Transparency when qualification matches are generated

One comment that has bothered me for some time is a student of mine wondered if the match generation process was truly random. They were sure that the match schedule changed on them because they were consulting with their first challenge partner. In the middle of practice, they saw their first partner was now another team.

Without photos or a screen shot, there is no way for me to tell the team if the match schedule was indeed, regenerated.

Can we please have a standardized process and audit mechanism when qualification matches are generated?

Teams should either be able to observe the match generation or can review match generation logs upon request.

Results of each match generation should also be logged and stored by RECF in case a review is needed.

The current system is a Powerball lottery where you are told the results of the draw but no visibility in the process.

Just to head things off at the pass, there is no specific accusation to any event partner of malfeasance. I just believe that all the participants deserve to know when and how matches are generated. If matches need to be regenerated, the participants should know why.

Appreciate the consideration of this topic.

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Most commonly the schedule gets regenerated if a team drops out at the last minute or is unable to compete for whatever reason before matches have started.

When that happens, the existing schedule gets thrown away and regenerated completely from scratch. There is no way (for example) for the people running an event to ensure that a particular team does or does not get paired with a particular other team.

For this reason (among others), standard practice at our events is not to print, publish, or show the match schedule until we know that every team is physically present in the venue. If everything is running smoothly we usually have the match schedule live on VIA about 30 minutes before the first match, and printed copies in the pits shortly thereafter.

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For many years, our organization has run 5-15 events each year. Literally the last thing on the T/M operators mind (or the EP’s mind) in our organization is how the match list is generated. When all the teams are inspected and qualified, T/M operator “pushes the button” to generate the schedule, and gets it copied as soon as possible. Generally, the T/M operator doesn’t know/doesn’t care what teams are present.

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Right. Completely understandable. Participants should know each time that schedule is generated? It might only happen twice at an event correct?

I have not run an event but what is the mechanism preventing multiple schedule generation clicks IF a desired outcome was desired?

That is a good best practice. There’s no point to generate a schedule unless every time is present and has already passed inspection. This should limit the match schedule generation to once. Twice, under rare circumstances.

How do participants ensure the button is pushed only once? In theory, the T/M operator should not care. What if they did? This is all a hypothetical as I am not accusing any EP of anything. This stemmed from being able to tell my students without reservation that the process is fair and transparent.

There is nothing on a technical level preventing a malicious actor from running the “regenerate match schedule” wizard repeatedly until they get a schedule that’s particularly favorable to a certain team, but it sure would be a pain – re-running the schedule takes a non-trivial number of button clicks, checking the generated schedule would take even more, and unless the event is particularly small you would likely need to regenerate quite a few times on average to get the desired result. I certainly don’t have the free time at most events to spend 20mins on schedule regeneration.

Your/your students’ concerns might be assuaged by downloading TM and playing around with a test tournament for a bit.

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In over ten years of being an event partner for both IQ events and VRC Events as well as being an officer in a non-profit that helps run events here in Wisconsin as well as being the EP for the WI State Championships and the Signature Event at Lambeau Field, I have NEVER encountered an event where the match schedule was re-run in order to get a “favorable” match-up for anyone. Personally, it is sad to me that when someone perceives something as unfair to them that the first response is that there is some form of conspiracy. The pairings are random. As has been stated, the best practice is to not run a match schedule until all teams have registered, Yes, it would be great if all events held to that standard. I would tell your students to not get too involved with the match schedule until the EP declares that it is FINAL. I did fall into that trap once, very early in my EP days. Assumed that everyone signed up for the event was going to show and ran the match schedule the night before (and accidently had it posted online). Was a mess when it snowed and 3 teams bailed in the morning. And for those that saw it online the night or early morning before, it may have messed up their initial expectations and some might have had some favorable parings changed to unfavorable (and vice versa). Just my 2 cents.

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The event partners do not have any input into the match generation process other than defining the time schedule - it’s one button click. Also, the match schedule cannot be modified once the first match starts so it’s not like they can keep shuffling the deck after each round. I think the only weighted influence the software uses is to prevent the same teams from being aligned multiple times - still possible in small events but rare.

