Overview of COMPMNGR's judge's marking device system for Internet devices (smart phones and compact tablet computers)

Some of you know that COMPMNGR already has two features supporting remote marking devices, one for PDAs and one for Windows based computers. So why did I add a third? Because of problems with the first two. One problem with PDAs is that they will become less readily available as they are replaced by smartphones, another is that they have a tendency to lose their WiFi connection, a third is that it is expensive to get enough of them to equip the judges, few of whom have their own. The problems with Windows based computers are that they are relatively bulky, heavy, and expensive. And they are required to run a special application named ProgramView (included in the COMPMNGR installation file), which requires some training.

The type of Internet browser equipped devices for which COMPMNGR's judge's marking system is designed can operate on either cell phone networks or on WiFi networks. The user can select whichever type of network seems to offer the most reliable network connection in the extant environment. The  Internet devices' web browsers are used to access marking form web pages created and posted by COMPMNGR, so very little training is involved. Another advantage is that the number of judges who have smartphones, iPads, and the like will likely grow, so that the competition organizer won’t have to provide the devices. The COMPMNGR Internet device based marking system is designed so any number of judges, from one to all, can use his/her device to do the marking. It does require that the scrutineers be able to access the Internet or some other network available to all participants from their notebook computers, smartphones, and tablet computers. The number of people who can do that is growing so this may not be a limiting factor in the near future.

Here is a brief summary of how the system works.
(1) After the scrutineer starts up COMPMNGR he/she clicks on a menu item to “enable” the marking system. At that time COMPMNGR creates and posts a small “sign-in” web page for the judges then tells the scrutineer the address of the page so he/she can pass the link to the judges.
(2) The judges start their device’s browser, go to the sign-in page, enter their ID letter or number, and wait for a signal (a wave or a wink) from the scrutineer that he/she has posted a marking form web page for the next heat.
(3) Just prior to the start of a heat the scrutineer positions the highlight bar on the heat header in COMPMNGR’s on-screen program and then presses the F9 key. This causes COMPMNGR to create and post a web page for marking all the competitions within the heat. The scrutineer signals the judges (with the aforementioned wave or a wink) that the marking form web page is available. The scrutineer can also select a block of several heats and press F9 to create a marking page for all competitions in the block of heats.
(4) The judges click on a button in the sign-in page to take them to the marking page. They enter their marks, click on the ‘Submit’ button, and return to the sign-in page to wait for the next heat or block of heats. (For you techies, the submit button causes a small file containing the judge’s marks to be stored on the web page host computer.)
(5) The scrutineer pops up COMPMNGR’s scrutineering data entry dialog box, just as if he/she were going to enter marks recorded on paper marking forms. But the dialog box has a new button labeled “Get marks”. When the scrutineer clicks on it COMPMNGR downloads whatever judges marks are available (from the aforementioned host computer) and automatically enters them into the marking form. Marks submitted on paper are entered manually into the form.
(6) Go to step (3) and do it all over again for the next heat or block of heats.

The testing done to date indicates that the basic system concept and the COMPMNGR logic implementing the system work well, but there are two factors that can limit its utility. First, it requires users (organizers, scrutineers, and at some of the judges) who really want to use the system. This is because of the amount of coordination required of the scrutineers and judges using the system (see 'wave and wink' comments above). If the participants are not enthusiastic about using the system the coordination, and therefore the system performance, suffers. The second factor is limited access to the Internet in some ballrooms. There is a workaround for this, as discussed on the page setting up your own LAN server.

To use the Internet device judging feature requires you to purchase the web page creation feature ($100 option), but a lot of folks do that anyway so they can post their heat lists and scoresheets. Once the web page creation feature is enabled you are ready to go.