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June and I started geocaching in August 2001 but it is only now that I've set up this page after being contacted by a high school student in the USA. He is doing a project which involves interviewing personalities related to geocaching. His budget did not extend to trans-atlantic 'phone calls, so we've done it by email. His questions are below, along with my answers.
I rarely enter into any conversation with someone who wishes to
remain anonomous, but on this occasion I've broken my own rule.
By providing him the information on a web page, I can include
links to relevant information, and also share these old and
happy memories with you all.
Robin Lovelock, Sunninghill in UK, April 2009.
To start off with, could you briefly describe yourself, and what kind of person you see yourself as? I've read the very interesting biography on your website, but I don't know the kinds of things that I might intuit simply by walking into your house to interview you.
I'm now 62, so considerably older than yourself. If you walked into our house you would probably be struck by how the games room is cluttered by so many of my hobby projects, including GPS-controlled robot boats and model aircraft used for air-to-air filming of birds. You would probably find me approachable and with a well-developed sense of humour - but you had better consult others on this, including my long-suffering wife, June :-) I assume you have already visited our family and history pages.
When did you start geocaching?
June and I found our first geocache on Saturday 25th August 2001, and we were hooked. There were very few geocaches in the UK then: maybe only one hundred, and mostly in the north. "The Queens's Oak" at N 51° 22.096 W 000° 51.698 was only 10 miles west of us, and not far from where I lived as a child.
We did not have a hand-held GPS then, so we used my software running on a Laptop with a GPS mouse. I had to carry the laptop from the car, and it was June who found the cache. The big surprise was when we opened the box and read the log book at 1300. The previous couple (from Winchester) had been there only 30 minutes before, at 1230. The couple before (from Holland) were there at 1200 ! The log book entries explained how the Dutch couple had left some cakes and hoped to try the "The Molebowl" cache next, some 20 miles east near Esher. The Winchester couple took the cakes and said they would try and reach the next cache before the Dutch couple. June and I wrote in the book, took a picture of ourselves with the instant camera, and left a CD in the cache.
That evening we were at Pam and Alan's, old friends of ours with two young sons. Over coffee I mentioned our new-found hobby, geocaching.com, and the Queens's Oak cache. The two boys were tapping on keyboards while we chatted, and they were soon reading out what had been logged on the two geocache pages: The Winchester couple found the Molebowl cache first, put in the cakes, then hid in the bushes - to watch the faces of a very surprised Dutch couple :-)
How did you first hear about geocaching?
I was told about geocaching, just the day before, by George Chung in the USA. He had registered our GPS Software, said he was using it for geocaching, so I asked him what geocaching was.
Did you start by using only Geocaching.com, or did you always use the alternative websites as well? What made you decide to do whichever one you did?
Yes, we've always used geocaching.com because there have always been more caches on it. When I was told about other sites, like navicache.com , we used that as well. I think a little competition is healthy ;-)
What is your opinion on Geocaching.com? I can understand if you don't feel strongly about it, but I know that some cachers believe it is the only serious geocaching website, while others see it as a bit of a big evil competitor to alternative caching sites.
geocaching.com has always been an excellent and reliable site. These days there is hardly anything to compete with it, and I would hate to see it go, or Jeremy deny it's free use: i.e. allow only use by Premium members. But if he did, it would still be good value for money.
On the same topic, do you believe that, in a perfect world, there would be one universal geocaching site, numerous independent ones, or something altogether different?
I guess, in a perfect World, there would be one or two alternative sites, just as popular and with as many caches, to provide healthy competition. It takes little time to paste your logs onto an additional one or two sites. But we don't live in a perfect World: we must live in the one we do :-)
Were there any significant differences in the development of geocaching in the U.K. verse the U.S. that you know of?
I don't know of any differences. We've also geocached outside the UK in places like Holland, Spain and Italy, and it seems to have developed in most countries in a similar way.
Do you think that there currently any significant differences between geocaching in the U.K. and geocaching in the U.S., or is treasure-hunting universal? Your name, whether it deserves to or not, seems to have already gone down in geocaching history as being central to the one of first major controversies in geocaching. In your opinion, how important was the controversy actually? A mere forum flame war, a necessary examination of the core ideology of geocaching, or something in between?
When you contacted me about this, I was both surprised and amused: "gone down in geocaching history" eh ? I always assumed it was just a "mere forum flame war" local to the UK Forum. I never did spend much time on that Forum, preferring to speak with other geochers directly. I did hear that whenever my name came up it provoked a storm - without any input from me. Life is too short for me to speculate on the reasons :-)
I've read the defenses you've made, as well as the thread on the U.K. forums linked to from your former account. However, I'm sure that your opinions and perceptions of what was happening changed as events unwound. I know this phrase has negative connotations, but I don't mean them - I just cannot think of a better way to say it. What did you actually think you were doing when you hid the large number of easy caches with free software around your home?
I don't think my views have changed since 2001, and what you can read by following links such as our old page www.gpss.co.uk/geocache to my "defence" on www.gpss.co.uk/geocuk.htm
Are there still people around now who think what I did then in planting those 30+ caches was wrong ? Would they prefer it if they had been microcaches, with a slip of paper inside a film cannister, instead of a large box with log book, swaps and an instant camera ? :-)
I soon heard, back in 2001, that people objected to my leaving free copies of my software CDs. This had been suggested by others, but I could see it might be misunderstood. So I stopped doing it, although I still can't see what all the fuss was about. I hardly needed to use geocaching to promote my own business: over the years it's been the complete reverse.
