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USSA and Vola Timing -- What a Disaster! - Page 2

post #31 of 58

All true but I guess I'm not sure why in this day and age with the fees we all pay to either mountains or ski organizations, anyone would feel it's a luxury to have live timing vs. the days of yesteryear.  Fees aside, last ski season we all had this now standard luxury via live timing.  This year, only a few of us.  It makes no sense and it's not a challenging problem to fix.  High speed internet, computers, shaped skis, and helmets are no longer considered a luxury.  Neither should live timing.  I also find it quite odd that a US ski organization would look to a European partner when there are US companies that can provide the same service - but that's a philosophical tangent.  

 

One could argue that if you were to look at this objectively and survey the mountains, racers, coaches, and families of racers, what percent of them feel Vola is delivering results?  I can only guess based on personal experience and interactions in New England, less than 50%.  My main objective is to alert USSA,stop feeling frustrated every time I check ussalivetiming, and influence the organization to find a solution to a problem.  All the other conversation about how it's a problem, why it's a problem, who has this problem, software, hardware, and details that RA's and mountains deal with are in my opinion missing the main point.  All USSA members should enjoy the same electronic timing as we all used to enjoy in past seasons.  This is no longer the case since the introduction of the Vola partnership.  Time to fix it.  That simple. 

 

USSA folks are aware of this thread and undoubtedly this issue.  Why are you silent?  Please join the conversation and solution, maybe we can help but it's time to acknowledge and solve the issue.

post #32 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroGravity View Post
 

As far as the actual Vola or livetiming SW, I am guessing that the timing software from Split Second or Alge is very good at what it does but really crappy at exporting results in real time to 3rd party applications like Livetiming or Vola. Livetiming seems to have it figured out reasonably well, Vola obviously not so much. 

 

That's not entirely true. Split Second will export to Vola to upload to USSA. Unfortunately, that feature was implemented after most clubs purchased a Vola dongle. Alge doesn't make software that I am aware of. I think live-timing.com and Split Second is the same person (Geoff Elder). Now, you cannot to the best of my knowledge export in real time from Split Second to ussalivetiming, and the later is part of the Vola system in the same way that FIS live timing is tied into Vola. Broadcasting from Split Second to live-timing is seamless, and it can be controlled from within the timing window, making it easy to post messages about delays, course holds, etc. that automatically clear when racing resumes. You can do that in Vola too, but you have to switch applications and then remember to clear the message.

post #33 of 58

Again, not defending, but playing devil's advocate, why do you assume nothing is being done? SW dev isn't necessarily something that takes a couple of days, especially if they have had a major miss in the design.

 

Vola is a ski industry company, not a SW company. They probably have a contract SW dev guy or two who likely has no real idea of what the end-user experience really is, which is something that many SW companies don't get. I am guessing they thought that this would be a good idea and oversimplified the complexity. SW dev guy(s) have a tendency to be very narrow in their scope of what is working and what isn't, especially if they off-shored the dev to certain markets who are notorious for only delivering exactly what they are specified to deliver.

 

It seems they (USSA) have made an agreement, probably rushed it and botched the whole trial and assessment process and are now far enough down the path that they can't go back.

post #34 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by billgreen View Post
 

 

That's not entirely true. Split Second will export to Vola to upload to USSA. Unfortunately, that feature was implemented after most clubs purchased a Vola dongle. Alge doesn't make software that I am aware of. I think live-timing.com and Split Second is the same person (Geoff Elder). Now, you cannot to the best of my knowledge export in real time from Split Second to ussalivetiming, and the later is part of the Vola system in the same way that FIS live timing is tied into Vola. Broadcasting from Split Second to live-timing is seamless, and it can be controlled from within the timing window, making it easy to post messages about delays, course holds, etc. that automatically clear when racing resumes. You can do that in Vola too, but you have to switch applications and then remember to clear the message.

