Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Next Big Update Has Arrived!

T-Bone and Tic Tac of Happy Hyper Hikers

Nearly a year in the making, it's finally arrived! I'm not going to list every tiny thing that this update includes, but rather just a broad overview.

Before I start, however, just a reminder: If there's a page that looks a bit wonky, try clicking Ctrl-F5 (or equivalent) to refresh the page and see if that fixes it. There are changes to the CSS and if your browser is using a cached page, it might not look quite right.

The biggest part of the update are event listings. I've pretty much completely rewrote the entire event sub-section. I scoured the message boards and my archived mail looking back over a decade's worth of comments and suggestions dealing with event listings and incorporating as many of them into the update as possible.

Some of the most noticeable improvements with regards to events include:

  • Attendees can now list multiple items for the potluck--so if you're bringing multiple items, you can list them all in the proper categories.
  • Event admins can now request specific potluck items.
  • Attendees who live near an event can list if they have space available to host out-of-area attendees, or those who rent a hotel room or campsite can request "roommates" to help split the costs.
  • Timezones are better tracked, so virtual events should list the start and end times for your local time zones automatically. *knock on wood*
  • Each event can now be posted to, so if you have a question or comment about the event, you can post it directly to the event page.
  • Waitlists have been greatly improved. Once an event is full and people start adding themselves to the waitlist, event organizers can manually promote waitlisted members to a signup status (or demote them if necessary). In fact, you can create an event with just yourself as the only signup and a limit of 1, then everyone who signs up is automatically waitlisted. Which can be useful for events that cost a fee. As fees are paid, you can promote the waitlisted member into a signup. So it is possible to have more people signed up for an event than there is "space" for. Also, once a waitlist is created, people won't automatically be moved into the signup position if space becomes available. Event organizers decide who and when people are moved between the signup list and waitlist.
  • You can signup (or waitlist) sub-accounts at the same time as yourself.
  • There are now options to "watch" and "ignore" events.
  • All types of boxes can now be listed as "boxes at an event" (not to be confused with "event boxes" which is a specific type of box). So event organizers, for instance, can specifically list each traditional box planted at the park--even those that were never planted specifically for the event. Personal travelers, hitchhikers, etc. Anything you bring to the event can be listed as a "box at the event" to make it easier for people to record the finds later.
  • You can add events to your calendars. (Google and Apple calendar types, at least.)

I think that covers most of the changes regarding events. There's a lot of stuff that changed there, however, and this is certainly not a completely list. 

There's another feature somewhat related to events which involves the massive number of notifications people receive for large events. A hundred people finding a hundred boxes and leaving a comment on every one of them would generate ten thousand AQ mail messages. So event and box notifications now are collected for a period of time. Notifications of finds and attempts on boxes, for instance, now go into a waiting queue and everybody who found a specific box/series will have their reports merged into a single AQ mail message. So if you have 100 plants at an event and 100 people recording finding each of them, you'll no longer get 10,000 AQ mail messages--you'll only get 100 at most. (The number of boxes planted rather than the number of boxes planted multiplied by the number of finders.)

Similarly, the same thing happens with event notifications. Signups, dropoffs, new posts, potluck item changes, etc.... All of the notifications for a specific event will be merged periodically into a single message instead of dozens (or hundreds) of them.

The primary reason for this change is to make one's AQ mail more manageable, but it also helps ease the database load on AQ as well. The downside, however, is that you will no longer get immediate notifications whenever someone records a find or attempt or there's an update to an event. There's a time delay. The default delay is 12 hours, so if someone records a find on your box at 9:00am, AQ will wait until 9:00pm, check all of the pending notifications to you about that box that have occurred between 9:00am and 9:00pm and send them all as one AQ mail.

Premium members can shorten this frequency to as little as 5 minutes--still not immediate, but relatively close to it. If you have a lot of boxes or have planted for a large event with hundreds of people, you can increase the length to as long as a month, if I remember correctly. For those hosting large events, it might be worth lengthening the time to reduce the number of AQ mail messages you get--at least during the height of the event--then return it to whatever value you prefer a few days after the event has ended and most people have logged their finds.

You can adjust this setting in the Email & Notification Preferences settings, in the "Notification Timings" section. I suspect many of you aren't going to like this change (I figure it'll likely be the most controversial of the changes), but for those who host especially large events, you'll find it very convenient. If you have a question about finding a box and need an immediate answer, it'll be best to contact the owner directly rather than by recording a find/attempt since direct messages won't be delayed.

Now off to a completely different sub-system....

For those who use the weather widget, you'll find it too has been completely rewritten. The only reason for this update was that the API I used was set to expire at the end of this month and it was going to stop working. I thought about retiring it completely, but eventually decided to use the National Weather Service API (which is free and doesn't have ridiculously small quotas). The downside, however, is that it only works for the United States, but since most of those who use it live in the United States, hopefully that's not a problem. =) 

Especially with regards to the event and weather sub-systems, a Ctrl-F5 to refresh the CSS might help. Your browser will eventually pick up the new CSS on its own, but forcing a refresh like that will just speed things up.

All the other changes are relatively minor things. Those are the two sub-systems that I basically rewrote from scratch. Off the top of my head, I don't really remember what else I changed, but you're bound to find some minor tweaks here and there if you look closely.

If I said anything about a tweak or change being in the "Next Big Update", this was it. It's live now.

This is an absolutely massive update, and while I have run thousands of tests, there are still likely to be a few bugs that slipped through the cracks. Please be patient as I fix those.

Thanks again for putting up with me! If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, you know where to find me. =)

Burning Feet (and Sadie)


Eidolon said...

Oh goodie, time to hunt bugs!!! LOL

Ryan said...

Hey, Eidolon! Be nice... give other people a chance to find them too. ;o)

-- Ryan

Shelly Schmidt said...

Thanks for all of your work and your time as well! Much appreciated!
My husband is a software engineer and has lots of debugging to do- I know it is a big job!

IntegriTivity said...

Great improvements, thank you! - MO UR4Me

Jenny said...

Whoot! Thank you! ~ Tricyle