I'm reasonably clear on the issue, but not on how events actually occurred. Could you give me something of a chronology of how things went between when people first started complaining and when you were reinstated on geocaching.com?
You may find out more precise details yourself, but off the top of my head, our original geocaching.com account "Robin and June" * was first banned back on 5th November 2001. This included archiving of all our caches (on geocaching.com but not navicache.com). A few weeks later they were re-instated, but shortly after I believe a heated discussion arose on the UK Forum. Shortly after, I think Jeremy Irish decided it would be better to ban the account again, to put an end to this bickering.
We opened the new account "Robin and June Lovelock" to support our geocaching activity, but I saw no point in putting our geocaches on the site, and causing the same old problem to arise again. Instead, we put them on navicache.com. I did not want to be accused of setting up this new account in a "sneaky" manner: hence the openess of it's name and the details you can read in the profile.
It's a pity that our old account "Robin and June" is still banned, since it means you will not be able to read our old logs to caches we found in the early years, but we are happy to continue, as we are now, using "Robin and June Lovelock".
Reading the thread on the U.K. site, you came across as much more reasonable, accommodating and friendly than your detractors, and you explained your actions so that it seemed there should not have been a controversy. However, there is one thing I noticed. Both in replying to my e-mails and making your forum posts, you linked to your website about every four lines. Any comments?
The reason for those links is mostly to avoid my having to do too much typing :-) The links also provide a lot more detailed information to support what I say. So rather than write lots of words about us, it's easier to point you at our family page.
How big of a problem do you think geotrashing actually is? For people who don't have determined geo-enemies?
I don't think geotrashing is a problem at all. I thought it might become a problem, back in February 2002, when I saw some evidence of it: just the front page torn out of the log book in one of my caches. But that seems to have remained an isolated incident, I'm pleased to say.
How do you think cache hides have changed over the years? I've gotten a sense that caches have gradually become more urban. Would you agree with that?
It's developed much as I would have hoped and expected: it seems that wherever you are, in any country, there will be a cache within a few minutes drive, if not walk. A vast number seem to be microcaches, without the log book or space for swaps. No chance of "the Dutch cakes" story happening with these :-) But different people will enjoy geocaching in different ways: some will want to see how many they can find in a day and may treat it like a sport. Others, like us, prefer to take our time, read the log book, write a few words, and make sure the cache is properly hidden before we leave.
Are there any changes you've seen in geocaching over the years that you've found interesting? You mentioned charity caches in an e-mail.
I can't say I've seen much change, other than the vast increase in numbers, both of caches and geocachers, and the fact that far fewer caches are conventional ones. It was Peter, copied in one of my emails, that mentioned charity caches. As I mentioned earlier, we introduced our old friends Peter and Jacquie to geocaching many years ago, and they've found thousands of caches since then - vastly more than us. I'm sure Peter will give you his views on the subject.
In your opinion, is geocaching a sport, a hobby, a game, or something else?
It can be any or all of these. We treat it as a hobby.
Why do you geocache?
It often makes us visit a place we did not know about. e.g. an active sulpher lake west of Naples, Italy when were on holiday. It also can add a little extra interest to a walk we were going to take anyway, along a footpath we had not visited before.
What is your favorite kind of find (or hide)?
A full size geocache, with dry logbook, swaps, and in an area which has interest value in itself. The real pleasure is where you spend a minute or two searching then ask yourself, "why didn't I see it earlier ?". A recent example was where the cache was in a camoflaged green bag, hanging in a tree, inches from your face when stood at the GZ (ground zero). It's also good if there is a suitable spot, such as a seat, within site of the cache, so you can read the log book at your liesure, without arousing suspicions of others. This may be one reason why the log book enties often have little more than a TFTC (Thanks For The Cache).
What do you see in the future of geocaching?
I guess it will continue to spread and be something where you can do it all from your internet-enabled GPS 'phone. That's what June and I use, often only deciding to geocache a few minutes before we find a cache. We ask, "I wonder if there is a geocache near here ?" - and there often is :-)
These days you can often find a geocache without a GPS - just follow the links from geocache.com to a google earth map. See where it is on the map and relative to landmarks like trees and shrubs. We often enjoy seeing if we can find a cache where we have simply tried to remember where we saw it on the map before we set out. It then becomes a bit like the old UK sport of "letterboxing".
What is your opinion on the significance of geocaching to the larger modern world?
I think it's main value is to get young kids away from their TV or PC, and out into the fresh air and the real World. The Internet has had far greater Worldwide effect, including bringing people together, but geocaching cannot take claim to that. It's a great combination of the Net and Fresh Air :-)
Are there any useful but less-than-obvious sources you can think of (people it would be a good idea to interview, books, websites, etc.) and point me towards?
I've already put you in contact with Peter, and I can with others.
And finally…Garmin or Magellan?
These days there are so many GPS to choose from. You can checkout our GPS Advice page, but for geocaching I would reccomend that people simply get the cheapest GPS they can.
For us it started in August 2001 with carrying a Laptop PC - not to be reccomended. June and our daughter Samantha had a shopping trip to New York that September, days after 911. They came back with a yellow Garmin Etrex, and we've used that for years. In the last year or two we use fancier products: with me it is a Mio Pocket PC based GPS, and with June it's her Nokia GPS 'phone.
What a funny question to end on :-)
* original geocaching.com account was "
Robin Lovelock", not "Robin and June".
I see our old, archived caches on geocaching.com are still there: click here.
This is very old information, so you should follow the navicache.com links from here.
Footnote from Robin on 7th December 2012: I just stumbled on this Forum Reply from Robin in October 2001 so thought I'd add it here, "for the record" :-)