What's New Swimmers Guide
New Site Announcement!
Date Posted: 8/31/2018 5:37:14 PM
After almost nine months of work and two sets of programmers, one successful and one not, we're pleased to present the most recent revision of the Swimmers Guide website. How does this version differ from earlier versions and how does it work?
First of all, the new site is much more smart phone friendly than the old one. Pages, text, and maps resize and reposition themselves more legibly and sensibly than they did on the old site. The text stays within its borders and the borders extend to the edges of the pages. We also moved the Google Ads (you know, those annoying little things that have made keeping this site online for 22 years possible) from the side panels to the top and bottom of the page and changed them from a vertical to a horizontal orientation, making them somewhat less annoying.
Here's a screenshot of the new home page, centered on my location, when I captured it:
The old, text-driven, drop-down, geographic selection menu is gone. For users who have enabled location services in their browsers, instead of going through a multi-step, drill-down exercise to find the listings, the home page will automatically display a map centered on your location, surrounded by pins marking the locations of the fifty listings closest to you (some zooming/resizing may be required). Those pins will be the same as the ones on the map-based interface on the old site (access color-coded, pool size indicated, and clickable for a "snapshot view" of the listing).
Users who have not enabled location services in their browsers will be taken to a map of the United States, centered in the middle, with no locations displayed. They'll have to either change their settings or type their addresses in the type-text field next to the words "Find a pool near me"
I have location services enabled on my PC and here's what <i>my</i> Swimmers Guide home page map with one of the listings selected looks like:
If I click on "Read More", it will open the A.E. Finely YMCA's Swimmers Guide listing in a new tab on my browser. If you have used the map-based interface on the old site, you'll recognize this. Using the + and - signs in the lower right corner of the map, you can zoom in or zoom out. Placing your cursor on the map and holding down the button on your cursor, you can move the map to see what's around the current viewing area. Note, however, that zooming and moving the map will not cause the map to show any more than the fifty listings closest to the center point.
A new feature of the site can be seen in the area beneath the map. There, you'll see a table very similar to the one you used to see after you had drilled-down to a city or town with more than one pool.
Initially, the table will display information for only the first ten listings. but you can use the "Show __ entries" drop-down located directly above the table to make it display 10, 25, or all 50 listings on that same map. Or you can use the "Previous 1 2 3 4 5 Next" to see the next 10 listings (#11 - #20), the ten listings after that [#21 - #30], etc.
This table differs from the "Listings in [City or Town] in several ways. First of all, it shows the distance to the pool from the Center Point of the map in the left column, then it shows the name of the each facility (including its Neighborhood or District, if we have that data in the listing), followed by the City and State where each facility is located. After that, the columns in the new table are the same as the old: Primary Pool (length); Public Access (yes, no, ?); Hotel Access; and Team (types). The list is initially set to sort by the distance from where you are to the pools in ascending order (closest, first)
Click on the name of a facility you'd like to know more about and the Swimmers Guide facility listing detail page will open in a new browser tab.
Note that, instead of showing the postal or ZIP Code, we're now showing the city and state where the facility is located, because the list isn't based on the listings in one city, it's based on the listings within whatever radius takes in the fifty listings closest to the center point. Although the ten listings closest to me are all in Raleigh, NC, within the next forty, there are listings in Rolesville, Cary, Morissville, Garner, Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Smithfield... you get the point.
As with the old site, the displayed list can be sorted and resorted by clicking on the heading of the columns in the table. There's also a search tool on the right side of the page between the map and the table.
Check the page footer and you can see the number of facilities, the number of pools (some facilities have more than one pool), the number of cities with listings, and the number of countries with listings in the entire Swimmers Guide in real time!
The Facility listing pages that you reach by clicking on the "Read More" text in a map point or the facility name has had some minor, cosmetic changes and caption changes, but the only significant change has been the addition of a small, expandable map at the top of the listing, which you can see here:
The biggest changes have been made behind the scenes, the coding and database have been updated and upgraded significantly to last at least a few more years - until some whiz-bang engineers come up with something newer, better, more complex, and - of course - incompatible with everything that has gone before. Progress - Can't live with it, can't live without it...
Other News of Note
We've rewritten the About Us section and are working on the FAQ.
There's a lot more we want to accomplish with the site - the Stats section needs a good cleaning-up and we'd like to make the site multilingual so we can collect more information from out non-English language speaking audience, but we haven't exactly been overwhelmed with contributions to pay for additional work, so we may sit back for a while and see how things sort out.
