Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Barry's Blog 7

Master points, we love them, we hate them, but we always want them on our records 5 seconds after we have won them, don’t we?

Well there are a number of changes happening around master points, so I thought it would be a good idea just to share with you all some stuff…..but first how it is done in the USA.

Over there, the ACBL is fortunate enough to have just ONE scoring program, ACBLSCORE. I believe that this is used for 99.9% of all scoring at clubs and tournaments, whatever the format. All winners of master points have their records updated once a month, automatically. In my own personal experience - somehow I managed to become an ACBL Life Master - they do not make mistakes either. No bits of paper, no worries about what year the points relate to, no phone calls to ACBL staff required.

Back here, we are in a very different place with regard to technology and master points. We have numerous scoring programs in use; some allow direct crediting of master points from clubs, others do not. The number of points being received electronically is growing, but still represents a minority of MP submissions.

None of these programs, unfortunately, can do the whole job for us at the EBU, with regard to the myriad of tournaments that we run. Max Bavin has, for many years, dreamt up scoring methods and movements that are probably unique to us in England - and perhaps the other home Unions; these methods required software to be written a very long time ago and these programs are, what is now called in the IT industry, “legacy software”. This is jargon for obsolete and impossible to change software! None of these programs allow us at the EBU to directly credit our own master points! How stupid does that make me feel you ask? Well………. it did, but now I understand the reasons I am much more tolerant of the situation.

Basically, at the end of each EBU tournament we have to run through many different processes in order to be able to credit master points to the CORRECT record. Unlike the USA, we take the vast majority of our entries before our tournaments. Then people turn up to play without pre-booking and expect us to have all of the information at our fingertips to allow for a speedy entry. Yet most EBU members cannot recall their EBU number, which is the key to everything that we do. There are many members with identical names, yet often that is all we have to go on. So, naturally, we screw up and sometimes allocate points to the wrong Smith or Jones! That is why we take a considerable time after an event to try and get it right first time.

We have been discussing the future of scoring software within the EBU. Unfortunately, the EBU’s own attempt at writing software, CASS, proved to be a failure, so we are busy identifying a market leading product as the “EBU Standard” for clubs. This program, when selected, will have the characteristics of what we believe is needed for EBU clubs, and will have the direct crediting master point functionality needed, as well as integration with Bridgemate technology. At the same time, we are working on a medium term replacement for much of the “legacy” - equals obsolete, remember - software that we use internally. That will, of course, also allow direct crediting. But this will take some time, because of the nature of our own requirements.

So please, could I ask members to be patient. We always try to get these master point updates done quickly, and we do know it can sometimes be done better.

These improvements will happen, but they are just one of a number of tasks and projects that we are undertaking to improve the quality of services that we provide to members. Everyone does their very best and we do know what the problems are and……………….. we WILL get there!