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Benchmark Blasterz

No way to get the Benchmark Hunting page from new Geocaching Home Page

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Has anyone else noticed that after the "new and improved" GEOCACHING home page redesign, there is NO DIRECT LINK to the benchmark hunting page ANYWHERE??

 

Does anyone know is this will be added in the future, or is it just the next step in extinguishing this part of the hobby in favor of skirt lifters and magnetic nanos?

 

:( :( :( Grrrrr

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Yes, we've noticed. Use http://www.geocaching.com/mark to get there.

 

I can't say why it was removed, but everything suggests to me that it was a conscious decision in line with all the other efforts to modernize the site, so I doubt it will be put back. Although I, too, enjoy seeking benchmarks, in this case, I have to admit that benchmarking is a backwater of the geocaching world, so giving that link a low priority for screen real estate is a reasonable decision. I'll be annoyed if they take out the "nearby benchmarks" on the cache pages, but I never used the link on the home page, so I don't miss it.

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In case you want to find that the Benchmark Hunting page and lose the link, currently you can do this way: Log onto the forums and from the main page, scroll down to

Geocache Types and Additional GPS Based Gameplay, click that link http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showforum=48

 

And on that page, look at the header for the section on Benchmarking, where the link resides:

Discuss Benchmark Hunting and associated topics, including topics on monument recovery efforts for the National Geodetic Survey. For more information on benchmarks, visit the Benchmark Hunting page.

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It is my thinking that the reason behind the minimizing of the benchmark hunting is the inability to update the benchmark database. My understanding is that the database was updated from a CD provided by the NGS. That is no longer available. So the thought was to make benchmark hunting more like Geocaching by allowing hunters to add their own, hence the Waymarking site. The problem with the Waymarking site is it was not pre-populated with benchmarks. So, here we

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I can't say why it was removed, but everything suggests to me that it was a conscious decision in line with all the other efforts to modernize the site, so I doubt it will be put back. Although I, too, enjoy seeking benchmarks, in this case, I have to admit that benchmarking is a backwater of the geocaching world, so giving that link a low priority for screen real estate is a reasonable decision.
Given the enormous amount of white space on the home page, I think it is overly charitable to think there is a competition for screen space there. In a previous redesign, benchmarking was demoted to an inconspicuous link at the bottom, and there's no design reason why it couldn't have remained there.

 

As I've noted in this forum before, Groundspeak is a business, and — I'm presuming here — benchmarkers comprise a very small slice of the customer base (single-digit percentage?) and benchmarking has fewer revenue-generating opportunities than geocaching. Pretty much none, actually, other than premium membership. Maybe that's a missed opportunity; maybe the company has its hands full on the geocaching side. I don't know.But while I'm disappointed with the way benchmarking has been treated, I don't criticize the company for the choices they made. But like many other benchmarkers, I am disappointed. And I think it's unfortunate that, going forward, most newcomers to geocaching will never even know about benchmarking and have a chance to discover it for themselves.

 

I've had a little bit of occasional fun (and, often, frustration) looking for caches, but I've had a lot of fun searching for benchmarks, while at the same time enriching myself as I learned about a corner of our infrastructure that is hidden in plain sight, not to mention making an actual contribution by reporting my findings to the NGS.

 

-ArtMan-

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To update the benchmark database, there really would not be a need for a CD. Every benchmark's datasheet is available on the NGS website. One could, for example, download all datasheets for a quad, or for a county within a state, etc. Datasheets are flat text files and are very rigidly structured, with keywords at fixed columns on every line of pertinent data, and it would be an easy programming exercise to extract the necessary data to populate a database with PID, state, quad, latitude, longitude, marker type, last report status, report details, etc., together with a link to the NGS database for the full datasheet, should someone want it. The latitude and longitude could easily be converted to any numerical format desired. There might even be free programs, possibly with source code, to do most of this because it's one method of creating a GPS POI file. The time-consuming aspect of this would be to manually download the datasheets for all 3100+ US counties, but it could be done over a period of time.

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The big reason to not push Groundspeak to update their BM database is that a number of the marks have been destroyed since their 2000 grab of the NGS database. If their (Groundpeak's) database were to become dynamic, what would become of the marks that we've found & uploaded pictures of? If they would add new data from the NGS that would be great (while keeping the current ones), but to use a geocaching term, the NGS 'archives' old (destroyed) marks, in addition to adding new ones....I'd hate to see Groundspeak non-publish/archive benchmarks in their database. New NGS finds can always be uploaded to Groundspeak's Waymarking site if so inclined. NGS's site is a professional dynamic database - Groundspeak's is really a 'hobbyist' site ...two different functions.