End of Month Report for August, 2018
Date Posted: 8/30/2018 4:56:18 PM
Site News as of August, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
We're doing this monthly site report a day early, so we can concentrate on the introduction of the new website tomorrow, August 31!
August Site Activity:
During August, we added 33 new listings and lost 7, for a net gain of 26. We also spent two weeks sailing from St. Petersburg to Moscow on a Viking Cruise, which explains why we got so little done.
When we weren't traveling or adding new listings, we were doing tests of the new website's administrative tools to be sure that the information you send us will continue to reach us properly and so we can get that information into the listing with the least delay.
As of August 30, 2018, the database listed 23,704 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 13,068 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,710 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,462 listings in the United States, 2,294 in the United Kingdom, 1,590 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,399 in Spain, 1,109 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 877 in Japan, 849 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for July, 2018
Date Posted: 8/1/2018 9:04:16 PM
Site News as of July, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
We continue working with our programmer to redesign and rebuild the site. We're working feverishly on the Add A Pool section of the site and the Add and Edit features within the listings - probably the most complex features of the site - and, when they're done, we'll bring the new site online.
We're hoping to get that done before August 7, when we're leaving on a two week vacation that will leave us pretty much out of reach.
July Site Activity:
During July, we added 55 new listings and lost 10, for a net gain of 45.
We continued working entirely in Spain in July, finishing up Murcia Province and getting through Navarre, Ourense, Palencia, Pontevedra, Salamanca, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Saragossa, Segovia, Seville, and Soria Provinces - about 250 listings, in all.
We didn't get to South Carolina, Tennessee, or North Carolina, but will try to get through at least one or two of them before and after our vacation.
A lot of what we can get done depends on how much time we have to spend working with the programmers.
As of July 31, 2018, the database listed 23,678 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 13,040 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,710 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,465 listings in the United States, 2,295 in the United Kingdom, 1,590 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,399 in Spain, 1,109 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 877 in Japan, 849 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for June, 2018
Date Posted: 6/30/2018 9:07:13 PM
Site News as of June 30, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
We continue working with our programmer to redesign and rebuild the site. Last month we gave you a preview of the Home Page, with a screen shot of the map and table of the pools in the area surrounding Arlington, Texas. This month we'll show you a sample of what one of the new listings will look like. For this exercise, we've chosen one of our favorite listings, the HBF Stadium (formerly known as the Challenge Stadium) in Mount Claremont, Perth Metropolitan Area, in Western Australia :
We're working on the Add A Pool section of the site and the Add and Edit features within the listings - probably the most complex features of the site - and, when they're done, we'll bring the new site online.
June Site Activity:
During June, we added 78 new listings and lost 29, for a net gain of 49.
We completed our review of the 429 listings in Florida, after which we returned to Spain, where we completed reviewing the listings in Murcia and are half-way through the listings in Navarre. We'll finish up Navarre and Ourense provinces, then return to the US to review South Carolina and North Carolina. After that, it's back to Spain for Palencia and Pontevedra Provinces.
As of June 30, 2018, the database listed 23,634 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 13,022 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,663 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,458 listings in the United States, 2,295 in the United Kingdom, 1,590 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,371 in Spain, 1,108 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 875 in Japan, 848 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for May, 2018
Date Posted: 6/1/2018 1:16:44 AM
Site News as of May 31, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
We had several conferences with the site's new programmer and we're well on the way to updating the code and improving the functionality of the site.
The "Home Page" has been completely redesigned and the menu and free-text search modes will be eliminated; the site will now open with a map centered on the user's current location with the green, yellow, and red pool markers for the closest 50 listed facilities will be automatically displayed.
If you're looking to find a pool in another city or country, you'll be able to enter the other location data into a search box and the map will refresh centered on the selected location, with a new list of the closest 50 listed facilities.
In addition to the map display, a table very similar to the table that now appears as "Pools in [City Name]" in the soon-to-be-discontinued "Map-Based Search" tool will appear on the same page, beneath the map. It will differ from the current table in that each listing's line will begin with its distance from the center point of the map and a column has been added to show the name of the city and state or province of the listing. It will have the "Primary Pool Length" column, "Yes" and "No" column for public access, the column to show whether the pool is in or has a preferred access arrangement with a hotel, and the column showing the types of swim teams and clubs included in the listing.
