange cells are those with earlier drops in Europe. The four blue cells are those with drops in Canada. As is shown in the second table below, the Canadian profile fits best with those of European countries. Thus, I believe drops outside the US benefitted the longevity of 30 percent the old trackables in the US. The 37 old trackables are 0.85 percent of the 4354 trackables in the US and 0.81 percent of all 4593 trackables. It is said that if a trackable was to survive long enough, it would eventually land in Germany. The second table below supports that statement. Without any releases in that country, it is the location of more last-logs (142) than any place outside the US, and more than any US state except Texas, where most of the trackables are released. The distant second place is a tie between Canada and the UK at 112. Both countries should have some advantage over Germany…a long, shared US/Canada border and my semi-annual trackable trades with an Englishman that resulted in 158 releases, mostly in the UK. Some of the lesser counts are in locations that spur this vicarious traveler to continue making and releasing trackables. Included are the British Virgin Islands, the Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, the Seychelles, Turks & Caicos and the Ukraine. A recent visit to Antarctica by one of my trackables just missed being formally included in this report. When this particular project started, there had been 239 trackable released in Canada (2) and Europe (237), yet 712 last logs were counted in the non-US collection, leaving 473 trackables taken there from the US. Most of this movement must have been done before the C19 travel restrictions of the last two years, suggesting there could have been a larger total migration, under different circumstances. In the non-US sample, there are 167 old trackables of 25 drops or more. This is 23 percent of the 712 trackables outside the US and 4 percent of all 4593 trackables. These percentages are embarrassingly high when compared to the US-only percentages of 0.83 and 0.81, respectively. These data are why I regularly send trackables to a friend abroad, a few of my own and most of those discovered in my caches.
  4. I did a handful of those some years ago (using the copy tags), and annoyingly, two of the originals showed up again, confounding my record-keeping...never again! If I am ever tempted to do it again I will just look at the attached table. It was originally put out several years ago, but this one is current. It shows that the vast majority (93+ %) of my trackables are dropped within a year of retrieval, but there are enough of those "others" that I don't want to risk it. This table is one of the ways I use the elapsed time between drops on my spreadsheets. I recently had one of my bugs show up after a 10-year absence. This table is also the basis for my using three years of inactivity to consider a trackable missing. Anything inactive for more than three years has a much less than 1% chance of reappearing. If it does, I just deal with it.
  5. In my post of 17-Oct-21, I presented a survivorship curve based on the number of drops achieved by my entire collection of trackables, active and missing. Using the same data set, I sorted the trackables based on their last log locations (last-logs) in the United States (US) versus locations outside the US, which are mostly in Canada and Europe. In the first graph below, the blue line is exactly the same survivorship curve, but with two minor format changes. In the previous graph, the vertical scale was expressed as a percentage of the total, whereas this scale is total trackables. Secondly, the horizonal scale is compressed because of the manner I tabulated the data. The zero drop is the number of trackable released, but all the other drops represent pooled data to maintain my sorting spreadsheet at a manageable size. The value for five drops is actually the pool for drops five through nine, and for ten drops, it is ten through fourteen, and so on. The rationale will be clear in a later post, when I display the tables. To obtain the last-logs required visiting the home page of more than a thousand trackables having five or more drops. I started this particular effort on 22 Sep and finished on 20 Oct. Thus, although I would have wanted otherwise, it is likely some trackables are no longer at the locations initially recorded, and some trackables moved before the survey was complete. The last-logs were tabulated for each US state, and for each country…island protectorates were treated as distinct, to illustrate the geographic reach of trackables (details not shown here). For reasons that escape me now, I did not separate my trackables in Canada to her large provinces and territories. In the first graph, the orange line represents trackables having their last logs in the US. Clearly, it is the chief influence on the shape of the survivorship curve for all trackables (the blue line). It is characterized by the precipitous losses in the first third of the curve, made more dramatic by the data pooling mentioned above. The difference between the lines is the comparatively small number of trackables with last logs outside the US (the gray line). Removing the zero and five drops from the graph reduces the scale and permits a detailed look at the bottom of the curve…it reveals some interesting circumstances (see the second graph and appended table below). The first is there is a point between 15 and 20 drops (3.5 to 4.0 years, on average) where the orange and gray lines cross, which means that most of my trackables of that age are not in the US. It also means that the shape of the survivorship curve after 15-20 drops is dictated by trackable outside the US...the attenuation noted in an earlier post. Next, the contiguous gray