What Is Your Opinion of FTF?

For every cache one person is the first to find it. Determining who was the first one to find it has been problematic. Because it is, I do not consider it at all. Unfortunately, others place a great deal of emphasis on who is first to find the cache. That emphasis is nothing more than bragging.

That’s what FTF has become: bragging. I disdain it.

I’ll run through some of the issues involved with FTF, but in the end, claiming or awarding FTF is nothing more than bragging.

FTF stands for first to find. In geocaching parlance, it represents the first person to find the geocache. It seems rather straightforward, doesn’t it? It isn’t always as easy to discern, as we shall see.

Issues abound with the FTF race. I will chronicle some of these here.

  • Sometimes, more than one person hides a cache. The major listing services do not provide a mechanism to show that more than person has hidden a cache. Some folks create a team account to list the hide. Some folks list the cache under one of the player’s accounts and the other cacher does not log the cache at all. What happens when instead of doing either of the above options, the second cacher logs the cache and claims FTF? Is that a FTF?
  • Sometimes more than one person seeks a cache at the same time. First to find would seem to preclude more than one person being FTF. In theory, it is possible that two or more people spot something at the same exact moment. Reality tells us that isn’t so. Yet, some claim there is a co-FTF. How do we determine who FTF is?
  • Once upon a time, I tried to list every cache I had been FTF on. It was a futile project. Many caches I found were with caching partners. It was a real struggle for me to remember who found the cache first. That is because this FTF issue wasn’t always an issue. I do not recall when I began hearing about FTF, but it wasn’t something I concerned myself when I joined the game. There was no thought whatsoever about first being anything special. Not one of my logs mentioned FTF. Even when I began hooking up with some of the locals to find caches, FTF was not a concern. Why? Because FTF is nothing more than bragging and polite folks do not brag publicly.
  • Some folks do not sign the logbook. There are myriad reasons for that. If someone who does not log the logbook finds the cache before anyone else, how does one determine who was FTF? Dismissing the ghost cacher does not negate the fact that he found the cache before someone else.
  • Some folks sign the logbook when they find a cache in a manner that is not immediately obvious to others. Suppose someone had used an ultraviolet pen to sign a log. Does that negate that he found the cache prior to others? Or perhaps he signed the logbook not on the first page. Or in some other fashion that folks do not pick up on. How does one determine who was first to find?
  • A few years ago it was possible to find the coordinates of a new cache by the log of a travel bug that was dropped off in it. If one followed travel bug logs, he could ferret out new caches before others. Does that present a FTF issue?
  • Some cachers provide the coordinates to caches prior to listing them on a public site.
    • We hit this one when it was listed as a club cache, now everyone will have the opportunity to check it out!

      September 10, 2004

      The Gang headed over to this one to complete a trio of EC5 caches on a beautiful end of the summer evening. We always enjoy learning new things, especially about area history. Gal grew up nearby and remembers when this was the only bridge along that stretch!

      GuentherGuy made the grab on this one. Signed the logbook as First To Find and left a couple of Chuck E. Cheese tokens. After checking out the cache, we hit the playground and the zoo. Thanks, EC5, for an awesome outing! Some might consider that problematic.
  • Some folks claim finds on caches that do not exist. What happens when after a month the cache is replaced and someone actually finds it? Who is FTF then?
  • Who was FTF on this cache? For the record, I signed the logbook before ski did and it was done in regular ink. Does that make me FTF? Could there be some reason I wasn’t?
  • Some claim a photograph is not enough to make the FTF claim. I certainly understand the thinking. Would video of finding a virgin cache suffice? What about a log on the travel bug that seeded the cache but that did not show on the cache page and then was deleted/archived from the travel bug page? Does not knowing really change the fact that someone else was at the cache first?
  • Someone claimed a FTF on this cache. The STF (second to find) commented on the nice note the cache owner had left for her. That log is now deleted/archived because she learned something about what she had written. It was not the cache owner (her son) who left the note nor was it the one who claimed the FTF. Yet, the one who claimed FTF never changed his log. Who is FTF?

And the examples could go on and on and on . . .

My Loss
The FTF race heated up at some point in South Jersey. I never mentioned FTF in a log, yet I was dragged into the FTF race.

Found that Frolickn beat us to it

This one isn’t any more than two miles straight down the road from our house, and Fro still beat us to it!!!!! Some day we will be first to find. Maybe we need to get up at 5 a.m.? T.N.L.N.

There were others too. I was curious by the fascination others had with FTF. I asked many of the questions above three years ago. And those questions were asked in the discussion area of this site. Back then the local cachers participated here. No one wanted to offer an opinion then.

Eventually, I saw the end of being drawn into this race as I ceased logging online. As I have said previously, I believe the game would have been better if there was not online logging. Much to my chagrin, however, that didn’t satisfy everyone.

