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Discussion: Making life easier for newcomers

in: Orienteering; General

Apr 29, 2016 5:14 AM # 
I just came across this article from a first time orienteer that tried out one of Toronto Orienteering Club' events for the first time recently.

Runs of Anarchy - My first Orienteering Event

I wanted to comment on it here because I think it highlights some of the things so many orienteering clubs do poorly when it comes to attracting and retaining new members. I thought about posting it in the Some success in club growth thread but it warrants it's own discussion.

The issues that I see all come up in the first 4 paragraphs and are all before the writer heads on course. Invariably she enjoyed the actual orienteering and at the end of the article states she is likely to come back. Indicative, I think, that the sport itself is an easy sell but we just don't do a very good job of it.

In the following paragraphs I dissect the article as an instructive exercise. When we talk about attracting new people to events we need to think about it from their perspective not our own. This article is a great example of "their perspective".

Skip to the bottom for the takeaways :)

"I saw Barb Campbell’s post on Facebook about an introductory orienteering event..." Perfect. Nothing wrong with this and hearing about the sport through friends in person or on social media is one of the best ways to convince someone to try it.

"Where was the table and the volunteers? We couldn’t see them initially but apparently we were just a tad too early." I don't know the back story here but this is already putting the newcomer off balance. Registration and some form of greeter / race official should always be there early enough to meet newcomers and make them feel confident they are in the right place for the right event. That said, what is 'early enough'. How much was 'just a tad too early'? Was there at least a race banner up so the newcomer knew she was in the right place?

"Still gotta learn how this helps me" This was in reference to an image of a symbol control description. Why was a total newcomer provided with a piece of paper that was not possible going to help her (granted other than the control codes) and would provide more confusion than help? If the codes aren't directly on the map in an easily readable way at least have an option for a newcomer to take a text control description in a language they can read other than in the untranslatable IOF code.

"Wanda, Barb and her friend Chris explained the checkpoints and the purpose of the dibler [sic] that we were handed when we registered. Um, what do I do with this???" I have the impression (and I could be wrong) that despite this being labeled as an 'introductory orienteering event' (see first comment) she was receiving instructions from a friend and not in a more formal structured way as part of the event. I could be falsely reading into what the blogger wrote but... If an event is being advertised as introductory it should have structured instruction at the beginning to get people initiated and explain all the mysterious ways orienteering works.

Also dibbler?? Can we please use a term like timing chip...

"Also, no one told me I was supposed to bring a highlighter!" Two options here: make it very very clear that all participants should bring a highlighter / pen or have a stack of markers clearly available that people can borrow. Better yet both. The bigger picture of course is that we need to do a better job communicating what people should bring with them to the event: compass, whistle, and other 'obvious' items as well as more optional things like water bottles and pens.

"Psst. “Wanda, it is a warm day out, why is everyone wearing pants?” Ah, apparently to protect their legs while bushwhacking." See previous set of comments. We should be explaining in a prominent place on our websites what they should be bringing to the event and how they should be dressed. It will only make their experience more enjoyable.

The rest of the article is a description of the course and while they naturally had some time losses, what with it being their first ever event, they seemed to have fun: "Well that was certainly a lot of fun...." so good on you TOC for hosting an event with a fun course that newcomers could enjoy! That's 80% of the battle.

I think the main takeaway is that we as organizers and people in know need to think very carefully in order to anticipate all the little things a newcomer will run into that can be fairly easily avoided.

I encourage clubs to include a 'try an event' type page like the ones I have helped write for both Orienteering Ottawa and Foothills Orienteering. These pages should then be placed on the website so it's hard for a newcomer to miss them.
Apr 29, 2016 6:39 AM # 
"Also, no one told me I was supposed to bring a highlighter!"

While the bigger issue was communication, I can't help but think: Why on earth would an O-club would expect participants to supply their own pens, let alone highlighters?
Apr 29, 2016 8:52 AM # 
Apr 29, 2016 9:34 AM # 
What do they need a highlighter? Must be an adventure race thing.
Point is well taken. Running low-key low staff orienteering events in the Suncoast area of Florida I cringe that I am not able to do a better job catering to the special needs of the first time orienteer. I recognize that the highest attrition rate in orienteering is between the first and never-happening second event.
As to the introductory instructions for Ottawa and Foothills they are very good. I expect Suncoast Orienteering will copy them one day but one small change I would suggest is to put in a line about why whistles are mandatory.
Apr 29, 2016 11:56 AM # 
The newcomers-eye view is valuable to have, but worrying excessively about it may not be helpful. Preparing newbies for everything they are going to find unexpected, could cause a high attrition rate between the zeroth and their first event.
Apr 29, 2016 12:33 PM # 
I was at the event, which was a 90 minute Score O in a city park, but not involved in the organization. I didn't use a highlighter myself and I actually hadn't been aware of anyone else using one. Being in a very popular city park (sufficiently popular that when I left after picking up controls, someone patiently waited about 10 minutes for my parking spot), before the event the organizers would have been putting out controls at the last minute and handling registration.

