Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Just Say No to Bingo Controls


Kent Lodberg, a judge for Denmark's course setting competition, put together a set of bingo controls and explanations for the problems with each control. You can find the map and Lodberg's explanations here. Click on "eksempler pa bingoposter - kortet" for the map and "bingoposter kommentarer" for Lodberg's notes.

I'm not going to translate Lodberg's comments. But he comes back to several common problems with control locations (you need to have the full map to see the specific examples I listed):

The feature continues so the feature is really a line. Placing the control can't be done with precision (e.g. control 33).

The edge of the feature is large enough that you can't precisely place the control (e.g. 52 is on the east side of the clearing, but the east side of the clearing is 40 meters long).

The feature is indistinct, which by definition means it can't be a precise location (e.g. control 37).

In analyzing control locations, Lodberg frequently notes that orienteers are going to have to hunt for the control.

When I looked at the map and Lodberg's comments, I thought he was a tough, but fair, judge. Many of the control locations look ok to me. Certainly, I wouldn't be mad at the course setter if they used many of the locations. But, I think Lodberg's point is that a course setter should set a very high standard for control locations.

As a course setter, you often compromise with a control location. If I wanted to put a control at 52 - the 40 meter edge of the field - I would. I might even tell myself "the visibility is fine, as soon as an orienteer reaches the field, they'll see the control marker." I think Lodberg wants course setters to take a very critical look at each control and to set a high standard. That is a good thing.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:43 AM


Would you say that control 13 of the men's middle distance at the Team Trials was unfair because "the feature is indistinct, which by definition means it can't be a precise location"?
I'll guess that Kent Lodberg would call this unfair, at least in the academic context of his commentary. This control is similar to a few of his examples, 34, 37, 38, and virtually identical to 44 (a small piece of 100% next to dense vertical green)

After going through his comments with my half a**ed Norwegian vocabulary, Kent seems to believe that all thickets are too indistinct or imprecise (there is a difference), unless they have a vegetation boundary symbol (black dots). I believe this is good "heads up/beware" advice, but in reality these situations are often (usually?)fine (distinct, fair, usable). It depends very much on the in-field reality, which includes visibility, vegetation type, and the mapping.

During course consulting, #13 on TT Middle was indeed a topic of concern for this specific "fairness" reason. I have heard differing evaluations of this site. I don't know what the reality is, but the answer cannot be given based on the paper map.

And this is where I might take issue with the rigidity of Kent's comments, especially in the context of a course setting competition. I don't know how the scoring was done, but I think it would be unfair to deduct points for these "reality dependent" controls (roughly 1/3 of the examples). In a "paper" competition, I think the designer/entrant should get the benefit of the doubt unless these examples are clearly defined ahead of time.

The example that baffles me the most is 48. This is a formline knoll, relatively small (30mx15m), on a 5m map with generally distinct topo, in white forest, located on the top (by default)! In ~30 years of course setting, I don't remember any problem control of this nature.

Still this was a very interesting topic and I think all Kent's points are good on the theoretical "be careful" level.

Thanks for another good link.
Actually, I do have an academic issue with Kent L, and that is his use of the international O-word "bingo" to cover all problematic controls.

I think a "bingo" control is a very specific subset of all problematic controls, which I'll define as "a control that is not reasonable to find due to an absence of supporting features". "Bingo" is more about the surroundings, than the control feature itself. Frankly, I don't believe any of his examples dipicts a classic "bingo" situation. In fact there are not many to be found on this map/terrain.

Granted his examples might be seriously problematic, but for other reasons, which he describes very well. Well, actually I am giving him the benefit of the doubt on that, since my Danish only picks up a fraction of his writing. :-)

One of my personal rules for using green areas is that I don't like to use distinctions of one color of green. For example, a boundary of white to 1st green would be too indistinct for me, usually. I usually find a boundary of white to 3rd green to be quite distinct, even if it's not mapped with black dots. I always figured that although the map standard symbol 417 says all vegetation boundaries are indistinct unless marked with 414 (solid line) or 416 (a row of black dots), most mappers seem to map it as 417 even when it's really distinct.

I agree with Matthew's points.

I also agree with "most mappers" who leave off the black dots. With small or intricately shaped pieces of distinct vegetation, the black dots only add clutter. Visually, the edges of middle and 100% green are plenty strong by themselves.

A prime, perhaps extreme example, is mountain laurel, which usually, but not always, has distinct edges. Now picture the Harriman WOC maps with black dots around ~half the two darkest greens.

I believe the ISOM (and ISSOM) are very respectable documents, but I think this is a hole in the content.

The problem with control 48 is, that the knoll is not a full 5 m top. The contour line is 'broken'. Furthermore the control-descripition does not tell you, where the control is placed. It hasn't got an "on the top of the hill" mark.
As bonus-knowledge Kent Lodberg was the course setter of the WOC2006 long distance on this map. He therefore might not leave much 'benefit of the doubt' to the couse setters of this competition, as he knows the terrain really well...
It is understood that a formline is not a 5m contour. Formline features are not by rule problematic, although sometimes they are. Features shown with 5m contours can also be problematic.

Actually, if a knoll does not have a location descriptor, then it is indeed on top, "by default". This has been the practice since forever, and the current IOF control descriptions address this directly. Check the "note" under Column G, and the "top of" definition in the table, section 11.11. This is not a new concept.

Is it not obviously ridiculous to apply terrain knowledge to a theoretical, on-paper competion? If Kent let his knowledge of the terrain seep into his judging, that would be unfortunate, but I not accusing him of this. I have also been a judge of a course design competition on terrain that I knew quite well (French Creek West), and can attest that it is not easy to maintain "on paper" objectivity.

Let it be clear that I hold the Danish WOC courses in very high regard, especially the Long, which I rate among the best courses I've ever seen, at least "on paper". :-)

I'd love to see this bingo article translated. (Anyone...anyone?)
Seeing this map brings back fond memories. I wish I could run in that terrain every day. Instead I run in Ridley (although if I close my eyes on a certain stretch of trail, I could be in Denmark...)
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