In southern California, where fast slip rates and sparse vegetation contribute to crisp expression of faults and microtopography, field and high‐resolution topographic data (<1 m/pixel) increasingly are used to investigate the mark left by large earthquakes on the landscape (e.g., Zielke et al., 2010; Zielke et al., 2012; Salisbury, Rockwell, et al., 2012, Madden et al., 2013). These studies measure offset streams or other geomorphic features along a stretch of a fault, analyze the offset values for concentrations or trends along strike, and infer that the common magnitudes reflect successive surface‐rupturing earthquakes along that fault section. Wallace (1968) introduced the use of such offsets, and the challenges in interpreting their “unique complex history” with offsets on the Carrizo section of the San Andreas fault; these were more fully mapped by Sieh (1978) and followed by similar field studies along other faults (e.g., Lindvall et al., 1989; McGill and Sieh, 1991). Results from such compilations spurred the development of classic fault behavior models, notably the characteristic earthquake and slip‐patch models, and thus constitute an important component of the long‐standing contrast between magnitude–frequency models (Schwartz and Coppersmith, 1984; Sieh, 1996; Hecker et al., 2013). The proliferation of offset datasets has led earthquake geologists to examine the methods and approaches for measuring these offsets, uncertainties associated with measurement of such features, and quality ranking schemes (Arrowsmith and Rockwell, 2012; Salisbury, Arrowsmith, et al., 2012; Gold et al., 2013; Madden et al., 2013). In light of this, the Southern San Andreas Fault Evaluation (SoSAFE) project at the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) organized a combined field activity and workshop (the “Fieldshop”) to measure offsets, compare techniques, and explore differences in interpretation. A thorough analysis of the measurements from the field activity will be provided separately; this paper discusses the complications presented by such offset measurements using two channels from the San Andreas fault as illustrative cases. We conclude with best approaches for future data collection efforts based on input from the Fieldshop.