Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

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Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby Joshua Rutsky » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:30 am

I am in the early stages of trying to sketch out an ideal program for QB work. Here are the basic premises I'm starting from:

1) SQBS is awesome, and there isn't a lot of reason to try to replicate what it does well. Therefore, the main purpose of this software would be to handle two areas that I don't think are well-addressed - tournament management and coaching stat tools.

2) These two things are best served as independent programs, so I'm picking the tourney management idea as the first priority arbitrarily.

3) Tournament management software, for maximum utility, requires a network connection and a computer of some sort in each room. Whatever bells and whistles are built in, the key points would be that the software would allow the scorekeeper in any given room to easily and quickly enter data from question to question, sending that data back to a central point, where it would be automatically tabulated and recorded, ideally in a format that could be imported into SQBS.

4) The central program would, from a TD standpoint, be ideal if it could a) refresh regularly with new data, b) allow the TD to enter pools, c) generate a round-robin from said pools, print the schedule for each team, and d) then have a central grid that shows what games are in progress in any given room. The program should also allow e) publishable posting of standings via a web page or export to an e-mail so people can view them close to live.



I would like to invite the community to comment, share ideas, and post thoughts about features this software ought to have/needs to have/would be cool for having, so that when I meet with a programmer (a former player who is kindly thinking about undertaking this project at a minimum cost), I have a good list of features that a robust program would have.

I think one of the big hold-ups in creating this sort of program has been that it tends to happen when QB players decide they want to try a project on the side, and as a result, the outcome moves in fits and starts and often dies out quickly. QB has a large base, though, and this board reaches a lot of teams. I envision this as a sort of QB kickstarter campaign--IF the program's concept looks good, and if the programmer says it is doable, and IF we can get a timeline with goals and the like, MAYBE teams would be willing to all chip in $10 to help develop this for public use? Regardless, I plan to pursue this project, so response without financial interest is also eagerly sought.

Thanks for helping!
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Re: Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby jonah » Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:38 pm

What's so great about SQBS? I would have classified it as adequate for most tournaments (but just barely), and woefully inadequate for many (large ones, ones using less common formats, etc.). I think the natural way to address your goal would also involve replacing SQBS. Jim Puls has already done a lot of the work toward this goal; I'll point him at this thread so he can update us on how it's going, as I think it has been used for some Bay Area tournaments. It's been working for NAQT's nationals for many years, and much of the remaining work is making it friendly and stable enough to work without Jim being on-site (but again, I think we're close), plus a little more flexible with formats and such.

Also, when you raise the money, how are you planning to apply it to this project? Hire a non-quizbowl person to work on it at real programmer rates?
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Re: Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby Joshua Rutsky » Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:44 pm

jonah wrote:What's so great about SQBS? I would have classified it as adequate for most tournaments (but just barely), and woefully inadequate for many (large ones, ones using less common formats, etc.). I think the natural way to address your goal would also involve replacing SQBS. Jim Puls has already done a lot of the work toward this goal; I'll point him at this thread so he can update us on how it's going, as I think it has been used for some Bay Area tournaments. It's been working for NAQT's nationals for many years, and much of the remaining work is making it friendly and stable enough to work without Jim being on-site (but again, I think we're close), plus a little more flexible with formats and such.


I haven't had personal issues with SQBS, Jonah, but I welcome input on where it falls short, and especially better options!

Also, when you raise the money, how are you planning to apply it to this project? Hire a non-quizbowl person to work on it at real programmer rates?


The programmer I have in mind is a former QB player who has indicated to me he would be willing to take this on as a private project at a much reduced rate.
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Re: Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby jonah » Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:56 pm

