What's New in Swimmers Guide?

End of Month Report for August, 2017

Date Posted: 8/31/2017 10:54:39 AM

Site News as of August 30, 2017:

This update is being posted a day earlier than usual, as we're going to hop into the car today (8/31) for a week's trip to visit friends and relatives in New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

In August, without realizing it, our list of facilities in the United States climbed over the 7,000 mark - we're at 7,035, today! And, as discussed in the section that follows, we're optimistic that we'll add another two or three hundred in the next month or so. When the site first went online, we had about 3,300 listings in the United States - the entire database, at that time. So we've more than doubled the "inventory" since then!

August Site Review Progress

In August we reviewed all of the listings in the French departments of Nord, Oise, Orne, and Paris (a total of 149 listings). We also completed reviews of the 46 listings in New Mexico. We were two-thirds of the way through the 363 listings we had in Texas, when hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast near Corpus Christi and wobbled in and along the shoreline for several days, exiting eastward to wreak its havoc over Louisiana and points north.

Since updating listings often requires telephone or email contact with the listed facility, and we know that Texans have more important things to do than answer questions about their pools' water temperatures or admission fees, we decided to suspend our Texas reviews for a month or so to let the folks there do what's really important - without bothering them with our frivolities. So we suspended our Texas reviews.

24-Hour Fitness

With a week left to go in August and 101 pools left to review in Texas, we needed to find somewhere else to review or something else to do between then and now. Over the years, we've managed to go through the websites of the largest of the American health club chains (the YMCA, Bally's [R.I.P.], LA Fitness, InShape, etc.), but hadn't figured out how to attack the 24-Hour Fitness chain. That chain's website doesn't make it easy to find its locations (it has no national map) and you have to slog through just about every location's website to figure out whether it has a pool and whether it's likely the pool will qualify for a listing.

To make a long story short, we decided to do a brute-force attack on the 24-Hour Fitness chain's website to find which of their locations needed to be added to the site - and we hit pay-dirt! So far, we've added about 30 locations in California and Texas - we have another 39 ready to be added in California, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada; 62 that we need to call to pick up the pools' lengths and water temperatures in those states; and we don't know how many more in Utah, Colorado, and Florida, where the club has a major presence, as well as the odd location in Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, Maryland, and New York, where it also has locations, but not so many.

Working on these should give our friends in Texas time to get things back closer to normal - they are in our thoughts every day as they work through their disaster.

Database Statistics:

As of August 30, 2017, the database lists 22,625 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,626 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,585 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).

End of Month Report for July, 2017

Date Posted: 8/1/2017 12:19:38 PM

Site News as of July 31, 2017:

In July, we finished answering the emails and site "Edits" that you all posted while we were away. We were also able to complete reviews of all the listings in Utah (90 listings) and Colorado (205 listings) in the US, and the departments of Loir et Cher, Loire, Loire Atlantique, Loiret, Lot, Lot et Garonnne, Lozere, Maine et Loire, Manche, Marne, Mayenne, Meurthe et Moselle, Meuse, Morbihan, Moselle, and Nievre in France (a total of 229 listings).

In the just over 1,000 days since we started the second total site review, we've gone through more than 13,000 listings (61% of the total). If we continue at the same pace, we'll complete this round in May or June, 2019.

In August, we'll try to tackle New Mexico (46 listings), Texas (363 listings) and the French departments of Nord, Oise, Orne, and Paris (a total of 157 listings).

What a "Review" entails:

When we review a listing, we're checking all of the hypertext links in the listing: Web address, Google Maps, swim team links, and any others interspersed in the other text of the listing.

We're also redirecting the Google Maps links in the listings from the ones where we originally targeted the latitude and longitude settings for the link to ones directed at Google points of interest, where the pools' locations have already been identified and marked on the map. These Google points often have photographs attached to them, which we think makes them especially helpful. (And, if Google hasn't identified a pool on a map, we send them the information to add it.)

We check the pools' street addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and the admission price information, updating them if necessary. (You'd be surprised how many pools' street addresses change over time!)

