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Thread: Do we need the variable portion of the USMS registration number?

  1. #1
    Very Active Member ALM's Avatar
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    Do we need the variable portion of the USMS registration number?

    Dear USMS BOD member, swimmer, coach, or LMSC officer:

    I am writing to you on behalf of and as a member of the USMS Database Task Force. I would like to get your feedback on a proposal that might affect many of our USMS members.

    Now that we have a permanent ID assigned to each swimmer within his or her USMS number, there have been some suggestions that perhaps the variable portion (the first four characters) of the USMS number could be eliminated. For example, my USMS number, which currently is "283J-01NPT", would become simply "01NPT".

    The task force is evaluating the role of the variable portion of the ID number going forward. We are also aware that different individuals may or may not use this portion of the Swimmer ID for a variety of purposes. We would like to know a) how you currently use the variable portion of the USMS number, b) how you would feel about USMS dropping the variable portion of the number, and c) if you use the variable portion, how much time would you need to adjust your processes to work without it. Remember, the variable portion is the four characters before the hyphen.

    Please add your comments and pass the information about this discussion to any meet directors or team managers in your LMSC or to anyone else who uses the swimmer's registration number.


    Anna Lea Roof
    Chairman, USMS Registration Committee
    Member, USMS Database Task Force

  2. #2
    Very Active Member MegSmath's Avatar
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    Glad you brought this up, Anna Lea. The only time I pay attention to the variable portion of the number is in my capacity as a meet director, as a quick way to make sure the swimmer is registered for the current year. There are other ways I can confirm this, though. In Kentucky, we post our swimmers' names and registration numbers on our website (minus any other identifying information), so I can easily confirm Kentucky swimmers' registration, which accounts for most of the meet entrants. Once the national database is available for all meet directors, it will be even easier. I could easily live without the variable portion.

    Meg
    Meg Smath
    Kentucky LMSC

  3. #3
    I do SCM TT tabulations for the New England
    LMSC, including our NE-LMSC all time top ten list.
    I use the variable portion of the USMS
    number to determine the swimmer's LMSC. This
    way I can quickly filter out the swimmers from
    other LMSC's. So, I would not be in favor of
    dropping the variable part of the USMS number.

    Ed

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Beards247's Avatar
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    Any time I think about changing a primary key in a schema I have to have an unbelievably good cost benefit to do it. unanticipated problems always crop up.

    Some questions that cross my mind, Will reducing the key by five characters really help? If it was left alone as permenant key, should it be rand? What is the logic behind the nomenclature "01NPT"? Will the string grow beyond 5 characters? How many combinations will this allow us (do the first two characters have to be numeric - The last three alpha)? Is there a possibility of this naming structure conflicting? If so, how would this be negotiated?

    Chris Beardsley

  5. #5
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    variable number

    There appears to be several reasons why and uses for this extension of the number. Personally, I am unaware of what those reasons may be but, before we make a decision to change, you should retransmit the notice and include the pros and cons associated with this action. Only then would we have an informed basis upon which to render our choice of decision.
    Dick Monahan

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    Registration Number

    From a register's stand point as long as I know the year the person has last registered in the registration information I do not need the fields that chang. I have forward this ? to our records charman because this my have a larger impact on that function as was noted by a previous contribuitor.
    John Kopsky
    POB 52736
    Tulsa, OK 74152-0736-36
    Ph 918-481-6939
    Cl 918-284-1559

  7. #7
    Very Active Member emmett's Avatar
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    As a meet director I often fall back on the first 3 digits to determine LMSC for reporting purposes. Even though we provide a space for LMSC some swimmers leave it blank or enter information only a clueless person would think of.

    Perhaps we tell the swimmer their USMS # is LMSC-xxxx as in GMSC-0NT4.
    Coach Emmett Hines - ASCA Level 5
    Gulf LMSC Top10 Chair
    http://H2OustonSwims.org
    emmett@usms.org

  8. #8
    Active Member lucyj's Avatar
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    Variable reg #

    I agree with Ed Gendreau. The first 2 digits identify the LMSC. It is a big help in preparing your LMSC-only Top 10 to be able to remove all those swimmers who competed in a meet within your LMSC who are registered in other LMSC's. This is important to those LMSC's which host large meets and/or Zone meets attracting swimmers from many different LMSC's.

