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bicknell

Ngs Cd's

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I understand that geocaching.com was populated from an NGS CD, and that said CD's are no longer being produced.

 

Does anyone have one of these old CD's? I'd like to get my hands on one and check it out, and see how hard it would be to reproduce.

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I'd like to get my hands on one and check it out, and see how hard it would be to reproduce.

Leo,

 

When you say "reproduce," do you mean copying the old data or creating a 2005 version with the latest datasheets?

 

-Art

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The latter. I have some skills with making CD's, and the data sheets are easily available via FTP. All I need is an old CD to be able to figure out the formatting.

 

I'll gladly make one each month and send it to geocaching.com if it will get them to update. :)

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Bicknell,

 

I don't want to overstate the obvious, but about the NGS Database... It is intellectual property you are dealing with. It may be appropriate to ask Casey to see if he can find any legal reasons why it would not be ok for you to make a copy of the database as such, for redistribution. NGS is not currently doing it, but may not want it done either. I somehow think permission for that sort of thing would be a safe thing to have. No need to run afoul of anything... Beyond that, perhaps there is a way to get an update to the geocaching database that has not been explored. I would email Casey and explore it. He is a good listener who takes pretty good care of us here, and would find out what he can. Try shooting him an email...

 

Rob

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It seems like I remember this topic coming up before and it wasn't just as simple as availability of the data. A problem for GC is that they haven't figured out a method to integrate the new information with the old. You wouldn't want to lose any of the logged info. What do you do with a station that has logs on GC but comes up "destroyed" in the NGS data base. And many other such considerations. I think it is feasable but not simple for them.

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Before "distributing" the CD I would talk to the NGS. I'd like to see one first, because if they did something really wonky on the CD that makes it extremely hard then it might not be worth the effort in the first place.

 

As for the data, I propose a simple algorithm for geocaching.com:

 

If the PID is already in the database:

Delete the current NGS recovery stats (not the gc.com stats) and add the stats on the

new CD.

If the PID is not in the database:

Add the new PID, and import the NGS data.

 

When initally imported, "found", "not found" etc didn't populate into the gc.com flags, so I see no reason why a new gc.com update of not found or destroyed would do the same. Importing the logs would allow people to see up to date data in one place.

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By all means let the NGS know what you're up to. They might find it useful, even on an informal basis; and they even might have some helpful shortcuts. Plus, since they are the source of the data, it would be a nice courtesy. However, while I am certainly not an intellectual property lawyer, I have very confident that this government data is, like census data, in the public domain.

 

I think bicknell is discussing how to incorporate NGS data into an update for Geocaching.com. I don't know about that, but it might be worth considering somehow merging the recovery information in the two data sets. In other words, start with the NGS datasheets and add the Geocaching logs. I would check first to see if this violates the Geocaching terms of service -- my guess would be that it does.

 

-ArtMan-

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To be certain, I do not really think the idea of compiling a new CD of the database is the correct scheme. In other words, I think there may be a better way.

 

I would personally like to see geocaching consider revamping their data so that they do not database NGS data in house at all. Let the NGS database be the database. Call your data direct from it. This way there is nothing to get stale or dated. Do I really expect Jeremy to take up this sort of project on his own? No. His plate is too full, but he has expressed interest in looking at ideas in the past. He has also expressed interest in ways of updating the Benchmark database. Can we come up with a method he would not want to refuse?

 

Several people here have NGS lookups on their own websites. There is no reason NGS data couldn't be called by Geocaching from the NGS database the very same way.

 

Here is what I am thinking:

 

First, The NGS database could be spidered for active PID's at regular monthly intervals just like Holo has mined data for his site. An automated script could be written to create, or generate Geocaching PID pages just like the ones that exist now. It would compare PID's that were mined last time with this time, add new ones and omit the ones NGS omitted. It would strip the coordinates in DMS format (please!) and the narrative recoveries just as they are included now. Clicking to see the entire datasheet would call the current copy from NGS, not an old stale one at Geocaching. Does anyone know how to code or script this so it would become an automated feature of the site, running completely hands off? If we can do this, we can help make Geocaching's site reflect what is current in the NGS Database. Dead PID's could be archived just as Caches are.

 

Next, Since this revamp would allow geocaching to be within a month of current with NGS, PID, for PID and show all cacher recoveries shown on the real NGS datasheets, All datasheets would be via the NGS Database. All information mined for geocaching would be from the NGS Database. It would be current data, dated with the current date. There would be zero Datasheets databased at Geocaching or by Geocaching. The Geocaching web pages would simply call the data from either database it needs to. NGS or Geocaching. Geocaching would continue to database its own recovery data and all photos submitted. So between the two websites all the data could be obtained to build the webpage when a browser calls it.

 

So, It would likely be a better scheme as the query of the NGS database would be considered fair use. It would be low upkeep for geocaching as once all the coding and scripting is done, the web pages would pretty much take care of themselves. Users could add their recoveries to Geocaching, their photos to geocaching as they have in the pas, and a link could be added to the NGS mark recovery page.

 

Does this seem doable to any of you? Does anyone have any ideas as to how to help create this sort of a scheme, and have it be as low maintenance to geocaching as possible? That would also mean that it should be pretty easy for Geocaching to code up, maybe with volunteer help. It could mean contacting Jeremy with a proposal, asking him what his criteria would be for his database and hosting schemes and developing scripts that would get what is needed from NGS even doing some coding to show how it could be done and forwarding it to Jeremy for approval and to adapt it to the Geocaching sites way.

 

If we can do a lot of the heavy lifting, it may be able to happen. Sometimes we can get what we negotiate. In the course of it it would have to be fairly easy for Jeremy to implement, and pretty hands off when it is said and done. Again, does anyone think it is doable? We Could end up with a current database and links to the things we need, even a methodology for NGS to utilize Geocaching databased PID photography.

 

Feel free to toss the proposal around. Does anyone want to have a go at it?

 

Rob

Edited by evenfall

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If the database update idea fails..

 

Maybe we could get GC to add a link to the current NGS server datasheet? Also, rename the "current datasheet" link to something like "GC datasheet" or something to that effect. The current wording is misleading, IMHO.

