What's New in Swimmers Guide?

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. 

End of Month Report for January, 2016

Date Posted: 2/1/2016 11:42:56 AM

The Mess Persists

It's taking forever for our new programmers to finalize the new site that will replace the failed update of October, 2015. Every target date is met with a new reason why we have to wait a little longer. What was supposed to take eight or ten weeks has no gone on for sixteen and a half weeks, with no light shining at the end of the tunnel.

We get truncated "Edits", emails from people who couldn't make the Edit and Add features of the site work, and we know that we're missing out on a lot of great input from those of you who give up in frustration. It is infuriating for everyone and sorely embarrassing for us. If we were charging for the service, we'd be handing out refunds!

What We've Been Working On in the Meantime:

We're already into the second year of the second, complete site review that began in November, 2014. Since then, we've reviewed more than 5,300 listings and, during the course of the review of those listings, we've added more than 850, new listings. And we've probably deleted 300 or more old listings for pools that we found had closed since our last review.

In December, the site hit the 21,000 listing mark; we're now at 21,129 listings in 175 countries, having added pools in Algeria and Ascension Island over the last couple of months.

We recently changed our home telephone service to the Ooma VOIP service (http://www.ooma.com/). As a part of their changeover promotional offer, we have free international calling to 60 countries until early March. And we've been burning up the lines calling to pools in English-speaking countries to pick up the vital statistics that are so hard to come by via email.

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End of Month Report for November, 2015

Date Posted: 12/2/2015 10:54:04 AM

Oy vey! What a mess!

The much touted and long awaited site update that went online at the end of October turned out to be much less than we had hoped for. Several critically important features of the site simply did not perform up to expectations. Here are the things you should know:

  • The Map Search tool does not pick-up recently added listings - and we've done about 300 of them since the new site went online.
  • The Map Search tool includes listings that have been deleted from the database. (Although the Map Search tool is not working properly, it is still a good, first-pass tool to find a pool. Most of what we have been working on over the last couple of months has been in England and the northeastern United States, so those areas are where the most new listings may not be included. Use the "legacy" List Search tool to check for additions in the area you'll be visiting.)
  • Where membership or multiple-visit pass information has been included in the database for a facility, that information is not being displayed on the facility's listing page.
  • Where membership or multiple-visit pass information has been included in the database for a facility, that information is not being displayed on the facility's listing page.
  • Club and Team classifications (Masters, Youth, Water Polo, etc.) is not being displayed next to the Team Name on the listing page.
  • All Clubs' and Teams' names have been formatted in the listings as if they were hypertext links to the clubs' or teams' websites, whether they actually link to their sites or not. (Where there is no link to a club site, clicking on the club's name just brings up another tab or page with the listing information, duplicating the page you just clicked on.)
  • The "Add A Pool" tool requires an entry for the pool's email address, even though most pools don't have them, and does not communicate the contents of some of your entries to us - most importantly, the pool description.
  • Most of the other "Add" and "Edit" tools on listing pages do not work properly. Some refuse to accept "Captcha" codes that are typed into the box exactly as displayed, thus preventing you from actually submitting the information. Some accept your entries, but fail to record those entries anywhere that we can access them.
  • With the exception of only the number of listings and number of pools, the "Site Statistics" section is completely inaccurate.

We have engaged another firm to reprogram the website and expect that these errors will be corrected within a few weeks' time. In the meantime, however, if you have information to tell us about a listing, please use the mailto link at the bottom of the facility's listing page, so we can get your correction, comment, or review into the listing by way of an administrative "backdoor" to the database.

When we bring the new website up, we will move it from the Network Solutions server to a new server maintained by the programmers, thus eliminating finger-pointing about whose hardware or software is causing the site to function slowly or shut-down entirely.

What We've Been Working On:

While we have sat, seethed, and scrambled to get the site back into the shape it should be in, there has been a benefit: The reduced amount of communication from the user base (i.e., you), has given us time to work on finding new listings.

After realizing, somewhat belatedly, that we've never received a lead about an LA Fitness chain owned facility that did not turn into a listing, we started mining their well organized, if information challenged, website. Thus far, we've added nearly 200 of their clubs to the database and we don't think we're even half-way through. It's a bit of a slow process, we have to call each club to find out its pool's length, number of lanes, water temperature, and day-pass fee. But, with the exception of a few clubs with pools whose employees couldn't provide the information, every one of the clubs we've called whose page includes "indoor pool" has a pool that qualifies for listing.

As we've gone through the list and spoken with club personnel, it has become apparent to us that the average American does not know the difference between a meter and a yard. Where there has been confusion, we've listed the pools in yard-long measurements. Where there was no confusion, we used the length in yards or meters, as told to us by the club staff. Some of the pools listed as being 25-yards long may turn out to be 25-meters long and vice versa. Some may not be either - but that's where you come in. If you know that one of our listings is wrong, tell us. We'll fix the error, send you a polite "thank you", and never bother you again.

Site Statistics:

The only site statistics that we're comfortable with are the total number of listings and total number of pools. During the month of November, 2015, we added 269 new listings and ended the month with 20,694 facility listings and a total of 22,515 qualifying pools. We feel reasonably confident that we'll hit the 21,000 listing mark well before the site's 20th anniversary online, in March.

A Final Word:

In most of the world, December marks the end of one year and the start of a new one, as well as religious holidays for the Judeo-Christian cultures. We take this opportunity to wish all the good people who use this site a Very Happy Holiday Season (Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, or whatever else you may be celebrating) and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!