Seating Lottery?

Every single year we have complaints about teams saving seats at events, people pushing and shoving to get in the door and get there first, four people saving 80 seats etc.

Well I had an idea that I’d like to get some feedback on. For now, assume its for something like a Regional Event (I’m not sure its a solution for a Championship or small district), but at a reasonable sized area/venue.

If an event was able to provide:

  1. A dedicated scouting section with power & a good view for scouters with laptops/cameras.
  2. A Floor level section for teams in the current match to come down and watch “up close” and dance/cheer/etc.
  3. A Couple of very clearly marked Spectator Seating Areas (maybe 100-200 seats depending on the event?)
  4. A storage room for extra bags/boxes/coats that don’t fit in the pits or in the stands (maybe manned by a volunteer but not really a “bag check”, more of a “leave at you own risk”)
  5. A lottery that gave each team a block of 40 seats. These seats would be together, but would be “assigned”. The lottery would be random and would determine what section you got.
  6. A “Craigs List” where teams could post extra seats, trade sections, etc.
  7. A “Special Request” form ahead of the lottery for teams that might be interested in sitting together - think mentor/mentee team, sister teams, same sponsor teams, teams from the same school.

What would you think?

Every major concert or sporting event we go to and every plane that we get on (ok except Southwest), we have assigned seats. FIRST has thus relied on GP and people to organize themselves. What if we made it so teams didn’t have to get up at 4am and stand outside in the freezing cold?.. what if we made it so scouters could see and cheerers could cheer?.. what if we made it so the mean parents who don’t want to share don’t have something to be mean about? What if we could make it so that the only complaint was “bad luck in the lottery”?

Any Pros or Cons you can think of?

Anyone absolutely hate this and prefer the free for all?

This is far too much work for FIRST to implement, on top of all the things they already need to deal with.

Small subsections might be valuable, like dedicated scouting sections or areas for non-FIRST spectators so that they don’t have to try and sit in the middle of a team.

At the Minnesota Regionals, the MN Planning Committee gave each team 2 seats for scouting. These seats were located in the stands, right up front next to the field. They were assigned in numerical order with the lowest numbers up front and the highest numbers up top. It seemed to work very well, and the seats were great, the only thing that was missing was power for laptops :confused:

I agree with Cory. This is way to much for FIRST to implement.
The only possible way this would work is if the Regional Committee and Event Staff wanted to do it. Though I doubt they would with so much stuff on their plate also.

Also an area where teams can come down and dance and such is fine unless it will be blocking spectators views. I experienced this at FLR when the finals started and the teams went to the floor and started chanting and dancing. I couldn’t see a thing, and I couldn’t move because there wasn’t very much room left. I got to watch 1559 climb the tower and then saw discs flying in. that’s about it. I loved FLR except for that fact.

2 per team seems inadequate. A lot of teams have scouting subteams and would probably want 6 seats + 2 for backups.

I guess it was for “scouting captains.” I know my team used them for drivers who wanted to watch matches and for seating for the awards. Though, at some points in time we had scouts sit there for a better view.

Yeah, I don’t remember seeing a lot of them being used, but I was in the pit most of the time. We only used them for non-statistical scouts that didn’t need to immediately interface with our scouting system.

2 people, even “scouting captains” wouldn’t be enough. Most teams still rely on paper methods for scouting so having “scouting captains” separate from the rest of the scouters is useless.

Evidently, this is doable; another poster cites it being done already at a regional. Key here is small, simple, only 2 per team, with power. Larger scouting contingents would have figure out alternatives.

I put up some details in another poston how this could be done. Key here is self-regulation, and cheering section occupants following the Golden Rule of no standing and no signs. In other words, DOWN IN FRONT! Loud, ok, obstructive, not ok.

Doable. Needs to be policed a bit, to keep teams proper out of this area.

Interesting, doable, extremely useful. Key here would be for teams to bring their own lock up boxes to put into the room, clearly labeled with their team’s number. No stray jackets/purses, etc. Another key would be for a local team to take it upon themselves to organize it, so that the regional does not have to organize it. In a district, this could work well, if you had one room/hallway/team trailer for this purpose. Bring team lock box(es) in by 9 am, lock it up; unlock for teams to retrieve lock box(es) after playoffs and/or awards.

