August 21

Hobbit Walk: Tests are Passing

A quick update on the Project Hobbit Walk status.

I’m in the midst of a fairly large code refactoring–which basically means that I’m changing some of the code and cleaning it up.  A lot of the changes are done so that I can get unit testing done, including some automated testing.

The idea is that, whenever I make a change to the code, there will be an automated process happening that ensures nothing broke.

The major part of that is done.  I’ve still got some updating to do, but a major milestone is out of the way.

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June 5

Hobbit Walk emails are back

The emails for Project Hobbit Walk are functioning again.

I know, I know, you’re excited.  And why not?  I am!

But there’s a lot of work to do, so I’ll keep this brief.  It seems like there are a few discrepancies between the data I’ve gathered and the data on the sheets.  It’s a rather small discrepancy, and I’d guess it is probably an issue with data not being pulled from a particular day… or something like that.

Anyway, I’m working on it.  Stay tuned.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.

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April 28

Email Updates Suspended

I’ve temporarily disabled email updates due to a problem in the code.

At first I thought it was an issue with the data, maybe invalid interpretation of numbers or something.  But that wasn’t it.

Turns out, the code was pulling the totals for all races and combining them.  So the more races I was in, the higher my total was.

Anyway, I’ve disabled the emails for now, until the bug is fixed.  I don’t expect that it will take too long to adjust, but there are some other things that I’m trying to sort out in the meantime.  Here’s a few things on the short list:

  1. Bug fixes (critical only)
  2. Move code to GitHub
  3. Setup issue tracker (on GitHub)
  4. Setup wiki (on GitHub)
  5. Setup unit tests (keeps bugs from re-emerging)
  6. Integration with Travis-CI (for continuous integration testing)

It’s only a half-dozen things, but it’s no small task.  It’s all fairly important, though.  By moving to GitHub, I get exposure: it helps my resume (gives me some geek cred), allows others to look at it and consider helping, and gives me a wiki and issue tracker.  The issue tracker will help my Beta users to see the list of issues, submit problems, and get updates when there are any, and so forth.

Any questions?  Want to get involved?  Say something in the comments!

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April 22

Email Updates are Live

I’ve got email updates being sent out.  At least in theory.

They’re not pretty.  They’re just barely formatted.  But they’re being sent.

As of the time of this writing, they’re scheduled to run in the morning right after stats are updated.  That should be around 9am.  Each person should hopefully be getting a couple of emails: one for their race against me, and one for the race against themselves.

Get it?  Got it?  Good.

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April 15

Email Updates are Coming

I’m close to having the email updates functioning.

I haven’t been very motivated recently to get this stuff done.  Dealing with chaos in the family, stress, and looking for a different job have all been consuming my time.  It’s one of those things where sometimes there’s so much to do that I just don’t want to do any of it.

Anyway, I’m hoping to have some emails being sent automatically in the next few days.  Stay tuned!

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March 18

More Insights on the Hobbit Walk

This is sort of in line with my previous post, as I was a little frustrated (with myself) that I’d not had any progress on the Hobbit Walk (there’s another reason, too).

Anyway, on to what I’ve found.

First, it’s a little frustrating to name a race.  Naming is one of the hardest tasks there is… well, besides cache invalidation.  I should be able to dynamically set the name of the race, because I’ve already stored the list of participants.  I kept teetering between dynamic versus static naming.  Ultimately, though, it seems like static (or maybe “arbitrary” would be more apt) naming.

Second, it’s nice to know who created the race.  Right?  That allows explicit listing of the races I’ve created, allowing “creator” permissions (like deleting them).  Maybe I’m waiting on the other person to accept (which I may not have considered yet).  Or I want to see all of my races, including all the ended ones.

Third, sometimes I try to normalize the data too much.  This one’s another tough one.  When I started working on TTORP, I had very non-normalized data: I wanted to get something up and running fast, so I just threw a bunch of arbitrarily-named fields in a database, all of which were just text… I was bit by this laziness later, because I had to pay the technical debt.

