Category Archives: Tips

2016 Scoring – Interim findings

2016 Scoring – Interim findings

We are a few months into the competitive season and Canadian Nationals is right around the corner. 2016V16 is now being tested.

The following are a few things worth noting when using the scoring system::

  • Turn autoSave OFF – do disable the Autosave, it always comes at a time when you least expected it and with a huge workbook and fragmentation of the disk, it may take a couple of minutes or more before it finishes and during that time, the system will say it is “non-responding”. Sometimes scorers panic and think the system has frozen (when it is not – just too busy). Turn autosave off and control your own destiny by saving after every couple of scores.
  • R1C1 style addressing – we had one case early on in the season when a nothing on a new computer works. On digging around, we found that MS Excel was installed with a rare default of R1C1 style addressing where, columns and rows are not represented as alpha-numeric (e.g C10 to mean column C row 20) but rather as offset from the current cell (e.g. RC(-1) to say one column to the left of the current cell). The column headings therefore will show numbers instead of A, B, C, etc.

    The scoring program depends on alpha-numeric cell references and so please set it up as such (or you will have problems printing).

  • At every major checkpoint, do close the workbook and create a copy into your backup folder with approximate time of day to unique identify the time of the checkpoint. For example: Elite 2016 – Saturday end of day.xlxm.
  • USB stick – at Elite Canada, a bad USB stick corrupted the transfer of the scoring workbook. Always install the score workbook ahead of time and give it a quick test. This seems such a straight forward thing but things can and did go wrong. At the venue, without any extra USB sticks, we had to use the internet to email the program from one computer to another. Extra stress that is not needed.
  • Stable computer – always do a quick test after setup or transport from one computer to another. Excel version, options, etc can give you a nasty surprise.
  • Static/buzzing sound after connecting the PC to the sound system – At Elite Canada, we had to run the power supply to the PC separate from the amplifier to eliminate a nasty hissing static sound. A spare long extension cord is a good thing to have.
  • Music high and lows – some music have a section that goes very soft and another part with very loud booming sound. In theory, the music person should not have to adjust the volume midway. I strongly recommend using a good music softwore to change the gain permanently if the gains differ too much from one section to another.
  • Configuration of the carry over from qualification to finals (Comp A to B) – the scoring system can handle a lot of configurations. For example, for Special Olympics Nationals, the qualification round is only worth 25%. In Elite Canada and Nationals, 100% of the scores from Comp A go into Comp B. The default was set in error to 25% and hence the problem with the cumulative results in the morning. This was corrected later in the afternoon. In V16, this value is displayed with a reminder message when you set the event code to a few of the known events (i.e. CIC, EC, ONPQ and SOC).
  • Number of athletes – currently the default is set at 200 and can be increased if needed.
  • Additional levels – At Planet Invitation, because of the number of athletes, they want to add levels by year (e.g. Junior2001, Junior2002, Junior2003). You can achieve that easily by observing the following steps:
    • If you are doing any manual overrides/inserts, always copy and insert an entire row from an existing row. This will avoid missing hidden cells.
    • Change column H which is the description of the new level. This value shows of on the rank reports.
    • Change column Q which is the start ID for the new level. Simply make sure for your event, ID will stay unique and not overlap.
    • Make sure the display Y/N flag is set properly. If column S is N, it means that the scoring system will not allow display of scores. This is set to N for level 1s as well as for HC right now.
    • The message mode is still an under used feature when people use live scores – do use it at the end of each day, during breaks, before the event and after the event so that people off premise know what is happening. You can also use it to provide a link to video feeds, official event site, etc.
    • It is a good idea to save and reboot the machines every morning before you start (i.e. Both the music computer and the scoring computer)

Why email is not a good transport for music?

Why email is not a good transport for music?

Digital music has been used at major competitions for more than two years already. Submission started with ‘sneaker net’ via USB sticks to being submitted exclusively via the internet. Most clubs now know about file share services like dropbox, google docs and OneBox. However, every now and then, there are still people trying to submit music via emails. Here are the reasons why music-via-email is not recommended:

  • Your message might cause your recipients’ mailbox to exceed the storage quota. It may cause your email to bounce back. Even worse, if the recipients’ mailboxes exceed the storage quota, he/she could be prevented from receiving any other emails – thereby your action can cause problems for many others.
  • Depending on your server configuration, your message might cause your own mailbox to exceed the storage quota. If messages you send is saved in the Sent folder, large attachments to other people counts against your mailbox size quota as well. When you exceed the storage quota, you could be blocked from sending/receiving additional messages.
  • When a file is attached to message, it has to be encoded. The encoding process causes attached files to become 1.37 times larger than they are on your computer. For example, if you send a 5 MB file attachment, the attachment is sent as 6.85 MB of data.
  • Receipients of the music files usually have to delete the emails immediately due to size. With fileshare services, folders are left intact. If we encounter problems (even as late as podium practice), the host can easily copy the file(s) again from the shared folder. This is an advantage to everyone involved.
  • Time-saver for both the sender and receiver – as oppose to simply doing a folder copy and then let the computer do all the work, you have to attach file(s) to each email and you have to make sure that it is not stuck in the ‘to be sent’ status. The receiver also need to detach the files one email at a time rather than deal with it one club at a time. It may not seem a lot of time but with close to 150 participants, each spending 30 seconds, this is easily more than an hour extra that can be spent on other tasks.

Advantages of file-share services:

  • Delivery is much faster – the sending and receiving ends are both optimized for sending bigger files. Furthermore, encoding is not required. So you will find that the synching process (upload/download) takes only fraction of the time.
  • File-share services can serve as an off-site backup or a repository for the club. Running a gymnastics club takes a lot of time and effort. To be able to share files across individuals with different roles avoids most versioning problems. Furthermore, the convenience to make files assessible via any device cannot be understated.
  • If you plan it properly, common resources can be shared across the club easily – for example, parents handbook, club letterhead, contact lists, videos, picture, club logo (I cannot even remember the number of times that a club came to me looking for ‘lost’ club logo).
  • If you ever sell your business or have a new partner, having established a shared club resource already setup can reduce a lot of headaches.