line extends to 78 drops (more than nine years, on average), while the contiguous orange line stops at about 40 drops (six years, on average). There are two US, last-logs at 55 drops that do not show in the graph. While both trackables were released in the US (TB2T1NF, TB48HKK) , their longevity was augmented by time spent in Europe, where trackables receive much wider respect. Obviously, it is rare for a trackable that has never left the US to survive as many as 30 drops, especially given that half will disappear before five drops. A curiosity of the gray line is the step-wise shape, somewhat like waves on a beach. Perhaps it is a manifestation of a seasonal influx of trackables to Europe, something that has fallen off with Covid travel restrictions. A word of caution going forward. The reader should not interpret the gray line as a survivorship curve for trackables outside the US. I will show in a later post that there are more than twice as many of my trackables outside the US as have been released there. This means trackables leaving the US, to some as yet unmeasured extent, overwhelm and conceal the actual, non-US attrition. To get at the true rate-of-loss for both populations, one must identify and test inactive (missing) trackables that never left the US against those trackables that have never been to the US. That is a future project that must wait until I have an adequate sample of inactive, non-US trackables.
  6. I get many comments about the money spent on travel bug tags, although I have experimented with bulk numbers on laminated images. I didn't set out to make so many trackables, I simply enjoy making and tracking them and the number just added up. I do not spend money doing destination caching or trying to complete challenges. I rarely go to events. Most of the traveling I do is servicing my own caches, which are my chief means of dispersing trackables. Most of the caches I have logged are found incidental to other activities. I use a lot of COUNTIFs for the summaries, but every record start with a line for each trackable. Drop dates are entered on each line. I organize my trackables by series and the image below is part of the spreadsheet if for one of my smaller and newer series. Obviously there are other cells and spreadsheets where metadata are generated, but this is where everything begins. The release date is not the activation date, but is the date a trackable is either dropped off or changes possession, marking the transition to a new set of risks. Between the drop dates are cells for the calculation of elapsed days and cumulative days after each drop. I average the cumulative times to get the time milestones for each drop. There probably is a way to introduce more automation, but what I have is at the limit of this old man's intellect and, as it is, it has taken me more than 10 years to arrive at this point. After coffee, no small part of every day is dedicated to my records, be it sorting emails, entering drop dates, or streamlining my files. Slower periods are spent assembling or activating trackables, which involves photos and fussing over narratives. I enjoy all of it.
  7. It averages about 12% through 15 drops, after that it declines to 6-8%.
  8. I maintain records on all my trackables. I have linked a number of my spreadsheets so that as trackable activity is recorded, summaries and graphs are automatically updated. One such graph is shown below. It is the survivorship curve of all my trackables, based on the number of drops achieved. The graph shows the activity of 4,593 trackables, released at a rate of about 200-450 trackables per year, between January of 2010, as of 22 Sep 21. The time lag between the latter date and the present is the time required to visit the home page of every one of my trackables to extract information needed for another post to follow, but using data from the same survivorship curve. While the curve is continuously updated, the shape has not materially changed for many years, owing to the number of trackables included, and that at least 75% of the trackables have not had logs for three years (my criterion for missing). As such, the tabulated values shaping the curve might be treated as kind of simple actuarial table, whereby one might predict the chances of a trackable reaching a specific number of drops. For example, the table below predicts that after releasing a trackable, that trackable has an 89.1% chance that someone will retrieve it and make the first drop. Or, there is a 10.9% chance the trackable will go missing before a first drop is made. The chance of making as many as 40 drops is just over one percent, or slightly better than 1 in a hundred. One of my trackables has had 78 drops, producing a probability of 0.0221%. Viewing the table yet another way, 50% of trackables go missing before five drops, which on average is about a year. For now, the reader will have to trust me on that time estimate, but it is close. There are some caveats. These data are based solely on my collection of trackables, nearly 90% of which were released in Texas, mostly on the Southern High Plains in the rural northwest part of the state, south of the Panhandle. The remainder were released in Europe or during travels around the US and Canada. Furthermore, my trackables are widely variable in size, shape and materials. Some are ready-made, some are hand-made. I have no way of knowing if these various circumstances cause significant differences in activity, as compared to trackables released by other cachers. All that said, I doubt any other US-based trackable collection will yield survivorship values that are orders-of-magnitude better or worse than demonstrated here. Trackable activity and longevity outside the US are very different matters, and will be the focus of my next post.