The rest of the suggestions get really tough to do.

For 5,6,7: Ugh. Useful, good ideas, but tough to do. Some venues don’t have numbered seats, which would be required to generate the lottery system. This would have to be done by a team or group of teams, to volunteer to do it. How would this be enforced? How would it be sanctioned? Probably a bridge too far.

Items 5,6,7 are doable, but FIRSTers would have to take these on themselves. The event organizers have enough to do without assigning all the seats in the arena.

Also, items 5,6,7 are probably best left as items to group together. Once you assign seats, people will not be satisfied, so trading, special requests, will help the situation out.

Items 1,2,3,4 are probably best implemented as separate items. Event organizers could pick and choose. Test and see, over several events over several years. Indeed, item 2 alone (cheering section) could significantly lessen the need/pressure for the Grand Scheme: assigned seating for all.

I for one do not like the current free for all environment in the stands. As a pit denizen, I would like to see my team play, but without a vanguard of a large team to reserve decent seats, I typically opt to not watch matches, and just clean up our pit.

Like I said, my team mainly used them for watching matches. Our whole scouting team was together for the whole regional. We used them for watching matches. They were handy for talking with other teams though…

I am absolutely convinced that any significant ‘improvement’ to the seating issues will require a strong incentive to make use of ‘crowd’ scouting and then relegating teams that don’t participate in crowd scouting to some of the least desirable seats. Seating priority during qualifications (if done via signage or otherwise enforced) should be something along these lines (The priority order could be argued a bit but not much, in my opinion.)

  1. VIPs/major event sponsors.

  2. Teams in current match, red section, blue section (limited to capped seat count, large teams just deal with it) Maybe 6x30 seats. Traffic flow signage could be arranged so that cheering squads can self-queue and quickly swap out between matches without formal volunteers.

  3. Crowd-scouts 36 seats total.

  4. Public not closely associated with any team (this includes parents who are not coaches/mentors)

  5. Rest of team members (no laptops, printers, file boxes etc consuming extra seats – no seat saving allowed !

  6. ‘Traditional scouts’ and team ‘storage’ location. These folks can spread out in the remaining seats and stake out a spot and save seats and use extra seats for equipment, coats, bags, etc, with at least one or more team members remaining present to keep an eye on stuff. In some venues, depending upon seat count and public presence, this might be ‘end-zone’ seats.

    FIRST is about engineering, engineering is about efficient use of resources and making trade-offs. It makes no sense for each of dozens of teams having 6 or more scouts all counting the same game pieces being scored. If each bot is watched by 4 to 6 crowd-scouts (36 seats!), you’ll have a very accurate data collection.

The goal of providing an excellent viewing experience for the public (both in terms of view quality and comfort in not struggling to find ‘unsaved’ seats), far, far outweighs the goal of providing six or more premium seats per team for scouting.

Plus, won’t the public be more impressed when it is explained to them that the crowd-scouting section has teams working together for the benefit of all?

Each team could be given one button (like a driver button) that is an informal ambassador button, which is intended to be used to sit in the public section and welcome visitors and explain the game/FIRST to them.

Questions about crowd-scouting

Are teams required to contribute crowd-scouts?
Do you share data with teams that are unable to contribute?
If yes, will teams abuse this? If no, who makes that judgement call?
How is the data managed, averaged, and shared?
Do I get to take the data home Friday night?
Could the data be poisoned before and/or after averaging? Will it be?
How do you keep scouting sheets circulating between 36 people? (already difficult to do with 6)

At the Granite State Regional, there is a small section (I think 50-100 seats) right in front of the field that only goes halfway up the lower bowl of the arena, and it is reserved for teams in the current match. There’s usually someone making sure people enter and leave in an orderly fashion, but I don’t remember any problems with it. The teams that have good seats don’t use it as much, and the teams that get stuck along the sides get to watch their own matches up close.

