Then there was the period when I went through a whole series of methods of dealing with abandoned listings. First I had set up the site so others could automatically adopt them if the owner hadn't logged in for a year, but then I'd get irate e-mails from the occasional person who'd come back about their boxes being set out for adoption. Then I created an "abandoned" status so people could see at a glance that the box might have issues and the listing may not be up-to-date, but then I kept getting requests from folks asking to adopt them (which I had stopped allowing). Seems like no matter what I did with those abandoned listings (either because the owner no longer logs into Atlas Quest at all or because the owner just doesn't update the status of their boxes when they are known to go missing), someone would be up in arms about it. And yet, nobody likes those listings.
As Atlas Quest ages, it's a problem that continues to grow worse and worse.
So once again, I'm taking another stab at the problem. =) Now, if you head on over to the Advanced Search page, you'll find a few new options. Near the bottom of the page, just above the options to hide your plants, finds, and attempted boxes, there are three new options. Let me tell you about each of them....
Hide Abandoned BoxesThis option removes from the search results any box whose owner has not logged into Atlas Quest for at least six full months. The boxes may be perfectly viable, but if it isn't, there's probably nothing in the listings that would let you know. If you have trouble finding a box, sending an e-mail off to the owner probably won't get you any results. So a lot of people would just as soon not look for such boxes.
Technically, I should point out, it's actually only hiding abandoned listings on Atlas Quest--the owner may very well be maintaining their boxes and simply be regular members of letterboxing.org. (It happens quite often, in fact.) But as far as AQ can determine, the owner simply isn't around maintaining their listings on Atlas Quest. The fact that their boxes are also abandoned is just an assumption.
There are approximately 53,000 active boxes listed on Atlas Quest, and this search option would knock out about 4,000 of them from the search results. To insure your own boxes don't get "knocked out," just make sure you've logged into AQ at least once every six months. Additionally, I've decided to enable this option as a default for most traditional box searches.
Hide StrikeoutsYou probably don't know what a 'strikeout' is, since I just made it up last night. =) It's what happens when you look for the box but then fail to find it. You've struck out! Some people will go so far as to record their attempt on Atlas Quest, and if you look at the history of attempts on the box, you might see a long list of failed attempts. (One particular box listing has 62 consecutive attempts on it!) Does it mean the box is missing? Not necessarily. It might mean that the box is really, really tough to find. But if there are several consecutive attempts on a box, more often than not, it's usually missing. And most people do not enjoy trying to find boxes that are likely missing.
So I took the baseball analogy here. Three strikes, and you're out! Checking this option will remove from the search results any box where the last three entries on the find report are all attempts. Setting your preferences to hide attempts does not make your boxes immune, either. If there are a lot of attempts on your box, you can't "trick" people into looking for a box that they don't want to find by hiding your attempts.
If you like a challenge, you'll want to keep those strikeouts in your search results. Since most people don't, I'm also making the default for most searches to not include strikeouts.
What if one of your boxes has three (or more) attempts but it really is active and still can be found? That's part of what maintaining your listings is about. If the box is still there, you can record a "find" on your own box and reset the strikeout counter back to zero. Everyone has the power to reset the counter to zero, and if the attempts are bogus, part of maintaining your listing is to let everyone know it.
Only 865 of the 53,000 active boxes on Atlas Quest have "struck out" as of today. (I haven't run the numbers because the database query starts getting a heck of a lot more complicated, but I suspect the great majority of these would also be from abandoned listings.)
Hide Old FindsMany folks want some reassurance that a box is still there by checking the last found date of the box. If the box was found within the past week, the theory goes, it's much more likely to still be there than a box that was last found a year ago.
Of all the theories of reducing cluttered search results, this is the most dubious one, in my humble opinion. I know a lot of people out there subscribe to the theory, and I'm willing to help you out by giving you an option to remove from the search results any box that hasn't been found within the last six months (that's what this option does), but it is not enabled by default.
I have a lot of boxes I've planted on long hikes, and they often times don't get any finders for years at a time. I've planted boxes in Africa and Central America which rarely get any visitors, even though--so far as I know--the boxes are still alive and well. And I've planted boxes that have such cryptic and difficult clues, that few people have ever solved them. There are many legitimate reasons a box may not have any recent finds on it, so I while I'll give you the power to remove such boxes from the search results, I won't make it a default.
For those of you who do have such boxes and are worried someone might skip over it due to it having no recent finders, you can "push up" the last found date by recording a find on the box yourself. Since this option isn't a default, however, I don't think it's really worth the effort. I don't intend to record finds on all of my rarely found boxes just to update the last found date.
For a box that has no finders (yet!), the plant date is assumed to be the "last found" date. It's the last date that AQ knows somebody was at the box and can verify its existence on that date.
A whopping 31,492 boxes of the 53,000 active listings would be cut out of one's search results if you used this option. Which, IMHO, just goes to show how incredibly unreliable using the last found date is in determining if a box is still viable. But it's an option for those who want to make use of it.
Out of curiosity, I tried extending the cutoff for "recently found boxes" to one year, and that would have cut out 25,606 boxes. Extending it to two years would have cut out 12,995 boxes. It doesn't really seem to matter what the cut-off time is.... relying on the last found date would cut out a LOT of viable boxes from your search results.
So there you have it! Hope you enjoy the new options, and I hope it unclutters your search results a bit. =)