  9. I keep records on all my trackables so I really appreciate it when someone notes one is absent. It saves me from annually going through all the logs of those that have not moved in more than a year. I can just mark it missing. If it shows up again, no harm done...I just replace the "missing" entry with the next drop-off date. I ignore discoveries as increasingly meaningless.
  10. I guess I was really naive. The first trackable I found had improbably come from California in a little over a year to a pitiful cache in a vacant lot in a residential neighborhood in Lubbock, Texas. I bought in with high hopes and released my first of many travel bugs within a month. I had curiosity, to be sure, but based on my limited experience, I had some expectations too.
  11. I would like to get a sense of each reader’s expectations when he/she released their first travel bug. Try not to be influenced by any subsequent history. Consider only what would have satisfied you after you made your investment. As they apply, respond in terms of survival time, miles traveled, rate of travel, and/or the number of cachers moving your trackable. Survival Miles Rate Cachers
  12. I suspect if I had known about the rate of attrition, I probably would have gone with proxies at the beginning. I also would have bought bulk numbers, if I had thought I was going into trackables the way I have. But then again, where would I have put several thousand originals. I would have to clean up my office to display them.
  13. Re the number, I honestly didn't set out to make so many TBs, it just happened. In the beginning I had some health issues that kept me housebound for long periods. Then making them just got to be a habit. I'm a geezer now and there aren't many other options for entertainment, anyway. I have never done proxies, but have been tempted more than a few times. I used to do research for everyone of my travel bugs, but especially for my Art series. I released a bunch of M C Escher drawings only to have someone pick all but one of them over the course of a week. This was early on and I felt like the time I had spent on them was utterly wasted. That happens often enough that I think about proxies again, but while I still hate losing bugs, I haven't spent any time looking into how proxies are made. The one thing I have done to save some money (not considering my time) is purchase bulk numbers and send them out on laminated images. But to continue this long-winded response, I truly enjoy doing the preliminary research, assembling bugs, and following their that the loss of bugs is still just a little short of the threshold where I will throw up my hands and quit. I have thought a lot about the "pretty" idea, it probably should be termed the attractive issue. I honestly have a hard time predicting what will last. I have sent out some large glass beads that are well into what I would call pretty, and predictably they do not last long. I have sent out a lot of other things with military themes...they go pretty fast compared to poker chips and beads, but anything smacking of the Marine Corps usually won't get past 3 or 4 cachers, That said, I have a very large Army 1st Cavalry patch that has been bouncing around in Europe for years. Similarly, I released some state flag patches, and as soon as the Ohio and Kansas flags hit their states, they disappeared. In the end, it is in the eye of the beholder, it is not necessarily beauty. I try to release things that are unusual (no beanie babies or toy John Deere tractors), but not so much so that someone will want it for a trophy...but sometimes I can't help but send out one that even I would like to keep. The only bugs I send out without a hitchhikers are the ready-made trackables. Things like the recent Maker Madness, Witches, Zodiac and Carnival tags. To be honest, I only buy them to eventually compare their survivorship with those of my own making. It is probably pointless, but I put a pop rivet in the holes of those ready-mades just to make it more difficult for someone to put one on their own keychain. We can't do anything about a thief, but maybe we can keep the honest people honest. I see you are from Darwin, Australia. If you were inclined to keep records on your trackables, it would be fun to see how they perform so close to Asia. I just don't get many of mine going to Asia proper, but quite a few will get to Australia. They don't move very quickly because, like the western US, there is a lot of space and few people. Now that truly was long-winded