So the teams that don’t think your idea is the best idea should be put in the worst seats, because obviously their method is worse than yours?

Every team scouts differently. Every team wants different data. Collaborative scouting works with one or two teams because you talk to them in advance and collectively decide what data to collect, when to collect, how to collect it, and how to distribute it.

No two scouting systems are created equal. In 2009 team 67 had 18 scouts, 1 for each robot, one for balls in each trailer, and one for each human player. It doesn’t sound like they would benefit from crowd scouting. Since they don’t scout like you do, we get to shove one of the best teams in FIRST (and world champions that year) in the corner? No thanks.

I would be largely satisfied if FIRST could ensure that there is, for every match, high quality video feed of the whole field, without any cuts to close ups or drive teams or whatever. Just a single camera with a high angle view of the whole field, uninterrupted for any reason.

Relay that to some projectors and make the video available to download or burn to a disk or whatever. Heck, just provide a AV hookup for teams that want to record that feed as they deem fit. That’d give you a pretty solid base of scouting data to review and work from after matches.

That, for me at least, would answer a lot of the ‘scouts can’t watch matches’ issue. It’s not a replacement for scouts seeing matches in person, but at least you can afford to miss one, or not have an awesome view of the field. It’d also help smaller teams that can’t manage to have scouts watching matches and working the pits.

I dunno, it’s not really an answer to the ‘saving seats’ issue, but it’d at least answer a lot of scouting problems, in my mind.

Considering that video equipment is so cheap now that multiple teams (including our team) currently have their robots equipped with GoPRO cameras capable of recording 1080P video for 6 consecutive hours on one 32 GB chip, I fail to see why the above cannot be done at multiple venues for not much cost. Get GoPRO or another video vendor to sponsor it and set it up. The poor video feeds to the internet, and lack of video feed availability in general, really needs to be addressed. And it should help address the scouting/seating issues. Want 20 scouts pouring over match data? No problem. Examine the (multiple-angle?) HD video for hours, using pause, slow-motion, whatever. The access to such match video data should help teams improve their scouting significantly.

All right, I’ll bite.

Let’s assume that there are 20 fields, each needing its own camera(s). Let’s assume that the powers-that-be want a streaming version (any); each camera is $200 minimum (GoPros in this case). Let’s also assume that one is NOT enough–pretty reasonable assumption. Let’s randomly say that each field gets 5 (partly because that gives a pretty good view, and partly because that gives some nice round numbers). Let me say again: One is NOT enough! If one doesn’t work for instant replay, one probably won’t work for scouting. (For one thing, how do you identify the robots from above?)

Anyways, 5 x $200 X 20 fields gives $20,000 to set up the cameras that are now broadcasting on a WiFi signal. This does not include any receivers or recorders. Not too bad–but you have no spares (figure 1/field, for an extra $4000) and potential interference.

Let’s briefly assume that instead of sending out on WiFi, the cameras record data–just record it. For it to be useful to a group of scouts, the records need to be pulled out of each camera. 32GB is a lot of data to pull at a time, and now there are 5 of those… per event… going up AND being downloaded (and that doesn’t even factor in parsing). Not to mention the multi-view options.

Essentially, it could be done. But it’s not going to be easy, or cheap.

The poor video feeds to the internet, and lack of video feed availability in general, really needs to be addressed. And it should help address the scouting/seating issues. Want 20 scouts pouring over match data? No problem. Examine the (multiple-angle?) HD video for hours, using pause, slow-motion, whatever. The access to such match video data should help teams improve their scouting significantly.

I’ll also bite here. Yes, the poor feeds need to be addressed. Guess what? FIRST does not run the feeds. Local teams/groups do. But they take the video from the video board at the event–there’s typically a drop box near Pit Admin or somewhere like that specifically for that purpose–so you get what’s being shown on the screen. (I know there are exceptions–teams place their own cameras for some casts.)

