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Geocaching HQ

Introducing Virtual Rewards!

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(This information is repeated from a just-published Geocaching Blog post.)

Geocaching HQ is thrilled to announce the release of Virtual Rewards, a project to reward some of geocaching’s great contributors, while also introducing a limited number of new Virtual Caches for the enjoyment of the entire geocaching community.

Starting today, approximately 4,000 geocachers in 63 countries around the world will receive emails with information about their Virtual Reward. This group is made up largely of the top 1% of quality cache hiders from countries with at least 100 hiders. We created an algorithm to identify these people based on overall cache quality and cache health. Active community volunteers are also receiving a Virtual Reward as a thank you for giving their time and talent to support the geocaching community.

Those selected for a Virtual Reward have one year to submit a Virtual Cache for publication. You may see new Virtuals published in the next few days, or several months from now. New caches resulting from Virtual Rewards must comply with specific guidelines, so it could take time for the cache listings to work through the review process.

We expect this news is exciting to many in the community, but it may also raise some questions. We’ll try to answer a few of the most obvious questions here. We’ve also released an episode of the Inside Geocaching HQ podcast, where you can hear more information.

Yay, Virtuals are back!

Not exactly. Yes, we’re hoping to see up to 4,000 new Virtual Caches in the next year. But we want to make it clear that Virtuals remain a grandfathered cache type.

I own great caches. Why wasn’t I selected for a Virtual Reward?

There are certainly more than 4,000 awesome cache hiders in the world, but we had to draw a line somewhere. We found that limiting this release to the top 1% of the results from our algorithm allowed for an ideal disbursement of new Virtual Caches around the world. No algorithm is perfect, ours included. We favored quality over quantity, but in creating our algorithm, we are sure that some great hiders were missed.

Can you describe the algorithm?

We are not sharing the algorithm. But we can say it factors in geocaching activity, geocache quality, and geocache health. The algorithm heavily favors cache quality over quantity.

Are Virtual Rewards distributed evenly among countries?

No. Virtual Rewards are intended as a reward for top hiders. Therefore, they were given in proportion to the number of cache owners in each country. Most countries (those with 100 or more cache hiders) were awarded a number of Virtual Rewards equivalent to 1% of the total cache owner population. Cache owners from countries with fewer than 100 cache hiders were grouped together. The top 1% of cache owners from that group also received a Virtual Reward. In total, cache owners from 63 countries received Virtual Rewards.

Why not just make Virtual Caches available for everyone to hide?

Because today’s Virtual Caches are rare, and because the remaining Virtuals tend to be well-liked, people often forget (or maybe never knew) that many problems led to the grandfathering of Virtuals in 2005.

The Virtual Cache type was originally created so people could place hides where physical caches were not permitted, or where muggles were so heavy that a physical cache was not practical. While the intent of this cache type was positive, it created significant problems for reviewers and often led to poor cache quality. Some people used Virtual Caches as a shortcut to create basic caches that did not require maintenance. Guidelines were eventually updated to require Virtuals to have special qualities to set them apart from other caches. However, that introduced so much subjectivity that the review process became difficult for both reviewers and cachers. The decision was finally made to grandfather Virtual Caches and no longer permit this type of cache unless we could find a way to avoid the aforementioned issues.

We're hoping this limited Virtual Rewards release will help minimize the previous problems with Virtuals, while delivering more opportunities for the community to enjoy this beloved cache type. Most importantly, it’s a fun reward for people who have contributed so much to the game.

How do I find out when new Virtual Rewards are published?

Premium members can set up instant notifications to be aware when new Virtual Rewards are published. Also, use the Search tool to conduct a worldwide search for Virtuals.

Will there be more Virtual Rewards in the future?

We don’t have plans for anything beyond this release. But we’re always trying to think of ways to encourage quality (and healthy) cache hides, so who knows what the future may bring.

Have you considered a special icon or cache type for Virtual Rewards?

Creating a new cache type is a huge project for Geocaching HQ’s developers and engineers. It would not have been possible to launch Virtual Rewards in a timely manner if a new cache type was part of the project. Some cachers might see these new Virtuals as being different from those published in the past. But the experience of finding a Virtual is the same as before, so we felt it best to use the existing Virtual Cache type.

Could an account receive more than one Virtual Reward?

No, only one Virtual Reward per account.

Can a Virtual Reward recipient give their reward to someone else?

No, adoptions are not permitted.