Do learn fileshare services for more than just music submission! Here are links to some tutorials:

Best practices

Best practices

If you use just the basic scoring program without live scoring:

  • Do you know that the program has the ability to generate test scores for every level as well as to queue them for display? This feature is important especially when you are training volunteers to set up for finals (i.e. Comp A and B, Ontario’s qualifier 1 & 2 or Special O events where scores get carried over from qualifier to the main event).
  • At least one person within the scoring team needs to understand the reports (not just how to produce it but the meaning and significance of the scores). I usually call this the sanity check. Computers are great in speeding up things but when it make mistakes, it make BIG mistakes. I remember a few years back, when we first ran the program in Quebec at Elite Canada, a gross configuration/interpretation error at the program (i.e. 16,10 was interpreted as 16,100).
  • I saw some scorers still hiding unused columns one at a time, you can tailor to the view you like by using “View” options under “Special” tab. The options and button is highlighted in blue in the diagram on the right.
  • Do let the system randomize, assign athlete ID and create the rotation instead of manually trying to do your own. It is a huge time saver.
  • Do create a PDF of your athlete list and send it out for validation. It is easier for coaches to spot problems than just one person. Adding athletes during an event is a headache and creates a lot more work.

Live scoring gives you flexibility on where scores can be displayed (as long as there is internet connection) For example, one display facing the judges, another facing the audiences and then one display in the training hall.

If you use Live Scoring:

  • When we started, we only targeted as an optional feature. As the internet technology matures, people start to expect it to be available as well as official without errors. It is very important to keep the scores current on the webserver. Use the AA results to do an audit at the end of the day.
  • Do wait for the score to show up on the browser before closing the local display window. This will make sure that ALL scores get to the webserver instead of trying to trouble shoot and scramble later.
  • If you are using live scoring, make sure you have a good stable internet connection. Sharing totally-open WIFI with the public (and potentially live streaming of video of the event) does not work well.
  • Live score display is getting more popular and with more eyes, problems get spotted almost right away, from spelling, level, missing athlete to calculation errors. Live score is an option you can purchase or top of your basic scoring license.
  • Do use the message feature of (As highlighted in green in the picture on the right)
  • If you correct a score, all you have to do is to re-queue AND re-display that specific score.
  • If you change anything about an athlete, do remember to “refresh the athlete list” on the webserver.
  • It is okay to test and train but do remember to update to cleanup afterwards. You also have the option to hide an event from the public as well.

Digital music is here to stay!

Digital music is here to stay!

Pacific Rim 2014 came and gone and believe it or not, we always finish slightly ahead of schedule.
Yes, digital music rocks! There were indeed some interesting challenges but nothing that slowed us down.

  • Digital music files were used for the entire competition. However, performances were still using CDs. Guess what, the CD player decided to bite-the-dust halfway through and did cause some stressful moments.
  • Placement of speakers – the speakers were shared with trampoline. After getting conflicting requests of being “Too loud, lower the volume” by the audiences, and then immediately by the judges “Can’t hear the music, crank it up” and then again “Too loud” from others really got us scrambling. Finally, we solved the problem not by volume itself but the angle & balance of the speakers. Placement of speakers in opposing sides facing each other is less than ideal.
  • Even though we officially requested for MP3s, music submitted had a variety of other codecs like wav, m4a, aif and more. I tested out the music when they were collected and tagged. I know that everything works fine using my computer. However, at the venue, the computer tested bite-the-dust and we had to use a borrowed laptop with a different Windows version and found that a couple of files did not work and had to be ripped again at the venue. Good thing that was discovered during training. MP3s and wav files are the most universally portable formats with the longest history. So do stay with proven codecs or you may discover problems when you play it on a different computer.
  • The music organizing and playing was so easy to use that after one of the breaks, we didn’t even think of checking to see if the music person is back before starting the competition. That did cause a little bit of a scramble but it all worked out. 🙂
  • There was a little bit of a learning curve in preparing digital music for some countries. However, that all happened a couple of weeks prior to the event. Some tried copying their music files directly from CDs versus ripping it. However, CDA files that you see on CDS are simply indices to the music but not the music itself. Therefore, they had to re-submit again. However, all these communication and transport can be done quickly over the net.

What worked well?

  • Simple to use, training took less than a couple of minutes. Collection is easy to use but requires slightly more training.
  • People liked the flexibility of music submission through mainstream file-share services.
  • For Pacific Rim, the rotation draw order is by country. Each country can decide its own start order at the technical meeting which doesn’t give too much lead time. After an athlete’s music were tagged during music collection, the change of start order involves very little additional work.
  • No mad sorting before a rotation means that the job can be handled by one person and can take breaks with everyone else.
  • No long wait time because of CD load times and therefore no angry coaches and judges. If it work during training, it work during competition. The music plays almost instantaneously at the press of a button.
  • For finals, once we fed it the correct rotation as generated from the scoring program, the music system is ready – no re-sorting or re-tagging required. At Pacific Rim at the finals, we actually had to substitute 2 athletes within a couple of hours before start time but all we had to do is to update the rotation and it is ready. At national championship, after collecting and tagging it once for competition A, competition B music can be ready within minutes the rotation is published.
  • It is so easy to use that I think the commentator may double as the music person when desperate.
  • If your music conforms to the naming convention of “name – apparatus” where “name” is first and last name, you are ready for nationals!

Looking forward to seeing the software used at Westerns and Nationals!