Two days ago, over 115 travel bugs were released to kick of the 2012 Great TB Race.  This is our largest race to date, passing the previous high mark of 94 entries in 2010.  It also marked the official end to the 2011 race.  I probably won’t have an official final results until late in January as the volunteers are double-checking their numbers.  So in the meantime, what else should we discuss?  How about rules, volunteers, and sponsors.

First, the rules.  The 2012 race has only one change from the 2011 race in terms of rules.  I felt that last years race went smoothly enough to warrant keeping most things as they were.  So what change, or should I say addition, did we make?  In 2012, we will introduce an official re-release policy.

In past years, we’ve typically said that once an entry was MIA, you could not release a copy tag until after the race was over.  Last year, we attempted to allow some re-releases, but a few negative comments were sent my way about it.  Hearing those thoughts, and a few suggestions from a volunteer, I decided to open things up a bit this year.  So here is the policy.  All contestants will be allowed to release their COPY tag in the event that their original racer goes missing, but only once during the year.

Yet, what qualifies as missing?  Some can get picked up and never seen again.  Others seemingly go missing for three months then suddenly pop up again.  I will let you decide at what point you feel an item is missing.  However, I will offer some suggestions:

1.If an item is picked up by someone, but they appear to be holding on to it, contact them.  Contact them a second time if you don’t hear anything after a week.  Give them the opportunity to inform you that they still have the bug.

2.If an item is dropped somewhere, and doesn’t move, check the cache logs.  Find the person who dropped it, then start examining the logs the follow.  Did someone mention not finding any bugs?  Consider a few e-mails to see if anyone remembers seeing it.  If there is no mention about TB’s, consider posting a note and asking someone to check on it (or contact the cache owner themselves).

3.Give it at least one month to move.  Sometimes a person picks it up or drops it while traveling and can’t log it yet.

4.Contact me first.  This is most important.  Let me know that it is missing, and what steps you’ve taken to track it down.  At that point, I’ll look at it and provided I don’t see something you missed, I’ll approve the re-release and send you the information for the race tag so you can send a new one out.  This is especially important as I’ll need to notify the volunteer in charge of scoring your bug.

If I approve the re-release, it also means that if the original suddenly pops up again, it will be your responsibility to help remove it from circulation.  If you want it sent back to you, that will be up to you to handle.  We don’t want two travel bugs out running around with the same tracking code.  If I approve the re-release, you’re prior points will not be voided.  You earned them, they stay part of your score.  However, the cache you drop the new bug into will not count towards you’re score.  There may be some additional instructions that I will send you if we reach that point.  Remember…only once may you enact this policy.  If your second bug goes missing, you will have to hope it shows up again.

Now for a more pressing need…VOLUNTEERS.  With 115+ racers, there will be a lot of movements to tally.  We are looking for a group of people willing to help score a set of TB’s.  Here are some qualities we look for:

1.Able to set aside between 1 – 3 hours a month (maybe a bit more in January and February if you are new to the system) to sit down online and read through logs.  This includes being able to do this within a specified time range (a roughly 10 day range) and submit information in a timely manner.  The amount of time depends not only on how many volunteers we have (which dictates how many racers each volunteer is in charge of) but also how familiar you are with the system and how many racers are active each month.  Some volunteers only had one or two active racers some months, making things much quicker.

2.Have access to and some basic knowledge of using Microsoft Excel.  If you have a Google or Hotmail account, but no access to Excel, those sites online document services can be a substitute.

3.Familiar with using Google Maps.

4.Willing to do all of this once a month throughout the 2012 race (February 2012 – January 2013).

If you think you are up to the task, please comment on this post indicating your “volunteerism”.  With as many racers as we have, the more volunteers, the more I can lighten the load per volunteer.

Last of all, I am working on a “Sponsors” list, and will be adding some logos to the list on the side bar to the right.

Oh, and for everyone who is participating in the 2012 race, we’ll be posting some tips in the coming month to help you have as successful a year as possible.

Good luck to everyone,