  14. I have finally accepted that the fate of my bugs is completely in the hands of others. All I can do is prepare my trackables as though they must last for years of handling by many cachers. It is a task undertaken with the certain knowledge that half the bugs won’t survive even one year, won't survive handling by as many as six cachers, and that 10-13% will disappear after each release (see here). That said, I also know a handful of my trackables are 10+ years old and others have been moved by 60+ cachers. Thus, except for that first year, when I still believed all my bugs had a future, I have never known how many of them are active at any one time. So, I thought I would try to obtain an estimate at the end of 2020. I defined a trackable in circulation as one having at least one retrieval, visit, or drop log during the calendar year 2020. I reject discovery logs as untrustworthy. I started with the Owned Trackables link on my Dashboard at Geocaching.com, I sorted the list with the Last Log function, the oldest logs at the end. I then pasted part of each line of the list into a spreadsheet. After removing duplicates, the final tally came to 1,421 trackables which is 33.6 percent of all trackables (4,229) released in the years 2010 through 2020. This is a number much greater than I would have guessed, but the total includes the 435 trackables released in 2020. The table below is an accounting of trackables released in years past, but have survived long enough to yield at least one log in 2020. The first column is the year of release, the second column is the total number of bugs released in that year. The row across the bottom shows the sums of the columns above. Read the table as follows. For the year 2010, a total of 240 trackables were released. Of these, 16 had survived to have at least one log in 2020. The 16 value is 6.7% of all the trackables released in 2010, and 0.4% of all trackables released 2010 through 2020. Skipping up to the year 2020, there were 435 releases and 435 logs, including the logs for my releases, mostly into my own containers. The 435 releases in 2020 were 10.3% of all trackables released 2010 through 2020. From the bottom row we learn that the 1421 bugs logged were 33.6% of the 4229 total bugs released before 31-Dec-20. It is hardly surprising that the trend in the percentages of surviving trackables decreases toward the past…with age comes more encounters with cachers and caches, each of which presents new sets of risks. However, there seems to be an attenuation, or leveling off, of the rate of loss in the oldest trackables. If the rate of decline was the same throughout, the line would eventually reach the zero baseline. This attenuation suggests some trackables are persisting better than others, a circumstance that requires me to start a formal investigation of my oldest bugs. I already know why they are persisting, but I have to prove it to the satisfaction of others. This post is an excerpt of a larger project. The full text, including background and more about the methods are here.
  15. I have bought codes in lots of 50 in order to make custom trackables. There were some hoops to jump through for the first purchase, made more difficult because I didn't understand the terminology or the process, and because I didn't carefully proof the text to be included on the back of the trackable. For one thing, only Groundspeak can label an item as a Travel Bug. The person I dealt with was very patient with me. In addition, my trackables aren't coins but are unique laminated images, each one of which had to be approved by Groundspeak. Considering only the cost of the numbers, it is a pretty good deal if you intend to make as many 50 trackables. I am a tool/gear junkie so already had a paper cutter, and a color photo printer. I had to purchase laminating pockets and photo paper, but the unit cost is still less than a travel bug tag. Having my own laminating film, FedEx Office let me use their laminator at no cost. However, if I was to assign a value to my time, the unit cost would probably end up being a wash. Making the bugs is fun for me, so I don't consider my time. As others have mentioned, if you have the patience to wait until the first of December, make all your geocaching purchases then. You can get a free holiday promotional trackable for every $25 spent. That is when I buy the TB dog tags I will use during the year, as well as replacement log books and log strips for my caches. As of this moment the sale is ongoing.