Joshua Rutsky wrote:
jonah wrote:What's so great about SQBS? I would have classified it as adequate for most tournaments (but just barely), and woefully inadequate for many (large ones, ones using less common formats, etc.). I think the natural way to address your goal would also involve replacing SQBS. Jim Puls has already done a lot of the work toward this goal; I'll point him at this thread so he can update us on how it's going, as I think it has been used for some Bay Area tournaments. It's been working for NAQT's nationals for many years, and much of the remaining work is making it friendly and stable enough to work without Jim being on-site (but again, I think we're close), plus a little more flexible with formats and such.
I haven't had personal issues with SQBS, Jonah, but I welcome input on where it falls short, and especially better options!
Here are some of the deficiencies that bug me:
  • Entry from only one computer/user at a time (making live stats much more difficult or impossible for tournaments too large for one person to enter)
  • No ability to manually specify teams' ranks, leading many reports to be totally incorrect
  • Missing validation potential (e.g. checking for a team playing multiple games in the same round, or checking for whether a team attempted to answer more tossups than it heard—there are many rules like this that SQBS could, but does not, check)
  • Inflexibility with rules and validation (e.g. there is a validation rule for no more than 4 total games played per side of a game, but if you have a 5-on-5 tournament you can't adjust that to check for no more than 5, you have to turn it off completely)
  • Problems using the tab key to navigate game entry (for one, the games played fields get skipped)
  • Irritating to deal with file-merging and game management issues
  • Phases of a tournament must generally be kept in separate files, so error correction often has to take place in multiple places; this is especially irritating when games are carried over
  • No simple way to re-order teams or players
  • Cannot enter more than 8 players per side in any one game
  • Correct entry of bouncebacks requires entering more data than are logically required (specifically, the number of bonus points possible and rebound point opportunities could be automatically calculated in most formats)
  • Cannot enter more than 4 tossup answer types per game if they are to be tracked individually (mostly a theoretical limitation, but there's really no reason for it)
  • Cannot enter more than 2 teams in a game
  • Cannot enter custom statistics to be calculated
  • Opaque, closed data format
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Re: Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby puls » Thu Dec 03, 2015 5:36 pm

Joshua Rutsky wrote:I am in the early stages of trying to sketch out an ideal program for QB work. Here are the basic premises I'm starting from:

1) SQBS is awesome, and there isn't a lot of reason to try to replicate what it does well. Therefore, the main purpose of this software would be to handle two areas that I don't think are well-addressed - tournament management and coaching stat tools.


SQBS has a number of relatively major problems, the greatest of which is its single-person-on-single-computer entry, as Jonah mentioned. Tournament management is something that is well needed, though.

Joshua Rutsky wrote:2) These two things are best served as independent programs, so I'm picking the tourney management idea as the first priority arbitrarily.

3) Tournament management software, for maximum utility, requires a network connection and a computer of some sort in each room. Whatever bells and whistles are built in, the key points would be that the software would allow the scorekeeper in any given room to easily and quickly enter data from question to question, sending that data back to a central point, where it would be automatically tabulated and recorded, ideally in a format that could be imported into SQBS.


"Requires a network connection" is something that doesn't really seem compatible with the reality of a lot of tournaments, in my mind: you set this kind of thing up and it works for all of your tournaments at your school until suddenly you're hosting one somewhere else and you run into a dead end.

I'm also unclear on where you draw the line on what is and isn't "tournament management software". If you're entering question-by-question data but stopping at the point where you import into SQBS, you've already duplicated 95% of the functionality of SQBS or any other stats program. (While computing aggregate statistics is an exciting and necessary thing to do, it's a nearly trivial number of lines of code.)

A common format emerged out of this thread when it came up a year ago. The SQBS format, while simple, is undocumented and a little scary to rely on.

Joshua Rutsky wrote:4) The central program would, from a TD standpoint, be ideal if it could a) refresh regularly with new data, b) allow the TD to enter pools, c) generate a round-robin from said pools, print the schedule for each team, and d) then have a central grid that shows what games are in progress in any given room. The program should also allow e) publishable posting of standings via a web page or export to an e-mail so people can view them close to live.


Generating schedules is a feature I'd like to have.

Joshua Rutsky wrote:I think one of the big hold-ups in creating this sort of program has been that it tends to happen when QB players decide they want to try a project on the side, and as a result, the outcome moves in fits and starts and often dies out quickly. QB has a large base, though, and this board reaches a lot of teams. I envision this as a sort of QB kickstarter campaign--IF the program's concept looks good, and if the programmer says it is doable, and IF we can get a timeline with goals and the like, MAYBE teams would be willing to all chip in $10 to help develop this for public use? Regardless, I plan to pursue this project, so response without financial interest is also eagerly sought.


You're absolutely right on this. I don't think you'll get there by having people chip in $10, though. Given my own experience developing this kind of thing (source: Tournament Director), I'd peg the market rate development cost of an "idealized" QB suite at around $50,000, and there's just not that much money in quizbowl.

I'd love to have additional contributions to Tournament Director, if you're interested; at the least, it could give you a good starting point.
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Re: Idealized QB software - what would it look like?

Postby alexdz » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:16 pm

I'm not a computer person, but I'll say that I've always thought quizbowl needed something in the vein of theHy-Tek family of products that is common in the world of track & field. I've used both the Team Manager and Meet Manager software, and while it's a bit clunky sometimes, it does everything you need to plan, run and stat-ify a track meet as well as import/export results and manage intrateam stats.

I don't know if there's any inspiration to be drawn from this observation.
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