 

I don't have detailed knowledge of all the pieces, but it seems that there is a lack of end to end integration because it is dealing with 3 separate systems (timing gear, timing software, and reporting software), that have been poorly spec'd (in the case of Vola) and or rushed into production without proper integration and acceptance testing. Point the finger at at the USSA, but those type of decisions are frequently are commercial decisions, not functionality driven.

post #35 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Sadler View Post
 

Everything in Vola is extra steps compared to Split Second. Nothing is intuitive. It takes 2-3 times longer to set up a race than it used to. Vola creates it's own start order based on bibs. This makes it impossible to add a late entry, so no one will do it. I was accustomed to importing bibs & times and that is not available in Vola. Manually entering an athlete, opposed to importing from an online sign up, is 2 steps instead of 1. At first glance, there appeared to be many options for printing, but it turns out to be totally inflexible. If I had to use it again, I would export and create my own start list for distribution so I can keep it to 1 piece of paper.

 

I think most of the RA's hate it and some of the timing people do too. I don't time, so I can't speak to that aspect. Vola is the 5th ski race software I have used and in my opinion, this is the backwards move.


This is interesting to me.  I know this thread is more about the online results reporting but in race, while timing, Vola gives you a lot flexibility that Split Second never could.  We have found it much easier to work backwards and fix issues if they come up without loosing data.  Even if you totally loose track of the race, and let false starts, false finishes, and DNFs go by, it is easy to backtrack and resolve the issue without loss of data or time.  This is something that was not easily done in Split Second (and in some cases impossible).  

 

I also have not seen the issues with late registrations.  It took some getting used to, but importing start lists and adding racers did not seem to be an issue for us.  We were able to add racers in the appropriate positions without much issue.  I will say the bib ordering can get a little tricky, but we have not found that to be insurmountable either.

 

I will totally agree about some of the results and printing options.  If you are not running a scored race, and would just like a full list of finish times, it is not very flexible on that front.  It is also not as easy to export data for simple race results.  You have to export each run separately and merge them later in excel.  That aside we have been pretty happy with it for handling timing.

 

Again though, not really happy with USSA and how everything was managed.  I absolutely will not argue with that, and it is clear that some (perhaps many) mountains are having trouble working with the online reporting.  

post #36 of 58

Well, I got to experience the frustration of Vola live timing not working this week and I think I saw exactly what you guys are talking about. I asked the RA about it between runs and was told that their corporate firewall blocks it and IT had not found a solution yet. My club uses a cellular hotspot to connect the timing system to the internet. I'm curious for those of you having problems if your system has to go through a firewall. On live timing, it would show the name of the current racer on course, but no other information.

post #37 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by billgreen View Post
 

Well, I got to experience the frustration of Vola live timing not working this week and I think I saw exactly what you guys are talking about. I asked the RA about it between runs and was told that their corporate firewall blocks it and IT had not found a solution yet. My club uses a cellular hotspot to connect the timing system to the internet. I'm curious for those of you having problems if your system has to go through a firewall. On live timing, it would show the name of the current racer on course, but no other information.

 

 

In all fairness, if the FW blocks it, that isn't a Vola problem, unless they employ some very strange network protocol. It's a network admin problem that the resort IT/ISP, ROC and Timing crew should have addressed before the race. Sounds like a lazy or inexperienced network admin to me.

post #38 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroGravity View Post
 

 

But the counter-point question is, is there any "official" commitment by USSA/Nastar or even the host club for providing (near) real-time reporting? The former program director at our home hill is also a FIS TD,  liked to remind people when they were moaning about timing that first, the only times that really matter are the official ones that get posted from the CoT, and second that any form of updates, online or the race board are a courtesy, even though it is unusual not to provide it. My son has been in plenty of races where there's been no live timing of any kind, and others where half the hand written ones get screwed up.

 

From the perspective of another AOA region...

 

Live timing strongly encouraged, and more and more becoming an expected feature in our area.

Greatly appreciated by parents who are at one location with one of their kids, so they can see how the other is doing at another race somewhere else.

 

My first priority is always official times, but I have to recognize that live timing is a request from my user community that deserves attention.

post #39 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by mogulmuncher View Post
 

 

From the perspective of another AOA region...

 

Live timing strongly encouraged, and more and more becoming an expected feature in our area.

Greatly appreciated by parents who are at one location with one of their kids, so they can see how the other is doing at another race somewhere else.

