Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Italian Shudan Magazine, 0.6

Hey everyone! i have totally neglected the blog in the past week.

For starters, lets say that today i turn 26. It is my birthday and i usually dont make a fuss about it, but its a really invigorating moment for me in my life. is a dream-venture for me, and i've never felt so confident about doing the right thing at the right time in my entire life.

I look forward to 2012 and to how this project will grow in its first year.

Secondly, only hours before my birthday, as if it had been planned, i received 2 copies of Shudan, an italian magazine for go, where is featured as an article. It is also very nice to get recognized by media. The only unfortunate things is that i look fat in the picture. That sounded..not so manly.

Still it was a great gift from Andrea Partiti, i hope the magazine thrives.

And now to the juicy parts. 0.6 is out. This release doesnt have that many mind-blowing features as the previous two, because we did a lot of tweaki fixing. Lots of little improvements here and there and improve the overall experience. However, it looks really nice.

I hope founders & supporters enjoy them.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

0.5 will no longer offer Founder accounts, first easter egg, and continued rapid development.

Ssup people!

We are in mid summer here in Buenos Aires and both dp and I are slowly roasting in the heat.

We are staying in the outskirts o fBuenos Aires, so for a change, i get to see some green grass and trees, and some nature, away from the concrete city of Bueno Aires.

Being here without city-like distractions has made this first summer camp, one we hope, of many.

We are 27hs away from the 0.5 release and with that release comes the change of Founder to Supporter. Founder accounts have not yet been designed but are very well documented in the server, and we have been thinking of what could we add to distinguish them.

I liked the idea of a brick icon next to the nickname, as founders is asimilar concept to a builder. We are very flexible on this idea so its the best moment to suggest, as a Founder, how would you like to be showing in the server.

Palapiku said that a 72pt flashing banner was expected, but i'm afraid that would be a bit too invasive.

The best places to add something are user lists and profiles. With your suggestions bare in mind though, that people that aren't founders shouldnt feel secluded or left out.

Also 0.5 will have the first easter egg. We added something special that we hope those that find it will cutely enjoy :)

We are extremely happy with our work, and we have a really good pacing. Each week brings a whole new set of features and functionality, along with a great number of tweaks and fixes. I must say that the Tweaki is a great invention at the same time it is our doom :).

Stay tuned guys! and give an opinion for how you would like your founder accounts to show in the server, its your recognition, your brand!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crazy 0.4: Malkovich, Tweaki & and Tournament systems. Eager Developers read through!

So we are a few days away from the last friday's release and we are very happy with it.

We could really push in many new things in the past week, including GnuBot, and a reliable replayBot (professional games are automatically replayed constantly 24/7 now).

We also expanded Gommander , our chat-command engine, to include a few new treats :). One of them is Tweaki. By just writing "/tweaki suggestion" in the chat, your comment is added to a TODO-list that is immediately visible to everyone in the server through the header menu. It makes it easier than ever for users to provide feedback, while we can focus on working and read all the feedback at once later.

It was trivial, but a fantastic idea. Over 30 "tweak" reports came in in less than 48 hs.

Also we added a new, very experimental feature that actually surprised me A LOT. It was malkovich commands. For those not familiar with Malkovich games in L19, the idea is that the players as they are playing express their thoughts or plans, for observers and followers to see, and after the game is over, for the opponent to read.
On saturday morning had its first tournament and malkovich was widely used, far beyond my expectancy. It was certainly entertaining to read them comments, and also make them. This little experimental little feature could prove to be one of those features that really raise the standard.

So as i said, had its first tournament organized by Celebrir, and besides some technical problems that i was able to fix mid-games, it went quite smoothly and it was quite fun. It Made me want to rush over the Tournament organizer for Kaya.

Developers! Attention!

And i did. Right now i wrote a core Tournament engine in OpenKaya.

I isolated the vast majority of design red-tape and now the core functionality to organize any kind of system is to resolve the algorithm for pairing. The code has an example with running tests and another one with failing tests.

The code done on OpenKaya is to remain forever open to be used by anyone who wants to. One potential user of this library could be the ASR league or any online tournament organizer.

It is a fun problem to work with, and if eager developers assist in this, will support tournaments sooner, and they will get a decent recognition for their effors within the server, plus a stone in our board of Fame.

Right now there are several developers- amas&pros- working on novel and interesting features.

