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All comments by Nicolas Hammond
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Every time you see the phrase, “the contract was terminated”, (Merlin used it), this is management Kool-Aid.

Hammond Software terminated the contract in March 2014. We walked away with money on the table, but could not reasonably do work without the specs. ACBL came back in May 2014 wanting to change the termination date. We agreed. They then paid out the remaining money in the contract. The contract was now over, not terminated. At the same time, and I suspect before the original ACBL committee looked at ACBLscore, management told me that they were “terminating the contract”. Perhaps they paid the balance so they could then claim they terminated the contract. Don't know, don't care. What that meant was they were releasing me from the requirement in the contract to provide ACBL up to 10 hours of my time each month for the next 12 months. In other words, zero cost to them if they chose not to use it, but I had to provide up to 10 hours if they wanted it. I suspect that this was done in spite because ACBL wanted us to rewrite the original contract giving ACBL full rights to any software we developed for any industry that was based off ACBLscore+ underlying technology.After we said no, they paid the contract in full, then “terminated the contract”. Seemed to cut off their nose to spite their face because I had more knowledge of the ACBLscore+ code than anyone. I'd have suggested they would have kept the option open in case they had any questions about the software. Would have cost them nothing. But, I already knew by then, based on ACBL's outside counsel's opinion that ACBL management and league counsel had dug themselves a big hole with the legal aspects of the software.

Next time you see ACBL use the words, “terminated the contract”, you'll know what it really means.
Jan. 18, 2015
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I've got software that can read the various tournament financial files (FBALANCE.DAT, FINVITEM.DAT, FINVOICE.DAT, FOFS.DAT, FTINFO.DAT, FWKSHEET.DAT, TDINFO.DAT, TOURN.DAT, TOURNEV.DAT) and output them to XML or CSV so they can be read/parsed by other software.

It wouldn't be too much extra work to be able to create these files from XML (we've done it for Gamefile, structure in the *DAT files is much easier).

But this means each sponsor will have to get the original files from ACBL.

If there is interest, I can probably make it available as a web service on the Internet.
Jan. 18, 2015
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I know. I was there. It was done using Bridgepads. There was no interface with ACBLscore. At the end of each round, the TD had to manually enter the results from the
Bridgepads into ACBLscore.

Apologies for my wording - better wording would have been “fully integrate the Bridge Scoring Program (ACBLscore) with Electronic Scoring Devices (ESDs)”.

Most of the problems in Philly 2012 with the Bridgepads were TD related. A lot of the national TDs were not familiar with Bridgepads and how to setup/run a Swiss using them. This caused problems. For example running an A/X Swiss and a BCD Swiss at the same time but not configuring the software that these were separate events so teams started sitting at tables assigned to the other event. Simple configuration error caused by lack of training/experience with the software.

Currently ACBLscore has a 16 bit field with the IMP difference and a 16 bit field with the VP difference. I don't know if the ACBL plans are to replicate the data from the ESD into ACBLscore, or just to fill in those two fields. The first is a lot of work within ACBLscore, the latter much easier. Bridgescore+ has the former. See which is Bridgescore+ will all the data from the Bermuda Bowl down to the cards played.

As part of the ACBLscore+ work, we created a separate stand-alone program that ran on the Windows machine (most ESDs are Windows only) and the BSP would talk to this program, and this program interfaced with the ESD DB.It would be great if ACBL would put this piece of software into Open Source as it would allow extensions by other people. I know ACBL has an issue with Copyright, but for this piece of the code, I will be happy to waive my company's Copyright and put the code under the MIT license.

This would make it much easier to support ESDs with ACBLscore.

There is much more coming with Bridge hardware/software in the near future so having the vision to design this properly for the future is important. If we end up with all the code in ACBLscore written in Pascal, it's a wasted opportunity.
Jan. 18, 2015
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We all rely on TFRs because it is the only data we get. I haven't seen anyone that doesn't. The TDs are the ones that process the initial cash from the sale and everything is recorded into ACBLscore.

The “don't care” comment was made by someone from ACBL with several other ACBL employees in the meeting who did not speak out against what was said. The context was the amount of work the volunteers have to do to work around the current TFR system.
Jan. 17, 2015
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 18, 2015
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Somewhere in my notes from the BoG meeting in Providence, I've got a list of the items that they plan on spending $600K on. It was in the hand-out from the meeting. If someone else has them and wants to post…

I know one of the five or six items is to make it easier to create an ACBLscore game file that contains multiple brackets. With the design of Bridgescore+, this type of stuff is fairly easy. I was on a couple of flights over the New Year, so wrote the code on the plane.


This is a video (6:40 long) that shows ACBLscore creating an 8 bracket KO game file. Each bracket must have similar information re-entered.

2 minutes to create first bracket. About 30 seconds for each subsequent bracket.

I went with bracket sizes of 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9 to cover all the different cases.


This is Bridgescore+ doing the same thing. Less than a minute. Actually this is a version of Bridgescore+ where all the other code has been turned off to make it easy to use.


This is the game file from Bridgescore+ being opened in ACBLscore.


I think another of the items was to make it easier to create a bracketed Swiss game file. I've got working code for that too, I just need to clean up the UI.

The problem with ACBLscore is that all of the data has to be manually re-entered for each bracket, with the code shown above, you only need to enter the event name once, it is then copied to each bracket. Same with the event code (incremented by 1 each time).


A couple of the other $600K items were things that Bridgescore+ already does (projects for KOs etc).

