From:
"Neil R. Ormos" <ormos@enteract.com>
Sent: 3/18/2002 2:48:33 PM
To:
gpsstash@yahoogroups.com
Cc:
Bcc:
Subject:

Re: [gpsstash] Re: free access to the data


David April wrote:
>Neil Ormos wrote:
>>Dave April wrote:

>>> geocaching.com is not serving their (the whiners) needs by
>>> making the data exportable. I disagree. I've seen at least
>>> 2 occasions where Jeremy has responded to this particular
>>> complaint:
>>> 1. He made the data exportable into EasyGPS.
>>> 2. He has a cooperative agreement with Ed Hall

>> Thus, access to the data is controlled by Mr. Irish, and
>> therefore, those seeking different presentations of the
>> data are SOL. You hand-wave away what happened between
>> Messrs. Hall and Irish prior to their later agreement.
>> IIRC, Irish denied Hall's access to the geocaching.com
>> web site and made noises about copyright infringement.
>> Those paying attention might have noted that the data
>> Hall was using was probably not subject to copyright
>> protection.

> And we also noticed that whatever hue and cry Jeremy
> raised at the time, went away since Ed is still producing
> his maps. I ackowledge that Ed says the relationship is
> not cordial, but he still has access to the data. I see
> that Ed responded that he grabs it (via his scripts of
> course) the same way that the rest of us do - that is, he
> does not have whatever you view as a more convenient
> publicly accessible, publicly owned data store. But he can
> still get to, and create a different (and better)
> presentation of the data. I could write a perl script to
> grab the waypoint data of the caches as well if I was so
> inclined. So is your argument that the data is not
> available to *you* in the format *you* want? Or is it that
> *you* are not controlling the data?

If you really wanted to know what my problem with the status
quo, you could simply try to read my earlier posts, instead
of expediently accusing me of having some kind of ulterior
motive. However, since repetition is the key to learning
for some, I'll elaborate (and again, I urge you to read
slowly so you might get it this time):

1. The data is not available to anyone in a standard,
consistent format, separate from the user interface. This
is bad because the user interface may change at any time,
destroying the users' investment in scripts or other
extraction technology. In addition, time and effort
expended in extracting the data via a cumbersome interface
obviously detracts from time and effort spent creating new,
useful, and innovative presentations and applications.

2. Other posters have suggested that extracting information
from the geocaching.com site for use in posting elsewhere
may violate the geocaching.com user agreement. I haven't
analyzed the agreement myself, so I make no comment on
whether the agreement is effective or whether any act by any
user might violate the agreement. As a corollary, some site
content may conceivably be protected by copyright, but I
explicitly disclaim analysis of that issue as well.
Moreover, as far as I can tell from postings here, Mr. Irish
has made no agreement to share the data with other websites,
including non-commercial websites that clearly don't compete
with his. This is bad, because Mr. Irish may again threaten
others with legal action, as, according to reports here and
elsewhere, he has done in the past. The risk of being sued
by an entity with more resources, regardless of the merits
of the suit, can have a chilling effect on attempts by those
with fewer resources who might otherwise wish to develop
alternate presentations or applications.

3. Access to the geocaching.com web site could be disabled
for any reason at any time. For example, it would not be
particularly difficult to detect attempts to use automated
means to extract data from the site and responsively deny
access. Further, Mr. Irish could decide to turn pull the
plug completely at any time, or, should the venture turn out
to be unsuccessful, that decision could be made without his
input, e.g., by a bankruptcy court or trustee. This is bad,
because the data others need (whether for alternate
presentations or plain, ordinary geocaching), would be
unavailable.

> I see that we as a community have a steward who cares
> about the data repository. Whether that is a volunteer
> steering group or a commercial entity is not relevant to
> me, as long as they are responsive to the needs of the
> community.

Yes, yes, we've all seen this before. Next, you define the
"needs of the community" to be congruent to whatever is
currently provided by geocaching.com, which coincidentally
circumscribes *your* needs, and presto, everyone else's
needs are irrelevant. It's kind of like the fiction that we
have a representative government and therefore, whatever the
government does, is, by definition, "responsive to the needs
of the community." Now where did I put that "selfish and
myopic" magic smoke?