 

My first priority is always official times, but I have to recognize that live timing is a request from my user community that deserves attention.

 

Unfortunately, while the escarpment clubs are good about displaying the times at the bottom of the hill, especially at Alpine with the big screen TVs!, but others are sadly lacking live-timing. We struggled without through many races at home with our son there.

post #40 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

It's doing the reporting here in Northern.

 

I've gone through 2 weeks of USSA-Livetiming and it is not doing the reporting in Northern.  Only Snow King has gotten it to report on the internet.  Montana Snowbowl failed.  Couldn't find any other Northern region mountains even trying.

post #41 of 58
I guess then I don't know what you mean by reporting. Spro files are being sent in to the divisional manager and USSA and the pdfs are being posted on the divisional site. USSA has results posted. The sole location I've seen apparently using the old software is Big Sky. The Missoula results on the USSA site are labeled as Vola, as are the ones on the Northern site.

Maybe I don't understand what you mean by reporting.

Northern's Facebook page has been posting links to live results.
Edited by sibhusky - 2/22/16 at 8:58pm
post #42 of 58

I won't speak for Hiruster but I can tell you Vola timing is not working, or rarely working anywhere in New England.  My son had his first round of U16 States hosted this past Sunday by Killington and Monday at Okemo (next weekend continues at Burke).  Two well funded and professional mountains that regularly host events and each have ski academies.  Both mountains scrapped Vola because it wouldn't work, and to their credit, used Live-Timing.com because they realized the importance of seeing live results for all parties, coaches, racers, and families.  That's a pretty strong endorsement for any live timing software other than Vola.  USSA needs to wake up and address this issue.  Berkshire East hosted Williams College carnival event this past weekend.  I was at the finish as a spectator and first thing I heard was 6 racers (high caliber D1 racers) complaining about Vola and not being able to see results again.  Second thing I heard was parents echoing same complaint.  I told them about this thread and they all asked for links because they were going to bombard USSA with complaints.  College kids so I doubt they will follow up or remember but regardless, it's an issue and needs to be recognized and resolved. 

post #43 of 58

sibhusky - I think the confusion is when we say live timing, we mean you can see the actual race results electronically, live, as they're happening.  This is what Vola is supposed to be providing but as the events are taking place, Vola is in fact recording the results, but none of the racers, their families, or the coaches are able to see it.  We used to be able to see the results via live-timing.com and USSA switched vendors to Vola and that's what everyone is upset about.  It's not working for the public.  So you are correct, the results are posted via USSA after the race is finished and in some cases, several days later.  So, yes, Vola is recording the times, but it's not visible to the people doing the hard work and earning the results, the racers, as they're completing each run.  For parents with children racing at the same time on two different mountains (and there are a lot of us who fall into that category), we cannot see how our children are doing because most mountains use Vola and no longer use live-timing.com. 

post #44 of 58
So basically, it is the LIVE part that is not working, but the after race reporting is working. When I was a race parent, there were people at the finish putting it on a board. Otherwise, you had to wait until Wednesday sometimes to find out results. All I said originally was that REPORTING was working. You know, the official results. Live Timing to me is absolutely not the same thing.
post #45 of 58

Correct - and helmets didn't used to be required, skis weren't shaped, and my great grandfather rode a horse to work.  Now we have electronic timing, an expectation that we can watch live results as the race happens.  We used to have this working perfectly well last year (and several year prior to that).  Now that USSA has a new deal with Vola, we no longer have that function.  That's the issue.  Imagine if your high speed connection was back to a 2.4k dial up modem.

post #46 of 58
It didn't SEEM that long ago. But I guess it's been 10 years. Time flies.
post #47 of 58

And don't forget all the "nice to have" things from live-timing.com, things like hovering over a club to get those results, over an age group for those results, over an athlete for their point profile, not having 2nd run and results be two different things.  It may not be important to race admins or officials, but as a parent live-timing.com was a fantastic and intuitive site with a lot of functionality that was low key yet very valuable.

post #48 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeroGravity View Post
 

 

Unfortunately, while the escarpment clubs are good about displaying the times at the bottom of the hill, especially at Alpine with the big screen TVs!, but others are sadly lacking live-timing. We struggled without through many races at home with our son there.

