NOTES ON CERTIFICATE AND MAP QUALITY
I’ve received the last batches of November certificates from the vice-chairs. They have been scanned and the scans sent to USATF yesterday. When I get the go-ahead from USATF I’ll update the course list to the USATF search engine and my work as temporary registrar will be done, and Gene Newman will take over as registrar.
Here are some things I’ve learned about the Course Registrar job in my three-month tenure. Basically the job requires calm hours of high concentration. Each time an envelope arrives from a vice-chair, the following things are done:
1) The certificates are arranged in order and scanned using an automatic document feeder. The images wind up in a folder. Each scan is identified as “scan1.png, scan2.png…..etc.” The document feeder sometimes misfeeds. The scan files are individually viewed and renamed, as AL0800xJD, CO0800xDCR…etc until all have been renamed. If, during renaming, the file does not match what’s in the pile next to me, I know the scanner did a double-or-triple feed. Those certificates that did not get scanned are removed from the pile and rescanned. This is done until all the certificates have been scanned and renamed. These files are backed up on an external hard drive.
2) The procedure is repeated for the course maps.
3) With all the maps and certificates scanned and renamed, the data from each certificate is entered into the Access database. It is backed up to the external hard drive.
4) The course list is uploaded to the USATF web site each time certificates are received, scanned, and the list updated. The maps are uploaded only once per month. When USATF has integrated the map files into their system, the course list is sent to USATF and the list is up to date.
5) The course ID is written at the lower right side of the certificate, and the certificates are put into file folders in order. The written code helps to find the certificate when looking for one later.
That’s how it’s done. It is not an easy job, and it is made harder by some of the following things. These things relate to quality control of our product:
1) Dim copies. Some maps and certificates come through in a light gray, which does not scan at all well. This can sometimes be fixed using Photoshop, but it’s laborious.
2) Course ID on map doesn’t match the ID on the certificate. This necessitates a contact with the certifier to get things fixed.
3) Map does not have course town & state on it
4) Some maps have one side containing a certificate side-by-side with a list of splits, with a course map on the back. This is sometimes done when the map is such that there is not room for the splits on the map. HOWEVER – the map should at least have start, finish, and turnaround on the map itself, and not on the other side of the certificate. The map must stand alone. These certificates require an extra step to scan the splits. Split scans are identified as “AL0800xJD-2, CO0800xDCR-2…etc.” Some of these certificates require a third scan because of the way the material is arranged on the certificate.
5) Some maps have very narrow margins, and some content is lost during scanning.
6) Bad handwriting by the certifier, making the course ID hard to read. It’s a shame to see an otherwise well-done map messed up by sloppy printing by the certifier.
7) Tiny text. Sometimes this makes the map very hard to read.
8) Photographs appear on some certificates. These are generally illegible when copied, and should not be used. A sketch is better.
9) Additional electronic copies are sent by some certifiers, to be used in place of those that appear on the certificates. While this may be prettier, it requires the registrar to keep track of these files and substitute them for the scanned images.
The ideal certificate would have certificate on the front and map on the back, both crisp black & white copy and fully legible. Anything else should be a rare exception. Each person in the chain must do his job to maintain quality.
This is no longer my problem, it’s Gene’s. I hope we will pull up our socks and reverse the slippage in map quality that I’ve seen in the past period.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Pete Riegel,
I think issues 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 could all be eliminated by making a small modification to the procedure. For a measurer submitting electronic versions of his maps, the state certifier does not send in paper versions to the registrar. Instead, he sends the certificate and map to the measurer(which he does already). The measurer scans in the certificate and sends that to the registrar along with his electronic map.
This eliminates all the scanning issues mentioned, and also eliminates any confusion, because the electronic version is the only one the registrar ever sees.
I was not aware the course town was required on the map. The state is embedded in the course ID.
For many, including myself at times, drawing up the map is a pain and time-consuming. Reviewing maps on apps can also be painful and time-consuming to resolve questions. But, that's the way it is as there isn't one good all-purpose method to prepare the maps. Thanks, Pete, for laying out what's been expected of us all along but sometimes we need to review.
I thank Pete for this posting as it explains some problems we have had. Starting this month, it will be my job to fill this position. I hope that in a short time we can make the process run well.
Scott pointed something that I was not even aware of about the town being on the map. At the convention, I plan to get all that is required and have it posted here for all to see. Also, I will have our VC's notify the Regional Certifier's of the correct process.
As for what is being said by Mark, I feel this just will cause more delays in getting the courses listed. Another problem is the measurer may not have a scanner and probably will not scan in the correct format! The registrar must have the map and also the Certificate to gather the correct information to enter in our Access Data Base.