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There are four basic variations on what could be done:

 

1) A link to the NGS data sheet. Geocaching.com would have no NGS data, and each PID would have a link to the NGS data sheet on the NGS web site.

 

Pro: No out of date data.

Con: Must click on a link to get the data, adding load to the NGS web site, must still download all of the PID's and import them in the first place.

 

2) A realtime query of the NGS data sheet. gc.com would query the NGS with each gc.com hit, displaying the to date data sheet.

 

Pro: No out of date data, all data on one screen.

Con: Much more load on the NGS web site, must still download all of the PID's and import them.

 

3) Bulk data transfer (eg, CD) of the data sheets, imported into gc.com.

 

Pro: No out of date data, very easy on both the NGS and GC.com servers (no bandwidth consumed).

Con: Requires human intervention (mailing / loading the CD), and requires the CD to be made in the first place.

 

4) Monthly FTP updates (gc.com downloads the delta packages each month)

 

Pro: No out of date data, relatively easy on the NGS server, automated.

Con: Requires more work on the gc.com side, as you're only getting the deltas, must be able to merge NGS data.

 

Methods 2-4 also allow you to parse the NGS data sheet, which would allow you to populate the flags in the GC.com database. Method one makes that impossible.

 

There's still an interleaving the data problem since gc.com wants every recovery, but the NGS wants one per year...not to mention the differences in how photos are handled and the like.

 

Since doing this sort of stuff is my day job I don't think it's a very hard problem. It is work on an ongoing basis, so I'm not sure what the gc.com staff is up to do...

 

The CD would also be handy in that if it existed, those with laptops could get a CD and take it with them and have every data sheet nation wide......

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I'm fairly sure there are no copyright issues (for the person who asked)

 

If it's like every other US Govt database I've ever seen, any US Citizen has the right to reproduce, under the doctrine of "we already paid for it" - this question comes up all the time on the Astronomy Photo of the Day web site - and when they are NASA photos, they are open copyright (they sometimes have non NASA photos, and they are alway sure to make sure they state the copyright on those)

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A clarification on your options.

 

1) If Geocaching changed their datasheet link to the current datasheet on the NGS server, they wouldn't have to download any PIDs, or archives. They would just have to change the links. That would be fairly easy, and probably wouldn't add to much load to the NGS servers. It is a quick fix, but the debate is whether NGS' computers should handle the load to get updated datasheets through the geocaching site, or if geocaching should take the server load to give out slightly outdated datasheets.

 

3) Updating which PIDs they do have, which is what everybody wants, could be done from the yearly archives. Accessing the most recent year archive files is going to have be done anyways to update geocaching's database; it can be done easily over the web in less time than it takes for NGS to dig out their old CD burners and mail it to geocaching.com.

 

At that point they'll have to write the software to update the old database with the new. If that is done, then the monthly update file downloads and updates, which will tweak the routine a bit, shouldn't be that hard.

 

They probably should wait until after the next round of yearly archives before rolling out any changes.

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Evenfall,

I politely disagree with your comment that a link should be added to the NGS recovery page on each PID page at geocaching. I don't think we want everyone to start logging marks at NGS. I, among many, have a bad recovery or two at the NGS site (that I've subsequently corrected) from when we were starting out. I think we will end up with a higher degree of bad reporting than currently exists if we make it much easier for Geocachers to get to the NGS site.

 

The majority of PID logs at geocaching are correct (according to NGS standards), but there's a significant number that are not. When looking back at many of the forum discussions one finds that much of this confusion in standards between Geocaching and NGS recoveries lies in NGS wanting its recovery reports to be extremely accurate. If you found it, you had better have found the mark and not the reference mark. Ditto the issues with intersection stations changing and confusing people. Etc. If you didn't find it, you had better have made a decent professional search of the area, and not just have driven by. And then there is logging marks as destroyed. People at Geocaching are much more eager to log marks, especially as found, which references the 'gaming' discussion.

 

As such, I don't think it's a good idea to have this link. It takes time perusing the discussion boards and some, not necessarily a lot of, experience recovering stations for Geocachers to build up the discernment level the forum community recognizes one needs to accurately report to the NGS. Most folks aren't going to take that time.

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GC would be the primary recoverer on their site, They would still get all recoveries as they do now. if an NGS recovery was decided upon by the hunter, it is up to them to file on their own. They would be responsible for electing to do so or not. I simple link could be provided making the option easier to find.

 

I can tell you from first hand experience that you do not want leave a geocacher with the albeit false impression that they have to do anything, or you will meet with resistance like you could not imagine, even though it is basically a wrong impression on their part. They can tend to become a bit emotional and it can deteriorate from there. Not a good idea to make people wrong either. Text on the internet is widely open to emotional interpretation. There are many people who adamantly do not want to recover anything to NGS. Could be a fear of Big Brother, I don't know. In any case, It would not be in anyone's best interest to even allude to recommending that they do so. It is particularly important (seemingly) to be upfront about mentioning that even discussion of such things is a mere hypothesis and not even a suggestion. Just a gentle option they could exercise if they wanted.

 

The Culture of our Society today requires that I don't have to do anything any one says or recommends to me, all rules are not really meant for me, and even if they are, I still don't have to follow them unless I want to. I have observed that this holds true here at Geocaching as well.

 

That said, I want it known that I am talking business here and not personal or emotional so let's discuss what we think is doable. Can we come up with a plan that can help improve benchmark hunting for GC.com?

 

The CD is a generally bad idea. NGS does not want copies of dated data out there. That is basically why they discontinued the use of the CD database. Further it was costly to produce and Buy, and if various copies are made and distriuted, NGS cannot vouch for the content on them, nor their validity. They did not make the disc and cannot say it was properly accomplished. It would not be a great idea to have a source for uncertifiable data running out there that could mislead someone. As an industry professional, I feel that is sound thinking. That is why they discontinued the CD option. As to the load on their servers, that is simply something they have to accept as a part of doing business.

 

In the best case scenario, GC needs to stay in sync. There only needs be one datasheet. GC can parse what ever data from the sheet as it wants just as it currently does. In fact, I am not recommending that GC change much of how it appears to the public on it's face, just some of the methodology that goes into the generation of each page view. It uses fresh NGS Data rather than Old Out of date Data. It would still collect and serves data that Benchmark hunters submit to GC.