The Score O was not billed on the website as an introductory event. The website actually said: "90 minute Score-O event, plus a beginner course available so fun for all." The beginner course participants started after the Score O, when I expect there was opportunity to provide some instruction and I expect the beginner course would have had English control descriptions. When I've put on beginner courses in that park as part of the club's summer evening series, there actually has been no need for people to have long pants. There are numerous trails and the woods are mostly very open in the main part of the park.
Apr 29, 2016 12:33 PM # 
Any new experience is going to seem new. Orienteering attracts at least slightly adventuresome folks, such as the blogger. For people wanting to be more prepared for their first experience, a full day clinic makes sense. I know that there's a limit to what I can fit in the news releases to local newspapers and radio. Even in social media I think there can be a "too long; didn't read; on to something easier" factor.
Apr 29, 2016 12:37 PM # 
It also appears that the map is some unusual form of score-O. Was the objective to find one control with each number (eg just one of the 1A, 1B, IC..., then a 2, then a 3...)? Or all with the same letter (eg 1C, 2C, 3C)? This adds an extra level of complexity for newcomers, and I can see why they might have wished to highlight the ones they chose to look for.
Apr 29, 2016 12:47 PM # 
mikeminium, the numbers just indicated the value of the controls (number x 10). There was one complex aspect, which was controls that were available for only 10 minute periods. But, again, there was a separate course provided for beginners, although I expect if someone didn't mention they wanted to do the beginner course at registration, the default probably was to expect that someone registering was planning to do the Score O. There was an announcement about the beginner course before the start of the Score O.
Apr 29, 2016 12:55 PM # 
My first parents saw a notice in the newspaper about an orienteering event at a nearby military base, and took the whole family out. Beginner instruction was by someone who, I suspect, hadn't done orienteering before, giving such info as that once one arrived at the indicated feature, one would then need to hunt around for a marker hidden somewhere random in the brush nearby (not actually the case, as we found out). My dad and I went out together, and my mom with my brother and sister. We enjoyed it, came back, and at the annual meeting that year found out that we had become one of the two most active families in the club.
Apr 29, 2016 1:13 PM # 
Did you get conscripted?
Apr 29, 2016 1:23 PM # 
No, although I did end up getting hired by the military academy to make orienteering maps, several years later.
Apr 29, 2016 2:00 PM # 
tRicky wants to join the ADF maybe they need some maps made?
Apr 29, 2016 2:58 PM # 
I wish, some of the bases here would make good sprint venues but they'd never let us in. Look how much trouble it was the year Cyclosportif rode over to Garden Island. They've not been back since.
Apr 29, 2016 3:02 PM # 
There have been a couple of comments along the lines of "We don't want to flood newcomers with too much information before an event". True!

The trick is to figure out when newcomers need to know what. You gradually feed them the information over time.

On facebook or other early notifications you just give them enough to be interested in finding out more: The date and location of the event, the fact that newcomers are welcome, and an attractive image.

Facebook points them to the website where they read an enticing description of orienteering and can choose an event. When they choose an event there's a prominent link to an 'everything you need to know' type page.

This everything you need to know page should be fairly comprehensive but concise. If there's good instruction at the event you can be less comprehensive and more concise in only feeding them the information they need to know before arriving on site.

When they arrive at the event they should already know what to do to start - look for the banner and the registration table and talk to such and such a person for more information.

Then they get the final instructions on how the event works, how to read a map perhaps, etc.

Information should be doled out in bite-sized chunks as appropriate. You definitely don't want to overwhelm them with too much information too early but you should give them the information they want when they want it.
Apr 29, 2016 9:24 PM # 
"Psst. “Wanda, it is a warm day out, why is everyone wearing pants?” Ah, apparently to protect their legs while bushwhacking."

Beautiful irony. In a city park too, yet orienteers have to have their pants.
Apr 29, 2016 11:24 PM # 
I've now had a chance to read the article. Some comments:

1. I recognize the last name from looking at the sign up list when I went to the Wednesday evening park event immediately following, so at least one of the two sisters went to her second event only a few days later!

2. Looking at the pictures, their legs are completely unscratched. So they might have been just about the only ones running in shorts, but that doesn't mean long pants were really necessary. The only area I encountered thicker woods was just before emerging at the dog park, as they mentioned. I reached those woods about the same time as Bash, but we separated there in choosing different ways to get through.

3. From reading the article, I expect they enjoyed the Score O much more than they would have enjoyed a beginner course (which they call the "junior course"). So it's not that they didn't know an easier course was available. It's not what they wanted to do.

4. With respect to their problem finding 5E, there were extra trails in the area even though the map shows just one trail heading off the main trail. That gave me a little trouble as well when I did the course. I was later able to confirm the presence of the extra trails when I picked up that control.

5. The moving controls were not numbered the same way, which would have been hard to do because they had different numbers at each location. Instead of the moving controls being held by someone at the location, they were planted in the ground, and the mover just sat nearby. Whereas I had confirmation that I was at the right control because I knew the person sitting nearby, they would not have had it.
Apr 29, 2016 11:29 PM # 
And my first weekend event: I started on yellow, and one of the first controls was at the wrong trail intersection. About half a dozen of us on the course were gathered at the intersection were the control should have been. So I went back to the start and got an orange map. Between starting relatively late and not really being prepared to run orange, I was still nearing the finish when I saw one of my controls being picked up.
May 1, 2016 5:52 AM # 
I can add a few more details... Because this event was in Sunnybrook Park, a very popular area for trail runners, it occurred to me that the TOC Mob Match would be a good intro to orienteering so I posted it for my Facebook friends, suggesting it as an alternative type of Sunday long run. That was only three days before the event.