 

Haven't seen the newest display boards at Alpine, heard they are pretty nice though.

 

If you've seen races at TSC, their screen displays are showing Live Timing, driven by Split Second.

The displays are a bit temperamental sometimes due to a few things that need a little cleaning up on the PCs that drive the display output.

Nothing difficult, just needs some concentrated attention which is hard to come by when race season is in full swing.

post #49 of 58

Vola just put out an update that will "supposedly" fix the live timing issues. This is the link for venues using Vola's live timing system: http://ussalivetiming.com/

post #50 of 58
It's terrible in the Central division. Nothing is on USSA Live Timing. I should say once it had the start lists. USSA talks about live timing all the time. Maybe they should make sure it works for everyone. I have emailed USSA and they did not reply. We did hear that Tiger wanted a cut of Live-Timing.com ad revenue. LT said no so Tiger ended it. Hope he's happy. He's left the rest of us with an inferior product. Perhaps our races are just not important enough.
post #51 of 58
They used USSA Live Timing at the YSL Championships at Discovery. http://ussalivetiming.com/race/usa-mt-discovery-mens-gs-03-05-16-n0873_2063.html. It's working some places.
post #52 of 58
Thread Starter 

A fellow race parent got someone's attention at USSA.  They'd like to know what the issues are; they were unaware of the magnitude of problems.  Here's what I have gathered from the above discussion. This is more form the racer/parent/coach perspective rather than the administrator perspective.  Feel free to add:

 

1. Failure to implement the software, reversion to old live-timimg.

2. Technical background needed to implement Vola properly, inadequate training.

3. Start list exists but times don't appear, at least not live.  Official times show up a week alter on USSA site.

3. Run one works, run 2 fails.  Or both runs work but no final tallied results.

4. Bib numbers appear but no associated names.  Very common occurrence.  Happened at U14 Easterns last week.

5. Kids listed as DNS or DNF when they did race

6. No updates such as DQs possible until final reporting to USSA a week later.

7. Inflexible, can't add late entries.

8. Cursor functions don't exist.  Can't run the cursor over club name to see how their racers ranked, over the U12s to see their race ranking, over the racer to see his USSA points. etc.

9. Simple clicks to re-order the field by club, alphabetically etc... are not available

10. No searchable archive.  This is a big one.

 

Things have gotten better, and ultimately I think this system will be really nice, but USSA needs to know what they should be fixing.

 

Please add to the list if you can.

 

Thanks

post #53 of 58
My only issue is the results not being available in .txt format. PDF's have issues on some sites for Android users.
post #54 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by hirustler View Post

A fellow race parent got someone's attention at USSA.  They'd like to know what the issues are; they were unaware of the magnitude of problems.  Here's what I have gathered from the above discussion. This is more form the racer/parent/coach perspective rather than the administrator perspective.  Feel free to add:

1. Failure to implement the software, reversion to old live-timimg.
2. Technical background needed to implement Vola properly, inadequate training.
3. Start list exists but times don't appear, at least not live.  Official times show up a week alter on USSA site.
3. Run one works, run 2 fails.  Or both runs work but no final tallied results.
4. Bib numbers appear but no associated names.  Very common occurrence.  Happened at U14 Easterns last week.
5. Kids listed as DNS or DNF when they did race
6. No updates such as DQs possible until final reporting to USSA a week later.
7. Inflexible, can't add late entries.
8. Cursor functions don't exist.  Can't run the cursor over club name to see how their racers ranked, over the U12s to see their race ranking, over the racer to see his USSA points. etc.
9. Simple clicks to re-order the field by club, alphabetically etc... are not available
10. No searchable archive.  This is a big one.

Things have gotten better, and ultimately I think this system will be really nice, but USSA needs to know what they should be fixing.

Please add to the list if you can.

Thanks

Great points. I have heard parents complain about this all season.

Bottom line for races in NE: A few of the races this Spring we got times for both runs and total time results. Most of the time still not working properly, and even races with nothing working right. I can't tell what's going on since I am up on the hill for the entire race and don't directly deal with timing issues.

