Geohashing

An activity dubbed "Geohashing" officially launched on May 21, 2008, based on an algorithm published in xkcd webcomic #426 (and further refined on the xkcd blog). The algorithm generates random coordinates around the world each day for people to explore on their own or to gather together as a group. It’s perhaps the world’s first Spontaneous Adventure Generator.


Geohashing Algorithm
Source of Image: xkcd webcomic, which allows image imbedding and which has been kind enough to license this work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.


I’m not sure if I can even attempt to explain the algorithm but feel free to check it out on your own. It involves the concatenation of the current date and the daily opening price of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (of all things), fed through a cryptographic hash function to create a string of 32 hexadecimal digits, then split in half, and converted back into base-10 to become the decimal portion of a latitude and longitude coordinate. Or something like that. It’s seriously twisted and devilishly clever. I love it.

People actually do meet up as a result of these random coordinates, and the website includes a number of photographs of those happenings. I found out about this in a Slashdot article that described a Geohashing encounter with an armed and angry rancher who apparently didn’t appreciate that his property came up as the random coordinate for the San Francisco area that day. The Geohashing website explains that this was a "bit overblown" though.

Will I be participating? Probably not. Like geocaching, it’s a little too organized for my taste. On the other hand, as an aficionado of odd activities that interlace with geographic coordinates (remember when I dragged the family to a cornfield in central Wisconsin to the 45X90 Spot?), I do have a healthy respect for their new activity and I wish them well. If any of you happen to participate in these activities, do please post a comment and let me know how it went.


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