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Little bit about the GD Gathering

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Michael Tanczos

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The GD Gathering was at least a year in the making. It initially started when I stumbled across a zipcode database for the U.S. I ended up doing some more searching and came across a world database that mapped cities to latitude/longitude coordinates.

The next thing that came up was determining how we could use that sort of data. There were a couple of challenges that presented itself.. one, with a database of 3.5 million cities, we couldn't go joining against that database to get lat/long data if we wanted to say.. find all members close to another member. Additionally, we needed the math to determine if a member was close to another member to work QUICK.

Prior to the release of the new forums last June, the development situation for Gamedev.net was less than ideal.. especially considering we all have CS backgrounds. The new forums actually had stemmed off of a version of the forums that had been written 3 years prior. During that time the forums underwent a lot of changes on the "production" gamedev.net that had to be back ported into the new code. SOOOOO much stuff was cleaned up and changed fundamentally with the new forums it was ridiculous.

During the final release push it was really myself and Michalson who put in a lot of the hours developing the software. We never had a problem really because Michalson worked pretty hardcore on the moderator tools that help us to say.. detect duplicate accounts from the same user, or potential former banned people, etc. with alarming swiftness. With the "report this post to moderator" option and his moderator tools I have witnessed a dramatic decrease in the response time for handling issues. So he did that, and I worked on stuff like the forums, books, gds, etc. The point is.. we worked on mutually exclusive things, so we didn't step on each others toes.

Sicrane and superpig also did some work for the forums.. and on some cool projects too (we gotta get superpigs quoting system in there some day.. that thing is awesome). Sicrane was KILLER at testing. He found bugs doing shit that was probably about as obscure as one could get. I felt pretty comfortable with the release even though on the production environment we felt some initially growing pains that we hadn't experienced before. Though you had to expect it.. we took a production system that had been running stable offline and replaced it with a virtually untested (for all intents and purposes) and entirely new codebase.

When the actual release came around guys like Dave became much more involved with getting the content side of the software up to spec, which required making small tweaks to certain files.. which might later get overwritten by me or Michalson or..

So we needed a revamp, badly. That's when we really took a step back over the fall and analyzed how we develop things. We began to write proposals for new major projects and completely design them from start to finish prior to writing a line of code. The individual tasks were entered into a project task management system to break it down a bit more into manageable chunks. This actually proved incredibly useful because you can pretty easily obtain direction for figuring out a pretty common problem.. "What do I do next?" Subversion definitely became our revision control platform of choice, and now we have been checking in projects all over the site. We're working on an approach to publish to the site directly from our subversion repository.. even revert to previous versions if something goes really bad(tm).

Oli came on board the project in early January or late December and was presented with the design for the gathering. We were able to additionally revamp some of the techniques we used to code projects for the site and ended up doing a lot based of of XML using XSL for the UI. The result was actually an unexpected potential future benefit.. It is EXTREMELY easy to expose the XML for public consumption. This is something we definitely want to try to do.

Why? Cuz of projects like SHilbert's rating tracker, for example. That thing is just plain cool. Click here to see the related post. With so many programmers around, it just makes sense.

Phew.. I think I'm going to take a break from this post for now. I suppose I had a lot to mention.
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If you're willing to expose more content through XML or RSS, it would make my job a lot easier. I was thinking of adapting Scott's hack to produce a better picture of a user's history, potentially so you can map rating increases or decreases to particular posts you've made.

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People have been bugging me to add a weekly/monthly/etc. view of peoples' data for a while. I'll see about improving the system a bit this week... it kind of involves some not-especially-fun-to-code bits :P

Oh, and while we're on the topic of board improvements, is there a reason there isn't a "quote" button for journal comments?

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Thats a nice little behind-the-scenes/history lesson Michael (or should it be Mr. Tacos? [rolleyes]). Very interesting...

I guess this "todo" list thing you mention is probably full of private information... but you guys ever thought of making a summary list of the top-10 things todo/being worked on somewhere? Just so that we can see if any of the things mentioned in comments and suggestions are at all likely to appear in the future [smile]

Bottom line - you guys pull off a 5* job on the forum software. Thanks! Definitely worth whatever it is I paid for my GDNet+ priveleges [grin]

Cheers,
Jack

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Very interesting. I like reading about histories and succesful group mammoth efforts.

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