    The reason the 3rd digit is important is that it shows the year registered. If there were no cheaters in the organization, a permanent number that never changes would be OK. However, it is unfortunate that from time to time there are a rare few individuals who will try to get away with entereing meets and/or races without having renewed their USMS memberships. If you see a number that says xx2x-xxxxx for a race in 2003, you automatically know that there is a problem with the registration that needs follow-up.
    LJ

  9. #9
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    Hi All -

    I received the following three responses and I will post them here for you

    Tracy


    From - EONielson@aol.com

    Change it!!! Less is more.

    Erik


    From - artmayerswims@aol.com

    Variable number allows you to tell if swimmer is currently registered. How would one know?

    Art Mayer


    From - splessaa278@earthlink.net

    Makes no difference to me. The simpler the better.

    R Scott Pless (AMS)
    Tracy

  10. #10
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    Another just in from mezollner@comcast.net

    As Treasurer of CMSA I have no need to use the individual swimmers's number. From a personal standpoint so long as I am able to swim occasionally in a meet I have no preferences for number sequence. Whatever is most efficient for USMS and LMSC is fine.

    Max Zollner
    Tracy

  11. #11
    Participating Member pat tullman's Avatar
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    Re: first four symbols.. who knows what the random fourth symbol does? I believe meet directors and tt recorders find the first three symbols useful.. especially if they have to play catch up at the close of a season..the lmsc code and the year is needeed.. ooooooooh i guess that fourth symbol is for when we get to 2010..etc.. so it a place holder for now. If all top ten work and all registration work will happen centrally then i guess we don"t need the lmsc symbols..but otherwise they seem to have some purpose.:

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    Thumbs up

    Change numbers as best for you...

  13. #13
    Active Member urban's Avatar
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    I don't think that by removing the numbers there will be any added benefit. In fact, it may become quite confusing because in order to link to past records, corrections to the old numbers must be made and somehow linked to...so for every 283J-01NPT number; a new number must be created after its deleted. This seems like a real slow moving process to correct and I think the old numbers should remain as is....HOWEVER, if new members were to be part of a new list containing the last 5 characters I'm all for it.

    Mark Urban
    Publicity Chair
    Illinois Masters

  14. #14
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    Re: Do we need the variable portion of the USMS registration number?

    I think maintaining the current numbers would help meet directors who accept entries on the day of the meet. Otherwise they have no way of checking.

  15. #15
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    I have received the following 2 responses from long time registrars June Krauser and Richard Fetters -

    June - I agree that the first 3 numbers are most important.

    Richard - I should think the first four characters are more important to the National Office than to anyone else. How would you know where they belong and whether or not they are registered for the year? It would be important for me to know whether a person is registered for the current year or not. I think it would be important for meet directors also. We have problems now with some people saying they are registered just to get into the meet.
    Tracy

  16. #16
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    If I haven't forgotten how to do the math, I calculate that a 5-character ID (first two numeric, 0-9, last 3 alphabetic) would give us unique IDs for about 1.8 million swimmers. That's probably good until way into the future, even with agressive outreach programs.

    The 5-digit ID is the only one that makes sense to me for a permanent record. Suppose I joined masters in 1980 and continued my member ship for two years before dropping it. Then, upon rejoining in 2001, that 5-digit number would not need to change. The prefix four numbers would only be useful for administrative purposes, as has been pointed out by a number of folks in this forum, but would not have to be a part of the permanent ID. The prefix would not be useful, for example, in identifying a photo of a swimmer in the picture archives of USMS under the following circumstances: Suppose Carl House took a pic of Duke Kahanamoku in the 1920's but the most current ID was from the 40's (all hypothetical, folks). Searching the historical archives using a 1940's ID prefix wouldn't yield the photo from the 20's unless the search engine simply dropped the prefix. Hence, for that purpose, it is not necessary.

    mel

  17. #17
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    None of the discussion seems to focus on the benefits of cutting the 4 characters. What are they?

    Otherwise leave it alone.

    John

  18. #18
    timberst
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    What I call the 'business side' of the registration number is VERY important to the registration transmittal process, to our registration archival systems, and to competitive achievements' verification both currently and over time, as is the permanent ID, i.e. the 'competitive side' of the number.

    In the transmittal process, the four digits with the LMSC, the year, and the check-digit or authorization code, is an indispensable item for shepherding the transaction through the books and separating the entries from one LMSC from another.