> It is my belief that geocaching.com has been
> responsive to the community. You may not agree with that
> perspective. I can respect an alternative opinion.

The extent of your generosity will be legend. All hail
"April the Magnanimous".

> You don't seem to want to acknowledge that much of the
> credit for the size of the repository is due to the
> promotional efforts of Jeremy and geocaching.com on behalf
> of the sport. Navicache and other sites that seek to be
> alternatives have not caught on or have not advertised
> their existence with the same fervor.

I look forward to the evidence you would offer in favor of
the proposition that without Mr. Irish's promotional
activities, the hobby of geocaching would be significantly
smaller or qualitatively different.

Even assuming, arguendo, that Mr. Irish's promotional
activities have increased the number of caches or of
participants, it is unclear how that might be relevant to
the issue of having a separate, non-commercial, database of
cache information.

>>> For all of you who complain about not having access to the
>>> data, put your money where your mouth is like Ed did. You
>>> certainly have easy enough access to the data to put
>>> together a prototype of any application that uses waypoint
>>> data in an interesting way. Build one and let the market
>>> decide if it is useful or interesting.

>> You miss the point entirely. Read slowly so you'll get it
>> this time. The point is to have a publicly accessible,
>> volunteer-maintained repository of cache data so that anyone
>> who wants to create some arbitrary view of the data is free
>> to do so.

> But you can. You just haven't tried. It might not be as
> nice and convenient as you'd like it to be, but you can
> get to the data.

I and others have addressed that earlier.

> Why do you assume that the quality of a
> volunteer-maintained repository of cache data is going to
> be better than a repository where someone has a vested
> interest in keeping their customers happy?

First of all, IIRC, no one has asserted that a
volunteer-maintained repository would have cache data of
higher "quality", however that might be measured. However,
if all of the cache web sites cooperated in the independent
repository, the data quality in the independent repository
would be no worse than the data in those privately-operated
sites.

Second, although your little "private enterprise has a
vested interest in keeping their customers happy" reprise is
an obvious troll, I can give lots of examples where
commercial ventures are not particularly focused on
"quality" or generally happy customers. Wal-Mart, Best Buy,
and Commonwealth Edison come to mind. If prices are
sufficiently low, or if the vendor has a monopoly, consumers
often tolerate inferior customer service and product
quality.

>> In such a model, the "market" is entirely irrelevant;
>> users would have the freedom to create a view of the data
>> that may be useful to them alone, without validation by
>> others. [ . . . ]
>> The "market" is further irrelevant in that those desiring
>> to create a non-commercial database, so far, have not
>> indicated an intention to buy or sell the data.

> The market is not irrelevant. Your public access database
> is of no value if there is no one who wants to use
> it. Whether or not you have paying customers, the
> consumers of your data are still your market and you need
> to be responsive to them or they will find an
> alternative. Geocaching.com has been responsive to it's
> customers. And the vast majority of us have been, and will
> continue to be, non paying customers. (Well, I guess I
> can't claim that entirely - I bought a T-Shirt for my 10
> year old son)

Sheesh. You could at least *try* to read the earlier posts,
particularly when you quote them. There *are* people who
want the basic cache data and would prefer it be delivered
by an independent, non-commercial database; several of them
have already posted to this mailing list, in which only a
small fraction of the potential audience participates. Your
position requires potential developers of alternate
presentations or applications to demonstrate overwhelming
acceptance by "the market" without even having the data
available, which is impossible when the data is monopolized,
and is impractical and irrelevant when the alternate
presentations/applications are non-commercial. The whole
point, for the n-th time, is that folks should be free to
use the data to develop presentations and applications
useful to them, without (necessarily) validation by others.

>> This notion requires, of course, the ability to
>> understand that the greater good is not always optimized
>> through the local maximization of personal wealth or
>> convenience.

> Nor is it realized by some idealistic,
> designed-by-committee, resource hampered volunteer
> group. I'm still waiting for that official Mozilla browser
> release so I can view geocaching.com with it...

Sure. One example proves that all things
designed-by-committee, and promoted by resource hampered
volunteer groups are worthless. I suppose you're busy
criticizing Linux, too.