 

In the final analysis, the Onus is not on NGS to do anything beyond accept more traffic on their servers. I am sure that is not a problem. GC.com will have to do the balance of the doing. What I am saying and very specifically so, is that if a method is not found to make this as painless for GC.com management as is possible, absolutely nothing will happen and you can expect things to remain exactly as they are for some time to come.

 

So do we want to think about ways we can help an improvement happen that many people here say they want, or is the mountain too high, the ring to far to reach for. If nobody really wants to do anything to improve the situation, I'll stop advocating that we should organize a way to try.

 

So if anyone would like to add further input, Have at it.

 

Rob

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Evenfall,

    I politely disagree with your comment that a link should be added to the NGS recovery page on each PID page at geocaching.  I don't think we want everyone to start logging marks at NGS.  I, among many, have a bad recovery or two at the NGS site (that I've subsequently corrected) from when we were starting out.  I think we will end up with a higher degree of bad reporting than currently exists if we make it much easier for Geocachers to get to the NGS site.

 

The majority of PID logs at geocaching are correct (according to NGS standards), but there's a significant number that are not.  When looking back at many of the forum discussions one finds that much of this confusion in standards between Geocaching and NGS recoveries lies in NGS wanting its recovery reports to be extremely accurate.  If you found it, you had better have found the mark and not the reference mark.  Ditto the issues with intersection stations changing and confusing people.  Etc.  If you didn't find it, you had better have made a decent professional search of the area, and not just have driven by.  And then there is logging marks as destroyed.  People at Geocaching are much more eager to log marks, especially as found, which references the 'gaming' discussion.

 

    As such, I don't think it's a good idea to have this link.  It takes time perusing the discussion boards and some, not necessarily a lot of, experience recovering stations for Geocachers to build up the discernment level the forum community recognizes one needs to accurately report to the NGS.  Most folks aren't going to take that time.

Buck,

 

First Paragraph.

 

I accept your feelings about this. It is a common question here at the forum as to how to use the various functions of the NGS Website. In truth, 90% of all recoveries are not logged at NGS and I would imagine that it would likely remain this way. NGS may see this as different than you are, but they know that in the Narrative Recoveries there are bound to be inaccuracies. In fact there already are. We can strive to make it better or less dated but not perfect. All we can do is all we can do. It is merely a way of making the option available. Most people who will bother are going a bit out of their way and are doing so voluntarily. They want to do well I am sure. All submissions to NGS are looked over prior to becoming published, and errors do get through. It happens.

 

Second Paragraph.

 

I am not advocating that all recoveries to GC.com would be forwarded to NGS so if you are thinking I would advocate this, please do not. All I am saying is a link to the NGS recovery page could be there as an option. People would have to click that link of their own volition in order to proceed further. You and I are simply Volunteers. We are neither employees of NGS or GC.com. I cannot look over everyones shoulder nor is that my intention. It is simply about making choices available. NGS would appreciate recoveries in places they are not getting them now, and back to the culture of the country, If it is not made relatively simple to do, people won't bother.

 

Third Paragraph.

 

I can lead a horse but I can't make it do anything. So if people want to learn how they start hanging out here just as you did. I do not have a right to judge them on their lack of qualifications, and why? It would only turn them off. We already have a reputation of being High Minded elitists here as you may know. I am sure it is a turn off for many.

 

For myself, I see questions and I try to answer them. I Volunteer, I take no pay nor solicit any credit. I simply try to help all the people I select to answer without any political motivation whatsoever. I try to tell the truth as I understand it so it helps others. I have no further motivation and I hope I have helped people here get a better grasp of the subject. It is not always easy as Survey Data and theory are not really formatted to be compatible with common everyday language. I draw on my own experiences in the field. It is easy to see where Survey Marker recovery may come off as being High Brow to some. There are rules. It is important that we make a good effort towards accuracy. Not all people are going to be compatible with that sort of a rule. It could be an image but it could also just be a perception which is not entirely correct. I can see how some people could feel they way that they do. It is notable that many do post recoveries and photos to GC.com on benchmarks who never set foot in this forum. It is foolish to think that they should need to run anything past us in order to qualify them as proficient. In the end I would like to find a way of appearing more inclusive to more people.

 

So how would you propose being more inclusive? Casey has done a great service of making what he feels is a Basic FAQ for a general public sort of person to read, as find easily. He want's their contribution and is willing to accept what he gets. If that is what he want's as the Liason of the NGS to GC.com, I am advocating that we help him. I think NGS is prepared to protect the quality of online recovery submissions or they would not advocate making it easier. It is a shame we cannot seem to pin a similar link to the GC.com Benchmark hunting FAQ at the top of the GC.com Benchmark hunting Forum. It is a bummer that it seems that difficult to make even a simple improvement. Wouldn't you agree?

 

There are some simple basic things that could make things work better. It could have better detail, include more info and be easier to navigate. It seems a shame that they are not as easy to modify as they could be. If in the end, nobody can agree, then we have what we have for now and I guess it will remain as it is.

 

Rob

Edited by evenfall

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Rob,

I see a lot in what you say in this debate. For instance, it's very true that even with a link to the NGS site most people won't log there.

 

I think the trick is finding the balance between

 

The cautious view of protecting the quality of the NGS database

and

The goal that everyone agrees we need of getting more Geocachers who find benchmarks to submit their reports to the NGS.

 

A working solution may lie in asking Geocaching to reorganize their PID webpages. The goal would be to alleviate the main problem I think stands in the way of trying to open up the floodgates of Geocachers reporting to the NGS, which is the higher rate of mistaken FOUNDS/NOT FOUNDS than we would like. I bet the problem rate on the Geocaching logs (as compared to the NGS GEOCAC logs) is equivalent to the NGS USPSQD rate. I don't think DESTROYED is a problem, as the NGS is very careful with that process. I don't want to see mistaken reports slipping through the NGS' automated recovery reporting system. The additional effort of doing the second log might dampen a lot of the issue.