  16. A preamble. I discovered geocaching in 2009, when I was already a long-time-retired old man who was plenty busy. The following year I placed my first hide and released my first travel bug. My focus in geocaching departed the mainstream almost immediately. As the game took me over, documenting the activity of my own caches and trackables appealed to my nature more than tracking down containers hidden by others. I maintain records on all my caches and travel bugs on spreadsheets. However, keeping records for the sake of anything other than seeking insight is pointless. That said, time and numbers are needed to give weight to conclusions. So, I started hiding and maintaining more caches and making more travel bugs…both are now just habits that I can’t break. The point being, after 11 years, I have ample sample sizes over enough time to address virtually any question that occurs to me. I started 2020 not knowing how many trackables I actually have in circulation, given that 50% go missing in the first year after release, while at the same time some small number of my oldest (2010-released) trackables are still active. Thus, in January, I set out to count every trackable that had at least one retrieve/drop/missing log in the 2020 calendar year. Well, as we all know, Covid happened, and beginning in March, I noted releases were declining and reached a record low in Apr. I continued the original count (for another post coming soon), but I retroactively restructured spreadsheets to compare 2020 activity with previous years. The results are graphed below. The three curvy lines in the graph represent the maximum, mean and minimum monthly drops for the years 2012-19. The red line represents the values for the months of 2020 only. While interpreting these data, there are two major considerations. First, because I release 350-500 trackables per year, there a net gain in the number of trackables in circulation each subsequent year. The consequence is that average monthly values annually increase. For example, the January and February values for 2020 are close to what I would have expected for those months. Furthermore, I believed subsequent monthly values would likewise have hovered just above or below the previous monthly maximums. Second, the activity graphed is not just for Texas. The map below (from GCtrackables.com) shows the distribution of caches into which one of my trackables was logged as of the end of 2020…I assume that my travel bugs "in-the-hands-of" are distributed in the same pattern. While it is tempting to state my bugs are world-wide, the influence of trackable activity numbers outside the US, Canada and Europe are minimal. That said, my trackables that have landed northern Europe move far more frequently, and last far longer, than in the US. Thus, they have an effect beyond their smaller actual numbers. To this point I will note that not one of my bugs has been released in Germany, yet at the close of 2020, there were more of my trackables there (82) than in any US state, except Texas. There are no real surprises demonstrated by the graph. Once the threat of Covid was acknowledged by the geocaching public, the March and April 2020 numbers declined. After the various quarantines appeared to have the desired effect, cachers began getting out more, approaching merely average activity patterns in May, June and July. August, September and October values are near what I would have anticipated in a normal year. If there is something a little unexpected, it is the near-average November and December numbers. This is the time when the pandemic reached new levels of concern, so one might have expected numbers at or below that observed in April. However, caching is an outdoor (and for me, solitary) activity and not inherently hazardous. Thus, I believe once the risks from Covid were better understood, cachers worked around them. In my own case, we are two in our own home, we are cautious shoppers, we don’t eat out, our children and grandchildren are remote and we did not travel. Nevertheless, with day-trips, I continued to place new caches, service old caches and drop bugs throughout the year. The only risk I encountered was at the gas pump and I carried a mask, gloves and disinfectant to address that circumstance.
  17. I assume the coronavirus is responsible for the sudden 60% drop in the volume of emailed trackable logs I receive each day. Those logs originating in Europe are down about 80%. Furthermore, Spring Break traffic should be under way here in Texas, but the stops at my containers are not what they have historically been. Almost certainly cachers are not traveling as much, but I am wondering if there is not also an element of paranoia involved...a reluctance to handle a container or contents, notably trackables, touched by a multitude. Should we buy into this possible concern and disable caches until the nature of the virus is better understood?
  18. You might get an idea from my earlier post on drop intervals. There is some chance they will reappear after a year, but, although it does happen, anything that is inactive for two or more years has a small chance of getting back into circulation. This is based on how my travel bugs were treated. It may be different for another collection, but I doubt it will vary much.