A friend of mine took great exception to me finding caches before others and not logging them online. He was so outraged he suggested I should not seek a cache until someone else had logged it. That was mid-June 2004. Obviously, I did not agree.

Some of his frustration stemmed from a cache he found in September 2003. He drove down in the middle of a hurricane to score a FTF. When he opened the logbook, he found that I had logged the cache two days earlier. That was one of my experiments I mentioned in the comments of this post.

We exchanged a couple e-mails in June 2004 about this. When he shared his indignation at my logging practice, I asked him what was lost? Whether I had logged the cache two weeks, two days, two hours, or two minutes before he did, it did not matter. What was lost? Did he not enjoy the cache? If not, is that a function of not being FTF? Just what about the experience was ruined because he did not know ahead of time he wasn’t going to be FTF?

None of those questions was ever answered. I never heard from my friend again. At least not directly. In August 2004, he posted a screed against me that was public to the local caching community, but not to me. As the very last exchange I had with him was about FTF, I have to believe that is why I fell out of favor with him.

To recap, I was dragged into the FTF craziness and when I bowed out, I lost a friend. Then came finding that pages from logbooks were removed that I had signed. I highlighted one cache that happened on, but I know of a few others too.

Now I was in a situation where if I didn’t log online I was ostracized, if I signed the logbook, I was targeted. I took the opportunity (coupled with some other things) to bow out altogether. Now I find out that I do not count.

Ghosts in the machine who find caches but don’t sign the log don’t count – it’s very hard to prove your first if your name aint on the first page in the book. (Anyone can take a picture of a blank page in a log book – doesn’t mean it’s the first page in that log book so I don’t buy that as proof positive.)

So, what am I to do? If I do not play it certain people’s way I end up not counting. It’s interesting as my former friend stated in his screed that I was trying to fit the local community to my own vision. Yup, leaving the FTF race saved me a lot of turmoil.

For the record, since the issue was highlighted above, I waited six months and then knocked on my friend’s door. I offered to buy breakfast and discuss things. He was on his way out caching, but asked me to drop him an e-mail and we would get together. I felt very good about the meeting. Yet, it has been more than two years and my multiple e-mails seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

A Different Perspective

Low-Rider Geocache

Rather than dwell on all the scenarios above, let’s look at FTF from a different perspective. What is it about being FTF that one feels so compelled to proclaim it?

Why can’t a normal log in the logbook suffice as to demonstrating who was first? Why must the taunting, the teasing, the proclamation be made?

Is there something about being first that necessitates stating it?

I mentioned to Frodo how I liken the FTF claims with those who begin a thread to highlight their own find count. It seems to me that we accept behaviors in this game we would not accept in “normal life”. If I introduced myself to you and stated I arrived at the cocktail party prior to you, what would you think?

What if I signed the guestbook at a funeral with a P.S. Nanner Nanner Na Na!

Why do we accept this behavior in our community?

As I stated at the outset, claims of FTF are nothing more than boasting one’s accomplishments. That one cannot truly know he was FTF seems to matter little.

The FTF race has affected me personally. It is no wonder why I loath the practice.

Dear reader, why does FTF matter to you? I knew long ago that I would have to play differently to enjoy the game. FTF was a consideration in that. It’s easy to dismiss me as an outcast/trouble-maker/dishonorable. Now that Frodo has indicated he is being castigated over the same issue two and one-half years later, can the community still take that stand?

Would it not improve the game if the players were cordial to one another? It seems to me that perhaps the community needs to bear some responsibility in this issue.

Also blogged on this date . . .

6 thoughts on “What Is Your Opinion of FTF?”

  1. I always enjoy being FTF, and if you look at my profile, you’ll see the few listed that I have been FTF on. I guess that might be construed as boasting, but they are mostly there for my own record. There are so many hard-core cachers around here, that a FTF can be a rare thing for me, so I enjoy the ones I get. I’m not even sure why I do… Probably just because I got indoctrinated by others who thought that was important when I started caching.

    However, I have never run out of the house in the middle of the night to be FTF, and I don’t understand why anyone would write anything like in the log pictured above. You’re right, some people just don’t have any humility.

  2. When the FTF issue gets between cachers – as it has – then it is being taken much much too seriously.

    Caching is a game, not a blood sport.

    Bob – Thanks for your thoughts on the matter.

  3. When the FTF issue gets between cachers – as it has – then it is being taken much much too seriously.

    That’s exactly right. And that goes for any aspect of caching. Whenever I find myself getting overly irritated with the way people are playing – unless they are intentionally trashing caches or something – I just remember how little using a multi billion dollar satellite system to find boxes of junk and film canisters really means in the big scheme.

  4. Here is an example of someone who picked up on the FTF fever early in his caching career.

    With just four caches found, he states:

    Still looking to get my First FTF, thanks to teacher.

    What does it say about our community that someone is picking up on this so early in the game? I suggest we are teaching the wrong lesson on this issue.

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