The Blue Diamond
The blue diamond signifies some of the most enjoyable and interesting traditional letterboxes on Atlas Quest. Letterboxes marked with the blue diamond might have particularly witty clues, or perhaps an astonishing hand-carved stamp. Maybe the logbook is extraordinarily well-done, or the letterbox takes you on an amazing hike in one of the most scenic places on earth.
The blue diamond allows you to know, at a glance, that the letterbox deserves a special look. If you are visiting an area for the first time and are having trouble deciding which of the hundreds of boxes you should make time to get—look for the blue diamond.
The blue diamond also acts as a kudos to those who plant particularly memorable letterboxes. A pat on the back for their efforts, and a way to let the planter of the letterbox know the extra care and effort that went into the box was appreciated.
How does the blue diamond feature work? Who decides which boxes are worthy, and which ones are not? That's what this page is about. The who, what, when, where, why, and hows of the coveted blue diamond.
Why the Blue Diamond?
Besides being pretty, you mean? It sounds good. Trophies and ribbons were already used for the number of plants and finds respectively a member has logged. We wanted something that sounded noteworthy and special for the very reason that we wanted to attach the icon to the most noteworthy and special letterboxes.
As for the question about why does Atlas Quest need such a distinction in the first place, there are several reasons. We wanted to recognize those who go above and beyond the call of duty while planting a letterbox and push the edge of what makes an amazing letterbox.
But another reason is just the sheer number of letterboxes planted today. It's often hard to decide which of several boxes to nab with such a huge number of choices. How often have you seen someone post to the Message Boards asking, "I'm going to be visiting this city next week and will only be there for two days. Which boxes are the can't miss boxes in the area?" As sure as day follows night, a variety of people will answer—often telling the visitor that they have boxes planted in that very area! And as much as we enjoy people finding our own boxes, truth be told, they aren't always the best or more interesting letterboxes out there.
Now, however, visitors can seek out the blue diamond letterboxes. They'll know at a quick glance which boxes were voted most popular by fellow letterboxers. It's a system to automate the process of figuring how that age old question: If time is limited, which letterboxes should be nabbed first?
Ranking and Rating
Obviously, not all letterboxes can be blue diamond boxes. First, the brutal truth: Some letterboxes are better than others. We want to encourage better and better letterboxes by pointing out those letterboxes that finders enjoy finding the most.
Those who find a letterbox have the option of recording their opinion of the letterbox on a scale from 1 to 5. And no, you cannot rate your own letterboxes—there is too much conflict of interest in allowing that. How you vote will never be exposed publicly. Administrators and webmasters on Atlas Quest can see how you voted if they really wanted to, but that's not likely to happen since we have better things to do with our lives than worry about what you think of other people's letterboxes.
As mentioned before, it's not a precise science, and boxes with no finds (and therefore no votes) won't have blue diamonds no matter how good they are. Letterboxes with very few votes may be skewed if the people who found it judge a box differently from you. Or, it might be that your idea of the "perfect" letterbox is very different than the normal person on Atlas Quest, and thus the blue diamonds end up on all the wrong boxes from your point of view. And finally, some people have opted out so their boxes will never get a blue diamond no matter how great they are.
We don't want a lot hurt feelings out there, so you will not be able to see who nor how people voted and rated your own letterboxes. The only thing you will ever know about how the votes might have gone is based on whether a blue diamond shows up next to your letterbox or not, and there's no shame if you do not receive the blue diamond—the majority of boxes won't have them.
The actual process of how Atlas Quest uses those votes to rank all the letterboxes is a trade secret since we do not want anyone trying to 'beat the system.' We will tell you this much, however: It's not a simple calculation. A variety of factors is taken into account to determine rankings such as your voting history, experience level, and even the standard deviation of how people vote on a given letterbox.
Once every few weeks, Atlas Quest runs these calculations and assigns blue diamonds to those letterboxes that rank the highest.
What guidelines should I use in a vote?
How you vote is largely up to you, but some votes are considered higher quality than others and thus are given more weight. Ideally, your voting pattern will follow a traditional bell curve where few boxes would receive 1 and 5 votes, a moderate number of boxes would receive 2 and 4 votes, and a lot of boxes—perhaps as many as half of them—would receive a vote of 3.
Don't get too pre-occupied with trying to make sure you have exactly those proportions in your voting patterns, however, since this is an ideal voting pattern. There is room for variation! Do note, however, Atlas Quest will not include your votes in the calculations if you refuse to use the whole spectrum available. If everything you find is always a 5, for instance, that's a pretty good clue that you aren't putting much thought into your votes.
As a general rule of thumb, about half the boxes you find should be considered "average". They are good, solid boxes and fun to find, but they aren't especially noteworthy one way or another. Only about 1 out of 20 boxes you find will be the type to rave about, pound your fists and say, "Everyone must find this box! It's incredible! Amazing!" And about that many would likely be boxes you'd warn others to avoid getting. Perhaps it's planted in a dangerous location, on the edge of a cliff surrounded with poison ivy and—to add insult to injury—has a store-bought stamp! You won't find many of these boxes, but when you do, give it a 1.
You can see your own voting patterns on the Blue Diamond Stats page.
Does it really work?
Depends on who you ask. Some people think it's remarkably accurate and useful, while others think the system is a flop with no redeeming qualities at all. The truth probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. It's not a perfect system, but it's not a random one either.
It should also be pointed out—the blue diamonds are based on the popular vote. It might be there is a particularly brilliant letterbox planted at the end of a strenuous ten-mile hike and everyone who finds it absolutely loves the box giving it a blue diamond designation. That does not automatically mean that it is a letterbox you personally would enjoy. It might be, for you, that no letterbox is worth a ten mile long hike. Or the complete reverse might be true. Those who found the box did not like the hike, and therefore rated the letterbox very poorly—but if you are the type who likes long hikes, it could turn out to be one of your all-time favorite letterboxes.
So regardless of whether or not the 'best' letterboxes rise to the top with the blue diamond designation, you still need to use your own common sense, experience, and judgement to decide if a specific letterbox or series is the type of letterbox you would enjoy hunting.
Still don't like it?
If you think this is just morally wrong and unconstitutional, you can change your Preferences so no blue diamonds will ever appear next to any of your boxes. There's not really anything to lose by participating—you and your boxes are not penalized in any way if it turns out your boxes aren't loved by everyone, and if people do love them, why not let the rest of the world know? But for those who choose not to use the feature, we respect your wishes allow you the option of opting out whenever you want.