I think one item was to put ACBLscore under code control; this is trivial. A few minutes at best once you pick the code control system.


About the only difficult one was to run a Swiss with Electronic Scoring Devices (ESDs) (Bridgemate/Bridgepad etc.). That's a little more challenging.
Jan. 17, 2015
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I have no idea what “confidential agreements” they are referring to. I certainly didn't sign any. Perhaps it's the board members that were on the committee that had to sign them! Perhaps Merlin can enlighten us all in his next report. Perhaps Merlin was told about non-existent “confidential agreements” by league counsel/ACBL management. Whatever the reason, I think we all need a better explanation on “confidential agreements”.

I have long stated that there have been various attempts to hide various issues with the ACBLscore+ contract/work.

What the board really needs to do is to appoint a Legal Oversight committee that would investigate the actions of Management and League Counsel and focus on the legal aspects of the ACBLscore+ contract, including the wording of “ownership” and “copyright” in the original contract, when review of the contract was done by outside counsel, when management stopped paying invoices, what ‘threats’ have been made by management/league counsel, and look at the emails between management and outside counsel towards the end of the ACBLscore+ contract regarding copyright and also the emails between ACBL management and Hammond Software regarding same. I don't know if anyone on the board has sufficient legal background; they would have to hire a different, independent, outside counsel. This would be a much quicker investigation than the Technical Committee.

Merlin was one of the board members that had full, unrestricted access to all the ACBLscore+ source code since the contract started, as well as full access to the project Wiki that had all the details on how to install/run the software. I'm surprised he waited until the contract was over before voicing his opinion.
Jan. 17, 2015
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I have a tool that can convert a game file into XML. It's been around for a couple of years. It can also take the XML and convert back to a game file.

The game file to XML part is accessible on-line, but through a password protected site. It is accessible via curl, so you can do the follow (*ix systems):

# Convert Game File to XML
curl –form "gfprint=@$1“ -O -J -u USER:PASS


where USER:PASS is replaced with the Username/Password for this site.

You can then create a simple script that can do comparisons:

# Compares two game files, outputs differences in XML between the files.
# Output is to stdout so recommended to redirect output of script to file.
# Usage:
# gfdiff gf1 gf2
# e.g.
# gfdiff JAN1.ACA JAN2.ACA > diffs

# Create XML file name for each argument

# Convert first file to XML
curl –form ”gfprint=@$1“ -u USER:PASS > $file_1_xml

# Convert second file to XML
curl –form ”gfprint=@$2" -u USER:PASS > $file_2_xml

# Compare two XML files. Output is to stdout, so may want to redirect
# output of script.
diff -b $file_1_xml $file_2_xml


Scripts are for *ix based system, but someone can easily write the *BAT versions. curl is not native on Windows, so need to download from

Using this last script, you can easily compare the binary data in two games files in a human readable format. This will be useful to see what changes when going from one ACBL version to another.

If anyone is interested in using this site to check for differences, let me know , and I'll provide you with a username and password for this site. Sorry: little/no support offered. You'll need to know a little about XML to understand the output.

I don't publicly provide the ability to go the other way (XML->Game File) at the moment, so please don't ask.

As you can imagine it's a very quick way to create lots of game files with minor configuration changes. Create a template XML file, run a script to make small changes, save output to a new XML file, convert from XML file to Game File. In combination with AutoHotKey it's a great way to automate testing of large numbers of game files in ACBLscore. Example: create game file, modify it so that it has Regional rating, Sectional rating, other ratings. Re-masterpoint using AutoHotKey. Use this same tool to convert from game file back to XML and then you can see the impact of changing the rating on the game file.

Yes… ACBL has all this code along with AutoHotKey example files. Don't know if they use it.

Code to do this was part of the ACBLscore+ contract, my company has a license to the code.

Jan. 15, 2015
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 15, 2015
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Marketing is a lot easier than said, because everyone has their personal biases on what has worked for them and thinks it will work in all places. I had a little background in marketing once…

I'll throw out some general suggestion which are at the HQ level, not the local District or Unit level.

Boy Scouts

Create a Boy Scout Merit Badge for Bridge.

There are over 130 Merit Badges including Chess, Coin Collection, Computers (being dropped), Digital Technology, Game Design (Hearts is mentioned), Photography, Stamp Collecting, Geocaching.

In order to do this, someone needs to write the guidebook (approx 100 pages), probably similar to the Chess book.

Needs someone with Bridge background, also someone who understands the age group (teenage boys), and someone with Scouting background, some teaching experience to kids this age, some writing skills, and some interest in doing this, testing it, and seeing the project through. (No, I'm not volunteering to do it, but yes I have all of the above).

Will take some work to get it done to the right standards.

Then make a presentation to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Make the presentation so simple, along with all of the work sheets already prepared, book already written, sample course work done, teaching training manual done, so that the BSA would agree. Submitting something where BSA would have to do some work isn't likely to be successful. Chess is the program to emulate. Go buy the Chess BSA book and you will see what I mean.

In order for this to work, it is something that should come from HQ, but presented to BSA AFTER the hard work has been done.

Expect the process to take 3-5 years. BSA is similar to ACBL. Lots of history, moves slowly, bureaucratic. (Not criticisms, just the way of the world for all similar organizations).

