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Where to from here?

March 21, 2016

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.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2016 2:36 am

    Hi Bill,

    I’m sorry your Tararasch program hasn’t generated the comments and accolades it deserves, but one thing to remember is that very few users take the time to thank a program developer, much less send helpful comments and suggestions. However, it doesn’t mean that the program is not used and appreciated.

    I write this advice from experience. I developed an open source backup program for Linux (snap2), and after many years and estimated thousands of users, I have only received a tiny handful of emails thanking me. I NEVER received any feedback on the backup-to-remote-server functionality (which I asked for).

    In sum, I advise to not be discouraged by what seems to be little attention and feedback generated by your program. I think it IS being used and is appreciated. The database functionality is a great idea, as you already know. As you wrote, at any time it could “go viral” and get a lot more attention.

    As to your blog, I have always enjoyed it. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts on Tarrasch, and thanks for sharing Tarrasch with the world.

    Best regards,
    Lloyd

    • March 21, 2016 5:17 am

      Thanks Lloyd, I appreciate your thoughts and your support over the years. Incidentally, the worst problem I had when I tried a Linux port a few months back was extreme slowness of sqlite indexing. My recent breakthrough improvements came from deprecating the approach of indexing all the database positions with sqlite (main problem: massive database files) and so the Linux port will go easier when I return to it.

  2. David Beagan permalink
    March 23, 2016 3:34 am

    Bill, the database feature is amazing. It will be awhile before I take in all the new features.

    Perhaps, people are happy and satisfied and feel no need to comment.

    I have read with interest your postings about the development process.

    I have some additional thoughts on features that I plan to submit for your consideration.

  3. cormac permalink
    March 25, 2016 11:24 pm

    unfortunately, Lloyd is correct … very very few people ever say thank you on the internet … but I always try and so thank you for my favorite comp chess program … with free ones like this, why buy one? I love it …

    one suggestion I might have would be to include the number/letter coordinates but I love the new DB you recently included … very very nice🙂

    thanks again

  4. Hacene permalink
    March 26, 2016 8:33 am

    Hi Bill,

    I am just a chess learner trying to understand this wonderful game. I heard of your program from taking my 2 young children to a primary school tournament from one of the parents.
    After searching for it on the net and downloading your programme, I was amazed how good it was! very small and speedy (even for my poor ancient Atom based laptop).
    I barely scatched what it can do, but I can see the love and care that is being put in this. I am extremely appreciative of your time and kindness to all by distributing this wonderful programme!
    Once I discovered you had a blog as well, which is very well written and informative.I really enjoyed reading about your thinking and plans.
    I could not believe it when I saw you were doing a Linux port as well! I rescue lot of older PC’s and invariably tend to prefer installing Linux on them due to the lower resources required.
    If you could release a version of Tarrasch or TarraschDB for Linux, I am sure it would be noticed in the niche Linux community🙂
    Please do not take the quietness of responses as a lack of interest, it is mostly because it works so well. As you know if it works well, the vast majority of people tend to use it quietly because it just works😉
    Please do not think you work is not appreciated! It is! and keep up to good work!.
    Thank you!

    Hacene.

  5. March 28, 2016 1:38 am

    Thanks to all commenters above with your supportive and encouraging comments. I’d like to make it clear that I wasn’t actively trying to write a “woe is me” diatribe in an attempt to garner sympathy. As much as anything I was thinking out loud, wondering what to do next, and ruminating on changes in the software ecosystem – (Windows trending down – Mobile trending up) and how they affect Tarrasch and interest in Tarrasch.

    • cormac permalink
      March 29, 2016 4:43 am

      triplehappy

      if you need to feel free to write a ‘woe is me’ message whenever you feel you’re in an avalanche of computer code … even after all these years of hunting for and using and thanking those who create free chess programs I can’t believe there are people who do all this … I mean the intensity of the work and then handing it out to folks is just such a benevolent action I am awed …

      and yours is the best I’ve found thru the twenty years or so I’ve been putzing around the corners of the internet for such programs …I always look forward to seeing an email update from you pop up in my inbox to see what wonderful things you are up to of late🙂 keep up the great work and as always, thanks so much

  6. April 5, 2016 1:33 pm

    Dear TH
    I am also guilty of not replying to your countless emails and the reason was not so much as my lack of time as it is with the gist of your mails that conveyed the impression of a monologue. I enjoyed your messages and look forward to reading them. Of course I skip the very-technical parts but I do read your emails fully.

    And whenever you released a new version I did download them but did not use them far often as I should have as I have a weak memory.

    Coming to some suggestions I have always wanted to see various board designs like wooden textured boards and I hope it can be implemented whenever you have time.

    So here is looking forward to your consistent pleasure with your pet project. Be assured you have a decent fan following who do read your emails.

  7. Jose Miguel permalink
    April 8, 2016 4:41 am

    Dear Mr. Bill Forster

    Idont speak english. But, We (all us) love Tarrash.

    Please, dont stop.

    Be Happy

    ZeMiguel

  8. April 8, 2016 6:51 pm

    Hi TripleHappy, this is a wonderful chess program, helps to analyze my games. I am really excited about the V3. Please enable the portable version for V3 as I dnt have admin rights in my system. Once again thanks a lot!!

    • April 17, 2016 12:21 am

      Sorry for this slow reply. I had hoped to put a portable version of V3 preview up by now, but I am going to have to ask you to be patient for a few more weeks. I want to get the download size down dramatically first and I am almost there but not quite….

      • May 22, 2016 10:44 am

        Thanks for the response. I didnt expect that I will get a response. shocked to see. Wonderful support. Keep it up.

    • July 13, 2016 12:14 am

      Just doing a little blog maintenance. The Tarrasch V3 Beta is now released and it does include a portable .zip version. Just in case you get notified of replies. Sorry it took so long.

  9. April 22, 2016 2:30 pm

    Thank you! First and foremost, that is what I wanted to say!
    I just bought a new computer, and one of the first things I do is set up Tarrasch. I love the kibitzer, with the support for various engines. I use this program every day. I have not even tapped the database features-I hardly noticed them,-until I read your blog! See-somebody read this! I intend to give the database features a workout now; a good, user-friendly database seems like one of the key things I need for the next stage of my chess career. Anyway, Tarrasch has been a tremendous help already. Thanks again!

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