A couple of years ago the makers of Geocaching went out and tried to expand upon their game. Taking what had become a few popular subsets of geocaching in virtual caches, benchmarking and earthcaches, they creating a more open format that they termed Waymarking. Waymarking essentially was a way for people to get the GPS coords of various objects and places and put them in varying categories on the website. These places had no caches there, so it was more about visiting these places than it was about finding the hidden box of goodies.
Waymarking, unlike geocaching, however had a much more difficult time gaining steam. Geocachers which were expected to be the bread and butter of initial waymarkers scoffed at the idea largely due to some of their initial category offerings like McDonalds. The developers created this category to show that you could create categories for everything, from unique events (such as Pikachu sightings), memorable places, to the mundane places such as McDonalds. The problem is that who the heck wants to see a McDonald’s?
This became an ongoing issue with the site, there was a rush of every day categories like Wendy’s, Walmarts, Taco Bells, etc. Places no one would WANT to visit even if they got paid, let alone for the fun of it. There were some people who advocated more interesting categories and thus there was a lot of promise in the site from categories like Ginormous objects, odd speed limit signs, best kept secrets, and I personally put out a category called Building Buildings (a category to track bigger buildings as they got built).
The trend though for the common places seemed to be continuing. People were voting through even more chains largely because there already were chains. There were two arguments for these. The first was that there was already a McDonald’s Category, so why not allow other fast food chain restaurants? The second argument was that even if it isn’t interesting to me, it doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to someone and the site was supposed to provide interest to other people (though I’m still not sure who really had interest in these types of categories, they really are mostly about stats). So in anger about the site essentially becoming a yellowbook.com website with GPS coordinates, I decided to stop.
Recently, I have been wanting to go do more with my trusty GPS receiver and since it is winter in Wisconsin and we’ve had a ton of snow, so I haven’t been able to geocache, I decided to give waymarking another shot. First off, the website is much better. They have happily added some much needed features to give players more goals like ribbons for marks and visitations, a grid was made to track the icons of the categories you’ve marked (wish they did similar for visited), and a map of the U.S. was added for places you’ve visited and marked. These are great features that I wish would make their way over to geocaching (waymarking was always way ahead of geocaching.com in user interface which is sad two years later that they couldn’t update geocaching. They’ve added a lot easier ways to download waymarks to your GPS or into Google Earth which is very much needed.
There has also been a wealth of new interesting categories in the website like Photo Goals which allows waymarkers to create goals using cameras that other waymarkers can copy in order to fulfill. For instance, one goal is to take your picture in front of a news van, which is a difficult thing to waymark naturally. This has created much more fun in the game and shows some of the promise that the game actually had in the first place.
Another thing that I’ve been happy about is that in general, the waymarkers themselves seem to have become more concerned with the overly used objects out in the world. I’ve seen since I came back a lot of categories that would have been approved two years ago get the reject, likely because of this issue. In the forums you can see this as well. Someone brought up the idea of a category about post office blue boxes for instance and took a decent amount of flak about the idea. This actually makes me wish there was a way to have a peer review process for older waymarks. Even if it took a higher percentage of vote to get it taken out, it might be a nice way to get some of the worse categories out from the early years that floated by on nicer reviewers.
For me, I’m still torn on the idea. I think it could be really cool, though I don’t think it is quite there yet even after three years. This makes me think that it is likely never to be. If the idea were good, it would have gotten there by now. The developers say they don’t have the resources that geocaching has, which may be true. But without more resources and without giving more direction to the community, I don’t think they will get the people to play to make it last. Still, when you can’t geocache, it is really nice to have a secondary activity, I just wish I could afford to travel more so that I could see the more spectacular places that have been waymarked….