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Why Is All the Swag Crap? April 28, 2009

Posted by kinzuakid in For the Newbies, Forums, Geocaching, Geocaching.com, In the News/Blogosphere.
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An interesting question has been put to the forums by a new Geocacher:  “What’s the deal with degenerating swag?“.  The responses are right on the money and I think I am in agreement with the masses.  The quality of Geocaching swag is directly related to three things:

  • Difficulty
  • Terrain+Length of approach to GZ
  • Private versus Public cache listing

I’m no Edward Tufte but I think it can be charted:

Geocaching SWAG Quality Factors

Geocaching SWAG Quality Factors

I think the single most important factor in maintaining high quality SWAG is distance from parking.  This of course limits the number of visits to a given Geocache, but it also touches on another fun bit in the thread, the interesting article links:

Most urban / suburban caches go through cache swag degeneration rather quickly. Any cache, easily accessible to all geocachers experiences the “The Tragedy of the Commons.”

One of my all-time favorite essays. I first read it about 35 years ago and was blown away, and still consider it one of the important guides to life. Thanks for posting about it. The original is here.

And the analogy fits perfectly.  I don’t trade SWAG myself, but people tend to get their greed turned on pretty quickly when nobody is looking.  Caches that are only visited infrequently have much higher visibility to each individual visitor (and therefore have a higher shame factor for not contributing).

Enough philosophy.  On to work!

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