Thursday, January 12, 2012

What data would you like to see?

So far we've been pretty focused on the trackers, but they're not the only source of information about how a race is going.  There are also tables maintained by the race committees, showing start times, checkpoint arrival and departure times, and so on.  There's tremendous inconsistency from race to race about what data are shown, how they're presented, and so on.  Because we use the data to answer questions, when thinking about what data to display we need to start by identifying what questions we're trying to get answered.

That one, I think, is pretty easy: "So how's everybody doing?"  Knowing the answer to that involves information that's not readily available from the trackers, even when GPS trackers are being used.  Arrival times at checkpoints is a given.  We don't always get departure times and I would really like to see that, myself.  I'd also like to see runtimes between checkpoints and how much mandatory rest time is "owed."

As for presentation, a tabular format is inevitable, both because it's easiest to maintain and easiest to read.  But!  This is the 21st century and it would be fantastic if RGOs provided tables that allowed us to click on any column to sort on it.  So, if I wanted to see in what order everybody arrived at a checkpoint I could click on that column, or see an ordered list of runtimes I'd be able to click on that column.  Maybe this weekend while I'm inside hiding from the seriously cold temperatures we're expecting I'll put together a Google Docs spreadsheet that shows what I'm thinking.

So, in summary, here are the columns I'd like to see:

  • start time
  • checkpoint arrival time
  • checkpoint departure time
  • run time between checkpoints
  • how much mandatory rest is owed
Too much data are too much data and I think much more than that would result in a table that's cluttered and hard to read.

That's a summary of what I'd like to see, but other people have different preferences.  What data would help you understand what's going on during a race?

1 comment:

  1. Melinda, great issue to bring up. All the spreadsheet gurus on the mushing scene need to come together to create a Google Docs Spreadsheet template with a few nifty formulas. Then someone begins pushing it to race organizers. Voila, standardization. The spread can be embedded on any old race website and edited live by anyone with clearance--not just webmasters, but even CP managers (if they have internet). At Trackleaders we manage race info on Google Docs for these collaborative reasons. I am slowly trying to convert everyone involved to the ways of the G-Cloud ;)

    Related to the question of (hidden) info serendipity, Trackers open us up to the secret world of on-trail (btwn CPs) rest. What of that, and how is strategy determined? Trackleaders have always plotted rests of 4 hours or greater on the musher's individual history pages, but maybe we need to reduce that threshold to detect more subtle micro-rests.