Monday, March 5, 2012

Data presentation - they're doing it right!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, some extremely clever people associated with the Can-Am 250 up in Fort Kent, Maine figured out how to project dog team trail positions on a topo map based on arrival and departure times at checkpoints and safety stations, essentially putting together a very nice tracker without having to rely on GPS devices.  It's not as accurate as an actual GPS but it still gives a pretty good sense of how the race is unfolding and it's got some nice features.

But they've done a lot more than that - they've also put together what I think is the best data display tool for people who are trying to understand what's happening in a race.  Visually, it's what's sometimes referred to in the industry as "fugly" (that's a technical term, look it up!), but they've figured out how to show a big chunk of data in a way that's comprehensible, by giving us the option of different views into the data.

Basically, we're all working with the same chunks of information: start time, checkpoint arrival time, checkpoint departure time, mandatory rest taken, mandatory rest not taken, and finish time.  From these you can compute things like speed and pace, etc., but displaying these data along with the checkpoint data can be difficult to do in a way that doesn't look like one big grey mass of numbers.  So, the Can-Am guys don't try to show you everything at once, but instead give you different views of the data.  So simple it's brilliant.  Here's what's at the top of their data page:

The top row presents different ways of looking at the data.  Hit the "SETUP" button and it gives you a quick overview: checkpoint names and trail distances between them.  The "RESULTS" button gives you run times per leg and the total race run time.  "ARR/DEP" gives you checkpoint arrival and departure times, "MPH/REST" gives you trail speed per leg as well as checkpoint layover times, etc.  The point here is that we're using the web, and there's no need to cram all the data onto the same page.  These data can all be computed from the arrival/departure times (plus knowledge of mandatory rest and start time adjustments), but they do the arithmetic for us and make the data easy to comprehend.

I think this is a fantastic model, and I'm starting to play with putting together a Google spreadsheet that does something similar with sheets for the upcoming Two Rivers 200.

Anyway, kudos to the Can-Am 250 for their extremely clever website.

No comments:

Post a Comment