Friday, March 20, 2009

Bethel Spring Series - Pre-Reg Slogging

I never got to finish and post anything after the first week's March 8th Bethel, but I figure this would be as good a time as any. I started writing this and something happened, I fell asleep or something, but I never finished it. Here it is, cleaned up a bit, a week later.

"It's Friday now, 11 PM, and in my spare time (evenings during the week plus the whole day Wednesday), I've managed to accomplish...


Well, if I don't count Bethel stuff, then I've managed to accomplish one thing - ride my bike for about 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Okay, now that I think of it, I got a bit more done. During the week I cooked a few batches of chicken, two pounds of pasta, and a couple pots of coffee. Cleaned some litter boxes, fed the kitties, but in the scheme of things, not a lot.

Pre-registration, something I haven't dealt with ever (is that right? What did I do before Gene helped out?), makes my brain hurt. Due to this stupid lingering flu thing, my head is still stuffy, my hearing is still sub-par, I can't focus too well, and this whole pre-reg thing didn't help me any.

But I'm happy to say that things are pretty much set, at least as far as pre-registration. I seem to have recreated a familiar stack of folders, papers, and spreadsheet stuff*.

Although I've been doing Bethel for eons, every year I learn something else, figure out some new thing to do. This "re-learning" seems like a tremendous waste of time and energy, not just on my part, but for all promoters (assuming they have the same experience). I learn and relearn things, and I'm sure that many of the promoters are figuring out the exact same things I'm figuring out, with all the attendant headaches, stress, and sacrificed (riding) time.

Therefore, I've decided to try and accomplish something, do something that puts my money where my mouth is - set up an open source "How To Promote A Race" set up.

Open source, in case you don't know, is where folks work towards the good of the group. In this case there'd be a Race Promotion Site which has tips on how to set up pre-reg, day of race reg, supplies needed, photo finish, etc etc., and have it all wrapped up in a non-profit, non-proprietary kind of thing.

It would be free, in other words. Just download documents and templates and stuff.

For example, everyone uses spreadsheets for race entry lists. But who can afford to get a real copy of Microsoft Excel? What happens when that work laptop suddenly goes away? What happens if the promoter gets audited, and they get fined for using an illegal copy of Office?

Well, you avoid such pitfalls by going to an open source version of that "work suite". In my case I use OpenOffice, a series of applications designed to allow users the ability to manipulate text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases (sound familiar?). The key is that it is free to use, free to download.

With our carefully developed spreadsheet, now adapted to Open Office, we have the basis for an open source race promotion spreadsheet. I'm very proud of our spreadsheet, even if I only figured out one thing on it (auto-filling results) - the rest of it is Gene's work. It fills out rider's numbers, it figures out if riders get a second race discount, it tells us how much money we need to pay USAC, how many licenses we sold, stuff like that.

It also tells us some budgetary stuff, costs of officials, help, stuff like that. It even calculates prizes based on number of entrants, something that allows us to be generous if there are a lot of racers, but still stay in the black if the weather turns for the worse and we race tiny fields in monsoon or Nor'easter conditions.

The coolest thing (because I figured it out just last week) is it fills in the racer's info on the results page just by typing in the racer's number. Everything else is looked up and filled in automatically.

All this represents a lot of puzzling, thinking, typing, work, and reading and learning. But if we could give this to someone in one package, it would save all that time and energy, and it would make promoting a race easier.

I thought for a bit about making it a for-profit thing, and yeah, that might be good, but I'm using an open source application. Therefore, no profit allowed.

See, part of open source is sharing all modifications freely, and to give credit where credit is due. So folks would be able to update their spreadsheets, and if they want to, they can post their modifications at some agreed-upon central location (say a bike forum or a blog site).

In this manner the spreadsheet could develop into one usable for time trials, road races, stage races, dinky training series, and maybe even ProTour races.

Why do I mention all this?

Because the reason I spent so little time doing anything but Bethel stuff this week is that I had to learn all this stuff.

And it shouldn't be this hard. If I take the time to figure something out, I should share this information. If I share it with many people, then, although I may have spent 1 or 3 days figuring things out, others will spend maybe an hour.

And if that gets more races out there on the calender, it's worth it to me to do something about it.

First, though, I have to try and hold a race on the 15th. I'll worry about the turn-key race promoter package later."

Some "after-the-fact" notes:
* 1. I started printing out the pre-reg release forms after 9 PM because that's when I thought pre-reg closed. However, Bikereg accepts pre-reg for us until 11:45 PM. Hence we were missing a bunch of releases on race day. This week I've waited to print releases until the day after registration closes.

2. I also learned you could buy pre-hole punched paper. Saves me punching holes in a few sheets of paper at a time. Yet another reason to do this open source promoting thing.

1 comment:

ridethecliche said...

I think the open source promoting wiki is a great idea!