    As others have already mentioned, this is also important for the Top Ten recorders; even more so for the national recorder, who is faced with the same swimmer often competing for one association in the Spring and another in the Fall.

    Given that the competitive piece does represent uniquely a single swimmer, it is tempting to think that we could just use this, and it might make good sense when signing up for a meet. But at some point even this would require somebody to be able to verify that this swimmer is currently registered (and insured), and the burden would then be on somebody to keep a list or file connecting the two pieces. One person would have a lesser burden in some context, but ultimately somebody else would have to make up for that.

    One point to consider is that 'other information' such as additional numbers or dates are often used to help verify or interpret a birth date or a registration number when the handwriting is ambiguous, typos creep in, and other 'gremlins' pop up.

    From personal experience in uploading registration files for Jim Matysek for use with championship sign-ups, I have found that the separate 'competitive piece', by itself, does not behave well in a spreadsheet.. as does no field that begins with a leading zero.

    For example, zip codes routinely give us problems when ported from one system to another, unless one does a lot of database-type work and put restrictions on the field. Not all our volunteers have the expertise or tools to do this or the knowledge to even worry about it.

    The national office has solved the zip code problem by simply always adding a hyphen to all 5-digit zip codes, which makes the field automatically a TEXT field and the zeros aren't dropped. The post office OCR systems just ignores hyphens, so it is no problem for USPS. The mailing houses solve the problem by concatenating the state with the zip code, e.g. NH03053. That keeps the zero in place.

    On the permanent ID with the leading zeros, I have found that not only do the zeros get dropped, but certain numbers get 'formatted' by Excel (and likely also other spreadsheets) into an exponential notation (i.e. 03E48 becomes 03E+48). Not all the numbers are the 03NXT format, some are all numbers, e.g. 03999. This is so that the 5-digit configuration will have enough permutations to take the USMS well into the next millennium, should we survive that long. And it gets worse, an ID like 03MAR may get shown as 3-Mar, in line with whatever default reigns in the spreadsheet or software environment used.

    So, we solve the problem by not using Excel.

    Unfortunately not. Excel happens to be what is on most people's machines and even if the national office or others didn't use it, probably many Top Ten recorders would. These 'others' might be the people tasked with verifying questionable registrations when assisting with setting up a championship which otherwise might be in MS Access. But the queries may be created in a spreadsheet since a lot of long fields need to be communicated, as was all the work done for the One Hour Swim recently, and routinely for the Long Distance people {who for many years have required regnums with their entries, and always verify them with the national office.}

    Note, however, that when we use the full regnum with the hyphen included, NONE of these problems pop up because the field will always be treated as a text field.

    The problem with numbers is that a computer will always treat what looks like a number as a number (something that can be used in calculations), and not just a 'picture of a number' or TEXT. We can format the number to be TEXT on the sending computer, but the receiving computer will always default to whatever default setting it has, unless the number has been formatted in such a way that nothing can override and initial setting. We cannot assume this will be the case when dealing with such an army of volunteers from all walks of life and all manner of systems.. theirs or others'.

    My personal solution in the national office environment has been to simply add a "P" to the 5 digits when using these separately to roll up all records on one swimmer over time for statistical purposes.

    Getting back to managing the transmittal transactions (and nobody should forget that before we even have a database problem, we have a huge accounting problem), we have also had to add a 'sequence number' to help manage the transactions. Because the 4th digit in the regnum (the check-digit) is variable, we cannot sort the regnums sequentially and tell if any are missing, indicating that perhaps some record got dropped in transit, or never submitted by the registrar. This SEQN number shows up in the registration software but is otherwise 'off-line'.

    As mentioned above, we could also treat the 'business side' of the regnum as off-line information (like the twelve user fields in the registration software), but at some point somebody is going to have to connect the dots. I am not convinced we gain anything by cutting the piece loose.

    There are other problems with the 5-digit ID in itself. Not problems per se, but considerations. Because the letter O and the number 0 can easily get misinterpreted, the letter O is never used in making up the number. Neither is the uppercase I, lowercase l, or Q. This works well when transmitting the numbers via the systems, once entered, but since most people aren't aware of this, we routinely get numbers sent to us containing a zero a quoted as an O, as f.inst. when we get address changes. The average human is wise to this ‘interchangability’, but a computer is a very literal beast and will reject such a number when we try to match it up. {One registrar has suggested that it would be well if we had also not used the letter “D” since this looks a lot like an “O” when printed on a dot-matrix printer which a lot of registrars use for printing the cards.}

    One major reason for needing the business side of the number is TRANSFERS and other remedial changes that get put through by the LMSC. The registration software is not designed to do ‘reversing’ entries, but the national office often has to deal with this. Some swimmers just move across the country and register anew without telling the new LMSC that they carry a current card. Since we can't spot the impostor until we have all the pieces available for cross-checking, the remedial/reversing entry often straddles more than one accounting period. We cannot just delete it because the swimmer may have participated in meets in the meanwhile. The audit trail needs to be there.