Ideally have conducted some testing with some BSA scouts so that we have a measurable throughput (i.e. amount of hours needed for scout, amount of work for scout needed to complete badge, response from test scouts that have gone through a sample program to see how much they liked/didn't like, amount of training for coaches). Offer to provide the classes for free through Unit/District participation. A typical merit badge is 2 sets of 2-3 hours, normally a week or two weeks apart. That's enough time to teach them bridge and then be able to play at a club/simple tournament. Can staff with local volunteers. Run the training so that you take class on Thursday, then next Thursday, then 1 hour game at the local Sectional on Saturday morning. Expose the kids to competition. Must be free.

Yes, lot of effort. But a structured, disciplined approach to getting this done, and be aware it may take some time and needs to be done correctly and not rushed.

Minimize up-front costs. Find volunteers to do all the ground work if possible. I realize that writing a BSA book is a lot of work, may be hard to find a volunteer to do that.

If done properly, the training material would be useful for all youth bridge. Parts would need to be tailored for BSA. Even if BSA doesn't take the badge (we should keep trying for many years, it is rare for a badge to get accepted first time), then we have material for other programs.

Then do the same for the Girl Scouts program (teens age).

The BSA is more well know, so do it first. No offense to the GS. (I have a teenage daughter in GS so aware of the programs).

Exposing this as a BSA badge means that we are leveraging another organization to do marketing for us.

Boys and Girls Club

Then, go after the Boys and Girls Clubs. Completely different audience. Different material. Completely different expectations with this group. You need to know the B&G environment to understand what is different and how Bridge might work (it won't work in all B&G clubs, it may only work in a limited number).

This is spreading the game. Don't expect many kids to become full time players.

Again, unless you have been to, or taught, in B&G clubs, or understand the typical philosophy of these clubs, you can't just tell B&G what you want, you have to find out the culture of each one.

(Yes, I've done this for other ‘sports’ so am very aware of the differing expectations in B&G clubs). Also there is a different philosophy surrounding B&G clubs in different parts of the country, so what works in CA is probably different than NY and different here in GA, even within an area the B&G all have a different ‘culture’. Offer them a free program, using local Unit/District volunteers. All a possibility. All work. All effort. All involved ACBL HQ co-ordinating with local Districts/Units.

It's a different way of working.

Using the ACBL HQ to drive programs, staffed locally with Unit/District volunteers. Possibly with some paid local coordinators.


Travel in some parts of the world, and there are full page articles in the airline's magazines on bridge. Travel in the US, and you don't see any mention in any puzzle section of any airline (at least none I've seen).

Fix it.

Get them (free) material. Different article for each airline.

Sure, huge struggle to get into the first one, and keep it there.

Use well known names (do we have any?) Ghost write a “Bill Gates on Bridge”, or “Warren Buffett on Bridge”. Ask their permission, trail them at a NABC Pairs Game, or Swiss/BAM event. Present the hands in the articles. No, don't write what happened at the table, write what should/could have happened!! Get a professional bridge writer to clean up the presentation.

Again, needs some volunteer effort, someone got to trail, someone got to write it up. But we are talking hours of volunteer time, not weeks/months.


Fly on an airline, see all the games on the video screen.
Poker. Hearts. Solitaire.
No Bridge.

Fix it.

Work with the developers, get them a free program that they can then ‘license’/'sell' to the airlines.

ACBL's mandate should be to make bridge more visible, it does not necessarily need to make money.

Perhaps this should be more of a BBO effort. ACBL has no software that does bidding/play. BBO has the software that bids/plays. Work out some licensing deal with BBO. BBO has some work to do because their application will need some work to operate within a suite of applications that are offered on an airplane flight. My guess is one company provides the suite for that airline. Find those companies, work with them. Get them the application at no cost.

Spice it up.

Take the hands from a National Pairs event (ACBL owns the data), offer them as a competition on the application. i.e you play the same hands that were played at an NABC event and see if you could have won the event! You are playing with 3 robots. You will be scored against everyone else (ACBL has the data on the scores). Now you can compare how you did to everyone else. Throw in some double dummy analysis so that you can see what you should have done. Allow the occasional replay of a trick. Now you have some serious game-playing in a captive audience. Word-of-mouth, watching others play on a plane, just like some people play chess, or play backgammon. But we have something better - real world competition with real world people - can you do better than the winners of the Platinum Pairs? (Declaring against robots, possibly). Kids love competition. Some kids love card games. Kids love comparing how they did against peers. Heck, some adults are still kids.

NABC Events

Same concept, but instead of airlines, offer the data to the Bridge playing software companies. License the data to them! “We” (ACBL) ‘own’ the NABC Pairs Data. We have hand records, we have scores from the boards. Let other people “play' the same cards. See how well they did. Let the bridge playing software companies decide how much they charge, if they offer them with Robot play, or play with your regular partner against robots, or play same hands at your local club (for fun, too easy to cheat).

Learn To Play Bridge

Put it on an app. On the phone. For free.

Don't use the L2PB web app - that is not learning to play bridge, that is learning to play a game around learning to play bridge which becomes so confusing you don't know the difference between bridge and the game about learning to play bridge. Learning to Play Bridge (web app) is all about winning stars.

And… throw in the data from the NABC events, so that after you learn, you can compete.


For the bigger regionals, package the hand records, board results so that others can play the same deals.

Same concept as NABC games, but the more data that is available for the masses to compare themselves against the ”competitive/professional" players, the better.

ACBL should offer a tool to make this easy (technically this is really easy to do).

If ACBL don't then if there is some interest it would be really easy for some of us to write a tool to take the game files from an event, hand records, and put in a format that can be used by the bridge software.