The pool's "Neighborhood" will appear underneath its name, instead of having its own column, and the "Postal Code" column, which had been included as a primary-sort tool has been eliminated and pools will initially be sorted by their distance from the map's center point.
As with the current version of the site, all columns in the table will be sortable, so you'll be able to sort the pools alphabetically by name, by pool length, by whether they're accessible to the public, etc.
Here's a screen shot of what the new Home Page looks like, with the search centered on Arlington, Texas:
We're almost finished with the Home Page, I've made what I hope are my last requests for changes there and the programmer is turning to the facility detail page. While I do not expect that page to look significantly different from what we have now, the fact that everything has to be rewritten in updated code and the fact that the "Add" and "Edit" tools are so involved, it will probably be a while before we're ready to go live with the new replacement site. Time will tell.
May Site Activity:
May was a relatively quiet month for the site. We added only 67 new listings and lost 20, for a net gain of 47.
We concentrated most of our efforts for the month to the existing listings in the Spanish provinces of Madrid, Malaga, and Melilla (which resulted in the addition of 28 listings in that country. We also reviewed all of our listings in the U.S. states of Mississippi and Alabama, and started working in Florida.
In June, we'll continue with Florida, then try to cover a couple of more Spanish provinces. We'll also be rewriting the "About Us" and "FAQ" sections of the site.
As of May 31, 2018, the database listed 23,585 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 13,006 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,605 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,446 listings in the United States, 2,294 in the United Kingdom, 1,589 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,344 in Spain, 1,107 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 875 in Japan, 848 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for April, 2018
Date Posted: 5/1/2018 9:12:23 PM
Site News as of April 30, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
As noted in the April 22 "Special Report", a new programmer has been engaged and the site has been moved from the Network Solutions server to a GoDaddy server. There were one or two small glitches that affected the "Admin." section of the site that I work with, but none impacted the "User" section, i.e., the part that you can see.
We also pointed out that we've set up a GoFundMe site at: https://www.gofundme.com/swimmersguidecom-upgradeupdate in the hope that you, dear user, will think the site sufficiently worthwhile to make a financial, non-tax deductable contribution to improve.
Since we're asking for contributions to upgrade and update the site, it's only fair that we give you some idea of what we have in mind:
The first step, stabilizing the site and reducing the number of Error messages returned by the has been accomplished, already.
The second step will be to clean-up and modernize the now six-year old code we've been using to take advantage of newer, more efficient, and more secure code. We'll also update the SQL database to something later than a 2007 version. This part of the project is underway, now.
The most interesting part of the balance of the project is implementing the enhancements we envision for the site:
You may recall that we had a different Google Map search set-up on the Home Page - one that "auto-filled" the map search box with suggested locations, as you typed in the location you wanted to find pools in. We're planning to bring that capability back. In addition:
We're going to add a legend to the map to tell you what the different color pins mean. We thought that was intuitive, but we get questions, so we'll add an explanation that, if possible, will be collapsible so it doesn't get in the way on your smart phone.
Speaking of smart phones, we also hope to make the site a lot more smart phone-friendly. Specifically, we're aiming to not automatically call up a mini-keyboard that takes up half your screen, when you're on a smart phone.
We hope to have a map with all the pools near you load as soon as you go to the "Home" page. When you open SwimmersGuide.com, it'll just be there.
We hope to indicate the center point of the map with a marker, based on your location or the place that you've requested to be mapped, and then to include an indication in the individual pools' pop-up boxes showing how far that pool is from the center point. If you put in an exact address, the name of a hotel, or something that is very specific, you'll get a very precise indication of how far it is to each pool on the map.
We want to add a whole set of tables based on the location of the pools. "National Notes" would appear in the detail information of every listing in a particular country. "State/Province Notes" would appear only in the listings for a particular state or province, but would appear in every listing in that state or province. There would also be "County/Region Notes" and "City Notes" following similar rules. What's the purpose of that?
As an example, most French swimming pools frown severely (that is, positively prohibit) men's boxer-style swimsuits - it's briefs-only in France - a national preference that no American would expect. Or, since most Icelandic swimming pools are built for a natural water "flow-through", they are often not chemically treated. Therefore, pre-swim, nude showers are required - the shower rooms may be monitored to ensure compliance - and the monitor may be of the opposite sex! On a more local level, there may be a website that lists all the pools in a particular city or county, including seasonal pools that we won't list - we want to be able to point you to those websites without typing the URL into a separate note in every listing.