    And because of name differences and the swimmer not remembering to clue the registrar in, duplications in registrations occur within the same LMSC and have to be reversed. Besides that, a swimmer can easily pass through the books half a dozen times during the year, even without counting address changes.

    The 'internal' changes aren't that pesky (club changes within the same association or changes from club to UNAT), but the 'exernal' ones can be a bear. We have half a dozen swimmers who not only have transferred out of the LMSC they originally booked into, but transferred back in again. And this is only July. In ’01 and ’02 we had sixty-some mid-year, between-associations transfers; last year we had over 120, for whatever reason.

    Leo's software does a great job of managing all these transfers and simply retains the permanent piece for each swimmer, adding the four 'business digits' from the current LMSC. But the transaction itself also needs to be identified separately from other transactions during the year, both with the same LMSC and in sequencing the transactions across several LMSCs, chronologically.

    I don't see how this could not be so, because at some point the need pops up to determine whether this swimmer legitimately could swim on a given relay in March, and be legit for a different relay in September. If the swimmer gives the full number when swimming in a meet and this number accompanies his entry to Top Ten and to the national recorder, it will then be easy to check whether the entry was valid. We need to be able to preserve and follow the registration trail USMS-wide. How else are we going to do it?

    To me the real question is not whether all the various pieces of the organization needs this part of the number, but whether we require the full number any time it is used or can use only the permanent ID piece on chosen occasions. The latter is quite feasible as for signing up for a meet or event, but as outlined above somebody still has to make the connection to the full information.. at a given point in time.. and there are inherent problems in the number itself when separated from the whole. That’s my 2 dollars worth, from learning things the hard way.

    Sorry for the length of this, but it's that important, as we try to implement online registration and create one cohesive database environment.
    ESTHER

  19. #19
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    Esther has explained why it is important that we keep the first four digits of the registration number. I totally agree. As an LMSC registrar and registrar for several meets I use these numbers and would not like to see them be eliminated or imbedded so that it would be necessary to hunt for them..

    Some swimmers are unaware of their LMSC while others seem not know the differences among an LMSC, Club, or team/workout group; the numbers help us to complete their forms. I like to think that it is mostly new swimmers that fall into this group and that they will be educated by the swimmers around them. But until that time, the first three digits are helpful to administrators and alas, as has been pointed out, it is necessary to have the Check Digit to prevent the very few dishonest people from successfully creating fake ID numbers.

    Arni

  20. #20
    Very Active Member michaelmoore's Avatar
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    1) how you currently use the variable portion of the USMS number,
    Pacific has about 20 different sanctioned events each year, from clinics to pool meets to open water swimming events. Many of these events require that a participant be a member of USMS. We tell the meet directors when a particpant must be a member of USMS and we have told them how to check the card or the number. Those sanctioned events would mean that about 10,000 USMS numbers would have to be checked at least once.

    The variable protion of the membership number is important - at least the first three numbers as it has the LMSC number, which for us is 38 and the year code. Until the algorithm for check digit become available to the LMSCs the fourth number is entirely useless. It could be very useful to the meet directors but the formula has to be released to developers something which the USMS has been loath to do.

    b) how you would feel about USMS dropping the variable portion of the number I would feel very bad, to answer the question. I think that it not a good idea. The first three digits are a quick check to see if there is some reasonableness to the USMS number. The check digit would be a much better received if the algorithm was distributed to developers. (hint- hint). And due to the number being made up of numbers and alphabet, entering the USMS number has become VERY difficult to input on a keyboard, thus making a check number almost imperative.

    if you use the variable portion, how much time would you need to adjust your processes to work without it. I dont know. What tools are the DB committee going to give us to help us with quick way to check idea? Are we going to get an on-line real time data base where we can instantly tap into it be assure the meet director that a number presented by the a person has some relationship to the person who has signed up for an event?

    michael
    michael moore

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