We will update the blog post if we hear of further common questions regarding Virtual Rewards. In the meantime, congratulations to everyone who received a Virtual Reward! We’re looking forward to seeing some cool ideas for new Virtual Caches, and we’re sure geocachers around the world will enjoy finding them!

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so exciting that Virts are 'back'! Good work to all those who were chosen! I see the first new Virt already published in San Antonio!! https://coord.info/GC7B6P3

:D

<3

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This was pretty close to the last news I expected to read today. Seriously. I figured I'd read about a working warp-drive before I read about new Virtuals being published. Well done, HQ, welllllll done. 

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Well done. Virtual Caches are awesome! 

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I was quite confused when I received an email about owning a new virtual. Quite the pressure on me to come up with something worthwhile, especially since I've pretty much given up on ever hiding another geocache.

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People have been BEGGING for something like this for ages. It is SO nice that HQ is acknowledging this.

I am sure there will be issues, like there is with anything really, but this is something that at least allows something new in this realm to happen.

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25 minutes ago, _SWH said:

so exciting that Virts are 'back'! Good work to all those who were chosen! I see the first new Virt already published in San Antonio!! https://coord.info/GC7B6P3

:D

<3

Wow! The first one published and it has an ALR! You MUST POST A PHOTO of yourself at the location.

 

I guess the rules are different for the new Virtuals?

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Where are the haters?

I better get out of the way.

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1 minute ago, SwineFlew said:

Where are the haters?

I better get out of the way.

I'm sure they will be coming!

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1 minute ago, K13 said:

Wow! The first one published and it has an ALR! You MUST POST A PHOTO of yourself at the location.

 

I guess the rules are different for the new Virtuals?

See the guidelines linked in the OP. Requiring a photo is allowed so long as the finder's face is not required in the photo. In the virtual you referenced, the CO states " you don't need to show your face is you don't want to."

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This is very cool. Hopefully not too many people will be "hurt" by not getting the algorithmically selected invitation to publish a Virtual :)

And hopefully people who get one will actually use it! (or take suggestions if they can't think of one, heh)

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Thank you. This is a truly brilliant solution to satisfy the yearning for virtuals. I don't suppose the honorees will be allowed to publish webcam caches if they'd rather?

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6 minutes ago, Rock Chalk said:

See the guidelines linked in the OP. Requiring a photo is allowed so long as the finder's face is not required in the photo. In the virtual you referenced, the CO states " you don't need to show your face is you don't want to."

So the rules are different for the new Virtuals...

Quote

Acceptable logging tasks

  • Questions that can only be answered by visiting the location.
  • Tasks for the finder to fulfill (for example, find five statues on the buildings around you and post the picture of the tallest one with your log).
  • Photos of the location or a GPS device/smartphone at the location.
  • Photos of geocacher at the location, as long as a face is not required in the photo.

 

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2 minutes ago, dprovan said:

Thank you. This is a truly brilliant solution to satisfy the yearning for virtuals. I don't suppose the honorees will be allowed to publish webcam caches if they'd rather?

No, recipients cannot change the cache type from Virtual.

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Posted (edited)

4 minutes ago, dprovan said:

Thank you. This is a truly brilliant solution to satisfy the yearning for virtuals. I don't suppose the honorees will be allowed to publish webcam caches if they'd rather?

That would be interesting if at some point they did a similar thing for Webcam listings sometime in the future. Different set of rules obviously, let alone maintenance concerns, but it would be nice; they can be quite fun to do too.

Edited by thebruce0
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16 minutes ago, K13 said:

Wow! The first one published and it has an ALR! You MUST POST A PHOTO of yourself at the location.

 

I guess the rules are different for the new Virtuals?

It doesn't appear to have any Finds? Not sure what "ALR" is. There's just notes on there as of right now. 

 

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Posted (edited)

5 minutes ago, SeattleWayne said:

It doesn't appear to have any Finds? Not sure what "ALR" is. There's just notes on there as of right now. 

 

 

"ALR" is an Additional Logging Requirement, where just signing a log book is not enough to log a find: https://www.geocaching.com/help/index.php?pg=kb.chapter&id=107&pgid=823

If Virtuals with ALRs are allowed, that Help Center text may need some adjustments.

Edited by kunarion
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10 minutes ago, kunarion said:

If Virtuals with ALRs are allowed, that Help Center text may need some adjustments.