  19. The earlier posts discussing survivorship were event- or drop-based. That is, what percent of trackables remain after each drop. However, that only tangentially addresses questions centering on how long travel bugs last. For this post, survivorship was determined for each of consecutive six-month periods, out to nine years. I used the same spreadsheet as in earlier calculations, an unsorted portion of which is shown below. The data consists of the first 1,710 trackables released in the calendar years 2010-14. The activity of every trackable was followed through the end of 2019. The E1 and all the C columns are calculations of the total days a drop occurred after the travel bug release...these are the fodder for this post. Now consult the table below. The Yrs column is the six-month intervals under study. The Days column is the six-month interval converted to days. These values were used to determine the number of last-logs occurring on or before that number of days. The n column is the number of last-logs returned by each series of sorts. The Percent Remaining column is the respective n converted to a percent. The Percent Loss column is the percent decline from the previous six-month period. One thing to bear in mind when interpreting these results is that, while the average number of drops per six-month period is between two and three, travel bugs do not move on a regular schedule. Thus, for any given trackable, in any given period, the actual number of drops per six months is observed to be as few as none to as many as five drops. The graph (see below) is the percent remaining plotted against each six-month interval. The overall shape of the time-based curve is not materially different than the drop-based curve. Both show half of the losses occur in the year to year and a half period, or within the first five to six drops. Again, trackable survivorship is much higher in Europe than in the United States. Trackables represented by the left side of the curve were almost exclusively (95%) released in the US and is marked by a precipitous decline. The more-attenuated right side of the curve represents trackables mostly in Europe . Should anyone doubt the European influence on the curve, I have appended the ID numbers of the 35 trackables that survived longer than seven years. Those in red text (11 total) were never dropped outside North America. Although they all lasted for the requisite seven years, many of them have very few drops interspersed with long periods of inactivity. That is a thought I will expand upon in a later post. Those trackables in green text (2) were released in Europe and were never dropped in North America. Those in blue text (22) were released in the US, but at some point found their way off this continent, mostly to Europe. Finally, this is a report on the activity of my travel bugs. I believe, in the main, these data will represent any other US-based collection. However, more access to traveling cachers and regional differences in stewardship can modify the curve to some extent. TB4085Y, TB3M3W7, TB40CX1, TB3ZX3T, TB3ZX48, TB40C6C, TB3EAJ1, TB403K1, TB2T1KW, TB33NPQ, TB33NRJ, TB2REAY, TB2REBJ, TB2REA1, B2T1MC, TB48HJD, TB2T1NF, TB48Q2E, TB48HJV, TB48HKK, TB493Z1, TB40CVX, TB40CX0, TB33QQE, TB48Q1X, TB3ZX3V, TB3MRHQ, TB3EAHP, TB40CWB, TB3ZX38, TB3MRJT, TB4086W, TB3M3WV, TB2T1KN, TB3EAJH.
  20. My previous posts compared consecutive one-year trackable data sets followed for the index year and the following two calendar years. I used this approach to determine if there were discernable differences in survivorship from changes made over the years in either trackable assembly, changing the mission statement, or selectively releasing trackables. It has been made clear that there is little this trackable owner can do to increase longevity beyond using durable materials. The fate of trackables is wholly in the hands their finders. This post, and at least two others to follow, draw from a data set consisting of all my 1,710 trackables released in the five calendar years 2010 through 2014. Their activity was monitored for the next five calendar years, ending 31 Dec 2019. Thus, the youngest trackables would be at least five years old, and the oldest could be near ten, assuming survival. I maintain separate spreadsheets for each series of trackables I have released…poker chips, art, patches, beads, etc. For this project, I pooled all the first-five-year trackables into a single spreadsheet, a portion of which is shown in the figure below. The release date is either when I placed the trackable in a cache or when I handed if off to another cacher…it is when the trackable is released to its fate. The release date is not the same as the activation date, which can occur days or even months earlier. The red column displays the dates subsequent Drops occurred. The E columns are the Elapsed days from the previous drop. The C columns are the Cumulative days from the release date. All of the values in the columns will be summarized in later reports, but this post is focused on the E columns, where we can begin to address questions about trackable movement. First, I must provide some context. The survivorship curve for this 5-10 year data set is shown below. The point to be made is that despite starting with a substantial sample size of 1,710 trackables, only about a quarter of the potential intervals were available to contribute to the data in the table that follows. All the space above the blue columns represents missing trackables, whereas the area defined by the blue columns represents only those trackables that provided information. Thus, every outcome from the data must be prefaced with the words “Among the trackables that survived…” The number of intervals contributed by Individual trackables equals the number of drops and ranged from one to 67 among the trackables, with an average was around 12 drops per trackable. Consulting the bottom of the small table below, we see there were 15,150 drop intervals recorded among the trackables that could be studied. The intervals were measured in days and range from 0 (for consecutive drops occurring on the same day) to one trackable that had an interval over seven years. The table also show that most (66%) consecutive drops were within 2 months (60 days) of each other. Consecutive drops averaging 60 days will yield an outstanding six drops per year, in my opinion. However, I will show in a later post that only a few bugs in Europe have actually maintained that pace. Approximately 31 percent of the intervals fell within the range of two to 12 months, which, combined with the 60-day percentage, shows that 96 percent of the intervals are at less than 365 days (1 year). I will note in passing that a suspicious number of the trackables whose last intervals were above two years were never active again. This suggests that no small number of cachers use phantom drops to remove lost or stolen trackables from their inventories. Therefore, these data go on to suggest that, while not quite probability, if a bug is inactive for more than a year, there is only small chance to continue traveling. Once again, these data are derived solely from my collection of trackables. The extent to which their activity mimics that of the collections of other cachers is unknown. I accept there may well be differences based on regional patterns of husbandry and access to high-traffic caches, but I would bet that any other US-based collection of trackables would produce results very like these.
