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

  1. #21
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    Hi -

    Margie Huntinger asked me to post the below message for her -

    Keep the first three numbers in our ID

    Although I can empathize with teams entering swimmers for meets, I do not favor eliminating the first 3 digits. Perhaps, technology could incorporate an addition to entry programs to automatically enter these identical 3 digits for a single team.

    The first two numbers are the visible identity for LMSC and Zone swimmers. Many of us volunteers are responsible for LMSC and Zone Top Ten and records. Now, it is simple to go to the results for USMS Nationals and download any LMSC results, for local teams. Our zone meets identify swimmers by their LMSC.

    The third number, year, identifies that the swimmer is still registered for that year. Having been a meet director for the 3000/6000 Yards and One Hour Postals, the year on their card was the first clue they were registered for the year of the event. I received new and old registration cards, which weren't acceptable. As a Top Ten recorder, I have tracked down numerous swimmers who have entered meets and are not registered. They appear to delight in "beating the system."

    Not all of the USMS volunteers are computer savvy and can deal with the intricacies and challenges involved if these numbers were eliminated.

    Margie Hutinger, FL
    Tracy

  2. #22
    Active Member mdhammer's Avatar
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    I'd be in favor of dropping the 4th digit. The first 3 are useful from the standpoint of the LMSC and year identifier.

    - Maria Doelger, Metro Registrar

  3. #23
    timberst
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    Somebody asked “Why are we having this discussion” and “What is the problem we are trying to solve.”

    In reviewing again the original questions/messages from Anna Lea Roof and Mel Goldstein, it dawned on me, belatedly, that we are trying to solve a problem that isn’t there.

    The problem with an issue like this is that looking at just an individual part of the ‘elephant’ and solving for that is not enough. There are so many people/groups/systems that are, or will be, using this ID, and in so many different ways, that we need to give the comprehensive answer covering the whole ‘elephant’.

    A lot of us don’t have time to do this, and some of those who have the time don’t have the answers and barely even the questions. Since I am in a unique vantage point for seeing (most of) the whole elephant, I thought it is important for me to take the time to do this. Just as Michael Moore took the time to map out as much of the elephant as he usually works with. People can read it or not and take from it as they please.

    We obviously will only have one 5-digit permanent ID assigned to any one swimmer, currently and over time, if they have been registered before. (I think that was one of Mel’s questions). But whether we use this ID separately as a sort of ‘shorthand’ notation to save keystrokes or time, or as I do to be able to roll up all entries for a single swimmer in the archives, or whether we concatenate it with the other three/four digits of the registration number, really doesn’t matter. Each of us using it will do what makes sense in that particular context.

    And, sorry, Anna Lea, this doesn’t follow your outline, but I thought it might be a reasonably good primer for everybody on how/why we use the permanent ID.

    For those who want the full discourse, see link below.

    Fellow swimmers, my opinion here is not intended to fix the world or even solve this problem. Although I believe that often the best way is to anticipate a problem up front and stack the deck against it, I also think we can snatch defeat out of the mouth of victory on occasion, and solve a problem that we really should evaluate for a while, as it crops up, because it often takes a while to learn all the ramifications, as several people mentioned in their responses. Nor should my expressing these opinions be construed as the national office having spoken :-). But we ‘are’ part of the issue, like everybody else.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  4. #24
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    Hi All -

    Barbara Dunbar asked me to post the below -

    In my various capacities as meet director, LMSC top ten recorder, LMSC records keeper, and LMSC chairman, I use the "variable" portion of the USMS Swimmer ID number, or at least the two-digit LMSC portion and the portion designating the year. I agree 100% with USMS Registrar Esther's comments about the need to retain the portion which designates the LMSC code and the year. We definitely need and use the LMSC portion and the year portion.
    I think it would be helpful to explain that the swimmer IDs do not use certain letters. The letter "O/o" and "Q/q" are NEVER used; anything which looks like a zero ("0") is a zero. The letter "L/l" and "I/i" also are not used, and anything looking like the number one ("1") is a one.
    We have difficulty reading some of the other numbers and letters depending upon the font used by the various registrars and the condition of the registration card copy attached to an entry form. The letter "B/b" and the number eight "8" are confused sometimes as are the letter "S/s" and the number five "5." We have noticed problems deciphering with the letter "Z/z" and the number two "2" as well.
    B. Dunbar
    Tracy

  5. #25
    Active Member Tracy Grilli's Avatar
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    Here is a post from Todd Bazzett -

    Here are my thoughts:

    There are many good points raised in the comments. I think the random fourth character would be more valuable if it was used as a "checksum" like validation character. Simply stated, often with data transmission one bit is used to determine if the whole message (string of bits) is valid by performing an algorithm on the data and comparing the checksum value. Here's why I think this would be valuable:

