I saw someone post on Facebook regarding their effort to create a BJCP Electronic score sheet. It appeared the person had taken a few minutes and created a Google document where info could be entered. Reading between the lines it seemed as if they expected judges to run this on a smartphone.
At first this sounds interesting until you start to add a significant number of judges use the guidelines on their smartphone. That means a judge will have to switch between a browser app and the guideline app. It’s certainly not impossible, but it does take time. The other issue I seem immediately is the time required to type into a phone. Maybe it’s just me, but typing in a phone or tablet is slow going. I can type on a keyboard in a flash so a laptop makes sense, but on a phone just seems like a recipe to slow a competition to a crawl. My MO when judging is to keep the beer in my left hand and a pencil in my right and to not put down the beer until I finish the majority of the sheet. I guess I could pull that off with a smartphone in my hand, but that one-handed typing is slow and two-handed for me isn’t much better on a phone. Somewhere in the back of my mind I see that 10 min per beer average extending to 15-18 min.
Another concern is liquids and electronics. I’ve never been to a competition where a gusher or two didn’t occur. Sure you can open those off the table, but sometimes keeping the beer in the dump bucket is next to impossible. Another issue is spillage and that typically happens as well. Someone is reaching across and taps the edge of the glass and all of a sudden that iPhone 6 becomes waterlogged. A more recent item which has been happening in our area is our cup supplier is shipping cups with vertical cracks. It is at least 25% of the cups and may be as high as 40%. You pour a beer into a cup with no apparent issues, and a second later you have a dribble from the bottom. Most of the time that is minor, but at the competition I judged on Saturday a few times it was a major leak.
I’ve judged in many, many competitions in all kinds of environments. What I have found is most have little to no internet service and some have even had spotty cell service. To me this means any electronic score sheet needs to be able to operate without a web interface. I believe the gentleman on Facebook is only looking to do a Google form, not a true application or program which could be downloaded or shared. Without the internet this form is kaput and saying the internet is everywhere is short-sighted. I routinely travel to places where cell service is spotty to nonexistent and if a competition was held in one of these areas a hotspot connection would be a nonstarter. Another concern is the ability to charge devices. Does the competition have enough outlets near the judging area to handle 40-50 chargers? It sounds like a minor thing until you have everyone burning through a battery trying to complete the form.
I think an electronic sheet is a good idea, I’m just not convinced the one described on Facebook has taken all the potential scenarios into consideration.