Systems Competition and Network Effects

Many products have little or no value in isolation, but generate value when combined with others. Examples include: nuts and bolts, which together provide fastening services; home audio or video components and programming, which together provide entertainment services; automobiles, repair parts and service, which together provide transportation services; facsimile machines and their associated communications protocols, which together provide fax services; automatic teller machines and ATM cards, which together provide transaction services; camera bodies and lenses, which together provide photographic services. These are all examples of products that are strongly complementary, although they need not be consumed in fixed proportions. We describe them as forming systems, which refers to collections of two or more components together with an interface that allows the components to work together.

Michael L. Katz and Carl Shapiro

Why are competitive riders grouped the way there are?

Competitors in mountainboard comps are almost always grouped by age, and some times by gender. But why? Just because you’re the same gender and a similar age as another ride, why should you be competing against them? Neither age nor gender have any causal relationship with mountainboarding ability. So why are all the women put in one group and all the men over thirty in another group?

If we think back to the beginning of mountainboard competitions, when there weren’t very many riders, and the range of ability was much closer (I assume), it might have made sense to split the women from the men, and the younger riders from the older riders. And although the splits between the groups have moved over time, the historic idea of how riders should be divided has persisted.

At Round 2 of the UK Series 13 we rolled out a new boarderx qualification system that took a step away from the old way of classifying riders and grouped them by ability. We started with a list of riders, used their previous results to sort the list best to worse, and then split the list into groups of twelve. Each group then had three races so riders could earn points before being sorted back into their categories. The riders seemed to like it.

It’s always nice when the riders like the changes we make, but that isn’t why we did it. We came up with this system to make the qualifying races more interesting for those riders that otherwise would have had three pretty much identical qualifying races. We wanted the system to be safe first and foremost, which is why we don’t include the Groms (under 12’s), and we wanted it to help riders improve their racing ability, which makes them safer and reduces injuries.

It’s a step towards moving away from the arbitrary classification of riders. I wonder where we’ll go next.

What we learned from our first Downhill comp in the woods

The ATBA-UK’s first woodland downhill comp took place on the 6th April. Here’s so of the things we learned, and will use when planning future comps.

  • Downhill comps that don’t use the riding track as the uplift track run far more smoothly as the riding keeps flowing. Previous comps that used fire tracks for riding down and driving up could only do one at a time, which interrupted the flow of the comp and wasted time.
  • Our uplift held four people at a time, which as it turned out was fine.
  • The riding started at 11:30, half an hour later than planned but not a problem, and went on til about 15:30. The riders stopped before we ran out of time, which is better than the other way round.
  • The riders took breaks when they wanted, which worked out better than having a scheduled lunch break.
  • We need more dedicated officials. This one took the concept of ‘Rider-run comps’ to a new level, with injured and tired riders taking over the timing. It’s great that we have a) such a strong community of riders and b) such a simple system that this can happen, but it does mean that things will be missed and mistakes happen during the change-overs.
  • The synchronised watch timing system is still the best solution, not only for it’s simplicity and that it doesn’t need communication between top and bottom, but mostly because it proved plenty accurate enough at this comp.
  • Finding/making a track that is challenging to the Pro’s and yet accessible to new-comers continues to be something we need to think about. The solution to me, especially in places like Head Down, is to have two tracks, an easy and a hard, both starting and finishing at the same places.

Parallel Processing in Preparing for Competitions

Usually, the comps come together through a small amount of coordination between a few of the people involved, and lots and lots of thinking on our feet and improvising. This isn’t a very efficient way of doing something like organising a comp, and often means things get missed that really shouldn’t be.

So, I’ve been writing up the workflow processes for running ATBA-UK comps, with the short term aim of streamlining the process, and the long term aim of making hand-over to new committee members/event organisers more effective.

It’s actually more complicated than you might think. It’s hard enough to just mindmap everything into one place, there is always more to add and stuff you’ve forgotten. But having got enough stuff on the list, it’s then time to start organising the list. The obvious way of doing this is ‘first thing first’, ‘second thing second’. But this is a very linear or serial approach, and raises problems. The first problem is that the second thing can’t be done until the first thing is done, so if something stops the first thing, everything grinds to a halt. The second problem is that it’s much harder to coordinate a group of people to all accomplish things on the list together.