Hey… Gatlinburg/Bridge Baron/other companies, let me know if there is some interest, we can probably broker a deal to get the hand records/scores in a format that can be easily transferred from a tournament to Bridge Playing Software. This stuff is all digital; it's trivial to convert from one format to another.


So… there's my suggestions. Instead of reading constant criticisms of what ACBL is doing, trying to come up with some ideas/suggestions on how the world of bridge can be improved by making effective use of ACBL resources, abilities, and local volunteers.

Hopefully these suggestions may be useful to someone…
Jan. 14, 2015
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I did say you mentioned his name - Adam - although you were referring originally to another one!

Adam was extremely articulate, but at the same time pointing out that he was an exception, but also pointing out that nearly everyone in the room was the exception!

I don't think you can ask kids in advance what they want, without them know what the event might be like. Got to start somewhere.

The original event appeared to be more set up for ‘us’ to find out what ‘they’ wanted. ‘They’ couldn't figure out why ‘we’ were asking - after all ‘they’ were there. ‘They’ just wanted to have fun. ‘We’ are supposed to have the answers, after all we were all kids once.

ACBL still does something similar. Big shout-out for Bill Gates who makes an effort to show up at these (kid-only) events. He knows that his presence is a big deal for the kids and makes a life-long impression on them (and their parents). He doesn't have to do it, and is very patient with all the photographs and questions. Who else can go back to school and say they met Bill Gates over the summer break?

Also, the younger professionals/well known players (say, those under 26) also have an impact on these events when they talk about the travel, the countries visited. Not all kids will have the opportunity to emulate what they have done, but sharing the stories, showing pictures has a positive impact. Instead of asking them the day before the event, someone should ask them a couple of weeks before so they can do a better ‘presentation’. Kids relate to those closer in age. Some are better than others at the presentation aspect. Perhaps get them to show up with USBF attire, etc.
Jan. 14, 2015
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Peg, I was at the same meeting. (I think I had some of my kids there so I had an interest).

There were more ACBL members/volunteers/staff than there were juniors. There would be 2-3 juniors at a table and 6-7 “old” people at the same table trying to find out why they young ones were they. “We” (the older crowd) out-numbered the junior crowd and so the junior crowd was less interested in attending similar events. They just want to hang out with the peer group which they can only usually at the YNABC or Midnights.

A Junior social, with none (or very few) of us “old people” would be much more fun for them.

There was one very articulate young gentleman (Peg - you mentioned his name) who eloquently described the various issues at the meeting. Getting kids through the door to start with is the biggest hurdle. This is a local issue. By the time they are playing at NABCs, we already have them “hooked”. Finding out why kids drop out, or lose interest, is more important than talking to those that stayed. So the research they were conducting was probably lost because each kid had an individual story, there was rarely a common thread that could be duplicated.

As with all these issues, metrics is very important. Otherwise everyone is guessing and what works in one area is very different than other areas. What I have seen is that it is the local initiative, effort and volunteers that make all the difference. So if you look at the successful programs there is nearly always a tireless, usually well-known, volunteer that has made it all possible. Finding those volunteers, and getting them enthused to start, and then maintain, and then recruit their replacement is the difficult part for ACBL whether it is the full time staff, or the volunteers at the District or Unit level.

Metrics are important. First step is to define what metrics we are looking for, then how we would use them, then collect them. All are difficult.
Jan. 14, 2015
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I will surmise that this motion was for a specific recent BoD member (you can do the research and the position).

The previous rule was 12 months. That has been dropped.

I know that for ACBLscore+ that there were some BoD members interested in volunteering but it was made quite clear to all (by ACBL) that any work would be as a volunteer, and unpaid. My company could not hire (i.e. pay) any BoD members, even if they were technical qualified and the best for the job. In the end, we did not use any BoD members for the work, though the code was available to some for input if volunteered.

The non-favoritism rule is fairly typical for non-profit boards (where the Board has a supervisory role of Management). There is an obvious conflict-of-interest in having Board members also be employees/contractors or potential employees/contractors.

The general rule appears to have been changed for a specific situation; this change can only benefit future board members. Although one could argue the benefits for this specific instance, the general principle of board members being unable to financially or personally benefit from any current or future situations without a 12 month waiting period is sound. I would expect, and hope, that the board would re-implement the existing policy in 12 months time, or at least re-word it so that the intent is 12 months, but that the board can vote to overrule on a specific instance basis, similar to the Section 8 wording for current board members. The latter wording would have been much better this time around.

At the same time that the Board voted to water down working for ACBL after being on the Board, the Board also voted on changes to Section 8 (see minutes) which restricted what Board Members could do while they were on the board. This is all reasonable stuff. This passed unanimously. 8.1 (2) and 8.3 wording is strange - it seemed to be specifically worded for Jay Whipple and Fast Results/Common Game (his name is well known for those two activities so I will mention it), there's also some other board members that do work with results (less well know so I won't mention names) who may be affected - they probably didn't realize that they could be affected. This may cause problems down the road. 8.3 is broad enough that ACBL could shut down Jay's Fast Results (as ACBL offers same), and Common Game (if ACBL offers same) and also affect those board members that offers better results (as ACBL also offers results). Let's hope that management/board applies common sense and doesn't apply this to existing programs; we can only surmise what may happen to future programs that are offered by board members. There are other programs that have been developed by board members that are limited in scope (i.e. unknown to most of you) that are also potentially affected. Again, let's hope common sense prevails.

