John Seto of Bogus marks are rare

John Seto is a superweight specialist.
Photo by Cheryl Treworgy

John Seto of Pleasant Valley, New York, is the unsung hero of masters track. He’s The Man when it comes to masters rankings, having created the software that allows anyone to view season performance lists with a click of a mouse. He oversees — perhaps the best site of its kind in the world. Recent improvements caught my eye, so I sent John some queries on the state of the site. He graciously replied, and the Q&A follows. Most interesting is John’s revelation that of 60,000 entries in his database, fewer than 20 had to be zapped as bogus — an incredible three-hundredths of a percent! That’s a testament to John’s safeguards and the honesty of site users.

Another measure of the site’s popularity? Its traffic. Last month, the site was visited more than 15,000 times. Pretty good return for USATF’s money (it’s budgeted for $6,500.) People need it — and love it.
Here’s our Q&A with John: continues to improve and become easier to navigate. Besides the new home page layout, what was new this year?
John Seto: The home page layout is a site-wide navigation improvement. Responding to feedback from athletes in early 2007, I modified the navigation to make it quicker. All of the other new items are behind the scenes such as added administrative features that let us administer the system better including improved conversion functions letting us import meet results quicker.
What other changes do you have in the works? What tweaks are people requesting?
I really want to get the meet-import feature working for everybody. This feature will be pretty big since it will allow people to either enter in many results or import full meet results (yes, we will request validation before they are incorporate with the rankings).
The desire is to have a much broader inclusion of real meet results to add validity to the rankings. I am also committed to having a new points rating system up shortly. The points system will enable people to compare athletes through a performance based ratings system. I haven’t gotten many requests for tweaks in recent months.
With much of your content supplied by the athletes themselves, how accurate are the results on
Content supplied by athletes accounts for about 17 percent of the results in the system. The accuracy of the rankings is measured by quantity of results and accurately recording the results, in my opinion. The people who enter their results seem to be pretty honest when we routinely spot-check.
Additionally, we used to get inquiries on athletes’ marks which identified a few athletes with a propensity for exaggerating their results. Those athletes are now on our watch list so we will go periodically and verify those results. I would love to add accuracy by including all legitimate meet results so we get the gamut of quality performances.
I have competed against some high-level competitors who only compete in one meet a year or compete in open-style meets, so we never see their results. I would also love a means to capture all of the elite results to add validity to the rankings.
This year, you’ve had to prune or fix some marks posted on the site. How often do you have to delete bogus marks?
Not very often. We have about 60,000 (about 10,000 athlete-submitted) results since we started letting people enter their own results. We’ve deleted more results that were bad listings on websites and less than 10 from people submitting bogus marks. We have corrected a relatively small handful of bogus marks (I’m guessing less than 20).
Many of the meets posted on the site have partial results. How can complete results get posted?
We search for results on the web with the help of athletes submissions. We try to import any valid-looking meet. Many times we will try to import a meet and because the system does not know the athlete, we can’t import the results. We can import complete meet results when the meet is a reliable meet with validated ages per USATF Masters standards.
The best submissions we get are complete with validated birth dates so we can also update their listing and always recognize them. Meet directors can certainly send us results in a recognized format.
How much time do you and your helpers spend on the site each week? Can you sustain this involvement?
I’m not sure. Both Larry Patz and I have our share of challenges in life. My challenges of a handicapped daughter, house to take care of and job that takes me away many weeks a year mean that I don’t have free time. Neither Larry nor I spend as many hours as Dave Clingan did before us partially because of the automation of the system but more because of our lack of spare time.
I am not on top of the rankings nearly as much as I want to be. I am trying to make the system much easier and automatic so we will be able to manage the time because we don’t need to spend that much time.
Has USATF’s Indy office expressed any interest in your software or any congratulations for your achievements?
USATF has not reached out to me with any inquiries. I don’t have any achievements worthy of congratulations from USATF.
You seem to rank highest in the indoor weight throws. What’s your own best mark of 2008?
I rank highest in the event that there is the least competition — the 56-pound weight throw that most smart people stay away from. I, not being smart, elect to throw a ball that is thrown mostly by people that are strong, tall and weigh over (or a lot over) 225 pounds.
I am not strong for a thrower, under 6 feet and weigh less than 200 pounds. I’m not sure of my best mark of 2008. I have been very frustrated this year because I have improved immensely technically but can’t seem to throw well. No practice due to no time probably affects that. I have not imported any of my results during the outdoor season because of that frustration.
How long will you continue to oversee What happens when you bow out?
I don’t know how much longer I will do it. I strongly believe in preparing for moving on. That preparation necessitates not letting things falter on the change. When I move on, I am sure rankings will be much better than they are now. It is a tremendous value to all of us athletes for many different and personal reasons. Because of that, the rankings will always be improving; there is too much support to allow anything less.