After the convention, I feel we will have a better process.
Those of us who have been submitting electronic maps have managed to get them into the correct format. There's no reason to think we couldn't get the certificates into the correct format as well. If a measurer can't manage it, then he has to send in paper copies instead.
If the measurer sends the electronic certificate to the registrar soon after he receives the paper copy, it will not delay the process of getting the map online. If he doesn't, well then it's his own fault.
Mark – before this is considered it’s necessary to look at what has to be done all along the path to certification. There’s a chain of custody question here. Presently nothing reaches the registrar that has not been vetted by the certifier and checked by the vice chair. A map sent by the measurer directly to the registrar may or may not match what’s been approved. Also, with over 2000 courses coming at the registrar each year from 500 different measurers, it would be an impossible job to keep the filing straight. I found that getting courses in electronic form caused me to become confused, and that was with only two people sending files that way. Although I did it as a courtesy, it added work and complexity which I did not welcome. None of the pretty colored maps were impossible to produce in clear black and white.
Shortcutting the path from measurer to registrar would reduce the time lag, it’s true. It would also result in many files coming to the registrar in unacceptable formats. What’s the registrar to do? Send a note to everybody who sends an unusable map? This is the job of the certifier and the vice chair. What comes to the registrar is supposed to be vetted and OK. There will certainly be exceptions, as we’re human, but they should be few.
Think through the process, and imagine you have the registrar job. It’s presently a simple but time-consuming job. It’s complicated by imperfections which we need to work on. The registrar presently deals with only two people in producing the course list – the vice chairs.
There may be a better way, but it’s got to be universal. If it’s not it results in making the registrar job a nightmare. Going electronic could involve a change to the entire process of certification.
I'll have to say I haven't sent a paper copy to the state registrar (Paul Hronjak) in years. I've been filing both my paperwork and map in PDF form since the late 90's. Since in most cases I produce the map on the computer that has made the most sense to me and keeps the qualify of the map high. Paul has instructed me on things each map needs (city, state, where's north, how do you do you find the course if you're not from there). I still have to send him a check the old fashioned way.
I don't see it being realistic that everyone send straight to the national registrar, but I certainly see it being practical to have everyone send to the state registrar for vetting electronically. The map and paperwork should follow a naming convention so when it's forwarded from the state to national it's not a housekeeping nightmare. The state registrars would be the gatekeepers in that area and if they don't the I'd see the national registrar just informing them they need to resubmit.
My suggestion would be this. Measurer submits paperwork to state registrar for review. Registrar reviews said paperwork and informs the measurer of the source number, or alternatively corrections. Once review is approved, the measurer puts the course number on the maps and names that map and associated paperwork with the course number. The state registrar forwards the electronic copies to the national registrar for filing and adding to the database. If the measurer cannot submit electronically the state registrar does it, if neither can it's done the same way it is now.
Workload is not all dumped on national, still the same checks and balances as before.
I certainly appreciate the fact that both you and Stu have accepted my electronic submission of maps, and I can understand how it could cause confusion if you also get paper copies. I suggested also sending in electronic versions of certificate as an attempt to eliminate some of the confusion, but maybe it doesn't. It just seems like we could come up with some type of procedure/protocol that would allow electronic submission that doesn't cause confusion or more work.
Keith, you're forgetting the Vice Chairs in this process - we're the penultimate layer of vetting, so that any errors or omissions hopefully get corrected before the maps are sent on to the registrar (also, it's state certifiers, rather than regstrars, just to avoid any confusion in titles & terminology). The national registrar's job is busy enough w/o having to make corrections before the already daunting job of scanning and filing is done.
That said, electronic versions of the maps/certs, if provided in the correct format, should be acceptable - several measurers submit theirs to me that way, and I produce my own maps in electronic format myself.
Would that be a possibility then? After the state certifier has approved the map that the measurer could send an electronic version to the Vice Chair?
Jim, when you get an electronic map do you forward it to the registrar in electronic form or print it out and mail it to him?
I am sitting here in Reno, just now having time to read the Forum.
This convention was a great opportunity to speak directly with those involved in the Registrar job, and we hashed this over quite a bit. If it were up to me, we would migrate to electronic submission as fast as possible. However, after discussing this issue, I now understand the issues the Registrar must deal with. That said, I am of the belief that the migration can be done, but with strict guidelines.
My first comment is directed to the flow Mark has suggested. I don't think we want paperwork flowing to the certifier, back to the measurer (for updating), then on to the Registrar. I don't think that is efficient, and it also breaks the chain of custody, as Pete calls it. I think the files (or paperwork) need to flow one direction, only.