There are circumstances where EPs may need to run the schedule a second time which is why we prefer not to publish anything until the team are finalized.

The best part of the competition is that fact that teams are faced with a random alliance selection. I can understand a team having their heart set on a schedule but changes happen and it will most likely happen again.

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I guess if you believe there is an event which is being run by an non-impartial EP, you could instead sign up for events which you know have a good reputation. As @holbrook mentions, there is no “technical” restraint from regenerating match schedules.

If you come to an event hosted by VEX Team VIRUS, you will find:
• Our EP, a volunteer and has never had a child on any VEX team at any level, and will become a certified EP as soon as RECF makes that process available.
• Our Judge Advisor, a volunteer, who not only has no kids on any vex team, but comes in from a different state for our events. (Who will also become certified as soon as RECF makes the process available).
• Our Head Referee, VEX certified every year, a FRC and VEX alum who has no connections to any team, and recognized in Michigan as one of the best referees in the state. When we host the State championship, we bring in a different referee from another organization to ensure there is not even the appearance of impropriety during the event.
• Our Scoring referees, VEX certified every year, typically from our VEX-U team, with no affiliation to any team. If applicable, they would recuse themselves from any match in which a younger friend/sibling is competing in.
• Myself (just a worker-bee), a volunteer with no students in IQ-VRC (I have a kid on our U-team), certified head-referee and a Judge at Worlds for many years. When I judge at worlds, I recuse myself for all Michigan teams, even though I don’t know anyone, just to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
• Our T/M operators, usually a VEX-U member, with trainees from younger teams, but never operating T/M at an event for which they compete.

While this the standard by which we run our organization, I’m sure that it is quite similar to the level of other organizations that host events.

1 Like

Precisely where if just a minute was spent broadcasting that run of the wizard, all doubt and uncertainty is removed.

This is very helpful. I love it when I can show the students, how the sausage is made!

That was my fear when creating this topic. That well meaning, well intentioned EP would take the concerns as personal.

My kids enter drawings for $5 gift certificates on their favorite Youtube channels. Even for $5, the Youtuber personality will live stream the random number draw. Some events have much higher stakes than a $5 certificate.

A coin flip is theoretically random. However if the coin keeps getting flipped such as now best of 3, best of 7, etc, eventually the desired outcome is achieved.

Having read the learned from the replies of experienced EP’s like yourself it seems the solution is very simple.

Stream the generation. That would be a first principles technique that improves the quality of governance over all events.

A announcement and stream like we are running the match schedule now. And for reasons a,b,c, or x we are running a second time. “We are sorry for the inconvenience”.

Teams would be bound to the outcome once the first match starts. What happens before that first match can define the entire trajectory of the tournament.

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There’s no way for coaches and mentors to know if an EP is non-impartial. The preference would be a standardized match generation process that removes all partiality from the process.

There are restraints on picking Powerball numbers, winning give-a-way-s on Youtube and entering Area 51. The ones for match generation would be easy to implement. Is there any reason at all from your experience not to do so?

We would love to attend any and all Virus events if we could. Your governance is excellent and wish all organizations would endeavor for the same standard. I mean this humbly with no sarcasm.

For a lower hanging fruit, we would just like to see the match generation be fully transparent.

I’ll say this as the tech operator at a VRC event, I can’t speak for VEX IQ events, but typically if I’m regenerating the schedule it’s during the period of the day I like to refer to as the “oh god everything is on fire” section.

The things going on in my head are:
Hey EP, do we have the final list of teams at the event and we’re absolutely for sure sure that team 123 is not showing up?
Hey runner, are you ready to start delivering these paper match schedules to teams the second I hit regenerate them and print them off?
Hey assistant tech operator, are the audio/mics all set up for the driver’s meeting in five minutes?
Hey pit announcer, get on making sure that all the teams are actually going to show up for the driver’s meeting

Add remembering “announce that I’m generating a new match schedule” and I think my head might explode.