From the Virtual Rewards - Guidelines:

Acceptable Logging Tasks

  • Questions that can only be answered by visiting the location.
  • Tasks for the finder to fulfill (for example, find five statues on the buildings around you and post the picture of the tallest one with your log).
  • Photos of the location or a GPS device/smartphone at the location.
  • Photos of geocacher at the location, as long as a face is not required in the photo.
 
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What a good way to fulfil that aim of looking for quality rather than quantity this year. Good idea which will be interesting to see working.

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59 minutes ago, _SWH said:

so exciting that Virts are 'back'! Good work to all those who were chosen! I see the first new Virt already published in San Antonio!! https://coord.info/GC7B6P3

:D

<3

Wow, announcement has only been out for minutes, and I see 3 new virts already published, one within 56 miles of me.

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36 minutes ago, SwineFlew said:

Where are the haters?

I better get out of the way.

I'm not a "hater"...I just don't really understand the love that virtuals get.  I could take 'em or leave 'em...but I never really seek them out.

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We are not sharing the algorithm. But we can say it factors in geocaching activity, geocache quality, and geocache health. The algorithm heavily favors cache quality over quantity.

That's nice to know I guess.     How does an algorithm know the "quality" of a cache?     

Do favorite points fit into that?  

 - There's a lot of older, popular hides that have few favorite points simply because they were added years after placed, and not many back-logged their FPs.

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3 minutes ago, cerberus1 said:

 

 

That's nice to know I guess.     How does an algorithm know the "quality" of a cache?     

Do favorite points fit into that?  

 - There's a lot of older, popular hides that have few favorite points simply because they were added years after placed, and not many back-logged their FPs.

You're essentially asking us to share the algorithm. :smile:

Sorry, can't share any details about it.

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7 minutes ago, J Grouchy said:

I'm not a "hater"...I just don't really understand the love that virtuals get.  I could take 'em or leave 'em...but I never really seek them out.

*sarcasm* The wow factor. Lets not forget that one. :)

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3 minutes ago, Rock Chalk said:

You're essentially asking us to share the algorithm. :smile:

Sorry, can't share any details about it.

Any conflict of interests are part of the algorithm?

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Seems like a reasonable compromise on the persistent calls for reinstating virtuals.

Thanks.

 

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1 minute ago, SwineFlew said:

Any conflict of interests are part of the algorithm?

I really have no idea what that means.

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I am happy.   I do not expect to be within algorithm for a number or reasons, but I have long stated that I thought virtuals could back if the numbers were limited to specific types of cachers and/or specific locations.  I can't wait to have time to read more about this and see what comes of it.  

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Wow, just a handful of answers in this thread so far. And no hate yet :wub: Lets see what I can do with this one. Phew, what a responsibility :o

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46 minutes ago, kunarion said:

"ALR" is an Additional Logging Requirement, where just signing a log book is not enough to log a find: https://www.geocaching.com/help/index.php?pg=kb.chapter&id=107&pgid=823

If Virtuals with ALRs are allowed, that Help Center text may need some adjustments.

I don't think the Help Center text needs to be changed, as it specifies "physical" caches. Certainly ALR's have always been allowed for non-physical caches - EC's, Virtuals, Webcams.

A geocacher can log a  physical cache online as “found” if they have signed the logbook. All other logging requirements are considered additional logging requirements (ALRs) and must be optional. The only exception to this rule is challenge caches.

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6 minutes ago, terratin said:

Wow, just a handful of answers in this thread so far. And no hate yet :wub: Lets see what I can do with this one. Phew, what a responsibility :o

I am waiting on Tozainamboku. *sarcasm* I know hes reading this and writing up a book about it.

 

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1 hour ago, K13 said:

Wow! The first one published and it has an ALR! You MUST POST A PHOTO of yourself at the location.

 

I guess the rules are different for the new Virtuals?

Different from what?

From physical caches? Most certainly.

From previous virtual caches?  Not really.

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22 minutes ago, Rock Chalk said:
27 minutes ago, cerberus1 said:

 

 

That's nice to know I guess.     How does an algorithm know the "quality" of a cache?     

Do favorite points fit into that?  

 - There's a lot of older, popular hides that have few favorite points simply because they were added years after placed, and not many back-logged their FPs.

You're essentially asking us to share the algorithm. :smile:

Sorry, can't share any details about it.

I can understand why you might not want to share the algorithm.  Once it's known we might start seeing some CO's change their approach to hiding in order to "qualify" as one of the elite.