  21. I am on the road right now, Those numbers seem high. The 10% loss for the first drops in NA, would be 1 in 10.
  22. Of course trackables go missing in Europe. My correspondents in Europe complain about it all the time. Most particularly, they have only a little better success with geocoins than we do. What I reported is the history of my trackables and that is a fact that can be confirmed by anyone...go to my profile pages and sort out the 2016 and 2017 releases. Bear in mind that the release is on that date when a trackable was dropped off or exchanged, not the activation date. The only thing than can be argued is, as I suggested in the post, that the trackables released by others are treated differently than mine. However, I would acknowledge that I do have the opinion that there are regional differences in stewardship there, as there are here. The most conscientious, as groups, appear to be the English, Dutch, Belgian and German cachers. Trackables landing among them will have a good chance to move on, otherwise the chances are reduced somewhat. But, like here, there are individual exceptions among other regions. Regrettably, I probably won't live long enough to accrue sample sizes large enough to attach heft to this opinion.
  23. Because each of the eight curves in the previous post result from large sample sizes, and because those curves are so nearly alike, it is easy to assume they collectively represent a universal truth. That is not the case. The curves are nearly alike because they derive from nearly the same history, which is largely determined by the location of releases, and to some extent, the behavior of the owner. In my case, the trackable survivorship curves result from the activity of three classes of travelers in my collection: (1) NorAmOnly-those trackables that never had a drop outside North America; (2) NorAmExit--those that were released in North America but left the continent to be dropped elsewhere; and (3) EurOnly--those released in Europe. Further explanations follow. NorAmOnly—This essentially means the United States because the three trackables I released in Canada in 2016 will have little effects on the statistics. In the US, over 90% were released in Texas, more than 80% were released in my caches in the Panhandle-Southern High Plains. Some of the trackables in this class visited caches on other continents, but were never released before returning to North America. Year-to-year, this is by far the largest cohort of trackables released, usually around 80% ± 4% of the total released annually over a 10-year period. NorAmExit—These trackables will have been released in North America, but may or may not have been dropped in other caches here before being taken to another continent by someone other than the owner. The usual destination is Europe, particularly the England, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, but lesser numbers go to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea, among other countries in Asia The figure below (the mostly yellow one), illustrates the activity of the Year-2017 bugs in this class. The drops outside North America are shown by the yellow blocks. The range of departures from North America occurred from immediately after release to after the 13th drop. Three trackables in this collection returned to North America. This cohort is usually around 10% ± 5% of the total trackables released. EurOnly—All of the trackables were released in caches, or at events, in Europe. In this 2017 data set, all releases were in England. However, in the past, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy have hosted some of my new trackables. This smallest of cohorts consists of around 6% ± 4% of the total trackables released. The second graph (below) is based on trackables from Years 2016 and 2017, the last two periods that satisfy the Index-Year-Plus-Two protocol. There are 724 trackables from these two periods, of which 79% were NoAmOnly, 15% were NorAmExit and 6% were EurOnly (see under Time 0 in the table below the graph). There are several things of note in the table and graph.: 1. The blue line is the combined survivorship curve for 2016 and 2017. It is not materially different than the curves for all previous years (see the first post in this series). It owes most of its shape to the combined influences of the three component cohorts below it. 2. The number of drops achieved is the row across the top of the table. The numbers in the table, below the drops, are the respective percents remaining for each cohort, for that drop. 3. In the table, left to right, the trend for all numbers in the rows is downward. Together, the degree of difference in these numbers represent the rate of attrition (percent loss per drop) for each cohort. 