 

They might add a cautionary paragraph at the top or in the middle of the Geocaching PID page with a distilled paragraph from the Benchmarking FAQ. It might say something like:

"Are you well and truly sure that you found the right mark? Why don't you read the recovery, to reach and stamping info below a second time before logging?"

 

That might provide some education to the people logging, especially the first time or two, when they're reading over the whole benchmark page. Then, right below that there could be the link you describe, with a sentence saying "Please help to update the national database by logging this mark on the NGS site" or somesuch phrase.

 

USPSQD has the same goal as what we would like to do; larger scale reporting to NGS with mostly untrained people. Maybe if we take a look at specifically how they ask their people to report online we might be able to steal ideas and/or improve on what they have.

 

Buck

Edited by BuckBrooke

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Buck,

 

I think I see the issue as one of reservation. You want to be protective and I understand that. I was thinking that some of that protection could be built in. You know, make it easier but not a license to do whatever.

 

We can surely omit the link to NGS, Sure, and we can play a game on their Database and not offer to return any favor by linking to their recovery page. Sounds Fair and Equitable! :-) I think linking would be a nice gesture for the added bandwidth they may see. If they do get some recoveries, all the better. It would seem a symbiotic relationship. Yes?

 

Not to kick Geocaching's current layout in the shins, but it could be doing a lot more without that much hands on. It was a good design at the time and it is still working, but the game as such has continued to evolve a bit and things could use freshening up. Links to FAQ's Forums NGS and such could be interspersed on the benchmarking pages Better layout, Bulleted formats, executive Summary style with more data found linked to summary points. This way you can say it in 30 seconds or less and leave the option of learning more if the soundbite does not cut it. Some people like soundbites some like the details.

 

NGS wants to get what info they can. Getting recoveries from areas of the country that they currently are not would be a gift too! The Onus is theirs to police what goes into their Database. Everybody here has heard of Debbie Brown. She Looks at every recovery we send in BEFORE she allows it to be added to the database. So rest assured, the inputs are policed. They also know it is an imperfect system but what can we do?

 

Here is something interesting...

 

Don't Think of Marylin Monroe!

 

I bet you are still thinking of her aren't you?

 

See what the effect of telling you not to do something is? You are thinking in a direction that I had hoped you wouldn't.

 

The best way to go is to not go where you don't want to go. Don't plant Ideas of what is not desirable, instead just lay out how to participate in a fun way. This way you get what you want.

 

There have been some ideas being tossed around about making the recovery page more user friendly. I think it would be fine to send folks there and let the NGS site screen it from there. I am not thinking it would be helpful to tell some person that they are not qualified enough to submit a recovery. The NGS Site doesn't and if we did we would see some recoveries alright. They might even be hostile ones.

 

All we need to to is just basically outline the best way to do it and be as positive and up beat about it as we can. From the standpoint of a person who is a user of NGS Data, If a geocacher left a recovery which was as simple as Found good, and the date is recent, Ten it is worth looking. If they left a photo of what they found then the value of the recovery would certainly be added.

 

If we want more people to help, we cannot make them do it. They have to choose to. If they choose to it will be because it is easy and friendly, and that equals fun. It currently is not that easy. The screening will have to be done in two parts. First we show the best way as a part of the site design. Second, NGS does and will continue to eyeball the submissions. You want a Balance? This is the balance I think you want right here... It can even be an inconspicuous link on a nested webpage which is at the bottom of a list with the criteria for good mark recovery, outlining what the NGS would like from a good recovery. If they want to go through all that to find the link they will learned about how on the way to the link and after that, believe me, If a recovery submission does not meet muster, Deb will kick it out.

 

For instance: "Me and Stacy found this one while we were playing Frisbee with the kids" will never get on the Mark recovery. Neither will AC-DC Rocks! Deb will kick it out. I think the protections can be inherent in the design as well. Like I said, Most people wont. Asking people if they are sure is too emotionally based though. Just a simple criteria to follow perhaps taught in FAQ format like Casey has already accomplished with perhaps a few good clickable examples of how to write it correctly will be fine. We will want to keep it fun!

 

The thing we need to keep in mind is that the NGS would like to have more recoveries if they can get them. Geocaching does not have this as one of it's goals but someone may be able prepare a page that Jeremy could code to the site which may be helpful. Bottom line? Good design is not inherent in Bad designs and we need to keep it simple enough and doable for geocaching.

 

It is important to note that this will not likely happen on it's own. If no one wants this, nothing will happen. Expecting Geocaching to do this is super unlikely to have it get done. but if we can come up with a plan and offer some of the coding already done Who knows.

 

It seems a shame that the Geocaching database could become even more out of date. But if it has taken years to get Pocket Queries for benchmarks and it still has not happened... What does that tell us? It tells me that we have to try to come up with the bulk of it, flesh it out and see if Jeremy likes the idea.

 

Rob

Edited by evenfall

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Rob,

I think our main task then is to redesign the Geocaching benchmark page to make it both fun/easy for Geocachers to log benchmarks in the usual way and to encourage a much larger number of the folks to intelligently log from there with the NGS. Let's hash out the details

 

What do we want on it? How do we want to change a Geocaching PID page from what it is now? Are there some easy changes we can make? Why don't we make a list of suggested ideas, that we could add together into a grand wish list.

 

1) We can get rid of most of the "The coordinates are way off!" confusion on SCALED horizontal marks by adding a line under the

 

"Coordinates may not be exact. Altitude is SCALED and location is ADJUSTED. (more info)"

 

line that says, "If the coordinates are SCALED, they may be significantly different; rely on the location description to find the station."

 

2) Can Geocaching pull slightly different information from the NGS database, so that the Reference Points section can be a more clearly formatted version of the box score, listing the angle and distance?

 

3) Can we have a link to the real NGS datasheet instead of the old Geocaching archived one?

 

3) Can the documented history reflect the current updated history from the NGS database?

 

4) Could there be a chunk of information on logging at the NGS in the empty area between the links to the nearest benchmarks/geocaches and the logs? This is the big piece that needs work.