Edited by Ernmark

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No reason to eliminate destroyed marks, although their status could be updated from the NGS database. Adding new marks is very easy.

 

The entire process would be... download the NGS datasheets and convert them into a database. A given PID is in one of only three statuses: it's in the current Groundspeak database, but no longer in the NGS database, in which case it's been archived by the NGS; it's in both databases, in which case it's still active, but may have been updated in the NGS database; it's in the new NGS database, but not in the current Groundspeak database, in which case it's a new benchmark. So (1) for every PID that's in the current Groundspeak database but not in the "new" NGS database, add a status to those Groundspeak records to indicate that it's been archived by the NGS (one might even be able to download archived datasheets from the NGS website and use that set as the driver for this step); (2) for every PID that's in both databases, but for which there are new History/Recovery records in the NGS database, update the Groundspeak database with new NGS data; (3) for every PID in the NGS database but not in the Groundspeak database, add those records.

 

The time consuming aspect of this is downloading the NGS datasheets for 3100 counties, but downloading, say, even as few as 50 counties of data per day would take only about 2 months for all 3100 counties. Assuming that the Groundspeak database was set up to allow for updates, everything else is very easy database programming, and reusable once programmed for the first time.

 

With a little more effort, Groundspeak's database, and its front-end queries, could be made so much more useful, too. For example, maybe it's winter, and I'm looking, specifically, for landmarks because I know that they're not going to be covered by snow, and I want those landmarks in a specific quad, or county, too. An easy query, but impossible, currently, in any automated fashion, with Groundspeak or the NGS. Or, maybe I'm a newbie and I'm looking for easy benchmarks, whether recovered in Groundspeak, or not, that have had an NGS "GOOD" report within the past 5 years, or that have had a Groundspeak "Found" reports within the past year. Or I want a challenge, and I'm looking for benchmarks that the NGS says are still there, but which Groundspeak members have been unable to find. All of this logic is very easy to program and, in my opinion, would add tremendously to the possibilities of this hobby. Here are two more good queries - once I find my benchmarks, optionally tell me the geocaches that are in proximity to my benchmarks - or, if I'm looking for caches, optionally tell me the benchmarks that are in proximity to my geocaches. Groundspeak could easy cross pollinate the two hobbies, and everyone - Groundspeak, its user community, the NGS, and our hobbies - would benefit.

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Where would one go to see benchmarks on a map?

 

Here's a great resource if you want to see marks on an online map - Benchmark Viewer - you can toggle map view between standard map/Satellite/topo..

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Where would one go to see benchmarks on a map?

 

I agree, the lack of updating is frustrating. I first found out about Benchmarking not from reading a link, but working on geocache, GC44RA6; this led me to investigate further and over time I've gotten hooked on benchmarks.

At least they still have a benchmark link in the Quick View area on your profile page.

The NGS site has a map query area. http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/datasheets/

Check out cell phone app, search for FindMarkers, but will display on phone as HuntMarkers.

Benchmark On!

Edited by Gungadoy

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If they don't want to handle it, someone should take over the benchmark info from Groundspeak, put it on a different website, and give it the attention it deserves.

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The time consuming aspect of this is downloading the NGS datasheets for 3100 counties, but downloading, say, even as few as 50 counties of data per day would take only about 2 months for all 3100 counties. Assuming that the Groundspeak database was set up to allow for updates, everything else is very easy database programming, and reusable once programmed for the first time.

Sure, they could do it, but apparently not a priority. It probably comes down to money. And FYI, you can download datasheets by state. Could take a couple hours to download them all, or something like that.

ftp://ftp.ngs.noaa.gov/pub/DS_ARCHIVE/DataSheets/

Ron

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If you got an Android phone, the BenchMap app is outstanding, uses a live map of where you are and loads up the benchmarks near you. Of course, it covers all benchmarks, not the just the ones on geocaching, but makes a great tool.

 

Scaredy Cat films has an excellent database that we all know and love.

http://benchmarks.scaredycatfilms.com/

 

If Groundspeak just spent a little bit of resources, they could easily update the database here and merge the current recoveries. They could even make it real simple, compared the new database with the old one they have, any marks that are in the 2000 database don't get updated on the website. (would be like taking mark AB1234 and if a AB1234 already exist on geocaching, they don't update it but if AB1234 is a new mark, it gets added, much like a new geocache would be added)

 

But the thing is, benchmark hunting isn't revenue generating so don't expect it. This is a business.

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