The blogger and her sister were the only ones brave enough to take up my challenge! As background, they are accomplished, well-known ultrarunners who typically finish on the overall podium in distances ranging from 25K to 100 miles. They know Sunnybrook Park well and are quick learners; they wouldn't have come all that way to do the beginner course.

They ran the Mob Match with an experienced adventure racer friend of theirs who orienteers occasionally - hence the highlighter, which most of us use for AR. Like Rlindzon, I didn't bring or use a highlighter for the Mob Match, nor did most participants, but there was ample planning time so it wasn't a bad idea.

I wore pants and went places where I was glad to have them. (It's a city park but there is plenty of bushwhacking.) However, it was one of the first warm days of spring so shorts would have been more comfortable and fortunately the newcomers didn't get scratched. (Their luck ran out when they attended their next event three days later!)

Since trying their first race two weeks ago, they have returned for two more Toronto Orienteering Club events, making social media posts with an #orienteeringisfun hashtag that warms my heart. :)

Although, I *do* think the sport could do a lot more to be welcoming to newcomers, this particular case is a success story. Having an experienced friend to run with was probably the most important factor in making their first experience fun instead of frustrating. Maybe we could offer a "Rent a Buddy" service for new orienteers. :)

(I'm only half-joking.)
May 1, 2016 7:22 AM # 
@bash - don't half joke. Typically I go to the first 2 or 3 controls with newcomers. I used not to until I saw one day after being told by a couple that they would go to the Start flag (track T intersection) and turn left.... they turned right.
Now I go with the newcomer to a couple of controls (or less if really confident and seemingly knowledgeable). They do the navigating I just tag along.
This is on our club events - not our State events.
May 1, 2016 7:00 PM # 
Great plan. My first real orienteering experience was a clinic with Nina Wallace where a small group of us spent most of a day of being coached as we found controls in the woods. I was lucky but most people get thrown in the deep end. It takes a special person to decide that is fun!

Btw Canadian, I really like the Orienteering Ottawa "Try an Event" page. I'm going to see if we can work something like that into the new Orienteering Ontario website.
May 1, 2016 7:58 PM # 
@tinytoes - just keep in mind that not everybody would appreciate being followed like that. I would have personally preferred to make embarrassing mistakes and recover from them on my own, without anyone else watching, and I would also feel more proud of myself knowing I relocated on my own, without anyone's help. So do offer newcomers to go with them, but don't insist if they don't seem to like that idea.
May 1, 2016 10:09 PM # 
@MChub - you can pretty much tell by talking to people in the general introduction and about the map who will not need help and who we'll have to wait for. I am much happier when newcomers return and say "That was so easy" because I invite them to go out on a second course (or part thereof) and they get very enthusiastic.
But point taken.
May 2, 2016 4:09 AM # 
@rindzon and @bash - Thanks for the background info! That explains the part of the blog post about learning from Bash and others.

Bash, it sounds like you made a good call to put the invite out there on facebook and it really paid off with a couple of really enthusiastic new orienteers.

On the pants and highlighters - What we need to realise is that whatever a newcomer sees at their first event they will assume that's the norm and if it's confusing or just different and new to them we need to realise that and take that into account. Whether or not pants are something they should wear there are typically some orienteers wearing long pants at all events and this will be seen and, apparently, commented upon :) Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

It does make me wonder whether we need to do a better job of efficiently providing the kind of information we make available for major championship events: whether or not to wear spikes, long pants, gaiters, etc. If you're using a database system behind the website that includes map info you could include that kind of information for each map. Otherwise it could go on a try an event type page.

By the way, I always take a minute to whip out a pen and draw my route for score events. Even if we don't get to look at the map in advance. It's a trick I learned from Brian Graham. You're far more likely to come up with a more efficient route standing there at the start than you are on the fly.
May 2, 2016 4:41 AM # 
Great idea re the detailed championship event info. I think some clubs are doing that now but certainly not all. Before our first O race years ago, we emailed the organizer to ask if hiking boots and trekking poles would be appropriate. At my first championship event, my husband stopped by the start and asked for a map so he could hike the trails with our dog. No dice - those orienteers sure seemed picky! :) There is a lot of info we could put in FAQs or on "Getting Started" pages.

What we need to realise is that whatever a newcomer sees at their first event they will assume that's the norm and if it's confusing or just different and new to them we need to realise that and take that into account.