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I don't think we want everyone to start logging marks at NGS. I, among many, have a bad recovery or two at the NGS site (that I've subsequently corrected) from when we were starting out. I think we will end up with a higher degree of bad reporting than currently exists if we make it much easier for Geocachers to get to the NGS site.

 

Accuracy is only part of the problem. Few folks want to learn the "language" of NGS. Recovery comments about children, or how you got the JEEP stuck in the mud, have no place in the NGS database.

 

Geocac makes a good set of training wheels. We tolerate the non-relevant comments, the cartoon puppets in the photos, etc. Professionals, on the other hand, would not be amused.

 

I'm in favor of updating the Geocaching database, if past recoveries can be retained. But let's not mix the two, when it comes to making recovery reports.

 

-Paul-

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How do we want to change a Geocaching PID page from what it is now? Are there some easy changes we can make? Why don't we make a list of suggested ideas, that we could add together into a grand wish list.

 

From the North Carolina gang comes a request that the program delete 200 characters on either side of the words "gary lepine".

 

You have to have printed a NC data sheet--any NC data sheet--to understand why this would be greatly appreciated!

 

-Paul-

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Paul,

 

I always enjoy your input, but I fear that you may have misread what I suggested earlier, so let me see if I can help.

 

Geocaching will retain all the data it currently has. Nothing would change. All that is retained will be saved. You have nothing to fear. All will be as it has been. All recoveries. I feel this is as important as you do. No worry there.

 

What I am proposing to change is the Geocaching use of the Old NGS CD Database that is five years old. It cannot and will not be updated. I am saying that there are no more CD's and the CD is not the best way to do this. If you want Geocaching to use fresher data, (and we have all wished this were possible already) then Geocaching needs to be able to query the NGS Database to get that data. I propose that Geocaching do exactly that in order to provider the freshest data possible. In addition, all the newer marks would be included. All recoveries would be up to date. The 2 sites would be in sync.

 

What I am not proposing is for geocaching to change any of the data recovered by geocachers. Even if NGS Destroys a Mark. If a Geocacher Logged so much as a Not on that PID, Geocaching would database that and retain everything back to day one.

 

What I felt would be handy is that Geocaching offer a link on a page that could be the acknowledgment page of a recovery log to Geocaching. Once you recover the PID to Geocaching and this is confirmed, the confirmation page could have a link on it which simply says Do you want to recover this find to NGS? Click Here. Most people never will but it would help people find the page at NGS in case they do. This would be offered after the recovery to Geocaching first.

 

I will reiterate what I said earlier today. NONE OF THE STATION RECOVERIES TO NGS IS AUTOMATED. THEY ARE ALL LOOKED AT WITH HUMAN EYES BY DEB BROWN OR OTHER NGS PERSONNEL AFTER THEY ARE SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC AND BEFORE THE INFORMATION IS ADDED TO A DATASHEET. NO INAPPROPRIATE VERBIAGE IS ALLOWED. Yes I did mean to caps lock that for emphasis. I was not yelling. Anyways, So no worries on the jeep stuck in the mud part. It won't make it. I can imagine that if you were to ask Deb if she has ever dumped any Narrative info, she would give you a knowing smile.

 

NGS what they want in a station recovery. And you know what? If the Narrative is all crap but someone said they found it and loads a Pic. Trash the Narrative and reduce it to a simple log of Found Good. At least it would be a more recent recovery and that is a leg up!

 

NGS Is looking for ways to make this easier too. They like to read our input. I think making it a bit easier is doable, and if we do and it grows then I see that as good. If problems arise we can work to fix those too.

 

What if, is a favorite concept of mine. Geocac is the agency reporting code for Geocaching. What if there was a different agency code for a general public recovery page. What if we could present the idea to NGS to support 2 different recovery pages. Keep the one they have and add a new one. The new one would be very basic and use pre determined responses but no narrative could be entered. This way an untrained person can add that they found it or did not find it when they looked. Period. Maybe a few other things.

 

Later if this becomes a hobby they enjoy they will find out how to do this in other ways, and develop their skills just like many others have. But for the most part, it would be safe to allow anyone to log on that site. The Database would compare dates and only allow one recovery per calendar year. There, we CAN automate it in a Basic way, and limit the amount of mistakes that can be made. Remember we could see about two different ways to do the recovery page. This one could be pointed at geocaching for use with zero training and super ease.

 

This is good because it is quick and easy for the public, requires little learning curve and will get NGS some basic info they want to know which in the most basic form is simple. Does the station still exist or not? I feel it is a workable and useful idea which NGS could model. At least it would give a Surveyor a more recent idea as to the status of the mark and perhaps be cause for them, or a better experienced mark duster to have a look. Station Recovery can be very basic and still be useful, and if a Recovery page like that existed, the Geocaching website could link to that. If people grew into the hobby further, they could learn about the more detailed recovery page from folks like ourselves here in the forum. Could we interest NGS in such a Model?

 

Just a few other Ideas there for consideration. Let's keep discussing.

 

Remember, if we do nothing, nothing will happen.

 

Rob

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Buck,

 

Let's have a look here...

 

1) We can get rid of most of the "The coordinates are way off!" confusion on SCALED horizontal marks by adding a line under the

 

"Coordinates may not be exact. Altitude is SCALED and location is ADJUSTED. (more info)"

 

line that says, "If the coordinates are SCALED, they may be significantly different; rely on the location description to find the station."

 

Good Idea. The Coordinates are way off, is a statement that leaves too much open to misinterpretation, and I can speak for many who have fielded many questions due to this, But we can dial it in. We can explain the two major mark types and the scaled aspect of vertical control.

 

2) Can Geocaching pull slightly different information from the NGS database, so that the Reference Points section can be a more clearly formatted version of the box score, listing the angle and distance?

 

Possibly. It depends on how good they can code. To be certain, the NGS datasheet already does this. Why not just use the Box Score as it is? It is not that difficult to learn. A short How to primer is not out of the question, such as clickable links to pop up explanations... Of course some Marks have no box scores and are not otherwise referenced as you know.

 

3) Can we have a link to the real NGS datasheet instead of the old Geocaching archived one?