In this round of reviews, we've taken a special aim at trying to find the water temperature of the pools, if we don't have that information in the listing. Pool water temperatures are not a standard piece of information available on most pools' "official" websites (the ones we identify as "Web address" in the listings) so, if the information isn't readily available, we try to contact the pools to collect that data. For listings in the US and Canada, it's easy to just pick up a telephone and get the water temperature; for countries in distant time zones, getting the information entails contacting the pools by email or completing an online form. And if English is not the standard language in the pool's country, the question has to be translated from English to the other country's language. We sent more than 300 emails in July, most of them in French.

A second priority target of this round of reviews is to pick-up information about the various swim teams and aquatic clubs that use the listed facilities. We don't track the statistics on teams and clubs added to the site, but we try to do some sort of Google or other search. In the US, USA Swimming's https://www.swimtoday.org/ website is particularly helpful, although it is not as up-to-date as it ought to be...

All of this can be slow, tedious work - and we don't always get everything right - but we're confident that we're providing more useful, more accurate information about more pools than anyone else on the Internet.

Database Statistics:

As of July 31, 2017, the database lists 22,581 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,622 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,542 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ). 

End of Month Report for June, 2017

Date Posted: 7/1/2017 1:31:13 PM

Site News as of June 30, 2017:

In April and May, we completed reviews of all the listings in Hawaii and Arizona in the US, and the departments of Hauts de Seine, Herault, Ille et Villaine, Indre, Indre et Loire, Isere, Jura, and Landes, in France. That's only about 350 listings, so not too productive.

From the last week of May to the last week of June, we were on vacation in Europe, including stops in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and France. It was definitely not a working vacation - we swam only once, in the Mediterranean at Toulon, France. Although we carried along our laptop and smart phone, our Internet connections left a lot to be desired (a lot!) and we didn't have a lot of free time to mess around with the database, anyway. Rather than stress ourselves out, we did just about nothing with the site until we returned, and we're still working on reviewing the edits, reviews, and comments submitted by our users.

Database Statistics:

As of June 30, 2017, the database lists 22,536 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,614 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,493 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ). 

End of Month Report for March, 2017

Date Posted: 4/1/2017 11:33:20 AM

Site Review Status @ March 31, 2017:

We finished reviewing all of the listings in California in March - there are 956 of them, which would rank California #7 on the list, if it were a country - behind the rest of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Canada. During the review, we removed a number of schools in San Diego county that we could no longer associate with swim clubs and that didn't have public access during the winter, but we found two health club chains that we didn't know about before. Their branch's additions, plus a few other pools we found, more than made up for the deletions and we ended up adding 59 net new listings in that state.

We're back to France, now, working through the listings Department by Department. It's a bit of a slog; our French isn't so good and we haven't done an overall review of the country since 2012.

So far, we've reviewed 12,684 of the site's listings since November, 2014, leaving just 9,807 to go!

Database Statistics:

As of March 31, 2017, the database lists 22,491 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,599 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,435 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ). 

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End of Month Report for February, 2017

Date Posted: 3/1/2017 9:56:12 AM

We've made good progress in getting the site back into shape since the programmer switch-out in the beginning of February. We were able to restore the map search icons to indicate pools lengths and accessibility, and we're working on getting the detail pool listings into a more uniform and consistent layout. Once we get the detail listing page squared away, we hope to add better instructions on the map search page. There are a thousand little things that need fixed throughout the site, we'll get to them all, in time.

You may notice an occasional site outage, spate of "Error 404" problems, or Google Maps "Oops!" messages as we make changes to the site. We're sorry about that and are trying to minimize outages or fix them quickly, when they happen. If you come across a problem, don't worry, come back in a while or the next day, we should be there.

Site Review Status @ February 28, 2017:

We're well into the second complete review of the site that began in November, 2014. We've reviewed all of the listings in the English-speaking countries outside of the United States, plus Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and about one-third of France. In the U.S. we've covered the entire northern tier of states, from Massachusetts to Oregon, and we're about half-way through the listings in California.

Our plan is to continue reviewing listings through the southern half of the U.S: Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, etc. And we'll alternate reviews of the listings in those states with listings in southern Europe: Andorra, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, etc.