5.8.6 and 8.1.3 does not work because ACBL does not (at least did not, I recommend changes some time ago) identify what is, and is not, confidential on documents/discussion. Without an explicit information classification system (it can be very basic), a BoD member may not know what is confidential and what is not. This caused huge problems with the ACBLscore+ project with at least two BoD members mishandling information that should be confidential to great detriment and cost to the project.
Jan. 14, 2015
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This discussion topic can get very complicated, very quickly. You really needed an experienced lawyer to be able to describe all the different legal situations. IANAL. Through previous work, I'm a little familiar with the policy issues, but I am not an expert.

If the data crosses through a country, as it would for transmission to a military base, then it could be covered. It's complicated.

The old policy was broken. There were issues.

Not only do you have to worry about transmission of data, there is also the issue that the ACBL member database contains PII about EU citizens, irrespective of borders the data may cross.
Jan. 11, 2015
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Tech Files->MP Book for ACBLscore 7.90 is dated Rev 3/2010.

It describes the Masterpoint Calculations (but not assignment or eligibility).

Both versions seems to be out of date.

It doesn't make sense to re-write large parts of ACBLscore just for the sake of re-writing them.

The discrepancy between MPBook and implementation are usually small enough that most people won't notice or care. It is only if you try and implement new code from it that you will see the differences.

The formulae, particularly the implementation for large bracketed KOs, where there are middle brackets that don't have 16 teams, does have an interesting impact. Only really applies in Gatlinburg.

Jan. 11, 2015
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 11, 2015
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For example, at the Atlanta NABC, there were rooms that had no WiFi or cell phone service. They were too far underground.

Going forward, ACBL TDs were going to be equipped with Internet tethered phones.

There is a fine line between the current technology in use, and, for example, the technology that WBF uses. We have to be mindful of the price of our tournaments (and clubs) and the technology ability of the TDs. Asking a TD to set up a WiFi hotspot, tethered to a hotel Internet connection may be trivial to a techie, but is complicated to a non-techie to trouble shoot.

We started to see some of that change in Phoenix where ACBL had much more of an IT presence.

Tournaments will start to make more use of technology. It is inevitable. WiFi is part of it.

The thread started out with Masterpoint discussion. Ultimately we need Ping's suggestion - upload game file and recheck. That was the ACBLscore+ design. Locally display the expected masterpoints but verify on the main server before adding to main DB.
Jan. 11, 2015
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As you can probably tell, I have some opinions on the various issues.

If the business decision was purely on technical merits, or perceived costs going forward, I would have no problem with the decision. However, I believe the decision to de-rail ACBLscore+ was made because of the copyright wording (or lack thereof) in the original ACBLscore+ and ACBL league counsel and management trying to cover this up (they were the ones that negotiated the original contract). My lawyer doesn't believe this is an issue. The problem for me is that ACBL league counsel and management tried to cover up the copyright issue. Their attempt to force the renegotiation (not paying invoices etc.) of the original contract, not providing specs etc. has caused delays with the software.

ACBL made little effort to hire programmers during the ACBLscore+ contract. They had used local recruitment agents, but could not find anyone that knew Bridge and Ruby or Ruby on Rails. I told them that they were looking for the wrong criteria. ACBL did not post any job openings in the Bulletin, which would have been the best way to find a developer to take over and maintain ACBLscore+. What they really needed for someone who had a Computer Science (CS) degree and had 2-5 years post-college experience and some knowledge of LAMP (Linux/Apache/mSQL/Perl/Python). RoR (Ruby on Rails) is nothing more than LAMP with the P (Perl/Python/PHP) being equivalent to R (Ruby). Lost everyone on the jargon, but they needed to hire a CS grad with 2-5 years post-college experience and LAMP knowledge. Given that, the new programmer could learn the rest on the job. They also probably needed to hire a similar person with 5-10 years background so they had one senior and one junior programmer. Trying to replace Jim (developer of ACBLscore) with one person is very difficult, almost impossible. A replacement has to know Bridge, movements, Swiss teams, finances, file formats, pair events, scoring, DBs, etc. etc. Irrespective of the software platform, a replacement for Jim is likely to be at least two people. ACBLscore+ was at a point where it did not need a senior architect, most of the remaining work is of the cut and paste (C&P) type, i.e. there is similar code here, just copy it, make some small changes, and integrate it.

If ACBLscore+ work is to continue, then ACBL must look at the various alternatives:

1. Hire programmers to take over the ACBLscore+ work.

To some extent ACBL have made this more difficult.

By May 2014, the ACBLscore+ contract had finished. However, per the terms of the contract, “Upon the request of the ACBL, Nicolas Hammond shall provide up to ten (10) hours per month of his personal services for twelve (12) months following the Completion Date to assist the ACBL in the implementation of ACBLscore+ at ACBL tournaments.” In other words, I had to make myself available to help ACBL with integration work.

When ACBL failed in their attempt to re-negotiate the original ACBL contract, ACBL decided that they did not need my services and “terminated” the contract. There was no cost to ACBL to keep me “on retainer”, unless they decided to use me. Either ACBL were being exceedingly nice to me (for future work I did not need to disclose my contractual requirement to ACBL), or this was done in a fit of pique. I suspect the latter. ACBL had cut off its nose to spite its face.

This decision made hiring, and training, any new employees even more expensive. I've previously written that there is a learning curve for all new hires with any software, not just ACBLscore+, and it is about 3 months.