 

That is exactly what I would do. Use the NGS Database period. If a Geocacher looks up a survey mark on geocaching, the geocaching web page would pull the data to build the webpage directly form the NGS database right then and there. All Archiving of dated NGS data would end. We would automatically see all updated info from NGS every time.

 

3) Can the documented history reflect the current updated history from the NGS database?

 

I think you may have meant 4 here... Perhaps 5 on the one after...

 

Yes Because the latest Datasheet for the station would be where Geocaching gets the data. The absolute latest info published by NGS is what you would see. Have you ever noticed that the NGS Datasheet always has a Date on it that represents when the page was generated? have you ever noticed that the NGS Datasheet from Geocaching does not have that date on it at all? I see three good things here. First, we get fresh data either way we go. Geocaching or NGS. Second, Geocaching will free up server space by not having to store the old copy of the database. Third once this is done it should run fine and not require a lot of upkeep from the server side of the app.

 

4) Could there be a chunk of information on logging at the NGS in the empty area between the links to the nearest benchmarks/geocaches and the logs? This is the big piece that needs work.

 

Are you asking for a page which could serve as a tutorial on how to properly approach Survey Mark recovery at NGS? What if we could work with Casey on asking NGS to host such a Page? I think it would be a worthy and appropriate addition to their site, and geocaching could then link to that. It is NGS's Database, and I feel a tutorial regarding how to approach the How of it would be a good thing for them to have. I would even offer input into the writing of it if they like.

 

As to geocaching, I think they could have a page that explains Hunting the Geocaching way. It could be as detailed as need be. I am sure Jeremy would ask that Benchmark Hunter's input be how it would come together. That is if we get there from here.

 

I have not seen too much interest here yet so who knows... I hope some others will step up and share some ideas too. There is a lot of unrealized potential but it will take some doing to do it all. It will come down to whether Benchmark hunters really place a value on helping make it better. If they do not, and are not willing to contribute to it somehow, I doubt Jeremy will even bat an eye. In some ways I would not blame him.

 

Rob

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Evenfall wrote:

 

NONE OF THE STATION RECOVERIES TO NGS IS AUTOMATED. THEY ARE ALL LOOKED AT WITH HUMAN EYES BY DEB BROWN OR OTHER NGS PERSONNEL AFTER THEY ARE SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC AND BEFORE THE INFORMATION IS ADDED TO A DATASHEET.

 

Earlier this week, I was attempting to describe how reaching a mark at the top of a bridge is hazardous because there is not much room to walk alongside the highway.

 

I intended to write:

 

A pedestrian would be sandwiched in a narrow space between traffic and the guard rail.

 

What I submitted was:

 

A pedestrian is sandwiched in a narrow space........

 

I'm waiting for an E-mail from Deb asking, "Gee. Couldn't you help the poor guy?" B)

 

-Paul-

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Paul,

 

But you did not say anything about your favorite Death Metal Band? :-D

 

It is just as well. That would have been screened.

 

We have to try to get it right, but something blatantly inappropriate like Found this one picnicking with the kids, though friendly won't get added to a Datasheet. :-)

 

Rob

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I'm not sure I want to get very deep into this discussion, but I am wary of making it too easy for hobby benchmarkers from Geocaching to file reports with NGS.

 

Even a dumbed-down page without the opportunity to include any narrative could easily result in well-intended false reports. How many times, for example, have Geocachers mistaken a reference mark for the actual station? Or concluded the station was unfound because they failed to find a standard disk (when the station may have been an unmarked point or a stone cairn)?

 

I hope I don't sound elitist when I say that I *like* the idea that it takes a little effort to find the NGS recovery page. I would err on the side of quality, rather than quantity.

 

-ArtMan-

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ArtMan -

 

I agree.

 

It irks me that there are a couple hundred reference marks logged as survey stations. Usually they are near geocaches. If those kind of reports find an easier way to get into the NGS, Deb's gonna get tired of fixing them when we find them and tell her.

 

At a guess, I'd say the quality level on a 1-10 knowledge/accuracy scale is:

surveyors: 10

GC benchmark hunters: 7

USPSQD: 6

GC geocachers that saw a disk: 4

How's that for elitism? ;)

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I'm not sure I want to get very deep into this discussion, but I am wary of making it too easy for hobby benchmarkers from Geocaching to file reports with NGS.

 

Even a dumbed-down page without the opportunity to include any narrative could easily result in well-intended false reports. How many times, for example, have Geocachers mistaken a reference mark for the actual station? Or concluded the station was unfound because they failed to find a standard disk (when the station may have been an unmarked point or a stone cairn)?

 

I hope I don't sound elitist when I say that I *like* the idea that it takes a little effort to find the NGS recovery page. I would err on the side of quality, rather than quantity.

 

-ArtMan-

Artman,

 

Discussion is a good thing. If you were to get a new ca you would want a say in the Type color and payments. If you like the car you have you can always pass, if you would like something better, then you should speak up. I have watched this forum grumble over the want for better things so let's hammer out what that could be and ask for it.

 

As I outlined there would be no Narrative on that Page. Found, Not found. Simple easy, Period. NGS wants recoveries. They are prepared to deal with it but they would like more recoveries.

 

The usual page we have now would also exist for the agencies who also recover. The more experiencer recoverer would likely want to use that.

 

I think we should let NGS deal with their Survey Marks the way they want. They want the public to help. It is not up to you or I to screen that, Nor are we in a position to appoint ourselves as Overseers.

 

If you like we can do nothing and things will continue to be as they are, but we will have no place to grumble if that does not appease us.

 

A good many did not want the forum we are posting in either, but it has not hurt a thing. Progress is not always bad. Everyone here had to learn too.

 

Rob

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BDT, Your point too is well taken.

 

The idea is that with a form that inputs two buttons, someone with no technical aptitude can still contribute without harming the quality. They either found it or didn't. In fact they would not likely bother logging unless they did find it. If all they could say is found it then at least we would have an update and know that a fresh chance for a real recovery is possible. Through that portal only one recovery per year would set a clock making all other attempts unacknowledged and keep things from flooding the datasheet. No initial, no need to keep statistics beyond overall totaling. If they really wanna have credit then they learn the craft.