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November 2, 2008

11 Responses

  1. Thomas Fahey - November 2, 2008

    These rankings are very important to the sport. They help motivate us to improve. Many people enter only their best marks, but this is a mistake. The data base has the potential to serve as record for the future and an adjunct to the training diary. I enter all my marks,even the ones I would rather forget.

  2. mellow johnny - November 2, 2008

    Doesn’t the site only list the best mark, though?
    I’ve put marks and find it a great resource. Why be dishonest? That would be ridiculous. And if you got caught, Ken would make a mockery out of you!

  3. David E. Ortman - November 2, 2008

    FR: David E. Ortman (M55) Seattle, WA
    As a former ranker who struggled with retyping results and sorting by hand, a big thank you to John for helping bring masters rankings into the world of on-line entries.
    Also a big thanks to Martin Gasselsberger and his world ranking site at:

  4. Greg Theologes - November 3, 2008

    John has done an awesome job with the rankings system. Thanks for all your effort, John!
    Like Tom, I enter all my marks into the system. At first I felt guilty that I might be “hogging” underlying database, but after seeing others do it too, it’s probably not a big deal. Most importantly, it’s helped me track my ups and downs over the course of a couple of years. To me, that’s the system’s biggest benefit.
    Mellow Johnny, the system only shows your best mark or time when you look from an event or age group perspective. When you click on an athlete’s name, you see all his or her performances.

  5. peter van aken - November 3, 2008

    how come Ken isn’t using the 200 lb. weight photo from the 2009 Seattle Ultraweight Nationals?
    John, by refining the rankings website you are helping the sport with your time and knowledge. Now get some more of your own marks posted in 2009!

  6. Jim Burgoyne - November 3, 2008

    John has greatly advanced the ranking system. It is indeed a great tool to see how you are doing, as I too post all of my meet results (we can’t always have good days but should remember what didn’t work as well as what worked). I have had the pleasure of competing against John. He is as passionate a competitor as anyone I’ve ever met. I don’t think we can thank John enough for all the work he has put into the ranking system.
    John, you are one of the biggest throwers I know. No one has more heart than you!!!!! Thank You for all your hard work.

  7. John Stilbert - November 5, 2008

    And of the fewer than 20 bogus marks that were zapped, several were valid throwing marks to a landing area that was later determined to have too much slope.
    So the count of deliberately submitted bogus marks is incredibly low. It’s good to see the honor system work.
    Now, since I had one of those marks to the sloped landing area, I wonder if that puts me on his “watch list”?

  8. John Seto - November 5, 2008

    John Stilbert,
    FYI, the throwing marks in the sloped landing area are still in the system and viewable in your results section. “Bogus” marks are ones that people knowingly entered results better than their real result. No, you are not on our “watch list”

  9. Paul Brown - November 6, 2008

    John, thanks for automating the rankings. It is great that we can enter our own marks and less than a minute later see them updated. I can remember in the not too distant past submitting marks and waiting anxiously for them to be posted. Now we can see the fruit of our labor instantaneously. As Masters athletes we need all the motivation we can get-to train, compete and excel and the rankings certainly provide incentive. Good luck to you in ’09. Thanks for the tireless efforts of those who used to post the rankings by hand in the past.

  10. EM - April 8, 2012

    I saw this story in the archives and wanted to comment:

    Masters Rankings have many errors and inconsistencies, as of lately, these errors have not been corrected despite emails to notify Seto.

    Some of these errors involve #1 ranked individuals, which is unfortunate. They could be corrected with simply looking at an online results sheet. Also, some not US citizens are ranked while others are not.

  11. Jeff Davison - June 24, 2012

    As a suggestion: The Rankings Database could use more “assistance” from the Masters Track and Field Community (athletes, timers, and meet directors).

    John Seto has done a great job, but he is only one person. We appreciate all that John has provided for us.

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