Geocaching Analytics – Part 1: GCInsight, A New Project

As you may or may not be aware, I participate in a hobby called Geocaching.  Geocaching has greatly increased in popularity in recent years, so odds are that at this point you’ve at least heard about it.  If you haven’t, a very brief description of it would be a treasure-hunt for technology enthusiasts.  In short, somebody hides a container somewhere (be it in the woods or in an urban setting) and then they post a description on the geocaching.com website which includes attributes about how its hidden as well as coordinates.  You then read the listing on the website, load the coordinates into your GPS, and head out to find it.  If you do find it, you sign the log, enter your find into the website, and possible trade small “treasures.”

I’ll admit, that description sounds a bit weak.  Really, its a fun way to get outdoors and see cool, hidden, or amazing places that you wouldn’t otherwise see (two Georgia highlights include an old abandoned gold mine and a forgotten 1800’s railroad tunnel)

Okay, so why mention this on a business intelligence / sql server topic-heavy blog?

Simple.  By the very nature of this activity, there is tons and tons of really cool information, some of it geospatial, just screaming to be analyzed and visualized.  Geocaching also can get very stats heavy tracking number of finds, on which days or months, and other commonalities between them.

Okay.  So there is a ton of interesting data, just sitting out there in a database.  It seems obvious when you put it that way.  So, why aren’t other people doing anything with this?  The answer is that they are.  There are a lot of people out there doing some pretty cool things with that data.  One example being here and another being here.  But the goal here isn’t necessarily to be unique, but to have fun exploring data.  That said, I believe I do have some ideas to put a unique spin on things.

I’ll be calling this project GCInsight.  This is an entertainment and learning experience rather than a service that I’m setting up.  I’ll go through the steps I performed from start to finish to acquire the data, prepare and export the data, and finally analyze and present the data.

With our project introduced, it’s time to acquire some data…