Monday, 8 June 2009

Blog #36 – Bits and Bytes

In the recent past the subject of the EBU’s results service has arisen at two different meetings I have attended, so I thought I would try to explain the issues that we have and why we cannot easily be compared to the fabulous service now available at some clubs.

As I have been reliably informed by Max Bavin, the EBU was a very early adopter of the use of technology for scoring its events. This has proven to be a real mixed blessing at times as technology has advanced. This is because many of our requirements are extremely unusual and none of the available “everyday” scoring programs will do what we need. Thus we have had to make do with existing (and ancient) code and then take the results of that and translate them into a format that can ultimately be displayed on a web page.

This has frequently required specialist input from EBU staff that is not always available at congress events and have thus had to wait for a working day to be resolved. Over recent years we have been able to do better than that on occasions as one of our staff, Ian Mitchell, is a whiz with Microsoft products and has produced a scheme that automates some of our requirements.

Over the last year or so, we have been very fortunate to start using specialist software developed by one of our members, Jeff Smith. He has, on a purely voluntary basis provided software that enables us to automate all but the most obscure of our congress and tournament events AND to utilise Bridgemates where possible as well, which happened for the first time at Brighton last year.

We are now hoping that Jeff can help us automate the provision of most of our results to our web site, so that we can subsequently report all of our results actually at the event, without specialist involvement. When Jeff has done this for us we will, as we run our events all over the country, still find that some venues provide little or no internet service for us to use. We have acquired mobile broadband “dongles” so that we can hopefully link up that way, but even that sometimes does not work!

We will continue to do our best to provide a contemporaneous results service, but 100% success cannot be guaranteed in the immediate future.