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Moun10Bike

Geocaching.com site update April 17th 2013

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  • Performance enhancements — We changed the way our search by geocache name function works to provide a huge relief to our database load. Now keyword searches only search the first term in a geocache's name, but is much faster—we're talking milliseconds.

 

I have been hoping for a much improved search function, as the old one "by name" was completely useless because there was no way to limit it to at least just my province.

 

Now the search function is a joke, and the so-called "performance enhancement" has resulted in even worse performance than previously encountered.

 

I don't think I've had http://www.geocaching.com/seek/ drag so slowly in a long time.

 

Not holding much hope for future improvements to the search function, based on previous promises.

 

:(

 

 

B.

Edited by Pup Patrol

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Names are not even reliable. You should be searching by GC codes. Remember the GC codes and you're golden. I keep records of them.

 

I don't think you understand what we are talking about. We're not searching for caches we have already found. Those are easily accessed via our profiles.

 

What has been degraded is the "search" function that was already very frustrating.

 

Searching for a cache by name when you don't know the name is now even more frustrating. Before this "enhancement", at least you could search for a word, for example "Challenge", and you would get a list of results. Now you need to know the first word of the name of the cache. Yeah, right, that's a lot of help.

 

Go ahead and try it:

 

Do a search "Cache starts with" and use "Challenge:

 

http://www.geocaching.com/seek/

 

And I'm not seeing any performance improvements. If anything, the site is reacting even slower than previously.

 

 

B.

Edited by Pup Patrol

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Although the keyword search no longer works on the GC.com search page, it works just fine on the WP7 mobile app. It will only search for caches within the normal 35 mile radius, but it's better than nothing. I wonder if this still works on the other mobile apps?

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[...]

 

Its open source....you get what you pay for.

 

Do you know whether an open source database is used? Does anyone know more details about the software in use? Would be quite interesting to know.

 

Still - open source is no excuse for bad performance.

 

Just take Wikipedia as an example. They are using MySQL and are switching to MariaDB right now. Of course they surely have much more server capacity too, but they also serve a huge load of requests every second. This huge amount of requests also includes a lot of searching (probably a much bigger percentage than here at GC.com) and still they manage to do so very fast by using Apache Lucene - which has been brought to Groundspeak's attention quite a few times recently. Lucene would enable GS to create a very powerful and very fast search facility for their page - something the users have been asking for ages.

 

Oh yeah - Apache Lucene is open source and still used by a lot of very big services.

Edited by java.lang

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The performance improvement was primarily a reduction of database load. Before this change, we were routinely hitting max CPU load on the weekends, causing many site functions to fail and leading to overall slowness. Since this change was implemented, we have been maxing out around 30% load.

 

You might think it odd that such a simple search function had such an effect on performance, and we do too - to the point that we think this feature was in some way being abused (intentionally or unintentionally) by some third party out there. In any case, we had to make the change in order to ensure that the site continues to operate.

 

We know we need better search tools, and see this as a temporary band-aid until we can implement them.

 

As a .NET and SQL developer, I do agree that a wildcard search is very, very, costly. But I also know that creating a set of tables and writing a custom indexing process isn't that expensive.

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To those who are super critical - here is a thought - if you don't like the way things go on this sight and have issues with Groundspeak - go start your own geocaching website. Good luck with that.

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Names are not even reliable. You should be searching by GC codes. Remember the GC codes and you're golden. I keep records of them.

 

I don't think you understand what we are talking about. We're not searching for caches we have already found. Those are easily accessed via our profiles.

 

What has been degraded is the "search" function that was already very frustrating.

 

Searching for a cache by name when you don't know the name is now even more frustrating. Before this "enhancement", at least you could search for a word, for example "Challenge", and you would get a list of results. Now you need to know the first word of the name of the cache. Yeah, right, that's a lot of help.

 

Go ahead and try it:

 

Do a search "Cache starts with" and use "Challenge:

 

http://www.geocaching.com/seek/

 

And I'm not seeing any performance improvements. If anything, the site is reacting even slower than previously.

 

 

B.

 

I realize my ignorance on the issue, now. Sorry. I'm learning here. The decision is pretty stupid...

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To those who are super critical - here is a thought - if you don't like the way things go on this sight and have issues with Groundspeak - go start your own geocaching website. Good luck with that.

 

How about if you buy from us our right to be super critical for $30 (+ tax?) per premium cacher, per year.

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Uh no.

 

So you want to complain because you pay a whopping 30 bucks a year to help Groundspeak with this website? How about you just don't re-up when the time comes?!!!! Premium membership isn't a guarantee of any functionality. I pay it and basically use none of the "membership" features - and you don't see me grumbling of being ungrateful.