 

To be honest, those of you who hunt these here are pretty dadgum professional and careful about your work. Coming from me I am sure it doesn't mean much to you all, but I am proud of the care you all take when you put the effort into this work. I am thankful for the quality of your work, And I enjoy taking the time to help you all out with the best answers I can offer you. That is just my opinion, I just work in the field.

 

But, You all really are in a class of Semi Pro Mark duster capacity. I am not being slight by saying semi pro either, the major difference being that of a paid position. You all try do a good job and when you are not sure of yourselves you are not afraid to ask. I have guys who work for me I wish would take as much care or be as conscientious. So take a bow.

 

Just let me come around to your side of the table and ask. What would be the harm if the general untrained public could simply just say Found it? We could check if later it were in our locality, or a Pro could too, But the point is that it bumps up the freshness of recent witness. A hiker may find something where it would be unlikely that many of us will ever venture, but they are there and they saw it, maybe even photographed it. There is value in that contribution even if it is small, and if it inspires them to grow, then maybe we will see them here.

 

Basically BDT, I am proposing a simple system with little to fix. You can find it once a year or you cannot report it. The agency code would be one as such where we know it cam in through that particular portal and that there can be little more known. Pretty simple.

 

A photo upload could be added to that page but it would likely be a step beyond the scope of that page. We are looking for K.I.S.S. Then if the participation goes up because it is simple and not technical nor time consuming.

 

As a Side thought, We could comb the Geocaching Database for founds with photos as proof. As we comparatively prove that it was really found, especially if the finder is not known we could verify the photo and submit a recovery based on Geocaching Data. Again all we could verify is that the disc was found or not. Compare the Data with the Photo and say found. That is it. But as we know, that is a lot of work. It has been proposed before though.

 

The system I am thinking of would allow the public to report or not with little room for error. There would be little harm if you can only make a found report once a year.

 

Have I repeated what I really mean enough here? I hope I am not Misconstrue.

 

I will say again, if we do nothing or propose nothing then we will have what we have, Is that what you want?

 

Any thoughts?

 

Rob

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2) Can Geocaching pull slightly different information from the NGS database, so that the Reference Points section can be a more clearly formatted version of the box score, listing the angle and distance?

 

Possibly. It depends on how good they can code. To be certain, the NGS datasheet already does this. Why not just use the Box Score as it is? It is not that difficult to learn. A short How to primer is not out of the question, such as clickable links to pop up explanations... Of course some Marks have no box scores and are not otherwise referenced as you know.

I do think it would be useful to have a graphical version of the box score. Having the points drawn out with distances and angles labeled provides a visual referenc that is quite handy. I also don't think it's all that much work. Several people have produced these sorts of diagrams in the forums to help find marks.

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Bicknell,

 

That kind of thing is cool but it is a very high end bit of scripting to pull off. It is not likely to happen because it is way too heavily scripted and most coders will not take the time, Besides it is likely not going to be compatible with all Browsers either. I have a friend who is a pretty good web designer and thing like this just give him fits. Will geocaching want something that high maintenance running on their site? Good question. Based on what I have seen happen, I would doubt it. They have a lot of fish to fry. But who knows?

 

There is a bigger bummer to that sort of thing though, It kills any chance of allowing people to do the critical thinking for themselves.

 

Critical thinking skills are a good thing.

 

Rob

Edited by evenfall

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I have read through all this thread. There are 2 totally different issues here and I think they should be discussed separately in 2 new topics here in the NGS area. I didn't start this thread so I figure I have no right to do this. The current topic, NGS CD's is a dead issue at this point, from what I read.

 

I suggest 2 new (separate) topics; something like these:

 

1. Can GC get new NGS data? How?

 

2. Should GC pages link to NGS Recovery?

 

The 2 threads can start with a link to this one for history.

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BDT,

 

I'll bite. Sounds good. I'll take the second suggestion verbatim.

 

The First I'd rephrase as "Geocaching can query the NGS database for fresh Benchmark Web Page Data. Should they recode to do this? "

 

The Benchmark webpage could simply be coded to query the NGS website just as we do for the data needed to parse and assemble its webpage in anyone's browser. The Web browser simply follows directions. It is basic Web design for use with databases. Today's Latest data every single query on Geocaching from here on out.

 

What say you?

 

Rob

Edited by evenfall

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evenfall -

 

The number of characters in a topic title is rather limited so I made a very short proposed one. Whoever makes the new topic could try to fill it to the max. :P

 

I'm sorta waiting around for bicknell to do it, since he started this thread.

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er, I'm replying to the topic as titled, not as the thread has evolved . . . sorry I didn't read all that above . . .

 

NGS LOVES to get it's data out.

- When CDs were invented, we used them.

- When the internet became popular, we switched to that.

 

I don't think NGS would mind if somebody created and distributed CDs, even if they charged for such a value-added service (hey, we are the dept of COMMERCE.) Our website even facilitates creation of such CDs via Archived Datasheets.

 

Only downside for NGS, if CD users bypass our website, we get lower usage statistics. Small price to pay if we end up helping the public.

 

Send me a postal address and I'll see if I can find you one of our old CDs. It would be great if we could add not only datasheets, but NGS software, products, and services descriptions as well.

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Thanks for you offer Joe,

 

I had talked to Dave about the old CD's once and he did mention as you have that the internet will have freshest data. I imagine that since it has been a few years since you guys created CD's that the data could be a bit dated? He seemed to frown on the CD idea when I asked him. He seemed to like the fresh data model better and I can't say I blame him.

 

Anyway, the hope is that eventually the geocaching website can access the NGS database to compile and parse data for it's web pages so that the freshest data can be used when generating the web page in an end user's browser. At least that is what we are kicking around anyhow.

 

Thanks!

 

Rob

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The Archived Datasheets were designed as a monthly replacement/update for our CD-format data and so they are "virtually" as fresh as ever.

 

True, they start as 0-30 days obsolete, and only get more obsolete stored on a CD. For some users, the field accessibility makes up for the obsolescence.

 

As field access to internet becomes more popular, this data stream should die out eventually. Currently our Archived Datasheets downloads hover at about 1000 users per month.