If you only have a hammer, then every time you see a nail, you will hit it with a hammer. If you have different size nails, eventually you learn that you only need to carry one hammer, the big hammer. You hit any nail with the big hammer. It works. If someone gives you a screw, you will hit it with a hammer, because you don't know anything different. If someone gives you a screwdriver and a screw, you will probably hit the screw with the handle of the screwdriver because you only know how a nail works. If someone shows you how the screw and screwdriver will work, then you might use it, but why - the hammer is so much easier and it does everything. If someone gives you a Philips head screw, then the screwdriver doesn't work, so you hit it with the hammer, or the handle of the screwdriver. If someone gives you a Torx screw that holds a laptop screen to the case, then you will just hit the Torx screw with your big hammer because that's how things work. If someone builds a system with screws, because they know that users have a power screwdriver and it will work better/faster, but you only know about hammers, and have never seen a power screwdriver, then it is hard to see the advantage of screws.

Similarly, software developers have different tools.

Newer software is much easier to develop new code in. I see that ACBL have committed to spend $600K trying to match some of the features of ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+. It makes little sense. They already have the code in ACBLscore+ to start KOs, create an ACBLscore Game File etc. etc.

I'll post on a separate thread how easy it is with new tools to create some of the same functionality. Hopefully it will save the ACBL $600K.

This is one of the reasons why ACBLscore should be replaced with modern technology.

For ACBLscore+, ACBL need to find 1-2 programmers, with some LAMP knowledge, and interest in card games. RoR is easy given a LAMP background.

2. Rent.

I've worked on Bridgescore+ since the end of the ACBLscore+ contract. I've made some enhancements to improving the code, particularly for running events at tournaments and tournament management.

I've made this available for free to Districts (see my previous post for my motivation) and will do so while my marginal cost is close to $0.

After that, one option might be that I just rent its usage (I put it on the Internet) to ACBL for use at its tournaments.

3. Interim usage.

ACBL have written off all of ACBLscore+, however this is an accounting issue, not a technical one. ACBL still have the code.

Are there parts of ACBLscore+ that can be used?

Throwing it all away makes no sense. For example, there is code that helps start a KO, then can create an ACBLscore game file. Why spend $600K re-creating this software when you already have it?
Jan. 11, 2015
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Irrespective of which committee, the items which I expect most people to be interested are the main business questions going forward. Sure, everyone may want a scapegoat for what happened, but not likely to get one.

The main business questions are:

What is the expected cost of ‘finishing’ ACBLscore+ so it can be released? I've addressed some of this at

What is the expected cost of enhancing ACBLscore to match the features of ACBLscore+?
ACBLscore+ has some features not in ACBLscore that ACBL are now trying to match.

What is the expected cost of maintaining ACBLscore+?
This is a difficult question because it involves time/money/resources. ACBL have little knowledge of the power of ACBLscore+.

How does this compare to the code of maintaining ACBLscore?
Again difficult question. How hard is it going to be to replace Jim. How many people are needed to replace him. Can they maintain his code?

What is the expected cost of improving being made to ACBLscore+ (e.g. Bridgemates in Swiss events) against the cost of improvements being made to ACBLscore?

What does the future look like with ACBLscore?

What does the future look like with ACBLscore+?

What is the training time for a new TD (does not know ACBLscore or ACBLscore+) to learn a new system?

Will ACBLscore+ save ACBL any money (automates repetitive tasks)?

Does ACBLscore+ improve the player experience?

Can any parts of ACBLscore+ be used?
Jan. 11, 2015
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The Board of Directors (BOD) committee is different.

The first thing I would do is to get the names of the BOD Technology Committee, then add them to the CEO Technology Committee. It would halve the amount of work the BOD Technology Committee would need to do and save the members who are on both committees from going over the same information twice with different groups.

I'd expect that BOD Committee to have a much wider purview, and also not be restricted in the information that they see. For items I listed in the last post on the CEO committee that may get provided to “independent” members, these should all be provided to the BOD committee.

The BOD needs to know what the problems were, how they were caused, what is being done to make sure similar problems do not occur in the future. They also need to review the decision to drop ACBLscore+ and the reasons behind it.

Here's the set of questions I'd be asking if I were on the BOD committee:

1. Did ACBL use outside counsel when creating the original ACBLscore+ contract?
If so, can we see the outside counsel's comments on the ownership/copyright issue.

2. Did ACBL use an outside counsel to review ACBL's various technology contracts after the ACBLscore+ contract was signed?
If so, what was the outside counsel's comments on ownership/copyright?
I'd want to see the original emails from outside counsel to ACBL.

3. When did this review occur?

4. Were the contents of this review reported to the board?

5. Did outside counsel recommend any changes to the original ACBLscore+ contract?

6. Did outside counsel recommend that if changes could not be made to the original ACBLscore+ contract that ACBL might face issues with using ACBLscore+?

7. When was this reported to the board?

8. Did ACBL make it a requirement to the contractor for any future work on ACBLscore+ to be contingent on renegotiating the original ACBLscore+ contract?

9. When did ACBL stop paying the ACBLscore+ outside contractor's monthly invoices?

10. How long did this go on for?

11. Why did ACBL stop making payments? Was the outside contractor told why?

12. What was the impact on the ACBLscore+ contract of not paying invoices?
(ACBL won't be able to answer this one properly - it was major).

13. Did ACBL management report to the board that ACBL had stopped making payments? Did ACBL management give the reasons why?

