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niximor

EarthForm

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Hi there,

recently, I developed a simple web page, that allows users (owners of earthcaches) to create their own reply form, which then cachers finding the Earthcache could use to post answers to questions instead of sending them through the email. It automatically evaluates the answers and tells the cacher if he is correct or not. You does not need to do the manual checking of answers and replying users when they are wrong.

Of course, the service cannot offer adequate solution for every earthcache, mainly when the answer to the question can have many different forms. But there are lot of caches that contains only to measure something, or find out a name of something... and for that earthcaches, the service is great.

 

Please, have in mind, that the project is only few days old. It can contain bugs and probably some missing features. I'll be glad to hear some feedback from you, as I don't own any earthcache :)

 

The service is located at the website http://earth.gcm.cz and is of course free for all cachers. You only have to register if you want to create your own form. If you want to just answer some existing form for the cache, you can do it without registering, so no personal information (other than that your IP address and information you are required to enter in the answer form - which is only your gc.com nickname) is recorded.

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You might want to note the following excerpt from the EarthCache FAQs: http://www.geosociety.org/earthcache/faq.htm

 

As an EarthCache owner, can I use an “auto-response” e-mail account or a third-party website to check logging task answers and provide people with permission to post their logs to my EarthCaches?

 

We appreciate that you are attempting to make the logging process more efficient, however, the use of “auto-response” e-mails and third-party websites is strongly discouraged, for two main reasons:

 

1. People do not need to wait for permission to log your EarthCache. Requiring someone to wait is not supported by the EarthCache guidelines. People should send their logging task answers to you, then log your EarthCache. When you review their logging task answers, if there is a problem, you should contact them to resolve it. If there is no problem, then their log simply stands.

 

2. The types of questions/answers used by “auto-response” e-mails and websites are too limiting and usually do not provide a strong educational experience, which is a vital part of EarthCaching. Logging tasks that ask for highly-specific, generally short answers, such as “15 meters” or “brown”, do not meet the educational goals of EarthCaching, and do not allow for enough flexibility or interpretation.

 

Furthermore, the proper review of logging tasks is considered one of the basic maintenance duties that must be performed by EarthCache owners. Because no physical container must be maintained, it is expected that EarthCache owners take the time to review logging submissions on their own, without automated aids.

 

Although there have been EarthCaches published in the past that use auto-response e-mails, this does not set a precedent for future EarthCaches, and does not require reviewers to publish additional caches that use auto-responders.

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Well, the site does not need to violate this guideline, and even if it does, it is just said that it is only discouraged, not denided :)

You, as an owner, has full access to user's answers. You don't need to use the auto validation of answers, you may just use this as an collect form the same way as for example google docs form, which I've seen used in various earthcaches.

This project started as an reaction to another thing with similar approach (website form with storing answers and validating them), which was not meant to be user friendly and required some basic programming skills to set it up. And that one was recommended by our local geoaware reviewer to be published on our local forum.

So it would probably not be as bad as you think :)

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Guidelines, discouragement or whatever, I'd say this would kill the idea quicker....

 

The connection has timed out

 

 

 

The server at earth.gcm.cz is taking too long to respond.

 

If the site isn't quite ready for prime time, it's probably a waste of time posting it in the Forums.

 

Just my 0.02

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The connection has timed out

The server at earth.gcm.cz is taking too long to respond.

 

There was massive power outage through half of the city, which the server didn't survived :) It's back online now.

Edited by niximor

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And that one was recommended by our local geoaware reviewer to be published on our local forum.

So it would probably not be as bad as you think :)

 

I guess that your Czech reviewer is not aware of the opinion Gary Lewis has on automatic checking of

answers for ECs. A while ago a German guy had setup what he called Earthchecker (he had obtained initial encouragement from Groundspeak,

not the GSA) and when the GSA became aware of this, they reformulated the guidelines.

 

Cezanne

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And that one was recommended by our local geoaware reviewer to be published on our local forum.

So it would probably not be as bad as you think :)

 

I guess that your Czech reviewer is not aware of the opinion Gary Lewis has on automatic checking of

answers for ECs. A while ago a German guy had setup what he called Earthchecker (he had obtained initial encouragement from Groundspeak,

not the GSA) and when the GSA became aware of this, they reformulated the guidelines.

 

Cezanne

 

This is not true...we did not reformulate the guidelines. However, it did stimulate the discussion with all the EarthCache review team.

 

Auto-responders do not encourage the formulation of educational logging tasks that meet the guidelines and so, as a review team, we actively discourage their use.

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Well, in my system, user can easily enter question such as "What is the size of the rock?", which has exact answer, or exact answer within given range, which can be controlled automatically. Also, questions without "correct answers" can be entered, which allows to formulate answer in any possible form, and owner then must check it and eventually contact the founder that it is incorrect.

Or there can be questions which always results in one specific answer, for example in which era the rock formed, which can be answered in determinable manner, which can also be controlled automatically.

So I do not limit users what questions they can ask, and that's why I think, that I'm not against any guideline and whoever wants can use the website :) Reviewer must direct the owner to ask questions that are correct, which must be done even if users should reply through email, so again, no harm done here :)

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This is not true...we did not reformulate the guidelines. However, it did stimulate the discussion with all the EarthCache review team.

 

I'm sorry for not having correctly formulated what happened. Actually, what I meant was that autoresponders and such type of things have not been mentioned before in the EC "guide material" (I never will be able to remember what is part of the guidelines, what is part of the FAQ, what is part of the knowledge book etc).

 

Auto-responders do not encourage the formulation of educational logging tasks that meet the guidelines and so, as a review team, we actively discourage their use.

 

I agree with you anyway and I'm happy with the policy to discourage auto responders and automatic checking routines for ECs.

 

Cezanne

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So I do not limit users what questions they can ask, and that's why I think, that I'm not against any guideline and whoever wants can use the website :)

 

Still I think that a website service like yours somehow actively encourages EC owners to formulate simple questions with some kind of determined answer not

open questions like "Why do you think that feature X has the form" or "Describe in your words how the mineral looks like, how it feels etc". Moreover using a computer system somehow has the flavour of one way system for me. I expect an EC owner to start a dialogue with EC seekers if some of the sent-in answers are wrong or incomplete.

 

So while your system in theory could be applied for every EC, I think that it in practice encourages logging questions that are weak and not very educational. It's like in exams. One either can ask questions such that grading can be done quickly or one can ask questions in a way that the learning effect is best. One cannot have both at the same time in my experience.

 

Cezanne

Edited by cezanne

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One concern I have about intermediate websites such as this is that it adds another level between the cache owner and people attempting to log the cache, which adds more possibilities of messages and logging task answers getting "lost". I'm sure the site will be mostly reliable, but it is another piece of the system, and the more pieces you add, the more things can "break".

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