For example, one way to improve a cache health score is to avoid placing any caches that will be difficult to find, which might lead to an accumulation of DNFs.  Another way to reduce DNFs or even NM logs would be for a CO to allow throwdowns.  Others might be sitting on 80 hides, but will toss out 20 more in order to meet the 100 hides minimum.  Unless favorite points (as a percentage) are factored in,  this new feature (which I like in general) might encourage quantity over quality in order to make the elite list.  

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11 minutes ago, geodarts said:

I am happy.   I do not expect to be within algorithm for a number or reasons, but I have long stated that I thought virtuals could back if the numbers were limited to specific types of cachers and/or specific locations.  I can't wait to have time to read more about this and see what comes of it.  

So am I... I dont want to be a virtual owner... too much drama that come with it. Its not worth it for me. However, I happy to see it coming back.

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1 hour ago, Team Christiansen said:

Wow, announcement has only been out for minutes, and I see 3 new virts already published, one within 56 miles of me.

I see 6 so far, 3 are in Germany. I hope to see a new one in Hong Kong.

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Posted (edited)

This kind of stuff makes me so ANGRY! I can't believe geocaching .com has stooped so low. I quit!!! :mad:

 

 

As Johnny in Airplane said "Just Kidding".   i agree this is cool and a nice step to help get some variety back into geocaching. B)

 

Airplane johnny just kidding.jpg

Edited by Mudfrog
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What a nice surprise!  It will be interesting to see what new Virtuals result from this effort.  I also think it's great that the announcement touched on the history of issues with Virtuals that got them grandfathered back in 2005.

 

7 minutes ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

I can understand why you might not want to share the algorithm.  Once it's known we might start seeing some CO's change their approach to hiding in order to "qualify" as one of the elite.

For example, one way to improve a cache health score is to avoid placing any caches that will be difficult to find, which might lead to an accumulation of DNFs.  Another way to reduce DNFs or even NM logs would be for a CO to allow throwdowns.  Others might be sitting on 80 hides, but will toss out 20 more in order to meet the 100 hides minimum.  Unless favorite points (as a percentage) are factored in,  this new feature (which I like in general) might encourage quantity over quality in order to make the elite list.  

I would think that the risk of sharing the algorithm would be criticisms and complaints from cachers that think the algorithm wasn't built correctly and/or think they should've been identified as part of the top 1%. I'm not sure if a lot of cachers will be changing their ways in the hopes of qualifying for a future reward that may or may not happen, but if CO's take care of NM's in a more timely manner then that would be a good side-effect.

The "100 hides minimum" applies to how the Virtual Rewards were distributed to countries, or groups of countries.  A cacher didn't need to have 100 hides in order to get a Virtual Reward.

 

6 minutes ago, SwineFlew said:

So am I... I dont want to be a virtual owner... too much drama that come with it. Its not worth it for me. However, I happy to see it coming back.

I'm curious to see how many Virtual caches get published in the next year.  I'd be surprised if all of the cachers who received the reward actually end up 'redeeming' it.

 

30 minutes ago, terratin said:

Wow, just a handful of answers in this thread so far. And no hate yet :wub: Lets see what I can do with this one. Phew, what a responsibility :o

There is some hate are some complaints about not being chosen and about 'only 4000' in the FB post. I wouldn't be surprised if similar complaints crop up in the forums. Give it time.  :ph34r:

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16 minutes ago, noncentric said:

There is some hate are some complaints about not being chosen and about 'only 4000' in the FB post. I wouldn't be surprised if similar complaints crop up in the forums. Give it time.  :ph34r:

Limiting Virtual Rewards as a "rare commodity" will hopefully lead to high-quality submissions.  ("I only get one of these, so I'd better make it a good one.")  When there were no limits on submitting virtual caches, anything and everything was being submitted, placing the burden on reviewers to separate the awesome from the mundane.  This was a prime reason for the demise of virtual caches.  The new program is designed to prevent that.

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2 minutes ago, Keystone said:

Limiting Virtual Rewards as a "rare commodity" will hopefully lead to high-quality submissions.  ("I only get one of these, so I'd better make it a good one.")  When there were no limits on submitting virtual caches, anything and everything was being submitted, placing the burden on reviewers to separate the awesome from the mundane.  This was a prime reason for the demise of virtual caches.  The new program is designed to prevent that.

Are you saying if you submitted a not so great virtual and the reviewer deny it, you wont get a second chance? 

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1 hour ago, cerberus1 said:

 

 

That's nice to know I guess.     How does an algorithm know the "quality" of a cache?     

