Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Johnnie's Cache Store

As mentioned in a prior blog entry, one of the invited participants at the NASA workshop in New Hampshire was Shauna Maggs, a representative of Groundspeak who gave each of us a very special Lackeys 2009 coin that is outrageously valuable as an extremely rare collector's item in the geocaching universe (Shauna is the blonde-haired figure, 2nd from the left on the 3rd row from the bottom). Geocaches are little treasures "hidden in plain sight" all around the globe and typically containing a log book and miscellaneous trinkets. The basic idea is to use GPS to locate these hidden caches and then share your experiences online. While we were at UNH, Shauna took us to a local geocache location where we found a small magnetic container with a logbook inside (and nothing else). Although the treasure was not so rich, the hunt was fun, albeit a bit too easy, due to the iPhone geocaching application that Shauna carries with her at all times. I took the opportunity to get my picture taken with Shauna, cache-in-hand, which is the geocaching equivalent of being photographed with your arm around the Pope. I am wearing infrared goggles that highlight vegetation health to add an additional touch of style... Life just couldn't get any better!
Beside enjoying our 15 minutes of fame with this geocaching celeb, we learnt a lot about this fascinating world which has millions of enthusiasts and has extraordinary crowdsourcing potential for some serious climate change monitoring at precise locations all around the world, using our idea of the "virtual picturepost".
In addition to geocaches, Groundspeak also operates a program called Waymarking which allows people to mark unique locations on the planet (such as Ginormous Everyday Objects) and "give them a voice". Perhaps most interesting of all is the latest Groundspeak "product" called WhereIgo, which is a toolset for creating and playing adventures in the real world using GPS technology to guide you to physical locations and interact with virtual objects and characters. The potential for all of these tools to greatly enrich our environmental monitoring (as well as our urban experiences) is phenomenal and I look forward to exploring just what is possible with Shauna in the not-too-distant future.
When I returned to Santa Fe, I was showing some friends how many caches there are within a mile of everyone's house (unbeknownst to us) , and -- sure enough -- there was a cache (aptly called Johnnie's Cache) at Johnnie's Cash Store, a legendary local landmark right across the street from the casita where I am staying. I think I will leave my precious Lackey geocoin in there before I leave. I have registered it and set as its goal to follow me around the world as I spend 1/2 of my time in Santa Fe, 1/2 in Spencer, MA and 1/2 in Venice... I am counting on you to help the coin keep up with me in my peregrinations!
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