The term couch potato log refers to logging a virtual cache even though you never actually visited the location. Instead, you found out the answer to the verification question through internet research or other means.
What's wrong with that?
Well, it was never intended that way. Virtual caches are like physical caches, just without the box. You are supposed to actually visit the location, find any verification info there and then log your find online.
Not actually visiting the location is considered as cheating by most geocachers. Just like when you post an online found log for a traditional cache when you never found that box and/or never signed the logbook. Also these couch potato logs contribute to the archiving of virtual caches. Many virtuals have been abused by so many cachers that they had to be archived. Often these are among the oldest caches in an area and many of them are in really interesting spots.
And yes, it's all in the guidelines:
How did this happen?
Basically we think this is the result of a misunderstanding growing out of proportion.
First there were a few geocachers which logged a virtual after they found the verification info on the Internet or through other means. Heck, there were (are?) even some caches without any verification requirement at all. Others copied that behavior.
Lists of couch potato caches were created, without any hint that this was not the proper way to log virtuals. Even more people copied the behavior thinking it was perfectly OK. And probably also the language barrier contributed:
virtual cache = virtual log, or not?
Also neither Groundspeak nor the reviewers really stepped in so the behavior became really widespread and some thought that it is accepted.
So this is not about finger-pointing at anyone. It's about giving feedback, changing behaviors and mending the rift between the couch potato community with the rest of the geocaching world.
Common misconceptions about couch potato logs
"There's no requirement visiting the location in the cache listing".
Stating that you must visit the location is not necessary as this is an implicit requirement,
"It's the owner's responsibility to remove bogus logs".
That's true. It is also true that the searchers of a geocache have some responsibilities to keep it alive. For a physical cache that means avoiding that muggles see you while getting the cache and re-hiding the cache properly. For a virtual cache that means visiting the location and not posting the verification info in your log.
"It's the owners fault that the info can be found on the internet".
No, often that's not the owner's fault. In many cases the information was not available when the virtual cache was published years ago. Remember, many of the caches in question were placed many years ago. At that time Google maps and geotagged photo collections didn't even exist!
What can you do?
- Stop logging virtuals as "Found It" unless you really visited the location. A good way to demonstrate good behavior is to post a photo from you at the location. (Try to avoid spoilers though!)
- Spread the word! If you have a blog, post about it, and maybe link to this thread. Talk about it at the next event. Educate your geocaching friends. Compose a funny couch potato song. ;-)
- You may want to go through the list of virtuals you have found and check if there are any couch potato logs among them. You can convert them into a note or even delete them. Yes, this reduces your find count, but afterward you can proudly say that you really found all of them.
- If you own a virtual cache, regularly check for any bogus logs and delete them. You may also want to tighten the verification to avoid further abuse - often a photo requirement fixes any issues.
What will Groundspeak and the reviewers do?
If Groundspeak or the reviewers become aware of a cache which is abused with many bogus couch potato logs, the owner will be informed about the situation and given some time to do maintenance on the cache (i.e: deleting the bogus logs and tightening the verification if necessary).
If nothing is done to correct the situation, the cache may be archived.