One founder is working on a format for Video+Sgf simultaneous, getting the advantages of media and an interactive board.
Another one is going to start looking into building a Js score estimator: one that could potentially be used in estimating games you randomly watch online in any place in the internet, without using a Bot Engine like Gnugo.

Our current rating system, Glicko, was done with great labour by yoyoma. His aid was truly amazing.

As we grow, so does our ability to integrate foreign code and new functionality that is not necesarily done directly by us. Yet at the same time, people that want to enjoy features or contribute to the community can work on novel ideas and we can assist them with programming aid and finally doing the styling work to integrate it into a working site.

Since was made public, over 30 developers asked me if they could lend a hand, or that they wanted to be involved somehow. Right now, there are already several things that we are not going to do immediately as we are still working on the core functionality.

We are extremely excited with our growth, the server has been improving like crazy, and its not been a month since the Alpha release. I cant imagine how will look in 3 months :).

Regards, Gabriel.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Founder accounts are going to stop being offered by next week's Friday.

After the release/holiday craze, and setting up the whole automatic account creation system, we now can easily fulfill our promess of stopping founder accounts from being offered.

We could not fit it into tomorrow's release because we want to make some icons and distinguishables for founders.
We will change founder accounts for supporter ones. As discussed in a previous post, still needs to fund its operations.
Supporter accounts will also get access to the Alpha server, but they will have a different icon/marker from founders, which is of course carried on to the eventual release of the server.

I must say that the support we got from the community was amazing, and went over the expectations of what many people thought when the initial announcement was made. With the current funds, we have until mid-March inside the budget. Effectively, , donators have made possible to be worked on solely for us for over 4 months.

It's even hard to believe for us that we released the Alpha less than a month ago: so much new code was written in the past 3 weeks, so many new features and tweaks and improvements. We are so excited working on this and we truly believe will be the next generation of Go servers. I hope all founders that helped get this going get the same feeling we do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 Alpha 0.4, and the Tweaki

3 work-days left until Alpha 0.4.

Today Pato did some major cleaning of the front-end. In a software project its important to clean-up after the mess, or it piles up. It piles up dangerously. And it gets harder and harder to work on afterwards. So regularly we spend some time improving the systems internals, even though users won't see a change directly.
But we are here for the long haul, and we want to build something flexible and adaptative, so the quality of what we make is important for long term maintenance.

I was however busy with another great feature: including playing bots like gnugo on the server. Honestly i thought it was going to be harder than it was. It was running in less than 6 hoours work. It calculates score, resigns,plays quite fast. I still have to polish it a bit more, to make sure its more sturdy, but i feel confident it will be included for the next version.
This came hand in hand with finally fixing the replay bot, which was failing sporadically after showing a couple of games.

There are many more things coming but i will leave the suspense alive. What we finally caved in to was doing a change log. So we will see how comfortable it is for us to actually use it :). So now you can expect to read the new features and functionalities right after the friday's update.

One thing that's was positively noticeable of coming out with the alpha was the avalanche of feedback users have been giving us. From ideas to bugs, we have received 100's of messages and reports.

Because our development efforts are full-steam ahead, organizing this input of ideas is an important priority so we can increase the time we use to solve and implement them. Hence i added a new space for suggestions for users and its the Tweaki:

Ideas on how to solve new situations or what would be great to innovate on go mostly to the well known uservoice feedback-tab. This is important as ideas get votes, and prioritized. Several ideas there have already been developed, some of them completely new ones and innovative.

Bug-reports or specific technical problems can be reported in the ticket system from inside the server, which users have found already. Once we fix them, reporters would get automatic notification of our response.

But i noticed many things were said that didn't really fit into the above categories, and they were said on the chat. Small things, tweaks or small annoyances. Thats what the Tweaki is about :).

Friday, January 6, 2012

7 month old bug, sound, and alpha 0.3.0.

Today , as promised, we did a release. It included maaaany tweaks and fixes, huge bug removals and most of all, 3 big features: Sound (home-taped), Automatic account creation for founders (Acho today was our first supporter that got his account almost immediately!) and Handicap.

Now ranks can spread more accordingly and more interesting games will naturally be played.

Polly and i are exceptionally happy about todays improvements. We had the last minute rushes, looking at last minute bugs, and also checking that we didnt introduce a serious issue. Sound, at the last moment, gave us a lot of trouble, and i believe we are not still 100% sure that our technical solution will work for everyone.

However, the " jewel" (common argentinian expression) of the whole deployment last-minute debugging was "The Bug". Since release, the server was restarted 3 times. Once due to Amazon's malfunction. But twice due to an issue in our own servers. The server didnt crash, but started to get REALLY slow and lagged, ad we werent sure why.