    As a team manager, validating the USMS number is a hastle since most of the members forget to bring in their cards and our registrar is reluctant to provide the information. Since we dont allow the swimmer to swim unless they prove membership, this becomes an issue at the beginning of the year.
    If the fourth character were used as a checksum/validation character and the algorithm was provided to the team managers, then we could validate the swimmers registration through email, without them needing to bring their cards in. Basically a swimmer would recieve the card in the mail and send an email to the team manager with the USMS number. The team manager would then go to a validation page posted on the USMS website which takes the swimmer's name, the team name, the year and possible some password and applies an algorithm to generate the checksum character. You could either use the password in the algorithm or use it to access the validation page. Either way, the password could be controlled and administered on a yearly basis to team contacts. It may sound complicated, but this could be done fairly easily without advanced web development using basic encryption technology. The key here is that since the year is included in the algorithm, the variable fourth character would change yearly.

    Of course, the easiest solution for validating member registration is providing a website which accesses a central repository/database. This unfortunately requires more advanced programming and control over the web hosting environment.
    Tracy

  6. #26
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    My vote: drop the leading numbers. They do not identify the swimmer in any way. They are "meta-data", i.e., data that describes the person, but not data that identifies the person.

    If it's important that the ID number include the LMSC and registration year, why isn't it also important that the ID number contain my name, birthdate, and team affiliation. Those are all 'important' meta-data items that help describe a swimmer.

    USA Swimming figured this out years ago. My USA Swimming ID number was NE9ORBmmddyy, where NE is the LSC, 9 is the registration year, ORB are my initials (last, first, middle), and mmddyy is the DOB.

    USA Swimming figured out years ago that it was more trouble than it was worth to have everyone's ID number changing every year. So they went to a system where your ID number never changes. Ever. Your ID number identifies you uniquely, but does not describe lots of things about you.

    As a meet manager who does entries for a large (700 swimmers) USMS meet each spring, one of the biggest hassles is that people don't know their USMS ID number. Because it changes so often. And even people who are registered this year still use their old registration numbers, because they don't know any better.

    The 100% worst decision that was made with regards to the new USMS ID numbers is allowing numbers and letters to intermix. Looking at lists of number, _most_ are of the pattern 999A-999AA, but the numbers and letters mix all over the place. When decipering handwriting, this is a _huge_ pain in the rear. For 700 entries for my meet in April, I had to manually look up somewhere between 75-100 of them to verify the number in our registration list.

    And that only works for people in our own LMSC.

    USMS needs to get with the data program and make data available for things like this. I'm aware of the privacy issues. But there are ways to make it all work. As a meet manager for a large meet, there needs to be a way for me to verify USMS registration status for anyone in the country. Out of 700 entries, about 10-15% are from other LMSCs.

    In New England, for USA Swimming, we have a web interface that allows meet managers to upload a meet entry file, and it will issue a report on mis- or un-registered swimmers. We don't distribute the entire database to everyone. We just let you check against it. If something doesn't match up, you need to go back to the coach/swimmer to get the correct information.

    USMS has this tradition, it seems, of being overly paranoid about data. You can't even get an electronic copy of nationals results without a ruling from the Supreme Court.

    This wasn't that hard to do. I wrote the code for it in an afternoon.

    For walk-up meets, there aren't many good solutions. People need to bring their USMS cards. Plain and simple.

    An ID number should not change from year to year. An ID number should ID you, and should be constant from year to year. It should stay constant even if you move to another LMSC. All of the other descriptive meta-data is kept in a database, and that data needs to be made available to those people who use it.

    If Ed Gendreau needs this data to tabulate top ten stuff, then he should have it. At the very least, the local NE LMSC registrar should be able to give him the list of NE registrations, so that it's easy to tell that 'everyone else' isn't part of NE LMSC.

    If it's too complicated to do, then better tools need to be made.

    Next challenge -- waiver signatures on meet entries. Why do we need them?

    -Rick

  7. #27
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    Angry USMS registration numbers

    On behalf of Oklahoma Masters Swimming, we
    use the variable portion of the newly assigned
    USMS numbers in several ways.

    Of course, we use it to determine the LMSC
    of a meet participant. This is a quick and
    painless way to confirm the eligibility of
    a swimmer to compete.

    More importantly, we have just completely
    re-written the software we use for creating
    both citizen and state records within our
    LMSC. The software relies heavily on
    the ENTIRE USMS number, not just the
    non-variable portion. By sorting the numbers,
    the software automatically knows who is eligible
    for citizen records and who is not. We can
    also create numerous records history reports
    based on these numbers. We waited to rewrite
    the software until the new numbers were in
    place, and now USMS is talking about changing
    them again?!? Leave a good thing alone!

    We have redone our software with the
    understanding that the new USMS numbers were
    to become the standard.

    Please leave them as they currently are.

  8. #28
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    One other thing that's worth pointing out... everyone is saying that they depend on the variable portion to figure out if someone is registered this year, or where they are registered.

