Wow--nice self-incrimination from one of the "lost" on the eboard. At least an admission of culpability, but, in my book, full dispensation for him would require several lifetimes of remorse.
Anyway, still a neat control location, clearly across the out-of-bounds boundary on the map. In a rational world, one might think that a rule could be constructed so that people would not place controls on areas marked OB on the map. Oh well. Rules are just so trite! He says: "that a rule would not solve all problems."
I have devised a really neat rule that would solve a lot, starting right there!
It seems like a natural starting point to a discussion of event quality is to consider why we hold events. If we know why we do it, we will have a basis for evaluating success.
I think there are several, non-discrete possible explanations:
1) Generate revenue (and presumably profit?)
2) Attract potential members
3) Serving current members,
4) Furthering the mission/enhancing the brand
5) Entertain ourselves (holding events/setting courses because doing so is amusing)
6) Primal instinct--we just do this and don't know why
Given that we are a non-profit, 1 cannot really be a sufficient reason (legally or philosophically). While pursuit of money can be a primary objective, or the alpha and omega of a person or institution, I think in our case it is at best instrumental. If it weren't, we could charge more than $4 for a quality product. But, this is where it gets interesting. While I have thought that DVOA events are a real bargain at $4, and probably are much more valuable than that, even as currently delivered, I think if profit making were a goal, the quality of the product becomes germane. No need to go into business school cases, and while it is possible to milk the cash cow, the cow eventually dies. Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that I think if profit maximization (or NPV maximization more precisely) were a goal, poor quality events are a failure.
Why? Well, 2 speaks to that. By and large, poor quality in orienteering events manifests itself in unfairness or unpleasantness. Granted, there is a population that seems to have a high threshold for crap, and we may get some of them, but I fail to see how failing to deliver core aspects of the experience can be sustainable. Adventure racing is a little different and can make lemonade out of some wrinkles it seems. I feel that random adherence to standards very much confuses the value proposition. Orienteering is susceptible to this.
What about our current members (3). Well, they are getting older, but also fewer. I don't like to reason from anecdotes, but much as some volunteers have been turned off by the anything goes attitude, so have participants. Maybe not as acutely in DVOA, but it has happened here and elsewhere. I tend to think orienteering has the wind in its face. There is only so much appetite for organized hiking, which is the limit of bad orienteering. Still, it seems like given the lack of outrage, or at best token disappointment, bad events may not be a problem. But, remember, older and fewer.
4 is the interesting one and worthy of its own chapter. The DVOA brand. Like America, a city on a hill. Like America a brand that has seen better days but still has equity. What is a brand? Off the cuff, I think it is a shorthand for a set of product attributes. It is something that allows a consumer to make a quick evaluation of a product by implicitly adding brand characteristics to salient characteristics. It is a standard. It is an identity.
Orienteering in the US has evolved much as has orienteering in the rest of the world. But, as a frontier country for the sport, we have always been behind. Technical standards here lagged Europe. But, we did other things well, and DVOA did better than most anybody. Our founding families, the Ringos and then the Franks offered a warmth and inclusiveness that made an impression on a lot of people and drew them in. I count myself among those people. However, this was largely achieved on a personal basis, and hence is not scalable. I still think we do this better than anyone and the culture is still oriented in this way. The club has a lot of friendly people in it, and I hope we always do. At the same time, I think that the insularity that affects all of American orienteering (and orienteering worldwide) is present in DVOA. It is the nature of the sport and the personalities involved. I don't think that the DVOA brand can just be about friendliness and openness. Because I think that it is only superficially.
I think that the DVOA brand grew to encompass quality as well (perhaps this is my conceit showing through?) We had the reputation of being like the Yankees. I saw that as a favorable comparison. For better or worse, I think this development was due to lucky endowments. We had an asset (Eric Weyman) that no one else did, and for 25 years he provided a technical underpinning, and in recent years, a structural steel foundation to all we did.
It is the combination of these different attributes: friendliness, scale, quality that are the touchstones of the brand. This brand wasn't fashioned consciously; it grew organically. Anyway, brands are associated with products. I always maintain that our product is an experience. It encompasses the outdoors, the controls, the running, walking, etc., the compass, the course, the prices, the results, etc., etc. We control those parameters. They further or hinder our brand and our mission.
About that--I think the DVOA mission is to promote orienteering as an enjoyable outdoor navigation activity. The Franks and others have been maniacal about doing programs, etc., and this has furthered the mission of promoting the sport. But, there are diminishing returns, and the marginal participant, much less the marginal member, is more elusive than ever. Presenting a strong brand is that much more important.
So, if the goal of holding events is to entertain ourselves (5) -- "ourselves" being the zealous club members who select themselves to volunteer, we may be doing OK. If this is the case, and the circle the wagons mentality suggests it is, all we are concerned about is indulging one another, and by that I mean the others in the "in crowd" of course setters and event directors. Because we certainly aren't focusing on the broader membership and certainly not the potential members. To me it seems obvious that turning off multiple members or participants should count as much as turning off a volunteer whose work or attitude detracts from the other objectives.
Finally, 6. This is the "we do this because we always have done this" mentality. Maybe that is why we are doing this.