TDS: Under the Hood

Widgets, software & projects, including the IB Dashboard.

Monday, November 03, 2008

We're all very aware of the time constraints & therefore lack of movement on our beloved IB site. Based on that, I've been toying with an idea. A community much like that of our beloved, but something that we can commit to never fading into the background.

It would require a small team of people, but each could have different roles or aspects matching their skills. I'm thinking it could be designed in another language away from ASP (PHP is more common, but RoR does have it's advantages), and with the idea in mind of starting from a large sense of community. Those that are interested can inquire within, or e-mail me directly.

Certainly, it would be an endeavor that would benefit from some form of revenue to maintain the site, but not as the focus, and very unlike the social site based game that has provided the death blow to our pixelated home.

Let me know your thoughts, and let's create something!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Today, I took it upon myself to beseech the Chefs of Icon Buffet to rekindle the glory of IB. As you'll see in my message, I even tried to offer tips that could be used to double the time spent on PackRat icons that could be packaged & given to us IBers. Now, as much as I wanted to, I didn't take a cheap shot & sling any mud. Trust me, the temptation was there. But all-in-all I give them credit for making something that we all became enamored of, and despite the drastic decline in morale I kept it clean. My e-mail was:

Chefs of IconBuffet:

You know me as bjendrick on IB, and the creator of the IB Dashboard.

I'm writing to you out of concern for IconBuffet, and to not see it continue to die a slow painful death. I know that a lot of the long time fans & users there have gotten disheartened with the trickle of new icon sets that have been released. And at the same time, I understand that PackRat has far greater revenue potential with a much larger user base. (Just read the article on Venture Beat about Alamofire & the new ticket feature.)

As it stands, the efforts for IB have been dwindling, and the morale on the site has dramatically shifted. Here is my request. Let us help you. Let us help you to keep IB fun & alive.

I know how much you cherish IB for what it started & how it has shaped your recent history. There are many on the site that share the love for IB & would like to be a part of reviving it. Let us help, and even make it into something that can continue to turn a profit, or break even.

I have several ideas on this, but the highest ones are:
  • Use the PackRat card collections as new icon sets. Some of them could even be broken into more than 1 set due to their number of cards. And they could be part of a PackRat family or similar type to keep them segregated from the existing families. You could combine the efforts you're putting into PackRat without a major cost of time to do something for IB. And based on the past released sets, this could give you sets for release for at least the next 3-6 months. Oh, and people that would like to collect the icons from PackRat, can be directed to IB, making a great partnership.
  • I don't know anything about Ruby programming, but I'm willing to learn. Others in IB already know it, and would be willing to jump in & help improve IB. Some of the feature requests revolve around the forums, and other requests are around allowing users to submit icon packs. Both or either could be advantageous to you. If you were willing to make the community more of an "open source" type application (not as open as that, but with a shared work mentality) improvements could be made, and the love & morale would increase as well.

All in all, we have grown very fond of IB. We would love to see it continue to grow & evolve. At the same time, we're very aware of the business impact it has on your time & resources. Please let us help.

Feel free to call me directly any time of the day or night as I'm awake from at least 7a-11p Arizona time. I would love the opportunity to create something for the IB community. Thank you.

So I waited with baited breath. I know the feelings that we often associate to projects that we pour our hearts & souls into, and hoped that the response would be positve. Heck, I might have even expected to get a personal phone call, or at least a comprehensive thought to my ideas. However, the response I received left me underwhelmed.

Thanks for your feedback and suggestions. We greatly appreciate it, as well as your continued support of the 'Buffet! We'll keep this in mind moving forward.

Best wishes,

Brian @ IconBuffet

That may have been all the time they had at their disposal to respond. Maybe it came in amongst 100 other bug report e-mails. Maybe I caught them during lunch. Whatever the case may be, I felt dismissed, and even if they do incorporate some of this, I didn't get a sense of urgency about things. Call me resigned, but I'm feeling the urge to move on & wash my hands of all of it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I follow Thomas Hawk's Flickr feed, and he created this fun Wordle out of the full 110 page Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 bill that failed in the House of Representatives today. It's quite telling. Thoughts?

Monday, January 28, 2008

IBD - Updates, Updates & More Updates

I know it has been over 2 months since the last update, but rest assured that I've been hard at work getting more features integrated into the Dashboard. Below is a comprehensive list, and over the next week or two, many of these features will be addressed in detail.

The biggest piece of news is the recent integration of Friends & Delivery Tracking. Please understand that this feature is very new & equally rough. I thought it was more important to get this feature into the capable hands of the Dashboard users, and then based on feedback & input from all of you, enhancements could follow. So please be sure to leave a comment, send an e-mail, or even post a message inside my box at IconBuffet.

Now on with the list of updates...

  • New Set Highlight Color Within 5 Days
  • Friends Integration
  • Delivery Tracking
  • Added Snow Family Per Chef Information
  • Moved Entire Domain & Site to New Hosting Provider; Encountered Few Hiccups
  • Updated "Obtain Date" on Needed Set Details through December 2008
  • Added Token Averages to Full Family Listing Page
  • Fixed Initial Sorts on Received Icons Page

In Progress:
  • Reworking Calculation Engine for All User Stats (Required for Future Enhancements)
  • Badge List "Obtain" Indicator - Tied to Calculation Engine Upgrades


Monday, November 12, 2007

IBD - Recent Updates & Enhancements

WARNING: Longer post due to multiple updates from recent weeks.
In the last week or two, many things have been updated, some minor & others with greater potential.

Stats Header LinksFor starters, based on upon a user request, I added links to a few of the headers in the Stats page giving a bit more direction to some of the profile entry sections.