    What people forget is that the number tells you no such thing. The number tells you what LMSC or registration year the number is sequenced from. The number by itself can't verify that the person is _actually_ registered with that number. The number by itself can't tell you if it is actually the correct number.

    I could make up any number of USMS formatted registration numbers to say that I'm registered in Pacific Masters, or New Jersey Masters, etc. Fact is, no matter what descriptive data is part of the registration number, you _still_ need to cerify that the number is (a) correct and (b) attached to the person you think it is.

    So for everyone complaining that without the variable portion, you'll lose the ability to keep track of what LMSC someone is from... I ask this: How do you keep track of what the person's name is? How do you keep track of the person's gender? Easy, it's part of the descriptive data attached to the registration. But it is not part of the registration number itself.

    -Rick

  9. #29
    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Rick,

    The LMSC number and year in the variable portion of the registration number, does provide the Meet Directors with the person’s LMSC and registration year. If a membership card begins with 563, this tells me the member is from Alaska and is a member for 2003.

    And while the number itself does not prove anything, the number on a copy of a USMS membership from an individual, attached to their meet entry, as required in our rules, is proof that the individual did receive a valid membership card from the listed LMSC for that year.

    And, yes if a person wishes to fraudulently enter into a meet, they can do so in a number of ways. Entering an invalid registration number is one way. But, this person could just as easily fraudulently apply for membership and lie about their name, age, address, sex (now this one may get them caught). This hypothetical person could register as a 104 year old woman from Nome Alaska, while in fact being a young man from Brookline MA. In today’s world USMS does not have the manpower to police all members. We rely on the sportsmanship and integrity of our members.

    I would love it if USMS got a simple easy to use interface that would automatically populate all vital information about a member, from the 5 character fixed registration number. However, such a system does not exist today.

    And to Rick’s questions:
    How do you keep track of what the person's name is? As a meet director I manually key in the name of each meet entrant.

    How do you keep track of the person's gender? Ditto on the gender.

    Hopefully you are not suggesting that for the LMSC that I type in “Alaska Local Masters Swimming Committee”. I’ll prefer to type in “56”.

  10. #30
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    And while the number itself does not prove anything, the number on a copy of a USMS membership from an individual, attached to their meet entry, as required in our rules, is proof that the individual did receive a valid membership card from the listed LMSC for that year.
    Exactly. That's what I'm trying to point out.

    Since you have the copy of the USMS registration card, that has things like the year of registration and the LMSC printed on it. So it's no extra use to have that information as _part_ of the ID number. It's on the card that you're already typing information from.

    (I'm perfectly happy to stipulate that USMS registration card is plenty "enough proof" of registration. All I'm saying is that you don't just take numbers blindly without checking... you check it against the card copy that is sent in.)

    -Rick

  11. #31
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    I would love it if USMS got a simple easy to use interface that would automatically populate all vital information about a member, from the 5 character fixed registration number. However, such a system does not exist today.
    One thing I was discussing off-line with someone that I never realized... if USMS were to adopt the FINA standard of age-up date of December 31 for SCY meets as well, then the only data you'd need from someone would be:

    Name
    Gender
    LMSC/Team
    Year of birth

    full date-of-birth is no longer needed. This makes the data set ofUSMS registration data much less 'sensitive', and much easier to make more public for validation purposes.

    -Rick

  12. #32
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    While I readily admit that I do not know enough about the variable portion of the registration number to make an informed decision, I do have a question that arose in a post on this thread. Why exactly is USMS "over-paranoid" about data? Any worthwhile software can generate an SDIF file that makes data entry almost a thing of the past...it is embraced with open arms by virtually everyone in USA Swimming because of its simplicity, even though it does contain some personal information (ie DoB). It makes no sense really for a meet entry person to have to enter everything by hand...clubs should have an entry sign up deadline and then easily the computer can generate the entry report and it can be imported so simply. Also, if electronic copies of meet results aren't available...does everything have to entered by hand all the time?? Talk about data redundancy!! Finally, I have to wonder why USMS is so protective of data but I can find an electronic copy of a majority of sanctioned USA-Swimming meets on the web.....and they have the "personal" information of minors??

    Sorry about the rambling post.....I am just curious

  13. #33
    Active Member lucyj's Avatar
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    My answer to Chris Roberts' post:
    2 reasons meet data entry managers do it all by hand. One is that many meets (most, except championship meets) allow deck entries, so there is no hard and fast entry deadline. Second, almost all meets are entered by INDIVIDUALS, not by clubs. It is a lot different in USA Swimming where the swimmers are often asked to turn in their entries to the coach (who often then has to hand enter the information into a computer) who generates the SDIF file you are talking about and sends it to the meet director. I doubt that most Masters swimmers have the computer programs necessary to provide electronic data for meet entries. I would love to be proved wrong, however, as I am one of those meet directors who has to enter entries into my computer from the paper work sent in by the swimmers.
    LJ

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