I’m not a rabid Olympics or gymnastics fan, but I’ve been watching them on and off this year.
An interesting example of poor mechanics design struck there tonight.
It wasn’t until later, when she checked the board again, that Liukin realized that she and He were tied. “I thought, am I that tired?” she said. “I know it’s been a long week, but there’s a 1 next to her name and a 2 next to mine. I said, Dad, we got the same score.”
For those who weren’t watching:
- In the women’s uneven parallel bars, the US’ Nastia Liukin scores 16.725, moving into first place.
- China’s He Kexin follows her, also scoring 16.725 (the same score), taking over 1st place, pushing the US down to #2.
- The above ranking was produced courtesy of a software-generated tiebreaker, throwing out next-lowest judge scores behind the scenes until said tie is broke, in a way that is entirely hidden to everyone other than the judges.
- This appears to make less sense to the people on TV than it does to me (namely, the athletes), so I’m at least in reasonably knowledgeable company.
Design tenets reinforced:
- Any system can only ever be as good as its interface. It can never be better, only worse. (The interface for this one, plainly, is pretty terrible.)
- Before you add extra complexity to solve the problem, make damn sure that it’s a problem that actually needs solving. (Not that I know a thing about gymnastics, but what sane reason is there for not awarding them both the gold?)
Congratulations on the medal, Nastia. Sorry it’s not the color you earned.
- Edit: I got the order they went in backward, but I’m leaving it as is since the point’s the same either way. Tip of the hat to Danuser and Shwayder, closet womens’ gymnastics fiends and co-presidents of the Nastia Liukin Fan Club, Northeast Division.