Stats Header LinksBased on another user request, I simplified the sorting options on the Icon List pages. By combining them into the header of the table only, I think it makes the interface more intuitive & less cluttered. An additional link to the master icon page also seemed like an easy way to add cross-reference capabilities.

Main Page StatsAdded some additional basic stats to the front page of the Dashboard showing total number of icons, as well as total number of users. I figured it was a nice way to keep the pulse of the system visible, and in the next week or two, I plan on adding some additional reference information there.

Set Edit Calendar
Calendar WidgetThe long standing bug of Safari users getting the "lcid_control.asp" error has been resolved with the helpful efforts of soprano, and to help alleviate any additional date entry issues, I have incorporated a calendar window. And before anyone across the pond in the UK, Europe, or even our friends in Australia get up in arms, I have set the default date format to "yyyy/mm/dd". However, I am also working on the beginning day of the week to match with your local language settings. Please be patient.

IB Profile AvatarLast, but certainly not least is a very new feature utilizing screen scraping of profile avatars from IB. Mostly, I wanted to put this feature in place to help identify users with the (currently in progress) Friends & Deliveries portion of the Dashboard. But to get it working, I figured it would be a nice addition to each user's profile page, but ONLY if the user has their IB profile URL filled in. If not, it just shows the default "grey man" known throughout IB for new users.

This is a fledgling feature, and as several users have noted in the last day, some errors have been identified & squished. Please be patient as this is perfected, but also understand that this is NOT an attempt at tying IB & the Dashboard together. While many of you might like that ability, it would ultimately be more trouble than it's worth at this time, particularly since the simplicity of the application is part of its charm, at least in my mind. Feel free to persuade me otherwise if desired.

Some of the more minor updates to the system are:
  • Gold Crown Badge Activated in Stats
  • LCID Language Issue Resolved for Safari Browsers
  • Corrected Extra Token Calculation for 60K+
  • Tokyo Hygiene Hijinx Involving Bad Database Update by Yours Truly
  • Enhanced Database & System Security

Some of the things that are still under development, but haven't been forgotten or overlooked are:
  • Friend & Delivery Tracking
  • FAQ/Help Page
  • Enhanced Set & Family Metrics for Inquiring Minds (Graphs & Charts & Metrics, Oh My)
  • Hash Password Storage
  • User Password Reset Capabilities

Whew! I think that covers it for now, but as always, stay tuned for more.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

IBD - Profile Offsets

Profile OffsetsAs many of you are aware, there's a calculation error within IB that occurred during some of the site slowdowns. Basically, some of the delivered sets by users were delivered & the stamps weren't reduced, or in other cases, deliveries were able to be received twice by the recipients. Please understand that the situation is rare & somewhat isolated. Mostly, the users that have larger point totals & are more active on the site have experienced this issue.

Well, I'm here today to announce that the Dashboard will now handle calculation offsets to help correct your points or stamps totals. Just go into your Profile page, and you can then enter an offset value to bring your totals in line with those on IB.


IconBuffet - My Icons Greasemonkey Script

MyIcons RestyledFor those of you using Greasemonkey (a scripting extension for Firefox), I have created a script to tighten the layout of the IconBuffet "My Icons" page.

Since I've been using the system for a while, I didn't need some of the elements any longer. So, by just inserting modified CSS values, I was able to trim the page layout, giving more of what I like to see & less of what I don't. Check out the script page, and if you have any questions or ideas to expand on it, feel free to leave me a comment.

Inspiration for the icon display section was taken from mik's userstyle written about in this blog post.

Also using THiC's userstyle "IconBuffet Restyled" discussed in this blog post. Highly recommended!

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IBD - Icon Edit Tweak

Icon Edit TweaksAs I was working on assigning some "Promised To" values for my needed sets, I realized that the form wasn't quite "right". And as you can see in the screenshot, I noticed that the form controls were aligned incorrectly. It's a small fix, but I think it makes the form a bit easier to navigate.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

IBD - Date Internationalization

International DatesAfter a Canadian user of the Dashboard (thank you rossanyl) suggested displaying dates in alternate formats, I started looking into internationalizing parts of the system. It took a bit of reading & wading through documentation, but I ended up coming across an ASP function that someone had built to identify & update an ASP session with the correct LCID (otherwise known as the locale ID).

So in order to view international dates, you just need to have the correct language set in your browser. Rossanyl needed to change her language from English-US to English-Canada, and the system started showing the recognized Canadian format of "dd/mm/yyyy" as you can see in the screenshot. The other helpful indicator is that the LCID from the "user_date_test" page will be something other than 1033, which is for US English.

Hopefully, this is another small change that will make the Dashboard that much more useful. Enjoy!


IBD - New Updates & Things in Progress

Toolbar Login

So with the idea of making the system a bit more streamlined & removing unnecessary overhead, the Login form has been integrated with the navigation toolbar. Hopefully, this should make the system a bit easier to use, and less of a hassle.

Dynamic Icon List SortFrom several user requests, dynamic sorting has been added to the Received & Needed Icon List pages. Now, you will be able to sort the lists according to your desires to see your information easier. And not stopping there, a "select all/select none" checkbox has been added to the table header to assist in moving sets from Needed to Received. With my initial testing, I know that this has saved me tons of energy in clicking checkboxes. May it save you from carpal tunnel syndrome as well.

Icon List ExportLastly, I added the ability to export a current icon list from the Dashboard into Excel format. The layout of the list is a mockup of the text version that debbye is using in her Complete Icon Lists thread. However, I fully expect to modify this functionality into several report formats to give all of you more control over your own data, as well as the data within the Dashboard.

Things in Progress:
  • Calendar integration for easier date selection.
  • Enhanced database & system security.
  • Friend & delivery tracking.
  • Help/FAQ page.
  • Enhanced set & family metrics for inquiring minds.

Stay tuned, and as always, let me know of any possible improvements!