So far, we've reviewed 12,272 of the site's listings since November, 2014, leaving just 10,189 to go!

Database Statistics:

As of February 28, 2017, the database lists 22,461 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,592 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,401 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).

Site Anniversary:

For those who are keeping track, March, 2017 marks the website's 21st anniversary on the Internet. Twenty-one years and 19,100+ pools added - we never imagined we'd hang on so long...

Special Report - February 1, 2017

Date Posted: 2/1/2017 7:54:01 PM

Swimmers who use the site regularly will notice a significant change to its layout and functionality. Those who have being using the site for a long time will recognize that we've rolled back the database interface (the page layout, etc., but not the underlying database, itself) to the look and feel we had back in October, 2015.

Why did we go back to an older, in some ways less user-friendly site layout?

For the last three years, we've worked with two different outfits to try to make the site as spiffy and up-to-date as possible. Unfortunately, neither was able to deliver the site we think this could be.

The first took programming shortcuts that froze some data that should have been dynamic, and added features that were annoying and user-unfriendly.

We immediately found a replacement for that programmer, but it took from November, 2015, to March, 2016, for them to get their new site up. While that new site's map-based interface was pretty cool, the list search wasn't acceptable and almost none of the administrative tools we use to add, edit, and delete listings worked properly. We (and they) spent untold hours (and an incredible amount of my money!) working on fixes of the administrative tools, without ever getting past the map-based pool search interface. We had no list search and the site statistics were flat-out wrong. When listings started disappearing from the maps, we had enough. Somewhere between 10% and 20% of the listings just disappeared from the maps, without rhyme or reason - and, if a listing wasn't on the map, there was no way for you to find out about it.

In mid-December, 2016, we got in touch with the programmer who did the original programming for the asp.net/SQL server site that first went online in 2012 and begged her to come back and put the site back to together, to where it was before we tried to get cool. She agreed and on February 1, 2017, the old site returned.

There are a number of changes we'd like to make with this site, many of which are already in progress, but we're going to go slow this time and either do it right or not do it at all.

Site Status @ February 1, 2017:

As of February 1, 2017, the database had 22,239 facilities listed in 178 countries and 12,441 cities around the world. In total, those facilities had 24,166 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ). We have a backlog of 189 listings, mostly in France and Spain, that we're adding to the site as quickly as we can (adding a listing is a slog). And we've come across a site for a California health club chain that's likely to add about 50 new listings there, though it will be a while before we can get all the potential new listings logged, called, and the ones that make the cut added to the database.

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End of Month Report for May, 2016

Date Posted: 6/1/2016 10:56:27 AM

End of Month Report for May, 2016

It's been six months since we made a "What's New" posting. After a year of touting how great the October, 2015, site update was going to be - only to find it a real disaster; then four or five months promising to get things right, only to have one part of the site working properly with the rest working poorly or not at all when we posted a "fix" in March, we're pretty well finished with promises. We're getting things done as fast and as well as we can, but our programmers march to the tune of a different drummer and we can't seem to get them to look at the site's deficiencies (and fix them) with as much urgency as we feel is needed.

In any case, in early March, right around the site's 20th anniversary on line, we finally did get our map based interface working. At the same time, however, the list search, site statistics, and virtually all the user Add and Edit features were not working. The good news is that new map-based search is incredibly spiffy; so good that it almost makes up for the bad. We have the programmers working on the necessary fixes to the other parts of the site and hope that they'll all be fixed within the foreseeable future. (No date promises though, we're done promising things that we can't personally deliver on...)

