OpenTrack: Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source in Athletics
The sport of athletics - including track and field, cross country, relays and road races - is largely run by volunteers. Meetings are organised with spreadsheets, emails, clipboards and pieces of paper, even at national level. The systems which do exist are usually single-user, not internet-enabled, and built by (and depend critically on) individual enthusiasts. The volunteers spend endless time on repetitive tasks sorting out entries and transcribing results, while athletes hunt around on websites for the results.
In a modern, networked environment, we believe we can do much better: making it easier to set up, enter and manage events, and to publish and follow the results. We can save officials time, so they can spend more of it coaching and organising meetings, and make things more enjoyable for the athletes.
As software developers in the open-source world, we have seen many times how people with common
interests can collaborate to build a system better than any one private company can do.
We aim to find people working with software in athletics, help them to work together, and benefit the sport.
We have been fortunate to secure European Union technology funding under the FINODEX project to start development in the 2015-16 season. The pilot projects are taking place in Surrey (South West London), working with the local cross country league and county association. But our ambitions are global.
There are three pillars to our plans:
1. Open Data
Everyone can benefit from standardising the reference data in the sport: agreeing
codes and IDs for clubs, venues, organising bodies and so on, and being able to
identify individual athletes. We believe that the results of sporting events, as facts,
should carry an open data license.
2. Open Standards
We aim to define and agree open standards for exchanging membership info, start lists and results for various kinds of meetings. Anyone building systems for “one part of the puzzle” can begin to interact with others
3. Open Source
Where possible, we should share code and solutions across the sport, to make it easier for anyone to build high quality athletics systems. Events and leagues will probably always need to build their own system, but they can all use common building blocks.
Check out our call for volunteers, and help your sport! Or, at least, spread the word…