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Uh no.

 

So you want to complain because you pay a whopping 30 bucks a year to help Groundspeak with this website? How about you just don't re-up when the time comes?!!!! Premium membership isn't a guarantee of any functionality. I pay it and basically use none of the "membership" features - and you don't see me grumbling of being ungrateful.

 

If you don't use it, you would have no reason to grumble. It's the ones who do use the search function who are grumbling....and rightfully so.

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  • Performance enhancements — We changed the way our search by geocache name function works to provide a huge relief to our database load. Now keyword searches only search the first term in a geocache's name, but is much faster—we're talking milliseconds.

 

This has got to be a bad joke!

 

That's really great: taking an almost useless feature and turning it into a completely useless feature and then talking about improvements.

I'm really wondering what happened to all those database specialists in Seattle - either none of them works for Groundspeak or no one asks them how to create a keyword search that actually returns a list of caches that you really want to go searching for.

 

I'll give you an example: I really love doing challenge caches and I'd really like to know which active challenge caches exist in the area I normally cache in. That's Northrhine-Westfalia in Germany and the Netherlands. Currently it's simply not possible to get this information out of the database in an easy way.

 

If I use the (old) keyword search I'd enter "challenge" because every challenge cache is supposed to have the word challenge in its name. What do I get: a really long list of challenge caches from all over world of which about 90% for me are absolutely not relevant because I won't go searching in California, Ontario or New Zealand any time soon.

What I would like to see is only the 10% caches from my area. So what would help me find stuff would be a combination of filters (like the ones you can define for the pocket queries) plus the possibility to add a keyword (maybe with wildcards).

For the database search that means instead of doing a text search on over 2 million recordsets (I assume you filter out the archived caches beforehand) you'd filter first for search criteria (e.g. Germany) and then perform the text search only on the filtered number of caches. For this example this means text search on about 250.000 instead of 2 million recordsets.

So you'd actually have a win-win-situation: you provide us with a useful feature and have less search load on the database.

 

Just my 2 cents

Atti

 

I agree. What are people thinking? The new search 'improvement' is a horrible idea. I use the keyword search constantly, and now it's become very much less useful.

 

What I REALLY needed, was a way to search for a cache by name and then specify WHERE the caches are. I have run into exactly the situation Atti here describes. I look for caches in an area. I always assumed the site would eventually catch up with the times, so to speak, and offer a way to search keywords filtered by location. I never in a million years thought keyword search would be utterly broken by poor planning and assumptions about how users need to search for data.

 

A huge amount of stress could be taken off of the servers if you offer the ability to search for other things during a keyword search.

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The performance improvement was primarily a reduction of database load. Before this change, we were routinely hitting max CPU load on the weekends, causing many site functions to fail and leading to overall slowness. Since this change was implemented, we have been maxing out around 30% load.

 

You might think it odd that such a simple search function had such an effect on performance, and we do too - to the point that we think this feature was in some way being abused (intentionally or unintentionally) by some third party out there. In any case, we had to make the change in order to ensure that the site continues to operate.

 

We know we need better search tools, and see this as a temporary band-aid until we can implement them.

 

As the administrator of several small scale servers for my own company, I absolutely agree that the huge drop in CPU load is indicative of abuse by a third party. Using (abusing) keyword search form submissions would be an excellent way for a third party to scrape the site and store the data.

 

Fortunately, there are several ways to detect such traffic. Determining what it's being used for is usually much harder, and even harder still is reliably stopping it without taking the risk of blocking legitimate uses. But if this were me, I would certainly take a look at this scenario above all others to rule it out.

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If you want to do a search, stick to the basics and you will be fine (you know - putting in the zipcode, then using the "map it" feauture.) I have been geocaching for awhile now and NEVER had to search for a cache by name - NOT ONCE!

 

 

Your find rate averages about 60 caches per year so I can understand that you have little need for the search function. You also live in an area sparsely populated with caches. I have over 1000 caches within 5.5 miles of my residence in the San Diego area. I don't mean to disparage your caching experience in any way, I cite the numbers only to illustrate your activity on the system is very light. I don't have the ability to remember exact names of many thousands of caches, nor the desire to sort through densely populated maps to locate a cache I'm trying to find.

 

There are many, many reasons to do a cache search by name. One is a cache that is related to one that you find and is mentioned in the description. Perhaps one would like to read a cache that is mentioned in the forums or by a friend; often such references are not an exact quote of the title. Or you may want to find all of a series that is not bookmarked. Most frequently for me is searching for a cache I was reading about in the past. The list is virtually endless.