As for the electronic files, there are several opportunities for paper to change to digital files, and each opportunity is an acceptable option. First, as a measurer, I can make my files digital. I must follow guidelines, though, and not just send whatever I want.
If I send my map and app as paper, the Certifier can scan the map. He can choose to add the cert number with legible handwriting, or put it in a typewriter prior to scanning, OR he can scan it and add the cert number with software. Either way, he then can send the map as a png file, 300 dpi and 8.5 x 11 inches, named (for example) "CO08001DCRmap.png". (Or, he can deal only with paper, and mail all to the Vice-Chair.)
If I send my paperwork electronically (the App as a PDF, and the Map as a PNG), the Certifier can add the cert number to the PNG very easily.
After creating the Cert, he can scan it, or save it directly as a png, naming it (for example) "CO08001DCRcert.png". He can then send the PNG files back to the measurer, or print and mail them back.
Either way, he has created the PNG file that will then be used by the Registrar. The files are still quite viable by the Vice-Chair, and can be printed by him, if so desired. Or, the VC can simply save them to his computer, and forward to the Registrar.
When the Registrar receives those files, he can open the Certificate file (or print it, but I think that would be a waste of trees), and enter the info into Access. He would then Save As into his Certs folder, dropping the "cert" from the filename (if it is really necessary to do that). He then saves the Map file into his Map folder, dropping the "map" from the filename. He can put a copy in his "upload" folder, ready to send to USATF.
After doing this, the measurer has either a file or a paper version of both the Cert and Map, with the cert # on the map; the Certifier has at least digital files of each; the VC has digital files of the Cert and Map; and the Registrar has the PNG file he needs to upload to the USATF site. Also, if the Registrar wants to start including the Cert as part of the images available on the USATF site, the Cert is already in PNG format, and it should be a simple matter to include it to USATF.
If the Certifier does not want to deal with digital files, or does not want to deal with PNG, then the VC can do the scanning or change-of-format contortions, if he chooses. Or, he can send the Registrar paper.
I think there is a way to bring our craft into the digital age, and not create extra work for those not so inclined. However, I do believe that, going forward, there should be some expectation for certifiers or vice-chairs to be digitally-inclined. As we streamline this process, more of us will be digitally fluent, and that won't be an undue expectation of someone in the processing chain.
I am looking forward to seeing other opinions regarding digital maps and certs. Are there many certifiers that don't have access to a scanner and software, which would prevent you from migrating to digital, if the Registrar and Regionals want to move in that direction?This message has been edited. Last edited by: Duane Russell,
Thanks for taking the lead on this. I agree with everything you said, except I don't think the state certifiers, vice chairs, or registrar necessarily need to be any more electronically savvy than they currently are.
I would suggest the following small change to your procedure. The state certifier can do everything the way he does now, except that in the end he doesn't mail the map or certificate to the vice chair. Instead, once he is happy with the map and application, he asks the measurer to create electronic versions of the map and certificate. When he receives those from the measurer he forwards them on to vice chair, just like he does now with the paper versions.
This system doesn't require anyone to learn anything new, with the possible exception that the certifiers would need to be able to confirm that the electronic files they receive are in the correct format before forwarding them.
And of course, any measurer who wants to submit everything in paper can still do so.
Chances are we'll never (in our lifetimes, at least) eliminate paper maps. The one-time measurer isn't going to invest the time or money in getting and mastering the software necessary to do it.
That said, we seem to be moving in that direction. I have no problem w/ receiving electronic certs, but it's those above me in the chain of custody that must be taken into acount.
Right now, when I get a map/cert as a PDF, I print out 2 copies, file one, mail the other off to the registrar. I know I could eliminate 1 or both copies but it's easier to go w/ the existing procedure, for now.
First, the process we use could be improved, but the measurer can't do as suggested. Some things must be done by the Regional Certifier as explained below. If we do as suggested by some the process will slow down and confusion would follow. Note below comments on the maps as to who and what's to be expected.
Maps should have the following:
1.Course ID - (done by Regional Certifier)
2.North Arrow - (done my measurer)
3.Race Name and City - (done by measurer)
4.Start and Finish with descriptions- (done by measurer)
5.Name of the Measurer with their contact information -(done by measurer)
6.In place of Expiration Date the following statement à Certificate valid from(date of submission) through Dec. 31st(10 years hence) - (done by Regional Certifier)
Maps should not contain Pictures or Photographs.
Maps should be done with Black print on White Paper
Maps should have a margin of 3/8”
Maps should be done on the back of the Certificate if possible.
The Vice Chairs will check that this is being followed.
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