14. Did ACBL "provide the necessary information for to perform the work“?
(Wording is from the contract).

15. What were the list of specs/other items that ACBL failed to deliver?

16. What was the duration of each delay in providing the specs? What was the cause of each delay? What was the impact of each delay? Why were there delays?

17. At any point during the contract, did ACBL deny access to ACBL employees for Contractor to perform the work?

If I were answering this one for the board, I'd check with all the managers on the ACBLscore+ project, then I'd double check with them to make sure that they were giving me the right answer. Then I'd check for a third time. Then I'd check with the employees.

18. Did ACBL management report the problems from the two March 2013 incidents to the ACBL Board at the July 2013 Board Meeting?

19. What was the impact on the ACBLscore+ project from the March 2013 incidents?
(Not expecting ACBL to be able to answer that one, the impact was substantial).

20. ACBL were supposed to provide 1.5 staff for the ACBLscore+ contract. Who were those people? What work did they do? There should be 3 man years of work, where is it?

Now the important questions:

1. The ACBL counsel that negotiated the original ACBLscore+ contract and subsequent outside counsel have differing views on the importance of the Copyright issue. How does ACBL resolve these differences?

Until this is done, ACBL are not going to do anything with ACBLscore+.

2. To what extent was the ”technical" decision to drop ACBLscore+ based on outside counsel comments on copyright?
Jan. 11, 2015
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I haven't seen a remit for the two Technology committees, but let's assume that they are supposed to look at what happened, what is happening, and what should happen. The past, present, and future.

This thread was on ACBLscore+, not the other ACBL Technology programs, so I will focus on it. We will start with the past and focus on the CEO Technology Committee.

We already knew the outcome of the CEO Technology Committee. 6 of the 10 members were on the committee that decided to drop ACBLscore+.

For the new “independent” members of this committee, it is unclear what information they will be given.

I suspect that the committee will attempt to justify the “technical” decision last year to drop ACBLscore+ so if I were on the committee, I'd want to see the following:

1. ACBLscore+ running on Windows.

I've posted statements on BW about the difference between running in production mode and developer mode. Logging is also an issue that can slow a system down. I'd want to see ACBLscore+ running in production mode, with developer logging turned off. I'd want to see it on Windows XP and Windows 7, the two most common platforms for ACBLscore+. I'd want it configured with the full ACBL member database (310K members). Basically testing a real world platform.

Other than TDs, few people know the full extent of ACBLscore. So I'd want some idea of what I should be testing. I'd want to know what new features/capabilities are in ACBLscore+ so that I can compare.

You've heard me post about the missing specs from ACBL, so I'd want to know what's working, what's not. I'll ignore the reasons why something isn't working for the moment; I just want to know what to expect from all the different components that make up ACBLscore+.

This information is in the various status reports and the project Wiki and some Exhibits.

The project Wiki gives information on how to set this up.

I want to see how it runs in a real world environment. I'd probably want to take it to my local club and a tournament to see how it compares. I might need a TD to help with the tournament financials.

It would help if ACBL can pre-load tournament and club data (easy to do, details on Wiki).

2. ACBLscore+ running on a Mac.

This was an initial requirement, so I'd want to see that ACBLscore+ runs on Windows XP, Windows 7 and Mac.

ACBL have all the code for Windows 7, XP, and Mac (and Linux). The Wiki gives all setup details.

3. Testing

ACBLscore+ comes with built-in testing, so I'd want to see how this works. Easiest example is to take all the game files from a regional, import them to ACBLscore+, re-score, re-rank, re-masterpoint and see the differences between the output of ACBLscore and ACBLscore+. The test code is in ./lib/tasks/admin/test_gfs.rake and the sample game files are in ./examples/gf/regionals.

The ability to have an automated test suite is one of the advantages of ACBLscore+.

We've just seen a recent example of what happens without an automated testing ability.

4. Source code

It is unclear if ACBL will give access to the Committee to the ACBLscore+ source code. If I were asking to evaluate the software, I'd want to see it. I would want to get some idea of the style of the code, how easy it would be to “finish” the code. The majority of the code is Ruby/Ruby on Rails; the masterpoint code is in C. There's about 200K lines of code so a lot to look at. There's other code in C. A quick look at source code can typically give a good consultant an idea of the quality of coding/comments and the expected cost of new code.

For comparison, I'd like to look at the source code for ACBLscore.

The ultimate business decision that is going to be made is it better to continue with ACBLscore or should we work on ACBLscore+.

Knowing the state of both code bases, the practicalities of working with each solution, the ability to hire new staff to work with the code, are crucial for the decision making process.

5. Utilities

ACBLscore+ is not just a single program; it is a collection of different programs. One tool - gfprint - can read game files, output data in XML, then read that XML and create a game file. This tool is very useful for a variety of applications, including fast results, automated testing etc. I'd want to spend some time learning this tool, how it could be used.

6. Design

Source code is one thing; I'd like to understand the design of the underlying system and how it compares to current. This is going to take a little time to research.

If you get this opportunity, start with ./db/schema.rb and the files in ./db/migrate. This will quickly give you an idea of the underlying data structures.

Understanding the design of the software is important, because it comes back to the business decision of what is the best way forward.

Rails can create a flowchart. See ./notes/documentation on how to create documentation.

I'd want to see the erd.pdf, and the source code documentation.

7. IDE

What Integrated Development Environments (IDE) are there for working with RoR?