This made me chuckle because of the new wrinkle in this year's Mob Match. There were a number of controls that were only active for a specific 10 minute period during the 90-minute race. It was explained clearly but it was one of the most challenging, brain-twisting score-Os for route planning I've ever done - especially when adjusting plans on the fly. I think any newcomer who survived that race definitely has what it takes. :)

Btw the new orienteers read this discussion thread with interest. The blogger commented, "I don't think TOC was unwelcoming to beginners. I am sure if I had asked for explanations and assistance for anything, someone would have helped me out, but that is why I went with [an experienced friend]." She writes with humour so some of her comments about the event were just meant to be lighthearted. Her sister commented that an explanation of the control description sheet - or a link to a resource to look up the meanings - would have been helpful. I think if an English description sheet isn't offered, it is probably best to just hide the regular control descriptions to avoid making people's heads explode at their first race. ;)
May 2, 2016 10:10 AM # 
I want to try football but my bum is big, do you have to wear tights? Do I need a highlighter?
May 2, 2016 10:26 AM # 
You have to have feet.
May 2, 2016 12:33 PM # 
We have a single printed sheet (8.5 x 11 inches, approx. A4 size) of all ISCD control descriptions on the registration table for free pickup at all events. Also, when we use maps that do not have space for printed legends, we have a small printed sheet of a standard legend (about 1/6 to 1/4 of an A4) that we put out as well. These two sheets are very popular with beginners. We also print English descriptions on the maps for Course 1 and 2 (USA white and yellow).
May 2, 2016 1:12 PM # 
I'm an advocate of the idea that all courses that are not at the advanced navigation level should have IOF descriptions with the local language printed right next to them. Newcomers can be told that they don't need to use the symbols, but you're supplying them with a "Rosetta stone" so that by the time they move up, they'll have learned them by osmosis.
May 2, 2016 4:01 PM # 
Great idea JJ, we try to do this for National (A) meet courses. But for local events there's often not enough space to print both sets side by side. Plus its a little more complicated to set up - I don't think CONDES has an option to print both text and symbols together, does it? The way I usually do it is export to OCAD a set of courses with symbols, then export another set with textual descriptions. Then delete the course from one of the files, import and align those descriptions with the other file, then import into the OCAD map file and print. A little tedious but it works.
May 2, 2016 4:07 PM # 
In Condes, you can add a second control description to a course and make the second one textual or symbols. It does take up twice the room on the map. The option is in the same symbol set where you add the Start triangle, etc.
May 2, 2016 5:46 PM # 
With Purple Pen, it's easy to have both symbols and text, FWIW.
May 2, 2016 7:15 PM # 
While I don't disagree that having both symbol and text control descriptions can be valuable I would not do it for beginner courses (course 1 / white courses). Newcomers have enough new things flooding their brain what with a map with a legend different to most other maps they've ever seen. Control descriptions generally aren't critical for newcomers, especially the beginner courses are set so why provide them with it? If you want to provide them with text control descriptions fine but my own personal preference is to only provide them with a table that shows the control number and control codes. Keep it simple so you need less explanation.

The course 2 / yellow course can then have text control descriptions and the orange / course 3 can have both text and symbolic descriptions. Harder courses can have full symbolic descriptions.
May 2, 2016 8:05 PM # 
Here in Canada the best reason for using symbolic control descriptions across the board is that we are a country with two official languages. We can treat the two languages equally by leaving both out of the control descriptions.
The second best reason is that the symbolic description box usually takes up less room on the map than the written descriptions.
Now wearing my other hat: in Florida, Suncoast Orienteering does not use symbolic descriptions at all. The reason is most of our 'clients' are students who come orienteering perhaps on an average four times in a year. I feel they could use all their concentration on learning the map symbols, etc. No need to complicate it further. Besides some have intimated to me that they don't look beyond the first two columns of the control description anyway. Even English terms such as root stock and re-entrant (we don't have a lot of those) have a certain amount of mystery for them.
So what am I saying? I guess it is we should not burden our clients with extras like symbolic control descriptions if they do not bring value added to the process. (This coming from someone who was a membr of the IOF Council when we heartily endorsed the proposal to introduce symbolic control descriptions.)
May 2, 2016 8:15 PM # 
Just did the Irish Champs with Symbols and had no problem with the local language, to be sure!
May 2, 2016 10:21 PM # 
@Canadian and gordhun - A couple reasons I've encountered not to use JUST the textual language:
1. A European family traveling in the US with their young kids - the kids were fluent in the symbols but not too good with reading English.
2. On my school team I have a dyslexic boy. He has a very slow and difficult time reading text, but he's quickly mastered the symbols.
May 2, 2016 11:06 PM # 
Canadian wrote: The course 2 / yellow course can then have text control descriptions and the orange / course 3 can have both text and symbolic descriptions. Harder courses can have full symbolic descriptions.

I think this represents a misreading of how many newcomers (like the adventure racers cited here) will acclimate to the sport. The white-yellow-orange progression is designed for kids. It's not the same for adults. It's terrain dependent, but I've seen friends who were ready to try advanced courses after their second or third time out - long before they've memorized control symbols.
May 2, 2016 11:06 PM # 
Those are two good reasons Mike. In fact I have come across a Brazilian family of orienteers in the same situation. I apologized and they were helped with symbols but frankly on Florida maps it is usually very easy to tell what the control description will be by the symbol in the center of the circle on the map. Trail junction, thicket, clearing, marsh/ swamp depression/ sink hole etc - they all look the same on both.
May 3, 2016 12:47 AM # 
@mike - both of those examples are very good not uncommon situations that should be considered. Given that it has been stated above that there typically isn't room to print both text and symbol descriptions on the map perhaps we should only print in English on the map and provide the option for both text or symbol descriptions on a separate sheet?

