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ConThingy Development

Ticket to Ride

January 22nd, 2009

It’s been a fair bit since I’ve said anything here.

Part of that has been the holidays, bringing lots of chaos and distraction to my coding, and less time to work on it in all. Getting sick afterwards didn’t help either - colds are like the Christmas gift you never asked for and didn’t actually want. (I think it rates below socks but slightly above pink bunny pajamas?)

Part of that, though, is that there are some big features that it’s difficult to break into meaningful chunks of functionality - it doesn’t make sense to show you how we can put a location on a map if there’s no way to use that information.

Speaking of using that information, how about defining a con’s location down to the hotel to help you find it? Or doing a search for cons that are near to you, to figure out what’s in your backyard that you’re missing.

As of tonight, those abilities are part of the featureset we just shipped to beta.

There’s a few other features - guests, and their affiliation to cons. Support for the ical format, letting you take the interesting cons you found here and put them on your schedule. The ability to get an RSS feed for any search you do, to let you know what new cons that interest you may be coming up.

The biggest feature here is locations, though; before, we knew the when of cons. Now, we also know the where. We’ve got a start on who, with the ability to tell us your con plans and history, and our guest functionality; how and why may take a little longer, though.

The title of the post is the name of this release; it’s just moved to beta, but there’s going to be a fair amount of testing before we’re ready to move it to the main site. For now, head over to the beta and check it out!

One set of features down, another to go!

October 20th, 2008

Last night, we finished our work on Apples to Apples.

Big features were user association to cons, tagging, and support for guests.

User association is still fairly basic, but you can see what cons you’re thinking of going to or have been to, and find out the same for your friends, at least if they’re using the site.

Tags let you search or browse by subject, and we can now list what guests are attending a con, and what cons a guest has been to. Both of those are part of a broader goal, which a rich world of interconnectedness around and between conventions. We think it’s valuable to be able to follow chains and discover new conventions.

We’ve decided to call our next burst of coding Ticket to Ride, in part because the biggest feature in it is going to be location: Storing more precise locations for cons, down to the level of a venue, and allowing you to search and sort by location when you’re looking for cons.

In some ways, this is still just precursor work for us: There’s a lot of other features we want to build that require this as a prerequisite, and a con without a location just seems rather.. incomplete, besides.

We’re intending to use MS Virtual Earth as our location and mapping service; Jason has done some initial investigations into the SOAP API, and it seems feasible, and the terms of the licensing will let us do everything we need. It’s still going to take some work to get it doing more than little test calls - particularly from PHP, since the primary support is intended at ASP.NET - but that time’s what we’re planning to spend!

The other big thing we want to get working, and what I’ll be working on, is supporting convention runners with the ability to update their own con’s page. Again, this is something that will just grow in importance as we add more information about a con, and more cons to the system; there’s only two of us (and a few other helpers, who have our heartfelt thanks!), but there’s hundreds of cons we want to have in our system.

There are a few other features - you can check it out on our planning page - but those are the major ones we’re going to be working on.

If you’ve been using the site, what do you think? Are there other features we ought to move up in priority, or haven’t thought of at all yet?

If you haven’t, why not? If it doesn’t have the right features, tell us! If you just haven’t had a chance yet.. well, ConThingy awaits!

Thingy.. stuff.. plans!

October 16th, 2008

I’m Sylvia, the other half of the ConThingy team. In between coding, I’m also working to maintain our planned work. We’ve just put that up on the blog, here, so others can see what we’re intending and we can discuss it.

We’d love to hear what you think about our plans - are we missing something? Putting focus on the wrong thing? Have a problem that you know an awesome solution for? On the right track? We want to know! Drop us a line, in a comment, or via ConThingy’s contact page, or however else you can figure out.

Features we’ve added today:

  • Some ads, to hopefully help us cover our bandwidth bill
    • A large number of bugs associated with adding ads. Seriously, that part took about five times as long as adding the ads themselves
  • Bugfix for some issues with adding cons when not logged in
  • Bugfix to present the number of a con via a dropdown
  • The ability for editors to delete tags from a con

Welcome to the ConThingy development blog!

October 15th, 2008

Hey. I’m Jason.

I’m half the team of ConThingy at the moment, along with Sylvia. (She’ll post tomorrow.) Since we’re building this site for people who go to conventions, we thought we should probably start talking about what we’re planning here.

That way, if you’re interested in what ConThingy is going to become - and we hope you are! - we can talk with you about what we’re building, and whether it’s the sort of thing you want to use.

To start out, here’s what we built tonight:

  • Tagging support
    We’re starting to get a lot of cons in the system, so we needed a way to sort by what type of fandom they’re for. This is the first step, but we’re still not sure what the most useful tags will be. For now, we’ve got tagging restricted to editors, but you can add tags to a con you’re creating, and they’ll show up when an editor approves the con.
  • BBCode formatting
    We used to allow arbitrary HTML in descriptions, and we tried to strip out malicious text. One of our early users noticed that he could still get some scripting attacks through, so we’ve moved to BBCode. It’s a bit more of a pain, but it’s more secure for the viewer, and we’d hate to be the vector for an attack on someone’s browser.

I’ve just asked Sylvia for what we can build tomorrow, so we can see what you think, but the list is still in shorthand, so we’ll be posting that tomorrow, along with whatever we ended up building.

Meanwhile, let us know what you think ConThingy needs! We don’t always know what the best thing to build next is, so your suggestions make a difference!

Enjoy the Thingy!

- Jason