It gets better, though. For webcasting, you need an internet connection. Field traffic gets top priority–FMS sends data to FIRST after each match, FTAs may need to e-contact their know-how to help solve problems, stuff like that–and usually has a dedicated line–which may be the only one in the building. If there isn’t another one, webcasting over wireless could be somewhat problematic.

However, I don’t see that as helping scouting OR seating in the slightest. I can’t say that I know of many teams who use video to scout in the first place–they might record matches and just look at the ones they want on occasion, or use video to help their drivers, but very few actually use the video to scout, regardless of source. Also, now you have the entire scout team sitting down somewhere to watch video (or just sitting down)–now another 10 or so of those 40 seats saved by 4 persons have people in them, so it’s 14 saving 40 instead of 10 saving 40. (Or maybe 14 saving 50–something like that.)

They had this at Los Angeles (Long Beach) also, but the problem is they had one entrance/exit, and it took so long for the whole stands to exit, that there was a pileup of people waiting to enter, and it blocked a lot of area and caused folks to almost miss their match getting stuck in the crowd. So long as there is a defined entrance and exit side, this area works well.

Outstanding critique of my half baked ideas about cameras. I now understand more about the technical details and costs. Seriously, I don’t know much about either setting up video feeds or running a fully staffed, elite scouting squad.

And that is why I post it here on CD, to get critiqued. So that we can put the less practical suggestions away early.

In order to avoid a multi-post digression on the financial, logistical, and technical details about camera installations on this thread about seating, I suggest that we get back to what can be done about the seating issue(s) in general.

I’ve seen a lot of seating discussion over the years. I think what we’ve got right now is the worst possible way, except for all the others.

Open seating–teams save seats (against the rules) and won’t let anybody not with their team sit with them. Students also sit in the aisles–not cool. Later-arriving teams get whatever’s left; spectators get locked out; potentially, teams get split up. (Current method)

“Cheering section” seating–you have the “fun” of moving 6 teams in and 6 teams out of seats with a good view. You also get more of saving seats, as teams have nowhere to sit when they aren’t playing–unless they save a block of seats. The other alternative that I’ve seen is a standing cheering/dancing section if the bleachers don’t go to the floor–usually better traffic flow.

“Scouting section” seating–This one may work, except for a couple of details. First, most teams use somewhere around 6-10 scouts, who may or may not also be the cheering section, if they scout at all. This means that you should figure, say, 240-400 seats at a district event alone (though that could probably be dropped by 100 at any given event). Second, most teams like to sit together–hence the seat saving mentioned earlier. I don’t think they’ll like to be split up, meaning that the mad rush will be for the seats right behind the scouts.

“Spectator seating”–IMO, a spectators-only zone should be small. My opinion (not that I’ve been just a spectator at all) is that spectators often get the most fun/inspiration out of the event by sitting WITH some of the teams, asking them questions. Saying “You have to be in this area down front” cuts off that whole aspect–in addition to potentially scooping up team-associated parents.

“Block seat”, or “sectional seating”, or “lottery”–Ugh. This one’s a pretty big mess. If all the teams were the same size, and sat during all the matches, this could work out. The problem is, neither is the truth. There are teams with 60-100 team members–not counting parents, I presume–and there are teams with 10 team members. Then you get the parents added on, and outside spectators. So now you get the problems: Divvying up the seats into blocks, distributing the blocks so everybody gets a fair crack at decent seats, dealing with the complaints from team X that team Y stood during the entirety of their matches so team X, who wasn’t in a decent place to begin with, couldn’t see a thing, and all that sort of “fun”.

All that said, I think there is a solution. It’s in the “open seating” model–and yet, it’s not in that model at all. It’s in the people.

What if…
–Everyone got in line at the doors and walked, not ran, to the seats/pits?
–Seat savers took a smaller amount of seats, leaving some on the aisles and other “boundaries” as “mixing” seats?
–Other teams and spectators were welcomed into the “mixing” seats, not chased away by seat savers?
–Teams that stand through their matches intentionally took the top seats or seats around the sides?

What if FIRSTers actually practiced some Gracious Professionalism in the stands? And yes, there are teams that do that now. How about some of the rest of the teams joining in?