Hopefully this gets fixed for next season.
post #55 of 58
Thread Starter 

USSA sent this email to all USSA members yesterday.  Give them credit for owning up to this and trying to set things right.

 

Dear USSA member,

 

I want to thank you for your patience this season as the USSA community of clubs, race organizers and timers made the transition to our live timing platform www.ussalivetiming.com. The roll out this season was not as smooth as we hoped it to be, and that caused as much disappointment as it did useful feedback. We have worked all season to change and improve live timing, and there have been many races displayed and viewed. At the same time, there were issues and challenges that were not easy to resolve and this came at the expense of parents, coaches and relatives trying to follow their athletes. For this I apologize and pledge that we will continue to find and resolve any remaining issues. We are very sorry for the frustrations that this has caused and we will get it right next season.

This spring, we are collecting feedback for improvements and changes to the service. You will receive a survey that we encourage you to complete. This will give us a large amount of useful feedback that will guide the changes and improvements for next season.

We remain committed to helping race organizers through their final races and any remaining issues. Our support desk remains available to administrators, staffed by professional timers across the country, very experienced with the software and its support. If you are following a race that is not posted or running correctly on www.ussalivetiming.com, please encourage the race organizers to reach out to the various support resources we have available.

Although the 2015-16 season is drawing to an end, preparations for next season are already underway and we are working hard preparing to implement improvements to USSA Live Timing. Your feedback, support and patience is as always, much appreciated.

Tiger Shaw
President and CEO
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association

post #56 of 58

I'm assuming that all of you RAs and timers who contributed to this thread have seen and responded to the USSA survey that was sent out this morning. If not, please do so. It would seem that some, though not all, of the complaints have been heard. As I read it, USSA genuinely doesn't understand the problems people have had with Vola and the focus will remain on ussalivetiming.com. However, they are open to addressing some of the software/operational issues. 

post #57 of 58
Thread Starter 

Now this from Livetiming.com.  Does this mean the Vola disaster is over?

 

We are pleased to announce:

We're back!

Split Second Software is once again approved for use for USSA events.
We have now formed a strong relationship with USSA, both as Split Second and as Global Reach Sports for NASTAR (Global Reach Sports is partly owned by Split Second). Race The Gates is no longer available in the U.S.

We are already hard at work with USSA and look forward to everything we can accomplish together.

If you have any questions, as always, please contact me.

Geoff Elder
Split Second

post #58 of 58

This was the email from Tiger on May 4th, so yes, the VOLA disaster is over.

 

As we prepare for USSA Congress next week, I wanted to share a few developments with you and ask for your input and assistance with improving systems.

I once again want to thank you for your commitment to ski racing and all the hours you have put in this past winter to support, set up and run ski races for our USSA competitors. Throughout this past fall and winter, I was able to meet with and work with many of you and I learned a lot about what makes our organization work. Alpine ski racing could not exist without the efforts of people like you. 

The changes associated with Vola timing systems this winter were not without challenges. I am well aware of this and many of you have given us considerable feedback on how to improve and help you organize and run events. Feedback included not only comments on how to improve Vola, but many of you also asked to have flexibility in choosing your timing software.  As you know, were in a situation last fall that led to our focus on Vola as the only approved system. For this coming season, we have forged a strong relationship with Split Second that allows us to approve both systems for use in timing USSA sanctioned races next season. Split Second is now a strong partner and we look forward to having them back as we envision a marketplace with both choices and flexibility.

Going forward, the live timing system will list races together from both systems and will be supported by both companies. All races run on both systems will be listed and available on
ussalivetiming.com. Improvements and enhancements to USSA Live Timing are currently underway and we will be soliciting feedback directly from users soon. This survey information will be shared with both companies so that their support of Live Timing and its features and performance will benefit.

Since both Vola and Split Second are entering their cycles of software revisions and improvements, we are soliciting RAs, timers and others like you to help us prioritize and summarize the desired feature additions and changes. If you have used Vola’s timing and data platform please help us improve it by participating in this short survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2016USSATiming

Again, we cannot thank you enough for all that you do to support the USSA, your clubs, competitors and families.


Tiger Shaw
President and CEO
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association

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