Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No More Abandoned Boxes! =)

I'm rather surprised at the number of people who complain about the abandoned status. Seems like it could be useful information, but people complain that they can't adopt such boxes. They complain that boxes that have been found recently and confirmed to still be in play aren't listed as active. They complain that boxes that are known to be gone and missing don't have a status of retired. Strangely, it seems like few people at all actually *like* the abandoned status--everyone prefers to complain about what the status "should" be.

And I realized--that abandoned status really isn't actually necessary. If you all want recently found boxes to be listed as active, fine. I'll make them active. If you want boxes that are known to be missing, fine. I'll list them as retired. And if the boxes may or may not be there but we aren't sure, I'll list them as unknown.

There are over 2,000 abandoned listings on Atlas Quest, and I have no intention of maintaining them all manually, so I've developed a new nightly task for Atlas Quest. It does some number crunching, checking the list of finds and attempts, and makes a best guess for the status of an abandoned listing, setting the status to either active, unknown, or retired. If there's an abandoned box that you want to make sure the status is active, record a find. If there's an abandoned box that you want to make sure the status is retired, record an attempt on it.

No guarantees that you can force the status to active a specific state, however. AQ considers a number of factors, which I'd rather not make public for three reasons:

One, nobody would ever agree on what factors should be used to determine the status of abandoned box listings.

Two, I'll likely be tweaking the calculations used to improve the results over time. Even if I told you what factors were used, it probably won't stay the same!

And three, the more one knows about how it works, the easier it is to "beat the system"--which I'd rather not have people trying to do to force a specific status.

The abandoned status was a fun to try, but seeing as it never seemed especially popular, I'm going to Plan B and having Atlas Quest auto-set the status for abandoned listings.

Happy trails!


Anonymous said...

A most excellent solution! I'm one who liked the abandoned status, but I understood it only meant the placer hadn't logged on to AQ in the past 365 days. Very simple definition. It would not have stopped me from hunting an interesting letterbox, and it would have given me reason to take extra supplies, had the found box needed maintenance.

Keep up the great work!


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan,

I'm assuming that AQ will only change the status on traditional boxes not any of the others. Is that correct?


Anonymous said...

It isn't clear to me what situation would have the man behind the curtain would deem a box going to "retired." Seems "active" and "unknown" are sufficient. But if the owner doesn't appear to care about the box anymore, I suppose it doesn't really matter. Personally, knowing what "abandoned" meant, that particular status was fine with me, though the implications of the term certainly weren't nice since it makes the box sound like litter.


Anonymous said...

Oh great AQ guru, thank you for hearing our feeble attempts to guide your magnificence toward another dark, endless battle over minutia...We have little doubt you will make adjustments that will benefit the maximum number of questers...


Anonymous said...

I'm assuming this will still only apply to boxes whose owners haven't logged in for over a year, right?

Anonymous said...

Community. Community. Community.

Ryan is correct that he cannot do it all by himself. And it turns out we have a community of people more than willing to help.

Ryan's algorithm just needs to be robust enough to make sure a few spurious "I couldn't find the box" messages don't ruin it for the rest of us.

Teresa said...

Thank you!!!! :-D

Jaxom & Sharra said...

We have always allowed our searches to show abandoned. We find it a great thrill to find "unknown","retired" and "abandoned" boxes that are still thriving in the wilderness of the big bad world. The best purpose that we saw to the status was to find volunteers to adopt those boxes. If no one is stepping up, we are perfectly happy with just the other options. Keep up the great work Oh mighty Green One!


Anonymous said...

Thanks Ryan! As one who recently posted a query/gripe about "Abandoned" I am glad of the change. IMHO if it has been found recently- or has not been attempted/declared missing, it should be Active. If it's Missing, it's Missing or Inactive. But please- one more wee suggestion- "Retired" should be limited to one taken out of service by the owner, like a limited time stamp or something converted from letterbox to event stamp/personal traveller. "Retired" is not the same as "Missing" due to an evil landcaper or tupperware-coveting hobo or the ravages of nature.
For one thing, Retired is fer-sure gone, as owner took it back. Missing might still be re-located, if the attempt was a feeble one.
Thanks Ryan! (and now I feel less guilty chiming in, since I actually paid some dues, LOL) SuziLivvi SF CA