@blegg - fair point. Any suggestions on how to deal with that scenario?
May 3, 2016 1:13 AM # 
@vmeyer: Does only the latest version of Condes support 2nd control descriptions? (HVO hasn't upgraded as most EDs/CS's use OCAD -- though I only use Condes). I also wonder if the text (2nd) control descriptions could be partially slid under the symbol descriptions ("bring to front") so only the text is visible (assuming the boxes align)...
May 3, 2016 1:25 AM # 
@blegg: I am sure adults who can learn how to do advanced courses can memorize at least the most common control description symbols.
May 3, 2016 1:48 AM # 
Having laid out a lot of courses on maps, I'm rather skeptical of the notion that you're typically space-constrained on the shortest ones. Lame excuse.
May 3, 2016 1:51 AM # 
At the Mob Match, control descriptions were provided on a separate sheet so map space wasn't an issue. The first-time orienteers were fine with being provided with symbol descriptions. They just would have liked a way to look up the meanings - even a sheet or two of paper taped to the registration table. But in the end, they tucked the descriptions away and ignored them, which was a good plan. Most southern Ontario clubs don't use symbol descriptions so their adventure racer friend probably didn't know all the symbols either, even though she could teach them the other aspects of the sport.
May 3, 2016 1:53 AM # 
In Florida you also should offer free pampers exchange to those newcomers who encounter face-to-face that hanging-down--from-the-tree snake.
May 3, 2016 2:50 AM # 
@JJ - Certainly when meets are on a 10,000 or 15,000 map, there's almost always plenty of room. But our typical local meets are small parks, 5000 scale maps, and a beginner course may pretty well cover the area. If the map has a legend, I don't mind covering it with the advanced descriptions. But for white / yellow, ideally you also want the legend visible. And you don't want to cover the obvious catching features at the edges of the map either. Like you, I've printed a whole lot of maps and courses (probably not as many - few people likely would match your totals) And, at least for our typical local meets, finding room to squeeze in descriptions can be a nuisance, even on white and yellow.
May 3, 2016 3:09 AM # 
Use bigger paper.
May 3, 2016 3:49 AM # 
@HVO hasn't upgraded. Condes upgrading is in the hands of each user - why wouldn't you? Just added a 2nd (and a third) description to a course I had handy. Can easily move them round, over the top of each other, etc. It looks a bit messy though, with the title half covered. But around here its academic, they don't get looked at. People use the loose ones.
May 3, 2016 4:05 AM # 
Condes upgrading is in the hands of each user - why wouldn't you?

Condes upgrading is in the hands of each licensee, which, in this case -- and probably most -- is the club.

I use Condes pretty infrequently, so it isn't worth the money to front the cost, with little chance of reimbursement. However, my most recent use was for a CS friend, who needed help with a different club's event (I used that club's license code, as req'd).
May 3, 2016 4:07 AM # 
@vmeyer and gruver. OK, I give up... Where in CONDES do you find the option to add a second or third description to a control or course? I'm probably just blind. And yes, I have a newer version...
May 3, 2016 5:00 AM # 
@mike - a second description or a second description table?
May 3, 2016 5:01 AM # 
I think we should just send all newcomers to this thread to see what orienteering is really about.
May 3, 2016 11:17 AM # 
A nice thing (among many) about Purple Pen is not worrying about licences. What do Condes or 0CAD do for course setting that PP doesn't? Is there some feature gap that's attracting people to one or the other, or familiarity?
May 3, 2016 11:56 AM # 
@mm: The way I put descriptions on the map in Condes, is to click on a descriptions icon on the RHS of the window; click somewhere on the map; answer a few questions about the appearance; and click OK. The descriptions appear, and then I drag them into a suitable position. The process can be done again, and this time you can specify "text" instead of "pictorial". But I understand the problems, I'm an occasional user and often find myself thinking, I know this can be done, now which menu is it in?
May 3, 2016 12:03 PM # 
@JimBaker - PP/OCAD are course drawing tools. Condes is for course planning ;-)

@GuyO/Mike/etal - Condes has had the second CD feature for decades. Just click on the "New CD" icon - the black grid (usually on the righthand side of the window)
May 3, 2016 12:49 PM # 
Some reasons that Condes is better for course planning - not sure how easy these are to do in OCAD/PP:

  • accurate master maps (in OCAD, how can you tell which control number belongs to which circle on the master map? In Condes, simply click on the control).

  • ability to easily find which course(s) a control is used on (hover the mouse over the control).

  • ability to easily see which course(s) each leg is used on, and how long the leg is

  • ability to print at multiple scales (absolutely impossible in OCAD without using multiple files which will very quickly get out of sync).

