The following article from John's December 2008 O-Know Controllers Corner has been slightly edited to make it more up todate but does contain some useful reminders.

Certainly, the quality of events and course setting remains in a much healthier condition than the economy! We continue to prosper, and I believe the quality of course planning and event management are on a steady increase.  Of course we can’t go on expecting better and better standards – there are limits to what all of us (as volunteers) can be expected to attain.  And we do tend to be rather harsh critics when things do go wrong.

So OK – what are some of the things that have gone wrong this year? And what might we have done about them?  I’ve chosen three issues:

1. Misplaced controls (probably the most serious sin that can be committed):  The solution? More rigorous checking by both the course planner and the controller – and especially from the direction that most competitors are likely to approach the control. But we know that that might never be 100% fool-proof. Look at it this way – the course planner is trying to set a course that will test and confuse you with difficult route choices, and likely errors such as with parallel gullies or spurs. So maybe the course planner has confused him/herself (and the controller) as well. But if ever in doubt, check and check again.

2. Controls approached from opposite directions.  The effect of having competitors come to a control from opposite directions is to make the control easier to locate than was intended - and it might help some competitors more than others – so there is a fairness factor comes into this as well.

The solution? This one is really just common sense planning, but then the more courses in an event the more likely it is that this could occur. If the course planner is using the Condes program, then it has the useful tool which identifies these controls using more than 120 degrees in attack angles.

3. Problems with control descriptions.  Generally there are few problems here. Planners and Controllers do need to remember that English control descriptions are required for Courses 7 & 8.  I think it’s quite a good idea to offer Course 6 people both the English and International symbols.  Apart from that it can be a bit frustrating when the sizes of point features are not given, or the side where the control is placed is either not there or incorrect.

The solution? Again, the course planner and the controller need to check and re-check. The more complex the detail in the control circle, the more carefully these details must be checked. When are using a program such as Condes for course planning, you can position the circle very precisely. There is now acceptance at the IOF level that the precise placement of the circle with the control feature right in the middle can balance out any vagueness in the control description. For example in the past many of us would have avoided certain control placements because the detail in the circle was too complex and almost impossible to describe (such as in some of the St Helens granite). You can now do this with a vague description such as "middle boulder". 

Related to this and the use of Condes – we’ve had some pre-printed maps this year where the control numbers have been confusing or maybe have covered useful detail close to the control. Again, Condes permits you to slide the number to an optimum place where it is clear and unambiguous.

One last point:  When a competitor’s SI unit is missing a punch or is not registered on the printout, you must remember that the rule here is absolute: DNF.  Since the introduction of electronic punching, this rule has become tougher.  It doesn’t matter how many holy books you are prepared to swear on or how many witnesses (of the highest reliability) you can summon up to support you.  The rule says that you are a DNF.

Of course when things go wrong we are quick to blame the map, or the course, or the course planner, or your compass – when in fact you have made the mistake. The most common mis-punch tends to be at drink stations – so make doubly sure of punching before you take a drink. And don’t take it out on the planner or controller – they must abide by the rules, as must you.