 

Lastly if a tool is provided, it should be functional. Because I don't use a particular tool doesn't mean others should use the system the way I do. I enjoy the hobby and want the time I have to spend at the computer to be minimal so I have more time to spend actually looking out doors.

 

There is answer - GSAK

 

Keith - another occasional geocacher

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There is answer - GSAK

 

Keith - another occasional geocacher

 

Only if you are looking for a cache in an area with relatively fewer caches and you are running a Windows-based system.

 

Since GSAK only runs on Windows, if you don't have it, for whatever reason, it is of no use.

 

But let's say you do. If you are looking for a specific cache in a cache-rich area, this is not a truly viable answer.

 

For instance, I am in Central Texas and have over 4900 finds under my belt, most of them in that area. Every week I pull down, via PQ, a little under 1000 caches in the area that I have not yet found that meet my limited criteria and that still only gets a portion of the caches within about a 20 mile radius of my house. To get ALL caches in the region would be an onerous task, burning all of my 5 PQs per day for 2 or 3 days. All that just to find 1 cache? I don't think so.

 

No, GSAK is NOT "the" answer. A properly designed data base, index structure, and public-facing search interface is.

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In reply to this comment: "A properly designed data base, index structure, and public-facing search interface is."

 

This is worth reposting: "if you don't like the way things go on this sight and have issues with Groundspeak - go start your own geocaching website (or find another that is better.) Good luck with that.

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In reply to this comment: "A properly designed data base, index structure, and public-facing search interface is."

 

This is worth reposting: "if you don't like the way things go on this sight site and have issues with Groundspeak - go start your own geocaching website (or find another that is better.) Good luck with that.

 

Instead of being worth reposting it actually a rather naive and pointless idea. Hmmm, I really don't like how the Federal government (USA)functions, should I start my own? Or after looking for a new car I can find something I don't like about each potential purchase, should I build my own? Those make just as much sense as the comment you thought worthy a repost.

 

To suggest that a because a website is the niche leader it should be exempt from criticism is hardly the way to improve the product.

 

Again, just because you hardly use the site, why are you criticizing those that do?

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What I have resorted to do currently if I am looking for specific caches is to use googles advanced search option. I have been able to find what I want but this also is cumbersome (having to dl each gpx file separately and cannot restrict to a specific locale). At least it is another option until GS can rework the search functionality. I would hope GS would take this as a constructive critic.

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In reply to this comment: "A properly designed data base, index structure, and public-facing search interface is."

 

This is worth reposting: "if you don't like the way things go on this sight and have issues with Groundspeak - go start your own geocaching website (or find another that is better.) Good luck with that.

 

Yeah, that's pretty naive and overly simplistic.

 

Your way may work when you are ticked off at how Burger King or Lowe's does something you don't like since there are plenty of alternatives to them, but not here. When a company has a virtual monopoly on a marketplace, the customers of that marketplace MUST speak up for themselves and try to effect change when they think that company has moved in the wrong direction.

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Temper and Geo -

 

What you both forget is that geocaching is a hobby - just for fun - pay 30 bucks or not - Groundspeak owes you nothing.

 

If it is SO hard to use this site - then simply don't geocache. Find something else to occupy your spare time. Problem solved.

 

And Geo - you are right - I use it less in the finds Dept. BUT - I use it alot more then you in the hiding arena - not to mention benchmarking.

So we use it differently.

 

Heck - if you want me to complain - I could write every day how the benchmarks haven't been updated in YEARS!

I don't complain though - I just work around it, thankful Groundspeak imported them at all.

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Temper and Geo -

 

What you both forget is that geocaching is a hobby - just for fun - pay 30 bucks or not - Groundspeak owes you nothing.

 

If it is SO hard to use this site - then simply don't geocache. Find something else to occupy your spare time. Problem solved.

 

And Geo - you are right - I use it less in the finds Dept. BUT - I use it alot more then you in the hiding arena - not to mention benchmarking.

So we use it differently.

 

Heck - if you want me to complain - I could write every day how the benchmarks haven't been updated in YEARS!

I don't complain though - I just work around it, thankful Groundspeak imported them at all.

 

And now we venture into condescension. Nice.

 

I only stated how GSAK was not a viable solution to the problem and what a good search function should be based on my 3 decades in the IT industry. For you to sit there and suggest that if there is something about this site we don't like we should either shut up and play or stop playing ranges from overly simplistic to patently absurd.