Do favorite points fit into that?  

 - There's a lot of older, popular hides that have few favorite points simply because they were added years after placed, and not many back-logged their FPs.

They could easily only look at logs since favorites were introduced, and look at the percentage of favorite points assigned.

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I'd be interested to learn more details of the algorithm. Nine years in caching and hundreds of caches hidden, adopted and maintained, with a variety of different cache hides thrown in, each with large amounts of favourite points. If this isn't good enough, then I may as well just archive all my caches now. 

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4 minutes ago, The Magna Defender said:

I'd be interested to learn more details of the algorithm. Nine years in caching and hundreds of caches hidden, adopted and maintained, with a variety of different cache hides thrown in, each with large amounts of favourite points. If this isn't good enough, then I may as well just archive all my caches now. 

How is your health score?

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8 minutes ago, hyliston said:
1 hour ago, cerberus1 said:

 

 

That's nice to know I guess.     How does an algorithm know the "quality" of a cache?     

Do favorite points fit into that?  

 - There's a lot of older, popular hides that have few favorite points simply because they were added years after placed, and not many back-logged their FPs.

They could easily only look at logs since favorites were introduced, and look at the percentage of favorite points assigned.

In that case, they should look at the percentage of FPs for all of a COs finds.   The first or last cache in a large powertrail might get tons of favorite points but might otherwise be an unremarkable hide.

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9 minutes ago, The Magna Defender said:

I'd be interested to learn more details of the algorithm. Nine years in caching and hundreds of caches hidden, adopted and maintained, with a variety of different cache hides thrown in, each with large amounts of favourite points. If this isn't good enough, then I may as well just archive all my caches now. 

A lot of yours seem to be PL only caches. I wonder if that played a part in the algorithm?

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4 minutes ago, Auntie Quated said:
9 minutes ago, The Magna Defender said:

I'd be interested to learn more details of the algorithm. Nine years in caching and hundreds of caches hidden, adopted and maintained, with a variety of different cache hides thrown in, each with large amounts of favourite points. If this isn't good enough, then I may as well just archive all my caches now. 

How is your health score?

Just like the algorithm they using for selecting the 4000 cachers that will be allowed to place a new virtual they're not providing a means for determining ones health score, how it's derived, or specifically how to improve it.

 

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I am guessing there will be a certain amount of hand wringing and/or sour grapes over why someone was not chosen to place a new virtual. Can't please everyone all of the time. I like the way that GC has rolled this out. I am interested in going out and finding some of the new placed virtuals. I hope many of them are great spots!

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1 hour ago, Mudfrog said:

As Johnny in Airplane said "Just Kidding".

You got a + just for that Johnny reference :D

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Posted (edited)

19 minutes ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

Just like the algorithm they using for selecting the 4000 cachers that will be allowed to place a new virtual they're not providing a means for determining ones health score, how it's derived, or specifically how to improve it.

It's much like spam sorting algorithms, or search result relevance algorithms. To avoid playing the system, the creators really have to keep the functions under tight wrap, or it becomes ineffective to its intent, and needing further refinement. Organic algorithms are good though since people will still figure out ways and tricks to falsely improve their 'score' and visibility over time, so the developers have to keep adjusting for it with complex stats and analyses...  There's been plenty of discussion about the subjecitivity of concepts like Google's search result algorithms and whatnot. It's objective in that it applies to all, but it's subjective in that the developers still have to decide what aspects and properties to prioritize and score higher than others (and which to demote). I don't doubt it's the same with Groundspeak, which is still more good enough reason for them to keep hush about it. :ph34r:

Edited by thebruce0
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I hope they will reveal how many cachers per country got rewarded.

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34 minutes ago, The Magna Defender said:

I'd be interested to learn more details of the algorithm. Nine years in caching and hundreds of caches hidden, adopted and maintained, with a variety of different cache hides thrown in, each with large amounts of favourite points. If this isn't good enough, then I may as well just archive all my caches now. 

I knew it wouldn't take long...

 

This section of the announcement is for you:

3 hours ago, Geocaching HQ said:

I own great caches. Why wasn’t I selected for a Virtual Reward?

There are certainly more than 4,000 awesome cache hiders in the world, but we had to draw a line somewhere. We found that limiting this release to the top 1% of the results from our algorithm allowed for an ideal disbursement of new Virtual Caches around the world. No algorithm is perfect, ours included. We favored quality over quantity, but in creating our algorithm, we are sure that some great hiders were missed.

 

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