SN Day 4

July 4.  Fireworks tonight, though it’s unlikely we’ll be done in time to see them.

It’s also the first day of the Pan American Zonal Championships, which means strips will be easier to assign because all the replay systems but the one on the finals strip have been moved to the Zonals hall. No worrying about funneling rounds of 8 toward the replay systems, often tricky when events we expected to get to that stage consecutively end up nearly simultaneous.

All I need to do is keep an eye on L3, which has congenital grounding issues (eventually the armorers will take it out of service and add a bunch of new rivets, which will fix the problem, at least for this tournament). Strip-wise, it’s a pretty straightforward day.

But today definitely tries my patience in other ways. At least three irate parents have stormed up asking to speak to whoever’s in charge (lucky me) and proceeded to inform me that the way we post events on the bulletin boards is completely unacceptable. “You need a projector,” they rant.

Unfortunately, I haven’t developed the ability to squelch the sarcasm when I say “Thank you for the suggestion.” Do they honestly believe we’ve neither thought of nor tried other options?

The bulletin boards are yet another of the many “least awful” alternatives common to national tournaments. I hate the bulletin boards—they’re wobbly and ungainly and usually far from new, and I inevitably stab myself with pushpins several times each tournament. Posting also eats up a lot of BC staff time when we don’t have a crew of runners, adding as much as 30-40 minutes to the overall length of each event when we have to do our own posting.

You’d think a better way to provide fencers the information they need about their seeding, pools, and DEs would be easy, but it’s not. Take the projector idea, for instance. You need to have a projector, to start with, easier now with all the teeny pico-projectors now available than when we originally looked into the idea, and you need a suitable place to put the projector so that what it projects is visible and in focus. If that’s near the BC stage—easiest for connecting it to the computer that feeds it the content—a screen is necessary. If the projector can be placed so that information is projected on a wall, there needs to be plenty of space in that area, as well as a long, reliable cable back to that computer. (The computer, by the way, needs to be dedicated to the projector feed.)

The lighting in the hall is a huge problem, though. In a hall lit brightly enough to fence in, information projected on a screen is exceedingly difficult to read, even at the highest possible contrast. Possibly a hood of some kind could alleviate that problem, but that limits access and visibility.

Each of our bulletin boards (usually three or four, all posted with the same information) holds information for all of the events held on a single day, anywhere from 4 to 14. Projection on a single screen means that the information has to be scrolled. For a fencer who just missed his event, he’d need to wait through all the other events in progress for the items he needs to come up again; with several events at once, quite a crowd could be gathered in front of the screen, waiting through multiple scrolling cycles.

Oh, and projector bulbs are prohibitively expensive, lasting only tens of hours under continuous use.

A better alternative, eliminating the lighting problem, would be flat LCD screens. We’d need several sets of screens, to minimize the crowding problem (the scrolling would still be a problem), and we’d need considerable space to place them, a problem when we already barely fit the strips we need into the venues we can afford. In addition to the screens themselves, we’d need mounting hardware of some kind (kiosks?), cabling, and shipping crates.

My guess is that most fencers would rather the money be spent on more replay systems.

Several people (various armorers, computer staff, and others) have for years discussed the possibility of implementing a messaging system—fencers could sign up to receive a text message with their strip assignment, probably for a nominal fee, to cover the expense of the system. In some versions, there would also be a kiosk where parents, coaches, or spectators could look up one or more individuals and find out their seeding, where they are fencing, or how they finished. Probably a nice amenity to have someday, but there are other things we need first (such the aforementioned replay systems  and new tournament software).

J.R., though, arranged for the water stations to be refilled on an as-needed basis through Tuesday. Normally, they’re only refilled on a schedule, every few hours, because the convention center charges us $17 per 5-gallon bottle. After tomorrow, our entry numbers are smaller, so going back to the schedule won’t be too much of a hardship when you consider the expense.

J.R. also managed to persuade the Atlantis restaurant management to let officials order anything on the breakfast menu up to $10, too, so we will now have the option of oatmeal or yogurt and granola or a fruit bowl instead of those mammoth cholesterol plates. Yippee!



Filed under Fencing

7 responses to “SN Day 4

  1. Chris Grimshaw

    I sympathise with you on the problem of finding an efficient way to post seeds, pool assignments and results. In the vastly smaller tournaments that I have helped run (only 2 events and less than 100 fencers), we have sometimes used a projector to good effect, but the logistics of finding a location close to the laptop where the projection will be visible (and not blocked by people walking past) are challenging even for us. I would think that for 14 events you would probably need 7 projectors (driven by 7 PCs?) and about 50′ of wall space with about 10′ of clear space in front (unless the projectors can be hung from the ceiling).
    With the proliferation of smartphones these days, have you considered the possibility of making the seeding/pools/results information available on a website that fencers, parents and coaches can check from anywhere they can get an internet connection?
    Thanks for all your posts that describe how things work in the Big Leagues, and thanks most of all for all your hard work and dedication to support our fencers.

  2. Bradley B.

    “J.R. also managed to persuade the Atlantis restaurant management to let officials order anything on the breakfast menu up to $10, too, so we will now have the option of oatmeal or yogurt and granola or a fruit bowl instead of those mammoth cholesterol plates.”

    Would have been nice if they’d told the officials. Reading this is the first Tyler or I knew about the adjustment and it’s a little late for it to be of significant benefit….

  3. Kate Thomas

    “Would have been nice if they’d told the officials.”

    Ugh. Seriously. I’m glad to have something that sticks to the ribs at a NAC, but those breakfasts were a bit much.

  4. JN

    Is it possible, in regards of checking seeding and strip assignments and whatnot, to generate a pdf/webpage and then print out a QR code containing the link? Then post these on the bulletin boards next to the printed seedings and/or other places? People with SmartPhones can then scan them and have access to the seeding/strip assignment/DE tableau (in real time or not). And then in the athletes pamphlet, mention that QR Codes will be used and suggest several apps to download before arriving at the tournament. I guess that would take dedicated webspace, but I would think that would at least decrease the amount of people huddling around the board…

    • Remember that XSeed was written in the mid-90s, well before there were such things as QR codes. Someday…

      Right now, there are so many fundamental problems with our national tournaments that solving the bulletin board problem is pretty low on the priority list.

      • Bradley B.

        “Remember that XSeed was written in the mid-90s, well before there were such things as QR codes.”

        We just need to train BC staff to be able to hand-draw the QR codes… 🙂

  5. Kate Thomas

    “Remember that XSeed was written in the mid-90s, well before there were such things as QR codes.”

    I don’t think that he’s suggesting that XSeed do the QR codes. More that the files that are currently posted to the bulletin boards get simultaneously posted online as a webpage or a PDF. The QR code (which could be set up before the tournament if you already knew where the information would be hosted on the website) could be on the event sign, so it would be at the top of the bulletin board and people could access it from a distance. The only time added during the event would be posting the files online. It’s a good idea for how to solve the scrum.

    On the other hand, the comment that this is not a priority makes quite a lot of sense to me. It always takes a while to get refs assigned, so really there’s plenty of time to check the bulletin boards and find your strip.

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