 

You may choose to sit back and gladly accept the scraps you are given and settle for what you can get and that's great if it works for you. But I prefer to voice my concerns when I feel a need for it, be it over a hobby or something more important, and I'll be darned if I will yield that right to your world view or anyone else's. Oh, and I don't plan on quitting caching any time soon, either, regardless of what you think...or perhaps in spite of it.

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Semper - On a more serious note - thank you for serving our country. My family appreciates your service!

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Semper - On a more serious note - thank you for serving our country. My family appreciates your service!

 

Thank you very much. It was an honor and a privilege.

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And Geo - you are right - I use it less in the finds Dept. BUT - I use it alot more then you in the hiding arena - not to mention benchmarking.

So we use it differently.

 

 

Indeed we do and you hides to finds ratio is commendable, mine is virtually MIA. When I recently wrote about how little you use of the system I was not thinking about your finds but rather you own admission:

 

I pay it [the PM fee] and basically use none of the "membership" features - and you don't see me grumbling of being ungrateful.

Italics added for clarity

 

That works for you and that is fine. Others are interested in improving the system, or at least keeping the offered services working. If we say nothing, there is no motivation for GS to fix or improve an item. If we state our dissatisfaction, there is a chance, albeit extremely small, that they might fix it. The best example is when Google maps were removed. The uproar caused GS to rethink their decision and come up with a compromise that offered Google maps to premium users and reduced their liability to Google. So at times the clamoring is effective. It's a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting oiled.

 

The case in point, the cache search feature, can be a valuable tool and indeed, is a key feature at the very heart of Groundspeak's core business. It was essentially removed to save CPU cycles. The clamoring perhaps would have been less had they stated their reasons up front instead of passing the reduction off as an enhancement.

 

The sad part is the system this current weekend appears almost as slow as it was when the full search was available. Since we don't have access to the metrics we don't know if they are making progress or merely moving the bottleneck around.

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Temper and Geo -

 

What you both forget is that geocaching is a hobby - just for fun - pay 30 bucks or not - Groundspeak owes you nothing.

 

That is simply not true. They sold me a service, they owe me that service. Part of that service is the ability to search for geocaches on the website. Would you have the same attitude if after renewing your membership, they deleted the benchmark database in order to increase performance in other areas of the site?

 

The fact is, being able to search for caches by name is obviously important to some people. As paying customers, they have the right to voice their displeasure at the fact that they can no no longer do so.

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And Geo - you are right - I use it less in the finds Dept. BUT - I use it alot more then you in the hiding arena - not to mention benchmarking.

So we use it differently.

 

 

Indeed we do and you hides to finds ratio is commendable, mine is virtually MIA. When I recently wrote about how little you use of the system I was not thinking about your finds but rather you own admission:

 

I pay it [the PM fee] and basically use none of the "membership" features - and you don't see me grumbling of being ungrateful.

Italics added for clarity

 

That works for you and that is fine. Others are interested in improving the system, or at least keeping the offered services working. If we say nothing, there is no motivation for GS to fix or improve an item. If we state our dissatisfaction, there is a chance, albeit extremely small, that they might fix it. The best example is when Google maps were removed. The uproar caused GS to rethink their decision and come up with a compromise that offered Google maps to premium users and reduced their liability to Google. So at times the clamoring is effective. It's a classic case of the squeaky wheel getting oiled.

 

 

Several years ago they removed the Google Earth KML for the same reason and the fact that "only 200 people actually used it". Quite a bit more than 200 complained so they fixed it and put it back. If those affected by the current change can convince Groundspeak in a respectful way that there is a need for a better search system, there is a chance that it may happen. If everyone simply says, "Oh well, it's only a hobby", there is no chance at all.

 

And Geo - you are right - I use it less in the finds Dept. BUT - I use it alot more then you in the hiding arena - not to mention benchmarking.

So we use it differently.

 

 

Consider this. What if I find one of your caches and like it to the point that I want to find more of them? What if they remove the search facility that allows me to click on your name and get a list of your caches, in order to further reduce load on the database?

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I think we should just bend over and take what they give us with no complaints.

It's just a hobby, why should we want it to be the best it can be?

I'm also a homebrewer, so I brew with mouldy grains if that's what the supplier gives me.

My friend is into high performance bikes as a hobby, so he uses gasoline with water in it if that's what they give him.

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The 'performance enhancement' of the search function is only an enhancement to CPU cycle load for G$ servers, not for those of us who (now attempt to) use the search function. In an attempt to save CPU cycles, the search function has been made practically useless. PLEASE FIX THIS PROBLEM!!

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