4. For the NorAmOnly row the numbers read 79, 63, 51, 41, and so on. The difference of 16 (79 minus 63) between Time 0 (release) and Drop 1 means that 16% of the trackables disappeared from the original release location. And, the difference of 12 between drops 1 and 2 means that, of the reduced number of trackables at 1, 12% of those failed to reach the next drop. What is important in this row is the average double-digit attrition rate through the first five drops. This is reflected in the precipitous decline shown by the orange line in the graph. 5. For both the NorAmExit and Euronly rows, the attrition rate is never above 2%, which is reflected in the gentle slopes of the gray and yellow lines in the graph. Remember, these two cohorts are trackables that were either released in Europe or were taken there after a few drops in the US. 6. At Drop 8, the percent of NorAmOnly trackables has declined to equal the combined percents of trackables in Europe. By the next drop, the NorAmOnly number falls below that of the just the NorAmExit value. Soon thereafter, there are more of my trackables from 2016 and 2017 that are circulating outside of North America, most of which were taken there by someone else. In summary, the trackable survivorship curves shown here and in the previous post are a product of where I live and how I cache. Taking a closer look of inputs, I live in a town of 255,000 people, but I mostly cache in a decidedly rural region to the east. The region is many hours drive (even on Texas roads) from a major metropolitan area. It is almost equidistant from the east and west coasts. There is an Interstate that defines the west side that connect only two cities, and one major Texas highway, and seven US highways pass through my core area, which is where all my trackable-friendly caches are located. My trackables are generally smallish and durable (no beanie babies) and I try to make them unusual, but not so unusual as to end up as a trophy. There are essentially no geocoins (perhaps a dozen at most). Every 30-60 days I check and restock the caches that have been visited in the intervening period. The curve that results from these inputs is unique to me, but it could be similar for any cacher who approaches caching in essentially the same way, from a similar location. I can imagine very different curves for trackable collections released where there is either more or less tourist traffic. After many years, I am still amazed at the number of my trackables that somehow end up in Europe without my taking them there. A trackable released near Guthrie in 2018 recently made it to San Marino, completing the remote-tiny-country trifecta that also includes Lichtenstein and Andorra...a statement that hints at why I enjoy the idea of these small travelers so much. Finally, it should be clear that the climate for trackables is far better in Europe than in North America. There are probably a number of reasons, but as a child of the 1950s, I am inclined to take an uncharitable, even curmudgeonly, view of the ethos of our later US generations, I will keep those thoughts to myself. Suffice it to say, that I am pleased when a trackable finds its way out of the country because I know it has a better chance to survive almost anywhere than if it stayed in the US. Furthermore, when a European asks, I always decline the option to have my trackable returned to this country. This attitude will be reinforced when, in a future post, I provide a summary of the characteristics of trackables that survive at least five years and/or make at least 25 drops
  24. Thanks for your kind comments. I have lately noticed that cachers on the Texas Challenge mission seem to be selectively visiting my containers, which of course is the point. I maintain the containers as bait to increase the chances that a trackable there might be noticed and taken away. Every month or so I travel to containers that have been visited and restock them with new trackables. My next report (in the next day or two) will show why I sent your trackable to England. European cachers take way, way better of care trackables than we do here...bugs last longer move more frequently. My containers give me an excuse to get out of the house and on the road. I did the same thing with a hobby i had when I lived in the Rio Grande Valley. I did office work then but kept bees on the side. I had bee yards scattered over four counties. Here, I have been retired since 2003 and have trackable-sized caches scattered over 10 counties and bison tube caches in cemeteries scattered scattered over 40+ counties. It is what this really old man does to stay busy. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure. Thanks again.
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