Thursday, February 9, 2012

Plug-it-in calculators and improvised data

A number of Facebook fans have noticed that Allen Moore's speed between Forty Mile and Dawson was fairly remarkable:

Here's why:  the Quest staff have said that not all teams were checked in and out of Forty Mile (which is not a checkpoint, but rather a hospitality stop), but that their software required that a time be entered, so they made something up when real data were missing.  In Allen's case they entered a value that has to be considerably later than when he actually left.  This means that he supposedly covered this distance in less time, which in turn means that he's calculated as traveling faster.  The Quest website gives the distance as 48 miles between Forty Mile and Dawson.  If he covered it in the roughly 3 hours that the Forty Mile time out allows, he indeed was moving over 16mph.

On the other hand, given the wacky time it's almost certainly the case that if we did the arithmetic to find out how fast he was traveling between Eagle and Forty Mile we might see that he was moving disturbingly slowly, so let's do just that.  The Quest website gives the distance as 99 miles, which they say he covered in nearly 27 hours.  That would put him traveling in the ballpark of 3.6mph to Forty Mile, which is considerably slower than his overall average speed and extremely unlikely.

I guess the good news is that we've found out that they're using software to calculate speeds rather than using error-prone humans.  The less good news is that error-prone humans can always find ways to introduce odd things.

I think the bottom line is that the software needs to be smarter about dealing with missing data, but that's so often the case.  Here's hoping that they fix this, as well as the web development company allowing Quest staff more control over what's on their website -- the Maren Bradley "scratch" at Two Rivers could have been taken down long before it was if the staff had more editorial control.

Anyway, missing data: blech.


  1. Based on media reports of when mushers came in last night (Moore, Mackey, and Neff), I estimated that we had run times from Eagle to Dawson City of about...

    Moore: 32hrs, 37mins (media said he checked in just after 12:30 so I said 13:32)

    Mackey: 33hrs, 23mins (media said he checked in before 1:00 so I said 12:55)

    Neff: 34hrs, 15mins (we have Neff's exact checkin time listed thankfully)

    So Moore really made up a lot of ground on that leg and I imagine all three guys must be as exausted as the CBC article suggested!

  2. I wish YQI would update their table software, I expect it's the same they've used since they started their website. It entirely normal to have erratic entries stay on for days longer than they should. Errors happen, but they should be fixed as soon as possible. YQI calculated speeds are only decent when checkpoint spacing is one run apart - then they fall apart. 40-mile, McCabe and Scroggie are notoriously poor at reporting times in and out, especially for those after the front runners...

    GPS tracking has given us the answer to how "Moore made up a lot of ground" on Mackey and Neff. He took the gamble to rest around 4hrs total from Eagle vs. around 8 hrs for Mackey (and I assume Neff). It's definately a real race...

  3. By way of follow-up, Darren, the keys to the website still belong to the developer, who's down in the lower 48 and apparently took the weekend off, etc. The Quest staff have very limited ability to edit it. They're doing the best they can in a rather difficult situation, and they're frustrated, too. I'm optimistic that next year they'll have much more ability to add, delete, and edit data.