  • check for unused controls

  • check for controls too close to each other

to name a few "planning" features
May 3, 2016 1:22 PM # 
PP does most of that as well. Condes seems to have the biggest advantage in relay planning.
May 3, 2016 1:23 PM # 
PP definitely does the last three on AZ's list. It will also show what courses use what controls, although not my hovering a mouse over the control. I'm not sure I totally understand the first feature on the list, but I think that's no problem in PP.
May 3, 2016 1:24 PM # 
AZ - PP is a course planning tool, and does all of those. In answer to Jim B, people are probably using Condes & OCAD because they've paid for a licence and (being typical orienteers) don't like to waste their money.
May 3, 2016 1:45 PM # 
How do you print at different scales in PP? If I have an event with 1:15,000 and 1:10,000, for example, how do I make different layouts for the different scales
May 3, 2016 1:58 PM # 
You can set the print scale for each course in the course properties.
May 3, 2016 1:59 PM # 
@Simmo- it isn't really money. Since I have a great tool (CONDES) for course planning I don't bother checking very often the other tools - perhaps every few years. And last time I checked PP & OCAD were very poor, so there was no reason to switch. At some point I'll discover a better tool and then I'll switch - but I'm not looking very hard because there's not much missing from Condes. The main issue with Condes being that the UI is tricky to learn (as demonstrated by the "how do I add a second control description' question) and I learned it ages ago ;-)
May 3, 2016 2:01 PM # 
@Edwarddes - but setting the print scale isn't the only issue. The layout will change so I want to be able to reposition logos, etc, and perhaps even use a different size of paper. I don't think that I can do that can I?
May 3, 2016 2:30 PM # 
Is changing the scale as easy as changing it in course properties? Don't you have symbol sizes to deal with?

AZ - what works for you is what you should use. I was reluctant to abandon Corpse until I tried out PurplePen (at Simmo's insistence) and I like it much more but I'm not trying to push either program here.

I've never used OCAD for course planning (other than for scatter events) so don't know its limitations or capabilities. I only use it for map drawing.
May 3, 2016 3:06 PM # 
I have an ancient personal license for Condes, and a club license for OCAD, but have been using Purple Pen and OOM mostly, as they reduce license tracking issues and seem perfectly adequate. If they suffice, then I think that it's worth teaching them, instead of the licensed products, to club members, for the reason of lower license hassle, and thus programs that can be used widely without careful tracking. This in turn reduces the degree to which certain tasks fall on a few people who have the licensed program, and reduces the license tracking role.

@AZ...different layouts rather than different scales...yes, course-specific layout can be important (your original question just mentioned scale, which I think confused people). I can't offhand see a way to have a different map file for each course, and I recently wanted to do that for this exact reason. What one can do is change the map file between Acme Forest - May Day Event Advanced Courses and Acme Forest - May Day Event Beginner Courses, say, as needed when printing or whatnot. This is what I did for my recent winter training event, which offered either the full map or a modified map with contours-only, rock-only and vegetation-only areas. This isn't ideal, of course, but in practice it was actually quite easy. Peter Golde fields suggestions for new features for Purple Pen. I think that standardizing on one good quality, and free, program for each need will benefit clubs a lot, in that knowledge will be shared and programs downloaded as needed. (That'd be PP and OOM, as far as I can tell.) My 2c.
May 3, 2016 3:40 PM # 
@JimBaker - I tend to agree with the benefit of standardization. However this issue of multiple scales is important for big events and I really don't like having manual procedures (error prone) when working with multiple planners / controllers / advisors. So then the problem is that while PP is fine for small events and Condes for large events - I'd rather everyone learn one tool ... at least when I'm working on big events ;-) because the pressure is much higher then to be "perfect" so I like all the planners to be comfortable with the more powerful tool, which means I hope they've been using it for several years

PS: I have an ancient personal license for Condes, and a club license for OCAD, That must be backwards, no?
May 3, 2016 3:51 PM # 
There are very few license tracking issues with Condes. A club has just one license, and any number of people can use it for that club's events. How that works is that anyone can download Condes, but they need the license code to use it beyond demo level.

License management for OCAD can be onerous. No surprise that OOM has made significant inroads...
May 4, 2016 1:15 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
If it's logos and similar, they can be applied per course or to the event in PP. Per course print areas can be specified.

You can also do per course symbols (eg, put a beginner course water station on an advanced course if someone wants to wander out of their way for a drink).

While PP doesn't have the mouse over, its audit feature is nice. I like to set a "Friday night hanging" course and a "Saturday morning hanging" course, then I look at the control cross reference and can quickly scan that all controls are covered by those two courses.
May 4, 2016 1:37 AM # 
Well I must admit that PP has come a long way in the last few years. Good to see. Condes I think is still more suitable for major events (map layout is per canvas, with multiple courses per canvas - rather than course by course), but PP seems to be on a trajectory to catch up.
May 4, 2016 1:58 AM # 
It may not have a mouse over but you just have to click on a control to see which courses it's used on or is clicking the mouse button too much effort these days in the world of immediate solutions?
May 4, 2016 2:36 AM # 
11:13 on May 3 with Guy O's comment - wish the train had moved to a different thread - well off Newcomer topic.
May 4, 2016 3:34 AM # 
PP does have mouse over, showing which courses the control is on, and the competitor load. Leg lengths are easy to find under 'Reports'.

I agree that multiple scales can't be used in the same PP file, but I have set several events using two different scale OCAD maps as the base for two different PP files. With appropriate care and checking there were no problems. Another option is to export the PP courses into OCAD (they appear as overlays in OCAD), and they can then be exported as print ready eps files at different scales.

As Jim says, PP's developer is always keen to hear suggestions and to incorporate them.

