Thursday, January 29, 2009

The JKL's of Treasure Hunting - "K"

Courtesy of

"K" is for "Kiv-ing"

After a few rounds back and forth the sector, nobody seemed to be able to find the answer. Maybe a couple of signs looked close, but still nothing was certain. Time was running out - the captain was frowning and barking "We have to go - now!".

If you had left the sector with an empty sheet - maybe with some faint images of some of the signs - then you had failed to use one of the most important techniques of treasure hunting. - KIV-ing.

Jotting down signs, especially those that have some resemblance to the parts of the clue(s), has always been very useful. We have on countless occasions solved questions just based on what we have copied down on our clip-boards or captured in our digital cameras.

Back in the early 1990's - I remember that some more "well to do" hunters deployed video cameras to do their KIVs. It was very, very costly then - but I doubt that helped much - because those days - the digital media were tapes - moving back and forth to review photos was clumsy and unreliable. Then, there was no "anti-shake" technology yet. Resolutions were very low and optical zoom was very limited. So images were blur, small and not easy to keep steady to study/review later. Not to mention that portable power was also not advance.

The trusty time-tested paper on the clip-board and pen does appear to be a more reliable tool for KIVs. The tricky part will be to be able to scribble legibly, accurately, completely, quickly and orderly. One can prepare for this task - organise your paper - draw lines and columns on each sheet and remembering to number the Question/Sector to have clear demarcations of KIVs for different sectors. Some have even developed their own "short hands". It appears easy but I personally think that it is a learned skill - needs lots of practice.

Today, teams are equipped with at least one high-tech digital camera. The camera is very useful for making very good and indisputable KIVs. The downside - they are slow to capture as you have to aim, zoom and compose the signs properly enough to cover the entire sign before you can "click". The interval between clicks may not suit the "rush". And you have two sides of the road to cover too - unless two members of the team are prepared with 2 digital cameras! It is not a very fast technique. Also, the driver usually does not drive at the speed to your liking. Then there is the concern that the battery may run out by the time you want to review them!

You also have to face the challenge of organising your photos. There isn't a camera that comes with instant full editing and "rearranging" capabilities (let me know if you come across one!). One way to do that is to have all the photos downloaded from the SD or Memory Stick of the camera into a notebook, then use photo editors to manage the photos. You still have to decide if you want to keep the original photos on the camera or not.

A technique I use to "sector" the photos is to take a close-up of the question BEFORE snapping KIVs and again AFTER the last one is taken.

Now, you can organise your photos orderly but you must make sure your notebook now has enough battery power or you have a car-power adaptor for it. I usually delete all the photos from the camera, so I can have enough space to take more later and also avoid having to download "old photos" again and again. You can of course, select those you want to download each time - but it is quite daunting, trying to control the mouse-pad on a fast moving, bumpy vehicle! If you focused too long on this task - you could actually get nauseated or close to it.

The good side of using digital photos - you can have high zoom to take pictures and then using digital zoom to review the finer parts of the signboard to see what you may have missed. You can capture all the small signs within a big sign in one snap. That is certainly the single clear advantage over the paper jotter. Digital photos usually settle all arguments about whether that was "salon" or "saloon", "Cafe" or "Kafe", and "Oleh" or "Olih".

So, while technology appears superior - a skilled paper jotter usually can out-do the digitally inclined. But I am sure one day soon, there will be a camera that will feature technologies that will work ideally for treasure hunting - so many technologies have - so, just look out for it!

Another KIV technique used is to work in pairs - one reads the signs and dictates to the scriber. Of course, both of them must have practiced together long enough to be able to comprehend the different intonations needed to distinguish the ambiguous words. They will develop a set of pronunciation/spelling codes to avoid misunderstanding.

When the team begins to perform KIV-ing is also critical. If started too late, things might get haphazard and mistakes could be made. Too early, and the effort might be wasted. So, the team has to have someone who will shout out when KIVing should start. Some will do it regardless - on their own decision - but it is always good to have someone remind the rest - in case "I thought you were doing it"!

A good time to do KIVs is when you are walking along a sector. The pace is very suitable for writing or snapping. Put on that sun-cap or hat first! And don't get visibly excited when you think you have spotted the answer while you are at it.

As a guide, the moment the team has to go round a sector twice is a sign that KIVs are needed. You can begin to KIV as you move along and not wait to be reminded. But once reminded, the team must then work together to ensure enough KIVs are done - and as thoroughly as possible - cover both sides of the road - otherwise it is as good as not doing it.

How much KIVs should one do per sector? That will depend on how "lost" your team is. The more lost, the more you have to KIV. If you are sure about one part of the clue, then take down only those signs that can fit that part of the clue and so on. The more you have captured, the better your chance of making a good "tembak" too. Don't forget to share/exchange your KIVs!

I should mention here that we know some teams have even organised their KIVs into a library for future hunts. They have a way to be able to pull out the KIVs for a certain sector and attempt to solve the question BEFORE even arriving at the sector! So there is future value in well maintained KIVs.

That's "K" ... KIV these tips and practice well - and you will be armed with a very useful skill for the next hunt!

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