Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Review Some Basics

I got an e-mail this morning about a box that was listed more than a dozen times. It's one of those boxes that gets planted by one person, who then invites everyone who finds it to add a stamp to the box. Which is all fine and good--no problem with that. In fact, it's a lot of fun to see all the additions people add to such a box over time.

The problem happens when everyone who contributes a stamp to the box decides it needs to be listed on Atlas Quest. The thing is--it's still just one box. It doesn't matter how many stamps are in it--it's just one box.

So I fixed the listings by changing the "traditional" boxes into "other" boxes. This has two distinct advantages. One, everyone's P and F-counts stay accurate. (Or at least more accurate than they otherwise would be.) And two, it keeps the search results from getting cluttered up with multiple listings of the same box over and over and over again.

I posted about the change to the state board it was applicable figuring everyone in that area should know what was going on and, in the future, to list mere stamp listings as "other" boxes rather than full-fledged "traditional" boxes.

Wow--throughout the rest of the day, I've been getting a blizzard of messages pointing out other boxes that were similarly listed incorrectly, and have been fixing them as fast as the reports come in. Boxes in Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, yadda, yadda, yadda. Who knows how many more reports I'll get before the dust settles.

One thing I've learned, however, is that this problem is much more widespread than I thought! It's happening all over the country!

So I'd like to set the record straight. It doesn't matter how many stamps are in a box--it should be listed as just ONE traditional box. If you feel that it's absolutely necessary to list the individual stamp contributions, you can do so either in the clue itself or by listing the stamps as "other" boxes, which is actually the most accurate listing for such boxes.

To make it easier for people to record finds on all of the "other" boxes, you have two options. One is to create a massive series of "other" boxes, though technically it'll throw off the "other" P and F-counts. Seeing as there are no standards for what counts as an "other," it's not like counting "others" has much meaning anyhow, however. It is more work for the person who created the original box, however, having to add new listings every time a new contribution is added.

The other option is to create an "other tracker" that's open to everyone, then in the clues for your box link to the tracker with the instructions that they can join the tracker and add their "other" box to the list. That'll make it much easier for people to find a single list of all stamp contributions, and each person is responsible for adding their own contributions to the list if they choose to.

It doesn't really much matter to me, but the one thing that DOES matter to me is that anytime multiple stamps are tucked away into the same box, it should be listed as a single traditional box.

If you've planted or found such boxes, you might notice that your official P and F counts may have gone down--in some cases, by as many as 40 or more. Sorry about that, but be honest with yourselves. You didn't really find that many boxes in the first place--you found one box with that many stamps, and now your counts will reflect that.

So please, in the future, let's be more careful about distinguishing between planting a real, honest-to-goodness letterbox and merely adding a stamp to an already existing box. If you've planted such a box, it might be a good idea to explicitly state in the clues that anyone who adds a contribution to the box should list their stamp as an "other" to make sure anyone who adds to the box knows how to list it correctly. There's obviously been a lot of confusion over the matter, so as a planter, help your finders by explaining how to add their contributions correctly.



Caitlin T. said...

"To make it easier for people to record finds on all of the "other" boxes, you have two options."

Will both of these options remain available, or will you be selecting a single method to avoid further confusion in how to record these boxes (even though it doesn't matter to you personally which people use)?

Goofy girl said...

Wait a minute Pineapples don't grow on trees???

Sounds good, just doing a little winter cleaning now that you are home from your hike. = )

Sue KuKu said...

Another option is how the two add-on boxes I have found do it.

Both Jay's Tool Box (Maiden) and The U.F.O. (Murray Herd) list the stamps and carvers as part of the clue. If you add a stamp, you email them and they will add to the list in the clue.

I originally found The U.F.O. in 2007. I went back to it last April and stamped all the images added since I had been there before. But I had already logged this find. It's one listing, one find.

Going back and getting the other images was just icing on the cake.

This method keeps it contained, lets you mark down who the carvers are from the listing on the clue, and keeps AQ from having multiple boxes listed, even if they ARE "other".

Ryan said...

I don't have any intention at this point to restrict either of those options in the future. Personally, I like the setup that Kuku mentioned best where you just give credit for all of the stamps directly in the clue of the original box listing. I don't really understand the need to list every single stamp in the box, but I do recognize that some people want to. So whatever. *shrug* =)

If I had to call a preference between the two options, I'd probably go with the tracker option since it, in theory, keeps the P and F-counts more accurate in the "other" category and does not rely on the original planter to maintain the listings. I may also, at some point, add additional functionality in the "other tracker" to explicitly support this type of box. Intuitively, it just feels more "right" to me.

But I have no plans to ever require that that option be used.

-- Ryan

Patrick P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick P. said...

reposting...thanks Ryan for all your work and dilligence with this. I imagine it is quite a hassel for you. But it makes sense and it is needed.

My personal feeling (especially as one who has a single box with 17 stamps in it that others have carved and dropped off), is that if someone takes the time and thought to carve a stamp and drop it off, then you should be able to log it somewhere. This acknowledges the effort, gives one a chance to communicate with the carver/planter, and allows them to keep track of those who have taken the effort to find it.

In this regard, the "other" category seems like a good option to me. It results in a more accurate P/F counts based on the definition of a "true" single letterbox, but allows one to keep track on AQ of what is in their log books. This is something that I like to do regardless of where the stamp comes from.

I don't really understand the "tracker" option but would be willing to hear more about it

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! I have really been bothered by seeing these things pop up, and scratch my head about how to log the ones I have found. I don't get it! Why carve three stamps and throw them in one box, if you want them to be three???? Add-ons or originals I just don't see why anyone wants to list them as separate boxes! You have really saved the day here Ryan! Thanks!!!
Ellen of The Travelers 4

Anonymous said...

i personally feel as though the comment telling us to be "honest" with ourselves was just plain rude... I have found a couple of these boxes and was instructed by the planter to add it as a box with a link to the main box... i was under the impression this is the way it worked since this was what was explained to me... I was not aware i was doing something wrong.. and i am sorry for that..but the way this has been revealed to me has totally put me off from this once fun activity. While i enjoy finding the stamps... i also enjoy finding a lot and having a high count... is there any way the "other" boxes can count for something?

Anonymous said...

I have one such box with all the additionl boxes as other and as an owner I do find it difficult to keep up (not to mention anoying to get all those found notices for each person finding the box the way I had it set up) Thanks so much for the suggestion of the tracker so I can just link to the tracker and let everyone list their own. Now I wonder how long it will take me to get that switched over.
These are great boxes because they continue to give back to me as well, but they are a lot of maintance. I didn't realize there were so many out there.

Ryan said...

> i was under the impression this is
> the way it worked since this was
> what was explained to me... I was
> not aware i was doing something
> wrong..

That's kind of the reason for the post--to educate and inform, and to correct bad habits that have been forming. You didn't know you were doing anything wrong, but how would you learn otherwise if someone didn't tell you that?

> is there any way the "other"
> boxes can count for something?

Yes, they count as "other."

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

so what you're saying is that we are actually hunting for the plastic container and not it's contents. good to know - so now if a stamp goes missing I can just leave the box there and by these rules - finders can count it as a find.

why does AQ seem to be getting policed so tightly that it feels like a chore to figure out all of ryan's rules?