What's New in Swimmers Guide?

End of Month Report for September, 2017

Date Posted: 10/1/2017 1:27:13 PM

Site News as of September 30, 2017:

As we mentioned in our August report, we interrupted our review of the listings in Texas at about the two-thirds mark due to the arrival of Hurricane Harvey. During the interruption, we continued working in France, completing reviews of all the listings in the departments of Pas de Calais and Puy de Dome and getting a good start on the department of Pyrenees Atlantiques.

We also added 174 new listings, mostly branches of the 24-Hour Fitness chain in the United States.

We returned to review the last third of the Texas listings beginning in the last week of September, but still have about 18 to go (out of a total of 414). There are some facilities in the Houston area that are not back up and running, yet. We'll try to get those updated as they come back on line, but visitors to the area will want to be sure to make independent contact with any facilities they're considering visiting before-hand.

Gold's Gym:

As we said last month, 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.], Life Time Fitness, LA Fitness, InShape, and, most recently, 24-Hour Fitness). As far as we know, that leaves only one major chain left to attack: Gold's Gyms.

With more than 700 facilities in 26 countries, Gold's is almost certainly the largest health and fitness club chain in the world. To our knowledge, Gold's is less aquatics oriented than the other clubs, but some of their branches do include swimming pools, and those that qualify need to be identified and added to the site. We have 34 of them listed, but we're not sure how to go about getting the rest. So we're requesting your help. If you know about a Gold's Gym with a swimming pool that's not already on the site, drop us a line (to BHaverland@SwimmersGuide.com and tell us where it is, with as much specificity as possible, please. We'll try to follow-up on your lead and we'll let you know if we have any success with it.

Database Statistics:

As of September 30, 2017, the database lists 22,790 swimming facilities in 179 countries and 12,642 cities. In total, those facilities have 24,752 full-size, year-round pools (as we define those terms in our FAQ).

There are 7,193 listings in the United States, 2,292 in the United Kingdom, 1,594 in France, 1,452 in Germany, 1,104 in Italy, 991 in Canada, 934 in Spain, 874 in Japan, and 847 in Australia, and, to round out the "top ten", 401 in the Netherlands.

More than 94% of the listings include links to the facilities' own, official websites and 100% of them have been geocoded, so they can be found by using our map based search tool.

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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