The Map-based Search Tool

We've had a few people complain that they find the map-based interface difficult to use, so we'll give a quick tutorial here. It's really so easy and intuitive that we didn't think that an explanation would be necessary - but apparently it is, so here goes:

  1. Using either the small sized map on the site's home page or the larger map on the page that comes up when you click on the text "Search by Map" half-way down the home page, find the Search Box in the upper left corner of the map.
  2. After deciding where you want to search, place your cursor (or finger, if using a touch-screen device) and start typing the name of the city and state or country where you want to be able to find a pool. Instead of a city/state, you might also use a three character airport code, the name of a hotel, a full street address, or a postal code and country, the search is incredibly flexible.
  3. As you type your entry in the Search Box, you'll notice that a list of possible matches starts to self-populate, something like a drop-down list, beneath the search box. As you type, the list of possible matches will change refining the list to conform more exactly to what you are typing.
  4. When you see the location you're interested in on the drop-down list, move your cursor down to select that choice and hit "Enter" on your keyboard.
  5. Within a second or two, a map showing the selected location will appear. In the new map, a standard Google Map point icon, red with a small black dot in the center, will appear at the location that Google determined is the center of the location you chose. If there are Swimmers Guide listings within the radius that Google defaulted to, you will see one or more red, yellow, or green centered pinpoint markers. These reflect the approximate locations of all the Swimmers Guide listings in that area. If there are no pinpoint markers on the map, try using the "-" minus sign tool in the lower left corner of the map to zoom-out. Sooner or later, you'll probably come up with a listing - if there is one, within a variable radius that can extend as far as 100 miles. (Google decides the radius covered and we haven't figured out why some maps cover more territory than others.)

Green dots indicate that the pool at that location is open to the general public.
Red dots indicate that the pool is not open to the general public.
Yellow dots indicate either that we don't know whether the pool is open to the public or the situation is not as simple as can be answered "Yes" or "No", e.g., because the pool operates on a year-round basis but is open to the public only in summer or because the pool's hours are so limited that, while it may technically be considered open to the public, the restrictions are too limiting in our judgment.
Note that hotel swimming pools will usually (but not always) be represented by a red or yellow dot as we know many of them are for registered guests only or we don't know the hotel's non-guest admission policy.

Some of the dots also have text within them to give you a heads-up as to the pool's length: Pools that are 50 meters, 25 meters, or 25 yards, i.e., "standard" length pools, will have "50m", "25m", or "25y" designations within the colored center. Pools of other, different sizes will not have any characters within their dots' colored centers.

Although you can zoom out on a map to see a larger area and may find additional listings within the larger area, the map is not fully dynamic. That is, the radius of the area covered on a single map choice result is limited at the time you fill out the Search Box. Changing the center of the map will not cause new listings to be added to the map reflecting a revised center point.

Also, at this time, the accuracy of the placement of the dots is, in some cases, limited to two decimal places in digital GPS latitude and longitude. That gives the maps an "error factor" of a kilometer in some locations, so the maps are good for an idea of the relative locations of the pools shown, but not the exact locations. (We're working on fixing this to bring the GPS latitudes and longitudes to at least four digits of accuracy [11 meters], but there are trade-offs in display speed as the accuracy of the mapping increases that have to be considered.) The "Targeted Google Map Links" within the listings are carried to as many as eight digits of accuracy, so they're "spot on", but in the Map search mode, locations are not so precise.

Clicking on a dot (other than the Google map center dot) will bring up a small box with the pool's name, address, length, and public access status. Clicking on the x at the upper right corner of the box will close it.

For more information about the listing, click on the hypertext "Read More" and a new tab will appear with the full, standard, Swimmers Guide detail listing data. Since each listing pops up in its own browser tab, you can go back to the map from your search to check out other listings without closing the previous Read More listing tabs and without having to do a new search.

Why do we think this new search tool is so great? That's simple: After typing a very few characters, you can see every listing in the city or town, plus potentially every listing in every city or town in a s much as a 100 mile (160 kilometer) radius. In places such as Los Angeles County, California, where there are dozens of communities that merit counting as a city or town in our list search and which, therefore, would require dozens of searches to find them all, one map covers the entire county, plus some listings in several adjacent counties. Searching on Copenhagen, Denmark, will reveal a map covering several Danish counties as well as some listings in Norway, Sweden, and Germany!

What Else is New?

Since our last "What's New" entry we've added nearly 1,000 listings, easily breaking the 21,000 mark and approaching 22,000 listings. And we celebrated our 20th anniversary online back in March.

Site Statistics:

As of May 31, 2016, the site has 21,621 listings covering 43,488 full-size, year-round pools in 12,074 cities and towns in 175 countries.