If a tech operator was actually trying to cheat by generating an advantageous match schedule, you’d know, because the event would start an hour late as they generate a match schedule, spend ten minutes analyzing it, try another, rinse and repeat.

12 Likes

Teams not showing up suck. Teams that leave early because of ‘…’ suck worst. Teams that bail out 5 mins before alliance selection, why yes, they suck.

On of the things that is an issue is back to back matches. TM tells you about these. In the years when I was a teenage EP I used to re-run match selection on the hope that the back to back would go away. That was never the case, so since then I’ve just used the first set given by TM.

And I’ve stopped bringing a printer to events. I always have someone that doesn’t show, so printing them would be a clown car full of fun. But if pushed I go “Team 23T decided that waffles were more important, so no printed schedules”. Take a picuture, use VEX VIA, but not my problem.

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Inevitably, teams look at their draw and lament a ‘good draw’ or a ‘bad draw’.

Go out there, hit your lick and don’t worry about your draw. As others have said, nothing prevents this, but so much else is going on that it is highly unlikely that this has/is happening for malicious reasons. I can not imagine someone who takes the time and energy required to put on a legitimate event that would risk their effort and reputation for a particular draw.

If this remains a concern for you, move to West Virginia, we have the best EP here :slight_smile:

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So this is a thing. I normally schedule two full rounds past what any sane person would do. I then beat my MC, Josh, “No not 1…2…3…go, its 123go. Make this go faster” “Do more matches”

Some days we do more matches. Some days we do less. But if I have to pick a TM feature (other than just do what it tells me to do) then the remove a full round is the burger. Running late? Cut from 12 matches to 11. Best move ever.

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With VRC, you can have the worst match schedule and lose every single match. The top qualification teams who select partners would know your value, pick you and you can end up winning the entire event.

In IQ, the entire outcome of the tournament can determined before the first game is played. While unfortunate as that is, that is a random aspect of the game. Not all random is equal given my previous example of a coin flip. Flip it once, it’s random. Flip it 3, 5, 7 times it is no longer random.

Only tangentially related to this thread but I had a really good one of these recently – our IQ states was on March 13 which was also the first day of daylight savings time. I set up TM the evening before and left everything running overnight, during which time the clocks jumped forward an hour.

About half way through the schedule print job in the morning (80 pages, double-sided) I pick up a paper copy and notice that all the start times are off by an hour – the first match is shown starting at 8:15 instead of 9:15. Of course by this time I had already announced that the schedule was live on Via and told teams they would have paper copies soon, and we were supposed to be starting matches in about 20 minutes, so this was not a fun realization.

Took almost half an hour of schedule regeneration and general head-scratching to figure out that TM hadn’t picked up on the overnight timezone change, and a reboot fixed things.

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So you misspelled Delmarva, but I’m good. But expect the guys from CT to chime in when school ends today.

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Plato argues that the Ring of Gyges- invisibility and anonymity - is the only barrier between a just and an unjust person. He argues that we would all be unjust if we had a cloak of anonymity.

There is no damage to reputation if there is no audit on generation of match schedules.

If we have full transparency, it’s not a question if we trust or not trust the EP. It is completely out of their hands for good governance.

It’s not relevant if I trust the poker dealer. I cut the deck as part of “poker governance”.

This is when your car had an 8-trak player, right?

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Being the EP for most of NJ, both VRC and IQ, I can say that most people that run the TM software will not have the desire nor time to sit there and look at the matches that are coming up from the wizard. There are just so many other things going on the day of the event that we never even look at the schedule until we are running the current match.

The only time we will ever re-run the event schedule would be if a team does not show up for the day and we don’t find out until after the first run. We have completely gotten away from printing match lists and just run everything off Vex VIA and that has saved so much brain power and stress.

Come to Jersey and see how we run the event and I am sure that if you go to any of the above regions they will all quell your fear of events being “seeded” for any advantage.

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