In the past week we spent some time looking into it andi was very close to figuring it out. Today, while explaining my finding to polly and looking that the latest release triggered it severely, we found it. An evil line of code we both saw separately but immediately knew it was the culprit.

When i saw it i said "jesus this code has to be old". It was. Looking at source control, the culprit was from May 2011, at the absolute experimental prototype stage of Kaya. It was code written purely for developer aid, and in a very exploratory and naive manner.
The culprit was causing the server to user an inordinate amount of resources, and once removed, the overthrough server went back to use barely less than 10% of its resources. Let me refresh that our server has 600 megs of memory. Its practically a cellphone with good networking :).

AFter celebrating with some beers, i came back home and played a game, knowing that "The Bug" didnt exist anymore. It is so noticeable . The server is sooo much faster now, and the sound of the stones give it a whole new edge.

I think founders will be very happy to see this release 0.3.0, and hope energetically for the next one, 0.4.0, next friday.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On full swing, a very desired release on Friday , 300+ games played and L19 forum

Hey everyone!

Pato and i have been working like crazy since monday and lots of breakthroughs have been done. From bug fixing, to improvements,and the inclusion of very important features.

As i have said to founders before, unless something urgent happens (which has happened last week), we will keep the cycle into updating Alpha on fridays. This is a normal practice to not be spending too much time mantaining the server and more on developing(as opposed to updating constantly to the server). Also, this gives us a week to try out things we do ourselves which could have unforeseen consequences.

Many big things are expected to be done by this friday, as well as the overall improvement of usability, messaging and conflict scenarios.

This friday Pato and I will be recording the sound of stones that will be used in the server. We will use my stones against the Kisei-prized board, record a few sounds and then alternate them on play.
Founders know how much sound is needed right now to improve the experience, and also to tell when games started if one is not looking at the client.

Also, we plan to include handicap, and very important, proper account creation for future joiners.
The process was a little manual before , but the outburst of over 40 accounts in the past 3 weeks made it now an urgent matter. It is practically done and it sets afoot to allow users to edit their own accounts with ranks and own password (although that is planned for the next release).

Besides that, the server has been running with few inconveniences for over a week now. Almost all components are extremely stable and there is only one pending fix that causes some heavy delays on the server sporadically (which thankfully today we could pinpoint half the cause of). There have been exactly 329 matches to this point, and over 70 pro game replays in the past week.
Granted, many of those matches didn't come through for one reason or another, and we expect this Friday's fixes to alleviate our rampant "escaper" problem :).

On the last note, we now have a sub-forum in L19 here . We welcome discussions and suggestions there, specially when the Feedback section is just not enough for the conversation.

See you guys on the server soon!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New year's resolutions and holiday craze

Hey everyone! Some due updates :).

The past week and a half that Alpha server was up has been incredible. Reaching this milestone with the project really changed everything.

I now see a whole new dimension of responsibilities while all my developer blood is raging to build more features into the server. Pato was sick first and then he took a few holiday days so i've been working non-stop alone this last few days. Lets put some pressure into making him work a lot when he returns :)

As said before, Alpha really brought out details and issues and bugs like nothing else we did before. Which is great, we fixed the vast majority of them, and the users are hungry for new features that will make it even more playable, like proper handicaps, sound, time systems.

Its shaping up good, and since tuesday its been up, so its getting more and more stable.

One of the things that occured after alpha was a total craze for founder accuonts. In the past two weeks, over 25 people donated to get one, and because the whole system isnt automatized , i felt like doing a lot of paperwork. I hate paperwork. So this weeks top priority will be to get this whole process automated so it frees up this responsibility of mine, and it will make founders get all their info immediately after payment.

Regardless of what features or bugs are next, issues that once solved save developer time are always #1 priority. Time is precious, every hour lost on something is one less mini-feature, or one less bug-fix.

The board of fame hasnt been updating accordingly because this founder craze came with total disregard of anything but entrance to the server :). People want to get in kaya a lot more than in the board of fame. But this is not right and its not showing how many people have donated correctly. I am confidendt that we well passed the 200 donators,and almost 8.5 thousand dollars.

So before that gets updated, let Pato and I work on the whole automation of account creation. That way you will be able to fill out a form with all the info, instead of communicating by email.

As i said before,i can make 10 posts on what happened the past week alone. Stay tuned :)