Robot Shaun - the FT Booking / Scoring system
Well, Robot Shaun has been running for 2 seasons now - he was first developed as a way to automate some of the time consuming manual tasks Human Shaun took on. I think it's fair to say that it put a huge workload on Human Shaun and the introduction of a Robot version has made Shaun's life a lot easier.
Two years ago, Human Shaun was ready to give up the role of BFTA Comp Sec and I was asked if I wanted to take the role on. Knowing just how much work is involved in the Comp Sec's role, I declined, but offered instead to automate a lot of the tasks, if Human Shaun would carry on as our Comp Sec (He does an excellent job and it would be a real shame to lose him for the sake of something that could just be automated).
That's how Robot Shaun came into being...
What the hell is Robot Shaun and what does it do?
Quite a bit actually, and it doesn't only automate Human Shaun's job, it also makes the host regions job much easier too.
When you book in for a GP on the BFTA Website - that's handled by the BFTA Website's event booking system. It's good, but it doesn't validate the data that's entered.
Robot Shaun is a separate system that has a secret communication channel open to the BFTA Event booking system. When you book in on the BFTA Website, Robot Shaun is alerted and it reads the information you entered on the Website and adds it to it's own lists.
In the process, Robot Shaun checks that you've spelt your name correctly and checks your name and BFTA number against the summer grading list. If everything is ok, it generates the list of entrants and sorts everyone into their correct summer grade. ( Here's the Robot Shaun generated list of entrants for GP7 )
You might have seen the lists it generates at the top of posts on this forum. That list is automatically updated every 5-10 minutes by Robot Shaun so that everyone can see which session they booked in for and what grade they're shooting in.
If you cancel your booking online, Robot Shaun is also alerted about that and he will remove you from the lists.
What this means is that for the host regions, when booking in opens, they don't need to do a thing - Robot Shaun takes care of everything for them, they can literally just sit back and twiddle their thumbs.
There are a couple of manual tasks that I have to sort out from time to time - and they're normally when someone has entered something that Robot Shaun isn't sure about - so for example a common thing I have to sort out is when someone enters the wrong BFTA number, or spells their name differently from how it's spelt on the grading list. Robot Shaun lets me know about those - and also displays the person's name in red on the lists.
When I have time, I pop into the control panel for Robot Shaun and just correct those issues - so you might see a name in red for a few hours before it's corrected - that's down to me not logging in for a while because I'm doing something else. It's not a big task and probably only takes me in total about 5 minutes work a week.
A week before the event, Robot Shaun hands over control to the host region and thats when they need to start doing things manually. When it hands over, it generates excel spreadsheets with everyone on it, it makes sure the BFTA Numbers are correct and to help the regions it also generates a suggested lane allocation - I'll tell you more about that in a moment.
Last minute bookings and cancellations are then handled by the host region - if you want to make the host region's life easier - try not to book a GP or cancel your registration within a week from the GP happening, because if you do, you'll cause someone to actually have to manually do something. Obviously, sometimes this can't be avoided, but if you can, you'll save someone some work. (Don't forget all of this is handled for you by unpaid volunteers, and if no one did this work you couldn't have a GP or a GP Series)
At the end of a GP, the host region fills in a spreadsheet provided by Robot Shaun and emails it back to me. I then have to quickly check that everything is filled in correctly, then I press a button to upload the results spreadsheet to Robot Shaun and he takes care of automatically generating all of the results. The league table, the teams tables, the showdown qualifiers etc etc... it's done almost instantly and once it is, I then manually upload it to Google Spreadsheets and the results are available to everyone on the BFTA Website.
The results for the last GP were actually available on the website before Phil and Kev announced the winners at the final GP.
How does Robot Shaun do the lane allocations?
Well, in short it does them randomly, with a few constraints.
The first constraint is that Robot Shaun tries not to put two shooters from the same club on the same lane, the second constraint is that where two shooters have to shoot together (for Health and Safety reasons or perhaps a Junior and their Guardian etc) Robot Shaun will take that into consideration.
Apart from that it's random.. and that means you could be paired with anyone from any grade.
It's a suggested allocation, and I always say to the host region, that if they want to they can change that allocation around if they like - but most are quite happy to go with a random allocation. In fact I think in the 2 years that Robot Shaun has been running things behind the scenes, there has only been 1 GP where Robot Shaun's lane allocation list was ignored.
Have your say in the future...
So after 2 years, what do you think? Are you happy with how things are running?
Is random lane allocation ok with you? - what that means is that you could be shooting with anyone at a GP. So if you're a novice C grader shooting your first GP, you could be partnered up with a World Champion. That's great for the novice because they get to learn from an experienced shooter, But do the AA shooters mind spending time helping new shooters or would they rather just shoot with other AA shooters?
Do you want the lane allocation to be random or do you want a single person to decide who you should and shouldn't be shooting with?
Would you prefer it if some extra constraints were added into Robot Shaun's lane allocation algorithm.. for example that you never shoot with the same person throughout a GP series? (Robot Shaun can't actually do that at the moment because the actual lane allocation is never sent back to Robot Shaun, all he knows is the suggested allocation). So to do that might involved extra data entry from the Stats office.
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