You could divide the list into smaller lists, one for promotion, one for paperwork, etc., and give each person their own sub-list. But then what we see is that each list contains a wide variety of tasks and that the person assigned that list may not have skills to accomplish everything on their list. So that won’t work.

What we need is a way of parallel processing the tasks on the list so that everyone involved can take on tasks that they are able to complete, do them at an appropriate schedule, and not get in the way of other tasks or people. Hmmm, needs more thinking about…

Learning from Dave

What we learned from Dave, the Downhill comp #1

Track (location and layout)

The track at Dave worked really well. It was a ‘medium’ track which meant that is was gentle enough for novice riders to feel ok some of the time and challenged some of the time, and for pro riders to gun it all the way and enjoy it. The location of the track (just off an A road) meant it was easy to find and not too far away from civilisation.

Timing

Obviously, timing at a DH comp is really important. We used a simple synchronised clock system that has been around for decades (maybe even longer, who knows?). The advantages of this system is that it is really really simple and it doesn’t require any communication between top and bottom. What it does require, we found out, is reliable switched on people running it, and doing the calculations. Well, as I found out, a simple spreadsheet can do the second part. Formatted as ‘time’, the spreadsheet will do calculations that we can’t do with a calculator (because our system for measuring time isn’t decimal). The spreadsheet can be run on a laptop, which then brings in the issue of power on the side of a hill, on even on a smart phone. Now that’s truly the future of DH comps.

Uplift

When the track is over a mile long an uplift is essential. The idea setting off six riders and following the sixth one down in my car to bring them all back up before setting off the next six was, I think, a good one. Although I’m not sure why it didn’t work out that way. It provides a safety check of all the riders and makes them easier to manage as they are in smaller groups. Having a big uplift to get all the riders to the top in one go has obvious advantages. The main disadvantage is the cost of hiring in a 4×4 and trailer, van or minibus. The other problem with uplifts like this on tracks like this is that it needs to drive up the same track that the riders are coming down (although hopefully not at the same time). Can’t really see a way around this one.

Staffing

Dave was run with just two staff. One at the bottom recording finish times, and one at the top to record start times and drive the uplift. Compared to BX comps which take ten times the staff, DH are already pretty streamlined in the (human) resources they require to run. Having more organisers would certainly help, especially with things like live scoring (see below) and splitting the job of driving the uplift and running the top of the hill.

Other improvements/suggestions

Suggestions for improvements made by the riders include some kind of live scoreboard so they can all see their times, which seems simple enough with a wipeboard or paper and pens.

Next time….

The idea of having three DH comps next year is still very much top of my to do list at the moment. Dave seems to be easy enough to replicate next year, we’re just going to have to try to get in with the town committee and see if they can get around paying the FC loads of money. Scotland seems very likely as there are a very riders up there who want to get it sorted. And the Lake District is a possibility, although only on the back of an off-hand conversation with the ranger of Whinlatter Forest, but I’ll be following that up shortly.

What do I need for a Downhill Competition

Checklist for Dave, the ATB-Wales & ATBA-UK Downhill competition

  • Pallets
  • Hammer
  • Gaffa tape
  • Leatherman
  • Tent pegs
  • Tarp
  • Spade
  • Medals
  • Paperwork
  • Pens
  • Batteries
  • Rubber gloves
  • Ice packs
  • Blood donor keyring
  • Warning signs in Welsh
  • Diet coke
  • Blog enabled phone

Countdown to ‘Dave’, UK Downhill Mountainboarding

Seven days, 120 hours, 7200 minutes. This time next week we’ll be kicking off at ‘Dave’, the first UK downhill Mountainboarding competition since 2005. Everything I’m seeing is telling me that Downhill is coming of age. More people are riding with brakes, and not because they haven’t developed the skills to go fast but because they want to do more on a board than you can without a brake. People are going further, higher, steeper, and longer, and they are doing out there on their own. It’s time to start getting them all together.