Here in Western Australia we are a single association with 6 informal clubs which are not legal entities. Our mapping and events are organised by the association, but nominally allocated to the diffferent clubs purely in order to share the workload. There is a licensing problem with this arrangement since Condes, Sport Software and OCAD don't recognise it and want us to have a license for each club.
May 4, 2016 4:47 AM # 
tinytoes - a valiant effort but apparently to no avail :)

By the way, I was super confused by the time and date at first - I saw no posting from Guy O at 11:13 on May 3rd. Then I found his post from May 2nd at 19:13... Funny how time zones work ;)
May 4, 2016 5:26 AM # 
I was typing my (off-topic) piece at the same time as tinytoes. Apologies, we started talking about control descriptions in English, which are important for first-timers, but there are many other issues for them.
May 4, 2016 8:27 AM # 
It took you an hour to type that? I can't wait to get old!
May 4, 2016 10:04 AM # 
Sorry Canadian - I just didn't have the strength to count down the list so I picked a time reference.
I'm not unhappy with the ensuing entries - I am sure they have been very helpful to many people and it is one of the great things about this forum. But trying to find it at a later date may be a challenge.
May 4, 2016 10:27 AM # 
Search "discombobulated".
May 4, 2016 1:50 PM # 
No need to be sorry tinytoes - I'm sure I would have done the same :-)
May 4, 2016 2:18 PM # 
So now the thread has been hijacked into a discussion of dealing with time zones, not a concern for newcomers. Or is it not a hijacking if perpetrated by the initiator of the thread?
May 4, 2016 9:47 PM # 
This a discussion about hijacking now?
May 4, 2016 11:36 PM # 
How meta :)
May 5, 2016 12:52 AM # 
Time zones are relevant to newcomers. It's a challenge for them to jump back to the 1970s when dealing with orienteering personnel.
May 5, 2016 1:18 AM # 
Tooms - that's sounding like tRicky now!
May 5, 2016 1:51 AM # 
I may have some of those nylon outfits in my closet somewhere. I'm not sure how easy they made it for newcomers to feel safe approaching a registration desk. Why's that person in pyjamas?
May 5, 2016 1:58 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
At least we don't have to shave our legs or rub chili sauce on them like in cycling. Or rather, I haven't been. Should I? No one told me when I started. :(
May 5, 2016 2:05 AM # 
I was told that shaving the lower legs made it less painful to rip the ankle tape off after the event. (Now, there's an image for newcomers.)
May 5, 2016 4:50 AM # 
Big fluffy sweat bands... they're great for the non-orienteer savvy newcomer. Let's get physical, physical, I wanna hear your body talk.
May 5, 2016 1:30 PM # 
It may not have a mouse over

Oh yeah, PP does have a mouse over (I just checked, duh).
May 5, 2016 2:23 PM # 
Yes, I just discovered that too -- didn't know PP had that nice feature!
May 5, 2016 2:38 PM # 
Back to control descriptions and the choice to use symbols or text or both----does it really matter? Yes, everyone needs to know the control code but with courses designed on the computer, the center of the circle can be very precise and the extra description really shouldn't be necessary on a beginner course. That is as long as the beginners know they have to go to the exact center of the circle.

On advanced courses where you can have a boulder, knoll and reentrant all at the apparent center, than the control description can be useful. But, that sort of congestion shouldn't be on beginner courses.

In the old days when courses were printed using hard copies and a map board with donuts stuck to it, the control descriptions were pretty important because the feature with the flag probably wasn't in the center. Fortunately, that's not a problem anymore.
May 5, 2016 2:48 PM # 
@carlch...I generally agree. I recall from my first orienteering event looking at the descriptions, but it's so very long that I don't trust the accuracy of my memory on this, and if there hadn't been descriptions, I don't think that it would have mattered. I checked the descriptions because they were there. In some cases, when the newcomer is making a mistake, it can be a useful correction..."oh, I'm looking for edge of lake, not trail junction...I'm looking at the wrong control on the map". But I'll also note that course drafters should be careful on their centering of circles...some people are very precise, but others less so. Zoom in and get it centered. Know how your course setting software indicates the exact center of the circle. It really does help the orienteer.
May 5, 2016 2:54 PM # 
Yes we have the same here - some will centre it exactly and others you're lucky if the feature is even within the circle. Okay maybe not that bad but definitely not centred.

We've had the discussion before but I like control descriptions particularly for spot feature (e.g. boulder) heights. If I'm running into a field full of boulders, it is helpful if I know what height rock I'm looking for, presuming the setter gets that right. We had some described on the weekend as 1.5m but only came up to my hip (I'm 1.75m tall if that's any indication).
May 5, 2016 4:57 PM # 
It's helpful for course setters and mappers to measure where one meter, 1.5m, etc. are on one's body, for use in quick measuring features. For instance, one meter is my belt level, and 1.5m my armpit. I do occasionally walk over to a boulder to make the comparison, rather than eyeballing from afar. Even newcomers may find it useful to know where one meter high is on them, as a frame of reference. (Whew, brought it back on topic ;-)
May 6, 2016 11:51 AM # 
HS has simplified it quite a bit.
May 6, 2016 2:26 PM # 
Interesting Jagge. It would be neat to try that and see how it feels but I would think the lack of 'side of feature' details would be annoying as I use that to flow through the control.