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Joe,

 

Do you think the NGS severs could handle Geocaching pulling fresh data from the servers in the course of generating every webpage a geocacher may call? It would be nice to generate the geocaching pages from the freshest data and it would seem to be in line with your agencies desire to have the freshest data be available.

 

This is an internet application, not a field app, so it would seem to be in line with current NGS thinking. It would appear you guys are handling some pretty good traffic already, It might not be much of a problem at all.

 

What might be your thoughts on this idea Joe?

 

Thanks, Rob

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Rob -- That would make NGS happy,

but geocaching.com would have to put in the extra effort to meld databases on-the-fly, might suffer a few extra seconds of delay in generating the geocache BM pages, and would make their system more fragile (more breaking points and loss of control.) There are a number of private/vendor software routines that rely on such a live-link through our datasheets so we try to keep them stable.

 

An alternative would be some routine DB comparison/update using our Archived datasheets.

 

I'd like to push NGS towards offering data in a more DB-friendly format like XML but for now you have your choice of DATASHEET, SDTS, or ShapeFile.

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Joe,

I think what we mean is Geocaching linking to the real NGS datasheet instead of their old archived one just below the name of the station. I don't think Geocaching will be able to update their total PID database, and create sheets for new stations or delete old ones, on the fly.

However, I'm not adverse to them doing a yearly dump of the NGS database to update the history that they show on each of their PID pages.

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Buck,

 

Joe is on the same page as I am, And he sees exactly what I am suggesting. He is offering the ways NGS makes data available and he thinks what we propose is doable if we work with the already provided NGS formats. Geocaching will store no data.

 

As an example; I go to the geocaching website. I call the geocaching webpage for PID HX7890 The webpage code I load tells the browser to render html and other web browser codes from Geocaching, and it tells the browser to go to NGS for Data, and how to render the data so it appears the way Geocaching wants it to on the page. None of the NGS Data comes from Geocaching, Just the How to render it for the desired appearance and formatting does.

 

ALL the Survey data would come direct from NGS and be as fresh as that days date every day. If I load that page today I get today's page. If I load that page in a month from today and a station recovery was received and added to that PID it will show up that time when I load the page. This way Geocaching is loading only the freshest NGS data in perpetuity or until geocaching quits. Best of all, It could be done and no one would really notice because the page look could remain the same and the rest goes on behind the scenes. It would be up to Geocaching if they wanted a different page look, as that is their trademark.

 

This schema would require Geocaching to archive very little NGS Information beyond needing a Map of currently available, Valid PID's. Of Course Geocaching can code so that it never deletes the old destroyed PID but always adds new ones, this way the geocacher recoveries made to marks, before they were destroyed will remain archived by geocaching as geocaching data.

 

Holograph and a few others among us have shown that various types of Data can be mined form either website and formatted in any way it needs to be presented. This is how he tabulates the statistics he does. In a similar manner, we can develop ways to help Geocaching work more efficiently.

 

What we need to get our mind around is this. NGS outputs Data in a limited number of ways. They will not be creating one off specials. We currently have your choice of DATASHEET, SDTS, or ShapeFile. We can do it in Counties and Monthly updates and PID Singles. that is all. When Properly coded, a webpage would chase only what is needed to fulfill the question asked. One PID at a time. All Geocaching would need to store is a Master list of all possible PIDS from when they began up to now and continue adding as NGS adds. Those are the limitations.

 

Another thing we need to understand is that Jeremy and his team are not looking to add more to their plate than they have to. They are busy for one with the daily work of this website and the Benchmark hunting scenario is not High priority.

 

Did I make it clear that the Owner(s) favor Geocaching over benchmark hunting here? I mean for us all to understand this. So if we want a change for the better, WE need to sort through the details and do some of the heavy lifting. It would in the end need to work, and work well. Also be low maintenance as possible.

 

A Major point we have in our favor is that this will ease pressure on Geocaching servers. It will free up some space and use a bit less bandwidth for them so that would be a plus, even though it is basic text they are storing. Those are good business plans in any Business's book

 

Jeremy did mention last October that he would be interested in listening to ways the database could be upgraded and he may still be. He Phrased the Sentence to NGS during the conversation when Casey was appointed as Liaison to Geocaching. Seven Months have Passed since though, and both NGS and Geocaching have other Irons in the fire. I am proposing that we find a way to keep it upgraded to real time NGS Status and it is doable. Once done, unless a scheme is changed somehow, Geocaching should never have to worry about updating again.

 

If someone here knows how to Code and understands Databases, then we could try to assemble code that will do what we would like to see incorporated here and offer it to Jeremy as a possible upgrade model which he can test.

 

The Key is we need it to work well and be simple for Geocaching to incorporate or it will not likely happen. I am reasonably sure that if we do nothing, Nothing is what we will get. People have been asking for Pocket Queries on Benchmarks for ever and it has not happened. Most of the things that have been developed to make Benchmark hunting easier have come from Geocachers and are 3rd party. We need to understand that there will be little handed to us.

 

So the work for now is deciding on a scheme we would like to see and to see if we can develop it. If we can't, or more importantly if nobody is willing to, then I would not look for much to happen. We may get what we negotiate, but that is it. I am hopeful we can all come together to hammer out the details and try to make something work.

 

As Always, Rob

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All having agreed upon adding the link to the fresh datasheets, we probably should take BDT's advice and split the topic up into several fresh ones, one of which should start with the sentiments of your last post. This one is getting lengthy. Any takers to do so?

Edited by BuckBrooke

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OK, I did it - there are now 2 new topics to continue 2 parts of this discussion:

 

1. Ideas For Re-designing G.C. Benchmark Pages

Auto-import to get latest NGS PID data

 

2. Should GC Pages Have A Link To Ngs Mark Recovery?

 

If there is any further discussion about re-making an NGS data CD, that would continue here in this topic.

 

Everyone - feel free to re-synopsize, or copy some or all of a recent post here in the new topic, or make a link in the new topic to a post here.

 

(The way to make a link to a previous post is to click on the word Posted at the top of a post, see the window with the post's link, hold down the control button and hit the c key to copy the post's link. Where you're writing a new post, use the http:// linking button as usual.)

 

Please continue the current discussion in the new topic!

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