Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that we have the best non-profit running team results database in the world?
Admittedly, having the best non-profit running team results database is a little bit like winning a 5k charity walk by running it. Turns out, not many people prioritize building a results database for non-profit running teams in their free time. But we did. And we’re just getting started.
Here’s how you can start using it:
- Run a race as a member of the Dashing Whippets (join here).
- Go to http://www.dashingwhippets.org/fullteamresults/
- Click on the radio button of your choice! You can sort results by different categories, and geek out to your heart’s desire.
The filter page looks something like this:
But that’s only the face of it.
Behind the results home page is some pretty cool tech. We want to share with you what we’ve accomplished with the results database so far, and recruit your help in figuring out where to go next.
If we were self-aware tech geeks, we would not attempt to show you what we’ve done, because our story is perhaps overly—what’s the word—specific. But we are not particularly self-aware, so we’re going to remain blissfully unaware that not everyone has a keen interest in how software is made.
Early on in our DWRT history, our results were meticulously maintained by Coach Scott Batten. He used a spreadsheet to generate a single-page well-formatted PDF file. The end result was great, but it was onerous to get there, especially as our team grew in size. To give you a sense of the scale of our team’s growth, in 2010 our team members had a collective 987 results and this year it will be well over 3,000. So Scott suggested we come up with a more automated solution. And so the Results committee was born.
Our first step was to get all the results data updated and in one place. For simplicity’s sake, we put everything into a Google document. Then, we built a proof-of-concept site on top of that using a coding language called GQL (Google Query Language). We essentially added a series of filters above the data. This site is currently private, and will be deprecated at some point soon, but if you’re curious to see our rough and tumble first attempt, you can check it out here for now: http://www.dashingwhippets.org/records-sortable-gdoc/
Next, the team wrote a script that pulled recent race results from the NYRR website. We created a Google webform to collect new non-NYRR results. (This is the form Matt sends out every week in the Weekly Wag). Speaking of which, have any races you’d like to submit? Cool, we happen to have the form handy: http://www.dashingwhippets.org/race-result-submission-form/
The proof-of-concept site is slow and non-standard, but it helped us make decisions about our data. How should we handle race data for the team member who has changed her name? Which NYRR races should we group together? How should we handle triathlons or snowshoe races? What format should we use for 24hr races? We haven’t answered all these questions yet, but we’re at least a little smarter about our data.
Our next step was to move our data into a standard SQL database and have it show on the Dashing Whippets website. We moved our code into version control (GitHub), we hosted the database in the cloud (AWS), and we worked towards making it so easy to update the site that even Matt Wong can do it. In the meantime, we’ve been updating the results database manually twice a month.
Along the way we’ve also added a few features. Our three most recent features include linked names to Strava accounts (join our DWRT Strava page!), the 10k equivalent pace (which is used for NYRR’s bib time), and weather details to searches conducted using the “race” filter:
So what’s next? Maybe we’ll add the ability to more easily search for personal best times. Maybe we’ll create visuals of our race results data. Maybe we’ll develop a mobile app that allows us to more easily submit and see race results. But which of these features is most valuable?
That’s where you come in. Help us groom and prioritize our to-do list! Click on this link and share your thoughts on what you’d like to see next. And if you have an interest in what we’re doing (especially if you have front-end development experience), reach out to us directly — we can use your help.
Thanks! Until next time, we are The Results Team (Young Cho, Brian Donaghy, Tom Flanagan, and Terrence McGovern).
P.S., For the curious, here is a (slightly aspirational) view of how data flows through our results database: