Discord for Pit Admin announcments?

Hey guys,

tl;dr
Does anyone have experience of pit admin utilizing chat systems, specifically Discord (or WhatsApp or Telegram or…), to open another channel of communication with event participants / teams to communicate announcements and provide assistance? What is your opinion on such a system, were it to be implemented (unofficially) during events, along with the MC / Pit microphone announcements?
(Has this be done before? a general search in CD came up with no results)

First post of mine in CD since 2009(!), things have changed quite a bit here. :grin:

I’ve been volunteering for FRC as referee and pit admin at various competitions since 2012, mostly in Israel’s late regionals and recent districts and DCMP.

Every year, the quality of service and performance of the pit admin at the Israeli districts improves, using lessons taken from previous years.

One example of improvement was the minimization of pit admin announcements. We were lucky to be given enough willing volunteers from the FRC teams’ student members to take on the roles of what we call “runners”, people who work with the match queuing team and “run” (walk!) around the pits to call in teams to queue up for their upcoming match ahead of schedule. This took down the need to call up specific teams on the pit microphone to queue up when they were missing from the queue to the field. That type of announcement was tagged as optional, not mandatory. From thereon out, the pit would allow announcing matches to be queued. After seeing that the “runners” were efficient in helping teams to queue up to their matches, it was deemed unnecessary to announce anything related to matches whatsoever. Eventually, the progress with handling announcements and pit admin operations brought to the eventuality of the microphone being taken away from the pit admin at districts, but left optional for the pit admin crew to announce things at the DCMP when necessary.

The biggest reason why the microphone was taken away was because there were many complaints from event participants in the pits where either the announcements were not clearly heard through the speakers in the pit or the speakers would be become deafening for teams at the pits situated next to them. (Also, taking out the speakers reduced some spacing issues for the event production team when setting up district events)

So the situation now is that most teams are aware of their schedules at the events and they help each other with tool requests. Lost & found remains under the pit admin’s responsibility. Registration and award scheduling is still done at the pit admin table (IMO, still not optimized for best QoS for all teams, each rushing to schedule for their own best interests).
Team members periodically come to the pit admin table to ask about event schedule to see if there are any changes.

With the above mentioned, I would like to propose utilizing group chat services, specifically Discord, to provide pit announcements and support to teams during events this year. The idea is to do the following:

  • Announcements will be posted in a read-only channel.
  • Relevant MC announcements will be followed up with a post in that group conveying the announcement.
  • hourly/ semi-hourly reminders of upcoming schedule will be posted.
  • Callouts for teams in regards to award interviews / registration will be posted when the schedule is about to come up.
  • Team representatives can register in a general chat channel to be placed in a dedicated channel for direct and open communication among the pit admin and other team representatives for Q&A, requests and more, monitored by the pit admin crew.
  • A channel can be opened for CSA-related topics (I think it’ll be less likely to be supported by the CSA team).

Writing this, I can see how this suggestion may lead to a compromise to some of the physical presence role of the pit admin, but I believe it’s unlikely to be compromised, FIRST wouldn’t let that happen.

I’d love to hear the community’s opinions and experiences on the matter.

In the U.S., it’s all microphones to the best of my knowledge.

I’m honestly not sure that adding yet another channel of communication to monitor is the best thing to do, period. There’s already too many, it seems like. Keep it to the simplest possible method: broadcast announcement, follow up with go-fers.

I would love some kind of text based pit admin announcements for when the announcement is unclear, but I don’t think it should replace the verbal announcements.

Discord is also a nice platform, but a SMS service would probably be better for people with “dumb” cell phones and those with limited data.

5 Likes

I stand by bring back a Sundial style notification stream and ditch the announcer altogether. Win of quieting events down, win of allowing event streams to go to other people (Wouldn’t it be nice if Judges knew when you were queuing for matches and didn’t come up right then?). And Win of allowing other sorts of event streams for volunteer roles (As a now former JA, I’d love to be able to notify my judges that they should probably be wrapping up their team list).

Downside - asynchronous communication is difficult for some folks.

At the very least it could become like the visual paging at the airport, or the visual announcements done at Championships. Honestly I think this is a great idea, the lowest form of it perhaps being just a TV screen where you add the announcements visually in pit admin, the best version using Discord/Whatsapp/ something like that to distribute announcements.

Event information used to be displayed on a projected screen in the pits at the regionals. They stopped doing that and instead teams follow on TBA online on their own to check stats.
I agree with that decision since not all teams have easy and an immediate view of the screen as some other teams do based on their pit placement. The screen which was projected on one side of the pit, away from the pit admin table.
If teams use their smartphones in the pits to check stats online, I believe they can also access Discord channels.

That being said, I agree this won’t work for teams that don’t use smartphones, but I think it’s safe for me to say that in 2020, FRC Israel & FRC NY teams have access to smartphones. :slight_smile:

I think the concept of push notifications can be useful for teams when it’s hard to be attentive to audio queues, especially if the pits and the field are situated in the same space (is the MC announcing math-related stuff or pit-related stuff?). But PN are by no means a replacement for vocal announcements.

I’m going to have to disagree with this statement, at least most of it. At all the events I’m at here in a regional area, there’s two screens in the pits. One shows rankings. One shows a video feed. Teams do tend to use TBA to check that, but the screens are still there and still up.

Now, Israel might be doing things just a little bit differently. That’s fair enough. Whether it’s for the better is up for debate. As long as both systems work, I’d probably regard it as “it works, who cares”. If someone complains about a lack of consistency between events (which I doubt would happen but…) then I’d probably say that Israel would lose out due to 4-5 events changing vs >100 events, or they’d meet in the middle.

I wouldn’t mind having a paging system in place–bare minimum a present mentor’s cell phone–for “You need to know this NOW and our go-fers and PA can’t reach you” sort of situations. I wonder if those restaurant pagers would hold a charge all day, and if so, would it be practical to put one in every pit, with the base station at Pit Admin, for “Hey you, come here” situations. Hmm…

The amount of times that happened when eliminations came, trying to find that team who was supposed to be the 4th member of an alliance, but they already left the event! :scream:

I’m going to have to put my vote in the firmly dislike category.

First - many events have little or no internet access.

Second - I want my team members OFF their phones at events - not on them. In fact, I’d be ok with taking the things away. I don’t like having to speak to members sternly about playing games and texting through the whole event.

Third - the pits is the last place I want to see phones out. It’s simply not safe. People already walk around on their phones and run in to other people. I see people on phones inside team pits where others are working - not good.

Fourth - I really don’t want another avenue of communication. Screens are ok - but not visible from a lot of pits. Gophers are ok, but volunteers are usually limited and getting around the pits can be tough at times. Many times no one is in a team pits. Announcements are good in a very limited amount.

Finally, I don’t like just criticizing, so here are my suggestions. Get rid of the lost and found announcements. Have a board next to the pit admin with those posted. Get rid of the ‘team XXXX wants YYYYY’ announcements - they can go pit to pit and talk to other teams. Only make major announcements that are related to safety items or meetings that all the teams have to attend. This would also serve to get rid of the “Team ZZZ needs a space demodulator device.” announcements, which are cute but serve no purpose except to distract.

Keep thinking though - you never know when a polar bear is going to spark a good idea.

8 Likes