My experience with ACBL is that there is very little (none?) internal use of modern tools, modern IDEs that can make developing and maintaining code orders of magnitude better and faster than a terminal and basic word editor.

The above is what the CEO committee is likely to focus on.

The bigger question, which everyone probably wants an independent answer to, is what happened to cause ACBL to drop ACBLscore+. I doubt that the CEO Technology Committee will be given the information needed to answer this one correctly.

If the committee is tasked with finding out what went wrong with the ACBLscore+ project, then as an independent person on that committee I'd expect the following:

1. Access to the Monthly Status Reports (MSRs)

They are dull. There are 24 of them. Nothing very interesting in them, normal type status reports for a project of this size. But, you've probably got to read them, or parts of them. No reason not to release these to whoever wants them, except for the last 3-4 reports. These did not have the wide audience of the first 20 or so and were more specific.

2. Access to the Executive Status Reports (ESRs)

There were some months where I provided both a Monthly Status Report, but also an Executive Status Report which went only to ACBL Management.

I've seen prior discussion on if the Technology Committee should be confidential. Absolutely. These Executive Status Reports mention individuals by name.

I am sure that Robert (Hartman, ACBL CEO) will do his best to protect ACBL employees. I would support him in that regard. A long time ago, we both decided that “name and shame” is not going to be helpful to anyone. It was clear some time ago to both of us that there were some serious shortfalls with some ACBL staff. Robert has admitted short-comings with ACBL, and, to his credit, has taken personal responsibility for these problems to protect his staff. Robert did this both at the March 2014 ACBL Board Meeting, and also at the Phoenix ACBL Board of Governors Meeting. One of the things that everyone must agree on, is what is the purpose of the Committee. Name and shame should not be its purpose.

Releasing these Executive Status Reports, which I intended to be confidential, to outsiders is something that should be taken with great care. But, this is an ACBL issue.

The Executive Status Reports list the various problems that were occurring in more detail.

3. Private letters.

There were some private letters that I sent to Robert.

These would be even more confidential than the ESRs.

The first letter was regarding two separate (ACBL-caused) incidents in March 2013 that had serious consequences for the ACBLscore+ work. That letter doesn't mention names, but one can be deduced from the context of the problem.

I would expect Robert to have reported these incidents to the ACBL board at its next meeting in July 2013, probably without names. I assume the ACBL board are aware; releasing the issue/names to a wider public won't help though I'm sure everyone is now curious.

There were other letters, one in January 2014 comes to mind. I expect Robert to have informed the Board; but releasing them to the CEO Technology Committee is probably unlikely.

4. Emails

There are obviously a large number of emails back/forth. There is going to be little interesting in them. Most of the relevant or important emails ended up on the Wiki.

5. Wiki

We set up an on-line Wiki for the ACBLscore+ project. This was the main tracking mechanism for the project. After the contract was over, we took it down. A copy of all data was delivered to ACBL on DVD at the end of the contract. It should be trivial to set up the Wiki. This Wiki would be very useful to the Technology Committee to review as it will greatly simplify their work.

I've referred to missing specs, and other issues.

If I were an independent person on the committee, I'd like to see what they are, what the scope of the problems were.

On the Wiki, go to the top level items marked “ACBL Integration”, “ACBL Decisions”, “Board Decisions”. These track the various issues, along with dates.

The Wiki was open to all developers, and ACBL, there is little/nothing overly confidential on it.

6. Internal status reports

This was the most high profile project within ACBL.

I will assume that there were internal status reports generated on the work that ACBL was supposed to do as part of the ACBLscore+ work. I'd like to see them.

7. Talk to TDs.

ACBLscore+, or at least parts of it, have been used at different tournaments in the past 2 years. I'd want to talk to the TDs at those tournaments to get their feedback. Nothing can be better than unbiased comments from real world usage.

I've probably done more tournaments in D7 than elsewhere so I'd want to talk to the D7 TDs and also the TCs for D7 tournaments that have run ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+.

I'd also want to talk to the DICs. There's probably 4-5 of them. Ask what they think of ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+ when it has been used.

8. Did contractor do his job?

I'd like to see the original scope of work. It's in the contract but ACBL may not want to release. They can redact confidential items from the contract and provide a copy. Exhibits A, B, C, F, G can be provided. (D is financial, E is the copyright/ownership). Exhibits B and G are the main Exhibits because they lists the phases. Nothing particularly confidential in them, so copies of B and G at a minimum.

The work for ACBLscore+ was stored on the Internet using Github. ACBL should have been downloading a copy at least one a week, but certainly once a month, as part of due diligence to make sure that they always had a copy. (I never cut off access to ACBL to this site, even when they were not paying their bills). I'd want to see a copy of each week's code download to make sure the contractor was delivering.

Given the make-up of the committee, the expected report on ACBLscore+ can be summed up:

1. We (ACBL) made mistakes. We acknowledge them, we are working hard to rectify them and make sure that they don't happen again.
Jan. 11, 2015
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I've received the threat. ACBL league counsel can verify. My lawyer reviewed it, did not seem to be anything for me to worry about. I assume that it was reported to the BOD in Providence. Not going to post here.
Jan. 11, 2015
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A learning curve was expected.

Better way of looking at it:

A new CD, who knows nothing about ACBLscore or ACBLscore+, which is quicker for them to learn?

The original UI has evolved from 30 years ago as new features were added and new functionality put in. I doubt you would design the current UI given today's tools.
Jan. 11, 2015

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