encourage you to record when you tried and Did Not Find a cache. I
a disservice to other cachers if you don't. This excellent reply by
briansnat explains why.
I think everybody's a little embarrassed by DNFs. If that's what's stopping you, you should know they aren't tracked or counted like finds. There's no way for anyone to know which caches you DNF without going to every cache page in the areas you have been caching and rummaging through the logs for them.
Much of geocaching is based on the honor system. You can log finding your own cache, but it's poor form. You can log a find every time you return to a cache, but it's really considered cheating. Some people claim caches they didn't find -- obviously that's cheating. Sometimes they get caught -- usually they don't. Each person has to decide for themselves how they will handle DNFs. Purists say, "If I left my house intending to look for a cache and something prevented me finding it I log a DNF." My philosophy is a little more relaxed than Brian would probably approve of.
If I am not prevented from finding the cache by something associated with the cache or it's location I don't log it. If I'm blocked by a wreck on the highway and have to head home, I don't log it. The other day I was short on time, when I pulled into the nearest parking area I saw the cache was a longer walk than I have time for I didn't log it because I didn't really try to find it. On the other hand, on another that same day I drove around and never found a place to park, I logged the DNF and explained why I gave up, because something about the cache location prevented me from finding it. I ask myself if the cache owner or other cachers will learn something useful from my DNF that the owner didn't explain or doesn't know. In the above case if I had thought the distance was exceptionally long and others would want to know that before setting out, then I'd probably put this in a log Note. And, maybe suggest to the owner he might want to consider mentioning the distance from nearest parking in the cache description.
There's disagreement on whether to log a DNF when you see the access is difficult (such as you have to wade a creek), and you give up. I feel the cache owner should explain any kind of special problem with access in the cache description. If s/he explains the problem I don't DNF, rather I might do a Note. Some argue if you decided to give up because access was difficult you should only post a note because a DNF is likely to make people think the cache is missing. The problem with this is, most people don't read notes -- they're much more likely to read DNFs. I see both sides of this argument. It's an imperfect world, and I come down on the side of DNFing.
A special case is multi-caches. These caches are like a treasure hunt where you find one, which leads to another, and so on. Some of these can take a while to complete. If I do some of the steps then stop (run out of steam, or time, or daylight), intending to return to finish I don't log a DNF. That is, if I complete a step and get the information for the next step but don't seek it, I don't DNF. But, if I seek the next step and fail I DNF it explaining which step/stage I couldn't find. If something about the cache or it's conditions prevented me from completing a step I log the DNF.
Finally, I'm not as demanding on newbies as Brian. I'd say, until you've found 5-10 real caches (not virtuals or webcam, etc.) it probably isn't important whether you report DNFs. At this stage you're less likely to find it, and you don't know what to expect -- you don't know what's abnormal. Your DNF is likely to be discounted by more experienced cashers and the owner anyway. Recently, the last two logs on a cache I was considering were DNFs. I checked the history of the cachers who posted the DNFs. Both were novices, so I gave it a try anyway. It was there and everything was in good shape. Had that been two posts by seasoned cachers I would have waited until somebody else found it before hunting it.
Even Brian said newbie DNF are often discounted, and my philosophy saves a brand new player from the embarrassment of having to say they failed time and again when it's sort of expected. On the other hand it's not like I'm right and Brian's wrong. Strictly speaking he's right. Logging newbie DNFs does no harm, and it's good training to start out doing things by the book.
It doesn't help anybody seeking the cache to know I quit hunting for a reason unrelated to the cache itself. It may be interesting to read I was stopped by a flat tire or a downpour (you may want to add a Note), but it's of no value to someone seeking the cache. The fact that I hunted and failed does add information. If nothing else it tells others it's not knock-you-down obvious where it is.
So, my test is:
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