Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another tracking service!

The 2012 Percy DeWolfe started this morning.  It's a very nice, small race from Dawson City to Eagle and back on the Yukon River.  This year there are six entries in the main race, with additional entries in the shorter "Percy Junior."

I was a little surprised to see that they were providing trackers (although it's something we've talked about doing for the Two Rivers 200, another friendly, small mid-distance race).  When I saw that trackers would be available I assumed it would be through Trackleaders, since they're low-cost, use inexpensive hardware, and are familiar to the dog mushing community because they're used in so many races.

So, I was very surprised to see that the tracking service is being provided by Mammoth Mapping, a Dawson City-based GIS company.  They're projecting locations from Spot devices onto an embedded Google Earth map.  They aren't doing much beyond projecting locations, although if you click on each of the mushers you'll see their checkpoint times, which I gather are pulled out of manually-entered checkpoint timesheets.  There are no speed or distance computations, no historical track, no analytical tools.

I think that at this point, given what's been available through Trackleaders and IonEarth (the tracking service provider for the Iditarod), if this were a bigger race or one that attracts a broader fan base, people watching the trackers would be frustrated by the limited functionality provided by the Percy trackers.  But it seems to me that this is just about right for a small, friendly slightly out-of-the-way race.  When talking about whether or not to provide trackers for races here in Two Rivers one person said "I don't want [famous musher] showing up!", suggesting that he thought that trackers were both an indicator of a fancy, high-end race and likely to draw big-name mushers, causing us to lose the friendly local feeling.  What we're seeing with the Percy is that there's a happy medium, where we can watch the race unfold without bringing to it the competitive, less intimate feeling of one of the huge mid-distance races.

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