Few days ago I posted an image (the original image is distorted by heavy color grading) as a part of the Osint geolocation challenge on Discord & Twitter. Many people tried it, but they couldn’t solve the challenge in 24 hours, even the 2-10 minute geoguessers failed I presume! (And probably, most of you didn’t even get to know about it, sorry folks, curse algorithms, follow us on Twitter - @AllForOsint!)
In this article, I’m not going to write a walk through about the image, instead I’ll try to point out why you could not solve the challenge and what are the things that you have to keep in mind when solving a geolocation challenge. I also believe that if someone is claiming to teach you how to solve the any geolocation challenge, they would be lying to you if they don’t provide the perspectives that I’m providing in this article. So buckle up and get ready for a long ride.
Geolocation challenges are the way to improvise your geolocating skills through the means of free to use softwares such as Google Maps, Google Earth, Zoom Earth and so on. All these tools are useless if there is no human knowledge associated with them (at least before the AI revolution goes mainstream!).
In order to geolocate anything, you need not to have a large set of tools apart from the aforementioned tools, rather you need to know the Encyclopedia.
Wait what? Encyclopedia? Yes, you heard that right. Whether it’s a location or an object the encyclopedia got you covered. Do you remember those world encyclopedias with more than 1000 pages lying in our school libraries? And the kids who used to read those were considered as geeks/nerds/bookworms; ring any bells?
What these encyclopedias consisted of was the A-Z knowledge about the world in general. Depending on the topics, they used to cover everything from culture to cuisines, hieroglyphs to history, geography to geopolitics, politics to permanent records and so on.
Today, you don’t have to go through all the encyclopedias if you don’t want to, because you have the Internet. You can learn everything from the Internet at your fingertips.
Reality Of Geoguessr⌗
In one of the recent interviews with Wired, Rainbolt, a pro geoguessr mentions that he had spent around 13 months studying countries and he’s still learning about few other countries such as India to be able to geolocate in those landscapes. Well, this is true. This is what I was talking about when I told you about the importance of world encyclopedia. Just by solving some region specific or your echo chamber specific locations doesn’t make you any pro. You are one among all.
If you want to pursue a career as a Geoguesser, you have to spend months or years to practice and remember all the open source geo knowledge out there and that could also mean that it’s dynamic - landscapes change, people migrate, new buildings might raise and so on, you should also adapt to those changes. And most importantly, there has to be a proper job market for that (Seems like it is taking off).
Problem/Parable Of Parallel Construction⌗
I have already made a funny video on parallel construction, you can go and watch that on our Youtube channel. To simplify, parallel construction is something where you arrive at a destination in prior and construct a story about how you arrived there. And this story could be true/false/convenient to you/your narrative. When you hear about a parable of 1 second geoguessr challenge, you might wonder if it is some kind of superpower, but what if the geo guessing location was the same street that the dude/dudine walks around everyday?
This could have both positive and negative effects on your learning process. The parable of awesomeness and encouragement is good, but the false notion of making it look simpler is a problem.
Anyone Can Geolocate - Love Your Culture⌗
Probably it’s easier for someone who grew up on the shoulders of Silicon Valley to geolocate Apple Park or Meta’s headquarters than someone sitting in Alaska. Likewise, your country/state/district/region/area is your strength. Because you know them well, if you don’t know, stop reading this article, get out and explore! I’m not saying that you’ll be able to record everything in your visual memory, but at least you’ll have an idea where to look further if it turns out to be wrong. You are constantly getting influenced by your surroundings and culture, whether it’s social media, local news channels, news papers, something that your friend posted on Instagram when she visited a nearby city etc., could be helpful for you someday to gather some information or find a clue about your region. So keep your eyes & ears open.
Verification Is Hard⌗
Confirming images, dates, time and verifying locations is not always bed of roses, even if you are a pro. You have to admit your limitations, you cannot strongly remember everything. Sometimes, good journalists' spend several nights/months to verify facts and sometimes that might go wrong as well! Beware of mirages, there could be similar looking locations but might not be the exact location that you would be looking for.
What if I asked you what will happen to Zhouzhuang after 50 years, will you be able to answer without Googling or knowing anything about it? Probably not. So this brings us to the limitations of geolocation challenges. You can only get an opportunity to collate the intelligence of what’s already there or what’s already known. If Google maps removes some areas from its database, you’ll probably never know how to or where to get clear visual information about those areas. So the companies/spy agencies that have control over hoarding data and making them available for the public to hoard more data are a deadly combination of convenience and crookedness. And depending on the country that you live, categorically, developed nations would have more discoverable areas, developing countries a bit less and underdeveloped a bit lesser relatively.
A friend in need is a friend in deed; but if they are international, then you are fortunate. Even though data giants have a lot of power to invest in data hoarding, sometimes, everything cannot be collected and distributed, the first reason being the world is too big of a place and the second is all thanks to the god of chaos/randomness. In order to avoid fault lines or the data that’s blurry, having Human Intelligence is vital. But it comes with the cost of FUD. Not always and not because your friend has ill intentions, possibly they might not have the intentions or talent or interest that you are asking for. Having friends with similar interests is a gift, never lose them.
You might have watched some movies or TV shows, where spies meet at a rendezvous possibly would be a black spot. Even on the Internet, there are lots and lots of black spots where you cannot penetrate or you don’t have the necessary tools to facilitate that! And it’s OKAY. When there’s some new discovery by other people who have dedicated their lives to uncover that blackspot or solve that bottleneck, you’ll know, appreciate them and bookmark that.
Where do I get all this knowledge? By spending 8 hours a day on Google Maps? Ah, no I don’t have time for that, and I can’t sit in front of a computer for too long. Will I ever be able to become a GOAT?
The answer is ‘Depends’. I cannot guarantee you if you can become a GOAT or not, but I can give you some tips where you can get the knowledge in an unconventional or upbeat manner.
Watch movies, TV shows, research about them and their accuracy. Learn a new language, try to watch videos of different languages, read travel blogs and watch travel vlogs, play games related to geoguessr, follow climate news, follow social media pages related to local and international cuisines; do whatever you can to make the world as your playground with publicly available data. And also never undermine the aspect of luck!
Do all these things, depending on your interests or job requirement or just as a hobby. And, here comes the bummer - You don’t have to do that all the time. Because time is precious, waste it wisely.
Wisdom Of The Crowd⌗
If you have come this far, you would have probably understood, why couldn’t you solve the challenge. Because it DEPENDS ON MANY THINGS, AND EVERYONE CANNOT BE EVERYWHERE AND KNOW EVERYTHING ELSE. One of our goals at Osint For All is to empower/motivate every Internet user to make them knowledgeable about technologies that are widespread and publicly available. Everyone has their own intrinsic value, everyone has their own share in this web called as the Internet.
That’s all for today, hope you liked the article. So please…..
Visit - https://osintforall.in/
Donate - https://ko-fi.com/osintforall