As for beginners - I see no reason not to simply use the number-code system (i.e. 1-31, 2-46, etc.) right on the map next to the controls or put a simple table with the numbers in the first column and the codes in the second. For the five weeks of the Basics and Beyond program I just finished leading I put in a text-based control description table into the corner of each map but with no text (I never entered the description in condes). It seemed to work just fine.
May 6, 2016 3:22 PM # 
Here I was thinking those were the sequence numbers, not the control numbers, and that Jagge was having a joke that they were all out of order! Isn't it against regulations to use 1-30 for control codes for that very reason?
May 6, 2016 6:16 PM # 
I just noticed that the numbers beside the control circles are also those 'out-of-order' codes. I can definitely see the advantage but it would definitely take some getting used to and would be difficult in a tight area with a lot of controls and nearly impossible for a butterfly loop.
May 6, 2016 6:22 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Beginner courses use a lot of butterflies?
May 6, 2016 7:01 PM # 
Take some getting used to... uh, yeah. It seems like about half the time nowadays I turn the map over at the start and can't find the triangle. So I look for a number that's below 10 or hopefully below 5 and work my way back from there.

I've just about gotten to the point (I think) where I no longer hit the download and discover I accidentally skipped one of the controls when there were 3 in a straight line. That at least used to be an obvious and correctable error out on the course in the days of pin-punching. This seems like a move in the direction of making it more likely to happen.

If the goal is to make things more legible for beginners, or even for everyone, why not work toward putting an end to over-mapping of minute details, and return to mapping at the level of detail of what you see when passing through at a running speed? What ever happened to that standard? Cramming everything in the terrain onto the map isn't a skill. Choosing what is and isn't important for navigation is.

There, I said it.
May 6, 2016 8:35 PM # 
+1 on the mapping comment, fossil!
May 7, 2016 3:58 AM # 
Mr Wonderful - no clearly not :) On the other hand the course that Jagge linked to was clearly not a beginner course.
May 7, 2016 4:06 AM # 
+2 to fossil
Unfortunately that's an issue that has proven difficult to address.

One thing I would like to try but haven't had the chance to yet is to remove some or all unnecessary detail from a young kids' map. I suspect that to start with for kids in the under 10 range all the 'meaningless' colours and symbols on the page are simply confusing and distracting. If they don't know what the symbols mean then they aren't providing any useful information and are simply drawing attention away from the useful stuff on the map.

To start with I would remove all contour features. Next I would simplify all vegetation to a single white or green colour. Beyond that would require more work because you would need to determine which features or useful and which ones aren't through field checking the area. Then again, you could try removing everything but trails.

I suspect that with that approach young kids would progress through early skills like ligning the map up to the terrain way faster and we could then move on to more detailed map reading more quickly.

I don't know if this approach would be equaly beneficial to adult beginners or not.
May 7, 2016 4:17 AM # 
Hmm, it's worth experimenting with, but I recall that at age 10 I simply ignored features that weren't of interest. Also some of the fascination of maps in general is all the detail.
May 7, 2016 4:52 AM # 
some of the fascination of maps in general is all the detail

When I put a fairly detailed local HVO map (Eagle Rock, FWIW) in front of an almost-12 year old, his reaction was "AWESOME!".

There is a lot of middle ground between a string-O map and ISOM/ISSOM -- as there is between a toddler and a middle-schooler.
May 7, 2016 4:54 AM # 
How are beginners going to learn about contours (which they need to advance to the next level), if they never see them on the maps? Even if they are not useful for navigation, just looking at them as they run on trails and comparing to the terrain around them will help them learn faster. And do not assume, by the way, that there are no 10-year-old kids who know what contours are.
May 7, 2016 5:09 AM # 
I'm not suggesting we should never show an under 10-year-old a map with contours nor a detailed map of any kind nor that no 10-year-old knows what contours are. Far from it...

Those kids that are really into the map reading will want to see those really detailed maps and we should therefore show them to them. But that's not all kids. While we don't necessarily want to teach to the lowest common denominator we definitely don't want to just teach to the super keen kids and lose the rest.

Also, from a skills development perspective it is far far better to isolate and master the fundamental underlying skills before progressing to more complex stuff. To do so doesn't mean you can't hint at, show, or even explain the more advanced stuff (i.e. contours etc.) but have them practice without contours to master map orienting, creating a good simple plan for a leg, etc.
May 7, 2016 9:06 AM # 
It seems like about half the time nowadays I turn the map over at the start and can't find the triangle. So I look for a number that's below 10 or hopefully below 5 and work my way back from there.

I do this a lot!
May 7, 2016 9:57 AM # 
Unless the start triangle is in a very definite spot eg clearing or major feature - I'll search for a single digit number and work back (hopefully quickly)
May 8, 2016 7:18 AM # 
Oh. I thought it was just me. Perhaps we could write off to Mr Tveite and ask for triangles to blink, we might be in time for ISOM202x.
May 8, 2016 1:09 PM # 
At the Vic MTBO a fortnight ago, the triangle on the long course map was so small that some people still hadn't found it even after their allowed minute of map folding.

This discussion thread is closed.