I found all kinds of other little things in the process.  Countless little nuances that I could spend all night enumerating, finding even more in the process.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I’ve made progress.  I’ve got more information in my test database, which will help me to visualize things.  At this point, unless I find more problems, I should be able to start spitting out some progress information in the very near future.  Stay tuned!

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March 2

We Have Milestones!

After much waiting: there are now milestones!

Yep.  A bit of a let-down.  I know.  Sorry.

In creating the milestones, I noticed there were some things that were probably missed… setting up an order to the milestones (so I don’t necessarily have to insert them in the proper order), etc.  Nothing mind-blowing here.

I’m working on the code and associated SQL to figure out a contestant’s progress in relation to milestones.  Nothing exceptionaly difficult, just takes a little time to do.

But there are MILESTONES now, people!

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February 4

Project Hobbit Walk: There’s a Database

That’s right, now Project Hobbit Walk actually has a database behind it.  And that database is actually getting data put into it.  Automatically.  Huzaaaa!

I’ve still got a bit of work to do.  But this is an incredibly important foundational piece of the puzzle.  With a single query, I can see how far everyone has traveled.

The only numbers I have to worry about are each user’s grand total, and their progress since the race against me started.  So it’s pretty non-complicated right now.  WOOO!!!

I’ve still got more stuff to do.  Here’s a pretty short list, in no particular order:

  • a URL scheme for showing race data:
    • for anyone (e.g. “/race/{id}/current”)
    • for all races of the currently logged-in user (e.g. “/races/”)
    • for progress on a specific race, up to a given date (e.g. “/race/{id}/20150104)
  • a URL scheme for handling open invitations (anyone can click it, sign up, and enter the race): (e.g. “/race/challenge/open/{id}“)
  • a URL scheme for handling user-specific invitations (only for a selected user, others get an error) (e.g. “/race/challenge/closed/{id}“)
  • some way to graphically show progress generically, without milestones
  • a way to show, graphically, progress with milestones (e.g. progress to Mordor)

Okay, that’s probably enough for now.  I’ll probably dream about this stuff now, since I’m thinking about it so close to bedtime… d’oh!

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January 21

Project Hobbit Walk: Yay, Progress!

I had a little time last night to hammer out some code.

I’ve got a database layout done basically done, so I can store data.   There’s already a script in place that will download a set of spreadsheets in CSV (“comma separated values,” basically just really simple text).

Now I need to get some more code written to interact with it, create reports, and send emails.  And eventually put in some “fun” text into those emails, like, “whoa, you overtook John last night by a staggering 3.45 miles! Hope you told him to eat your dust on the way by!

I’ve spent some time figuring out how to layout the data, where the data comes from, what it looks like, and how to store what I need to make “Project Hobbit Walk” something worthwhile.  In order for me to consider the application truly useful, it has to do a couple of things.  For users (including me), it must:

  1. Be Intuitive.  Like picking up the controller for a game, and having every button and key combination work exactly the way you expect, so you can have fun right away.
  2. Stay Out of the Way. Once it’s configured, it can just stay out of your way.  No muss, no fuss.
  3. Be Useful.  Probably the most important part, it needs to show you what you want to know, and help motivate you to get healthier by gamifying life.
  4. Be Fun.  Seriously, it has to create enjoyment.

But let’s be honest.  There’s other considerations for me.:

  • Easy to Maintain.  I can’t spend all my time fixing/updating code, since that would keep me from moving around… I’d fall behind in all my races!
  • Easy to Get Started.  I don’t have time to walk every single user through the process of setting it up.  This goes hand-in-hand with the Be Intuitive part from above.
  • Help Pay for Itself.  I have a server that I pay for each month out of pocket; if this can generate enough money (through some hopefully innocuous ads) to pay for that, I’d have less stuff to worry about.
  • Grow On It’s Own.  There will hopefully be enough tools available that it’ll just grow “virally,” like users sending emails to their friends with messages like, “I challenge you to race me to Mordor,” or “I challenge you to climb Mount Everest with me.”

Let me know what you think in the comments below.  And a special thanks to all those that have signed up for testing!

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