The Dark Side of geocaching

Spotted this article on CNN today: Geocaching puts authorities on edge. It’s about what happens when police find geocaches and think they might be bombs and such.

Rounding a corner on his motorcycle to finish rigging his cache, he was greeted by a barricade of police cars and a bomb squad. He struggled to explain the misunderstanding.

“I got off my bike and three officers approached me very cautiously, hands on their holsters,” he said. “I was trying to turn off my MP3 player and I think they were worried I was going for a detonator.”

(Find out more about geocaching at the official site.)

I’ve got a GPS, but haven’t actually gotten around to trying geocaching, even though I want to. Maybe this year. But the article also makes me think of what a friend asked me, once: What if someone actually does put a bomb or something in a geocache? And ruins it for everybody?

Something I don’t really have an answer to; I’m not that cynical, I suppose. The good thing is, it hasn’t happened yet that I know of, and hopefully it won’t ever happen.

Latitude and longitude

Here’s an interesting site I stumbled upon today: The Degree Confluence Project. From their homepage:

The goal of the project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures and stories will then be posted here.

Sort of like a blog post for every latitude and longitude intersection on Earth (well, every one on land, anyway). Cool idea. Here’s the nearest confluence to Bend.

This reminds me of another idea I had along these lines after reading an article in Discover Magazine: geographically-based Web browsing. It’s not a new idea, I can’t claim it, but here’s the gist: You have a portable device that’s connected wirelessly to the internet (laptop, PDA, whatever) and is GPS-enabled, so you have realtime GPS coordinates for wherever you are and a live net connection. Then, you browse pages that aren’t accessible via a Web address, but accessible instead based on your current location—tagged by the latitude and longitude fed via the GPS. These “pages” can be like standard Web pages—ads, for instance, for stores that might be close by—or they can be more interactive—forms for users to enter notes tagged to that location that can be read by others. Virtual graphitti.

So, there would pages and content that you could only access while sitting at a certain bench in the park, and totally different stuff that could only be accessed in front of the shoestore downtown, etc. etc. Sort of a cybergeek way to “map” the Web onto the real, 3D world. To find pages you’d have to navigate to the corresponding real-world location. I like the user interaction part of it, too, the thought being that anyone could leave those “notes” for others. That’s pretty key. The term I had at the time for all this was “geosurfing.”

Imagine some of the cultural weirdness this could engender: most content would be tagged to “people-safe” areas like sidewalks, parks, buildings, etc., but there would always be daredevils who would tag a geosite corresponding to the middle of a busy city street or freeway, accessible only to those brave or stupid enough to try. Or horny teenagers (or porn entrepreneurs) would have cached geosites of porn in secret or obscure places (creepy thought: like the end of the pew third row from the back of the local church), or in bars to help enforce adult-only sites. Geosites near movie theaters could have user-posted reviews of what’s showing, or spoilers, and restaurant sites might have similar notes—need to figure out a good wine or recommended dish when on a date? Check the local notes discreetly. It goes on.

The main drawback? No ubiquitous WiFi. So while this might be a cool application to build (the data model and concepts are sketched out pretty well in my head), and might work in a large, well-wired city like San Francisco or New York, it really wouldn’t work at all here in Bend, and that’s obviously where I’d most like to use it. So, filed away for the future.

GeoURL

I just found a neat site: GeoURL ICBM Address Server. You register the latitude and longitude of your web site (or your location if the web server housing your site is elsewhere, as in my case) with GeoURL, and they will then show you all the other websites they have registered in proximity to you. Neat!

Right off the bat I see that within 4 miles of me is UtterlyBoring.com, a blog site run by another local computer geek.

Damn, this is what the internet is all about.