Where to from here?
Just at the moment the project is not bringing me much joy. Am I wasting my time? There is a part of me that considers the preview version of T3 I put up a week or so ago to be a triumph. The new database features work like a charm, enabling anyone with a Windows PC to navigate their way through a million games of modern master chess effortlessly.
There is another part of me that thinks that it’s a complete failure because no one cares except me.
One thing is for sure, I can happily write whatever I want here because no one reads this blog any more. When I was at a similar stage with Tarrasch V2 a few years back I only made available preview/test versions of the program to people who specifically asked. From memory something like fifty people took the time to request a copy of the program. A huge proportion of them offered valuable feedback. This time through there are essentially no emails and no blog comments.
What’s changed? It’s hard to know precisely. Clearly Windows is not the man it used to be. The new hotness is mobile, mobile, mobile and web (as long as it’s accessed by mobile). Tarrasch has nothing much to say in those domains. Maybe one day I’ll write some mobile/web chess software, but I think the decent thing to do is to at least finish Tarrasch first.
Perhaps I have gone down the wrong track by focusing on database features? Nobody asked for them. The number one request I get by far is for resizable graphics and (especially) algebraic board co-ordinates. These features are annoyingly tricky to implement for a non graphics specialist like me, but even so I am sure I could have solved these issues with 10% of the effort I’ve put into database functionality. However I am a big believer that effective product design involves a lot more than giving people what they ask for. Henry Ford was right, if he’d asked people what they wanted, it would definitely have been faster horses.
The strange thing is, although I don’t hear much from my audience these days, people are stopping by my website to download the program. Believe it or not, Tarrasch V2 has been downloaded well north of 140,000 times from my website alone (it’s offered elsewhere too – although not in any high profile way). Even if only 1% of them end up using it, that’s still a reasonable boutique audience. By making the Tarrasch V3 demo very prominent on the website, it has attracted well over a thousand downloads in its short life. It’s rather hard to understand where the downloaders are coming from. There’s a smattering of mentions around the web, but most visitors seem to be googling Tarrasch. Word of mouth maybe?
I’ve just been thinking out loud with this blog post. And even as I’ve written it my thinking has clarified. Where to from here? It’s obvious. I need to test and polish, resist the temptation to develop new functionality (well maybe smaller download size and memory footprint is too good to pass up) and release essentially what I have now, but rock-solid and ready for prime time. Other things I worry about (Mac and Linux versions – more developer friendly Github organisation [one of my holy grail aims has been attracting other developers to help]) can wait.
The Tarrasch V3 functionality I’ve created is impressive. It would be a tragedy if people started to notice and Tarrasch ‘went viral’ before it’s ready. I need to get it ready.