None of these ideas is beyond the capabilities of a good programmer, but good programmers don't come cheap! We don't and never have charged anyone to use the site, but the money has to come from somewhere. So head on over to https://www.gofundme.com/swimmersguidecom-upgradeupdate and make a contribution! No amount is too large!
April Site Activity:
April was a reasonably productive month. We added 121 new listings and lost only nine, for a net gain of 112.
We concentrated most of our efforts for the month to reviewing the existing listings in Spain - and found 78 new ones there, in the process. We also reviewed all of our listings in the U.S. state of Louisiana and added 11 new ones there.
In May, we'll continue with Spain for a while, then try to cover a couple of more U.S. states in the southeast part of the country.
As of April 30, 2018, the database listed 23,538 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,978 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,546 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,434 listings in the United States, 2,293 in the United Kingdom, 1,589 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,316 in Spain, 1,107 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 875 in Japan, 848 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
Special Report - April 22, 2018:
Date Posted: 4/22/2018 8:50:43 PM
Our meetings and telephone calls with the tentative new programmers we had been dealing with since February didn't come to their ultimate conclusions until Thursday, April 19, where I thanked them for their service but told them I wasn't going to move forward with the program they had proposed. I did not see that I gotten great value for the eighty programming hours I had to prepay for, and the first item on my list - stabilizing the current website - simply hadn't happened. The additional four hundred hours of programming time they proposed did not seem to be a worthwhile investment to me.
In the weeks before that meeting, I had contacted a couple of other programming outfits to discuss what needed to be done. One of them struck me as more sensible than either of the other firms I had spoken with. They recommended sticking with the asp.net format but upgrading the code and database. That approach would allow them to preserve much the "back end" or administrative side of the site, which is the most complex section - you've never seen it, but it's where I spend most of my time handling your "Edits", updating the existing listings, and adding new ones. It will still be necessary to do a lot of work updating the front end of the site, but some of that work can also be devoted to updating the look, feel, and functionality of the site.
The first step they proposed was moving the site from the Network Solutions shared server to a dedicated server on the GoDaddy platform. The move was executed on Friday, April 20, and it went off without a hitch. What's even more interesting, since the site has been on the GoDaddy server, its operation has gotten a lot smoother. There is still a "hiccup" or two, but the site is mostly operating as it should.
Meanwhile, programmers don't come cheap and I've already invested significant sums of money (not to mention time), so I've put up a GoFundMe site to solicit your contributions to the project. You can visit it at SwimmersGuide.com Upgrade/Update. Please consider contributing. Thank you.
End of Month Report for March, 2018
Date Posted: 4/1/2018 4:48:04 PM
Site News as of March 31, 2018:
Update on the Site Update
Last month, we talked a bit about an update to the site by a new group of programmers. We've had several online meetings with them, since then, but we haven't seen much that we'd count as real progress. We have a meeting with the sales rep on April 2, at which time we'll make a decision about moving forward or pulling the plug. Unless he brings something to the meeting to justify the 80 hours of programmer time we've paid for, it's likely to be the latter. We'll do an update after that meeting.
March Site Activity:
March was a reasonably productive month. We added 163 new listings and lost only ten, for a net gain of 153.
We concentrated most of our efforts for the month to the existing listings in Spain - which resulted in the addition of 118 listings in that country in March, alone. It seems that every little town in Spain has its own public, indoor swimming pool and we've been using every tool we can find to figure out where they are. As usual, Google Maps has turned out to be really helpful in this regard. We also went through the list of leads we had in Vietnam and added another ten listings there, mostly in Hanoi.
In April, we'll continue with Spain for a while, then try to cover a couple of more U.S. states in the southeast part of the country.
As of March 31, 2018, the database listed 23,426 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,929 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,423 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,418 listings in the United States, 2,292 in the United Kingdom, 1,587 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,238 in Spain, 1,106 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 875 in Japan, 847 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for February, 2018
Date Posted: 3/1/2018 12:49:38 AM
Site News as of February 28, 2018:
A New Day Is Coming (We Hope!)
The Swimmers Guide website continues to experience problems that we discussed last month.
