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Now that teched has come and gone, I thought I would use this opportunity to do a little post-mortem on The Krewe app. It is one thing to test the app at home. It is a completely different animal to see how it responds in the environment TechEd creates.

At a future time, I will list all the things that I would like to change with the app. At this point, I will find some good way to get community feedback.

I want to break all this down screen by screen. We'll start with the screen I got right. The first of these is the events calendar. This is the one screen that, to you guys, just worked. However, there was an issue here. When I wrote v1 for last year, I was lazy and placed everything in CST. This caused problems with the achievements, which I will explain later. Furthermore, the event locations were not check-in locations. This created another problem with the achievements.

Next, we get to the Twitter page. For what this page does, it works great. For those that don't know, I have an Azure Worker Role that polls Twitter pretty close to the rate limit. I cache these results in my database, and serve them upon request. This gives me great control over the content. I just have to remember to flush past tweets after a period, to save database growth.

The next screen is the check-in screen. This screen has been the bane of my existence since I first created the thing. Last year, I used a background task to check people out of locations after they traveled. This year, I removed the background task in favor of a foursquare model. You are checked out after 3 hours or when you check-in to some other location. This seemed to work well, until those pesky achievements came into the mix. Again, more on this later.

Next, I want to address the Connect and Connections screens together. I wanted to use some of the capabilities of the phone, and NFC seemed a natural choice. From this, I came up with the gamification aspects of the app. Since we are, fundamentally, a networking organization, I wanted to encourage people to actually network. Users could make and share a profile, similar to a virtual business card.

I just had to figure out how to get people to use the feature. Why not just give someone a business card?

Thus, the achievements were born. This was such a good idea. It would have been a great idea, if I have come up with it about two months earlier...

When I came up with these ideas, I had about 2 weeks to implement them. Version 1 of the app was, basically, a pure consumption app. We provided data and centralized it. With version 2, the app became a much more interactive experience. The API was not ready for this change in such a short period of time.

Most of this became apparent when I started implementing the achievements. The achievements based on count and specific person when fairly easy. The problem came with tying them to locations and events. This took some true SQL kung fu. This also showed me the rookie mistake of putting CST, not UTC, in the database.

Once I got all of that cleaned up, I had to find a way to get the achievement system to talk to the phone. I knew I needed to be able to dynamically add achievements. I wouldn't know the precise location of some things until I got to Houston. I wanted the server to approve the achievements. This, unfortunately, required a decent data connection. Some achievements required GPS levels of location accuracy in areas of network triangulation.

All of this became a huge nightmare. My flagship feature was based on some silly assumptions. Still, I managed to get 31 people to get the first achievement (Make 1 Connection.) Quite a few of those managed to get to the higher levels.

Soon, I will post a list of the feature and changes that need to happen to the API. This includes things like proper objects for communication, geo-fencing, and caching. However, that is for another day.

Posted on Friday, May 23, 2014 2:58 PM Windows Phone , TheKrewe , TechEd | Back to top


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