This year we have ‘Dave’, a pretty cool little downhill track and comp in it’s own right but essentially a test case and our first attempt at getting all those downhill-orientated people into competition riding. We already have leads on future DH comps in the Lake District and Scotland. All we have to do is get enough people into downhilling to make it worthwhile. So, if you’re thinking about coming to ‘Dave’, take a look at all this and do it.

Ding Ding! Round 2: at The Edge

Mountainboarding at The Edge

We’re going all listicle for what happened at Round two of the ATBA-UK International Series at The Edge in Shropshire on the 18 & 19th June 2011.

Top Five Reasons To Have Been At The Edge

  1. It’s a Centre that doesn’t get enough love from the mountainboarders.
  2. It was World Mountainboarding Day.
  3. Fly-bys.
  4. Breakfast in a box.
  5. Renny Myles was there.

Top Six Genius Ideas of The Weekend

  1. Old-skool MBS decks
  2. Toed-in and out wheels.
  3. Hybrid boards.
  4. Dressing like Matt Brind.
  5. Having more battery for your Go-Pro.
  6. Outside Lines.

Top Seven BoarderX Best Bits

  1. Ryan Bunting tooling up to stab the other riders on the way down the track.
  2. Richard Fisher’s smooth whip-round the pile up in the first berm.
  3. Simon Neck jumping over James Wanklyn.
  4. Max Rye showing true Pro BX skills.
  5. Jonny Wheeler coming 2nd in his first comp.
  6. Rachel La Roche coming first after thinking of dropping out.
  7. Raph finally on the BX podium after eleven years.

Top Eight Injuries Of The Weekend

  1. Ian Williams breaking his arm (ouch, seriously. Get well soon).
  2. Rory faceplanting off a rail.
  3. Dunstan ending up on the bottom of a four-man first berm pile-up.
  4. Max Rye with his magic dislocating/reloacting kneecap.
  5. Phil De havilland-hall knackering his achilles tendon.
  6. Mark Adams with the ‘now I look ‘ard’ swollen lip.
  7. Andy Milenkovic’s back looking like he won’t be laying down for a week.
  8. Andy Brind getting concussed every time he steps on a mountainboard.

Top Nine Freestyle Factors

  1. Piers ‘Stromtrooper’ Sutton going big.
  2. Lisa getting the backflip and only just over-rotating a rodeo.
  3. Tyrone pulling boned-to-the-max nose grabs
  4. Chris Horsley’s too smooth bs cork five, backflip and frontflip.
  5. Tom ‘the man with no pain threshold’ Sharp nailing a rodeo.
  6. Sam ‘he’s got springs in his legs’ Nicholas boing-ing back-to-back backflips.
  7. A beautiful laid-out backflip from Leo (we should have seen more).
  8. Angry Andy nailing an awesome backside cork seven.
  9. Simon Neck attempting a barrel roll.

Top Ten Highlights Of The Weekend

  1. Riding The Wrekin Friday night with Goofy & Mutley in total darkness, rain and thick fog (ok, that was just my highlight).
  2. Spending World Mountainboard Day with a truly awesome bunch of people.
  3. Dancing on top of vans.
  4. The sun shining just when we needed it.
  5. The coincidental arrival of an ice cream van.
  6. Noggin’s Heli-cam.
  7. Meeting the most awesome medic in the world.
  8. Ben Searles’ life flashing before his eyes as Joe Leonard drifts wide on a five.
  9. Ending the freestyle jam with a Pro train.
  10. And finally… Getting the Results up Sunday night!

For media including ace vids & more great photos follow the links 🙂
Ben Rye’s video
Ben Searle’s video
Simon Neck’s video
Emlyn Bainbridge’s video
Noggin’s Heli-cam video
Mountainboarding’s Facebook media page photo gallery
Theo Acworth’s full Facebook photo gallery

Thanks to all at The Edge, ATBA-UK, the sponsors, and everyone at the event.
Photos copyright Andy Rolfe


Originally published on Remolition.com