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Observations on the Boston Open

Posted By: Bill Riles
Date: Tuesday, 28 February 2017, at 1:58 a.m.

In Response To: Observations on the Boston Open (Chuck Bower)

Chuck, with all due respect -- and I am good-naturedly picking on you a bit -- you have no idea of what you speak. There is a huge difference between streaming, which I was talking about, and projection within the playing room, which you are talking about. I don't think many, as you, note the difference -- your comment came across as a slam on our streaming.

In San Antonio we put huge amounts of effort, money, infrastructure, planning, and thought into our streaming; and, to my knowledge, we've never heard a single complaint in the last few years. We are quite proud of our streaming. Tara puts a tremendous amount of work and attention into every detail to make the streaming as good as it can be -- she has blazed many paths in that regard. She was also responsible for the streaming in Chicago and Monte Carlo last year -- both of which went very well to my knowledge. Michelle, Phil, and Alia, at various times at various tournaments, do very good jobs. Others make similar attempts. And, I might note, these efforts and expenses are generally absorbed totally by the individuals and/or the tournament directors. The USBGF has a limited subsidy program for streaming but it covers very little of the cost. As an aside, San Antonio has never taken a dime of these subsidy moneys -- we have always been overly cautious regarding any perceptions of conflicts of interest. We often spend low four figures, from the bottom line, for streaming. That includes $100/day for a hardwire Internet connection to preclude the vagaries associated with wi-fi; plus, a director, to do it first class, typically must arrange for transportation and room for a dedicated streaming operator -- not to mention oftentimes a daily salary.

Now, if we want talk to about how to make the projection within the playing room better, we'll listen. We know there are shortcomings on that end. First, we are one of the very few tournaments that have projection in the playing room -- Monte Carlo and NY Metro do for their finals, the Nordic or another tournament (I don't recall precisely) in Europe also projects, how continuously I do not know. We project continuously in San Antonio.

To improve the quality of the playing room projection we would need to get rid of the projector and the overhead screen and go to a direct feed to a large screen monitor. The difficulties, complications, and costs associated with that are significant -- one would have to employ another dedicated laptop, a large screen monitor (a 75" runs at least $250/day), secure cabling, and space in the playing room reserved for this exercise. We could easily spend another $1,000 -- from the bottom line. In San Antonio we provide overhead projection as an added benefit because we can, relatively inexpensively. Most players appreciate the effort and the opportunity to watch without crowding around a streaming table.

I wasn't trying to rag on Boston. I very much appreciated the opportunity to watch some of the matches. Matt commentating was a nice touch -- he passed on the opportunity to play to provide those of us in the backgammon community the service. I very much appreciate his sacrifice and his work to make the tournament as good as he could. My only point was the video quality of the tournament 'streams', Matt also complained about it repeatedly. Obviously (?), it was perhaps only a settings problem as Michelle and Alia were providing excellent quality on their independent streams. Seems, over three days, it could have perhaps been resolved.

I appreciate your concerns and your volunteer offers, many more should be as generous with offers of their time and of their expertise. Streaming is becoming somewhat of a refined art, particularly provided a hardwire connection is used to preclude potential wi-fi problems. But hardware, personnel, and expertise are still necessary for many directors. It is not easy for Michelle, Tara, and/or others to drag the equipment from tournament to tournament with little or no recompense. Unfortunately, thanks and appreciation are in short supply.

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