On February 15, we made a major financial commitment to a re-visioning, revision; and relocation of the website. On February 26, we met with the team of programmers and designers who will be doing the actual work. It was a very good meeting. We spent the time between signing the agreement and the first meeting organizing the ideas that we'd like to implement and, during the meeting, we batted those ideas around along with a bunch of really neat concepts that the programming/design team came up independently. We're psyched!
It will probably take two or three months to get the new site up and online, in the interim, the team will take a look at the code that runs the current site and try to eliminate or at least reduce the annoying errors.
February Site Activity:
February was a reasonably productive month. We added 130 new listings and lost only nine, for a net gain of 121.
During the month we came across a couple of Spanish websites with regional sports facility censuses: one in Catalonia the other in the Basque Country, as a result, more than 100 of February's new listings are in Spain. Then we went back to the list of Vietnamese leads a correspondent sent us a month or so ago and picked up a few listings in Danang, Hanoi, and Hue. (We got Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City taken care of last month.) We still have a few pages of that list to run through.
In March, we'll splitting our time between checking out the remaining leads for new listings in Vietnam and reviewing the existing ones in Spain, where we're just getting into the provinces whose names begin with "C" (Caceres, Cadiz, Cantabria, etc.)
As of February 28, 2018, the database listed 23,273 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,820 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,262 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,407 listings in the United States, 2,292 in the United Kingdom, 1,586 in France, 1,453 in Germany, 1,121 in Spain, 1,106 in Italy, 993 in Canada, 875 in Japan, 847 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.
End of Month Report for January, 2018
Date Posted: 2/1/2018 2:03:16 AM
Site News as of January 31, 2018:
The Best Laid Plans...
Well, we had plans for what we were going to work on in January, but we kept getting interrupted. While we were working on updating the listings in Missouri, we figured out how to "milk" the Gold's Gyms website to find their locations with swimming pools. So we wrapped up Missouri, completed updating the listings in Arkansas, and started working on Gold's. When we were done, we'd added 56 new Gold's listings in the U.S.
After that, we went back to Spain to work on the provinces whose names begin with B and C. We got through the listings in Badajoz and the Balearic Islands, then someone emailed us a list of pools in Vietnam that seemed pretty enticing so, after finishing-up the Balearic Islands, we started working on the listings in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) and came up with 25 new listings there. We figured we'd finish the rest of the leads in Vietnam after we were done with the rest of the B provinces in Spain.
Then, while working in the province of Barcelona, we came across a website operated by the Generalitat de Catalunya with a database of indoor pools throughout the region, which includes Barcelona, Gerona (Girona), Lerida (Lleida), and Tarragona. So we've begun milking that site and won't get back to Vietnam and the U.S., until we're finished there. Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans...
We wrapped up calendar year 2017 just six listings short of 23,000. We covered that deficit in the first week of January and haven't looked back. By January 31, we had 23,152 listings "on the books" and an untold list of leads to follow up with.
Problems with the Website
The site has started going buggy on us and on you. Menu selection screens occasionally freeze, "Error 505" messages are popping up, and one user reported an error message using the Google Swimmers Guide Site Search Tool (Option 3 on the home page's list of ways to find a pool on the site). We've had occasional problems for several months, but January was really, really annoying. Our independent programmer says the problems are the fault of the site's hosting service (Network Solutions); Network Solutions blames the programmer. We, who have less technical expertise than most, find ourselves stuck in the middle, clueless as to how to get things fixed.
So we've decided to make one, final, significant investment in the site: We're going to engage a new technical partner to both update the site's operation from database to front-end and to host the site on its own server. That way, if there's a problem, there's only one outfit to talk with.
From past experience, I can tell you that the process of redoing the website will not be quick, easy, or cheap. In regard to the last, get ready to see a "go fund me" or similar campaign to cover the costs. Those ads you see on the website don't generate much cash - at the going rate, it would take something over ten years to cover the cost of a rewrite. And that doesn't include the costs of hosting the site, domain registration fees, Internet service needed to do the research to build the underlying database, etc., etc.
January Site Activity:
January was a productive month. We added 176 new listings and lost 18 for a net gain of 158.
As of January 31, 2018, the database listed 23,152 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,752 cities. In total, those facilities have 25,137 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).
There are now 7,405 listings in the United States (up 68 since December), 2,292 in the United Kingdom, 1,586 in France (up 2), 1,453 in Germany, 1,106 in Italy, 992 in Canada, 1,013 in Spain (up 47), 875 in Japan, 847 in Australia, and, 401 in the Netherlands.