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All comments by Larry Lang
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Martin,
I recommend you take a look at Revision Club – John Montgomery. You can download pdfs of the entire system.

In my opinion, unless you always play IMPs, get rid of the 1D-2H/2S devoted to showing 5-4 in majors and settle for rebidding 1NT with a singleton in responder's suit. Precision gets hinky otherwise. Use 2H/2S to better advantage – 0 to 9 weak jump shift (normally 6+ cards in suit). This allows you to play a repeat rebid by responder of 2H/2S as invitational, lowering your risk of getting too high with invitational hands. A repeat rebid of 3H/3S is game forcing, which can be helpful.

Montgomery spells out every possible sequence of 2-way MF in detail.

March 18, 2015
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Yes, it's an old joke. So am I, and apparently so are you.
March 15, 2015
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A young Programmer and his Project Manager board a train headed through the mountains on its way to Wichita. They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother. After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young programmer are interested in each other, because they are giving each other looks. Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of a kiss followed by the sound of a slap.

When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word. The grandmother is thinking to herself, “It was very brash for that young man to kiss my granddaughter, but I’m glad she slapped him.”

The Project manager is sitting there thinking, “I didn’t know the young tech was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn’t missed him when she slapped me!”

The young woman was sitting and thinking, “I’m glad the guy kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!”

The young programmer sat there with a satisfied smile on his face. He thought to himself, “Life is good. How often does a guy have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his Project manager all at the same time!”
March 15, 2015
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Nic,
I apologize for any insinuation that you were less than ethical. That's unfair by me. As I've said before, I'm in no position to judge.

However, just as an example, I believe it was not in the interest of the ACBL for you to contribute to the RFP if you expected to get the contract.

If I had been in your shoes, I might have done the same thing, but it was wrong – in my mind.

Also, I gave the example of programmers who get so far into their work they can't see their own mistakes. Another set of eyes is needed. Probably many sets of eyes.

I'm not accusing you of purposely doing wrong. I am saying more eyes were needed, and like any person with that amount of responsibility, watchful eyes are mandatory.

March 15, 2015
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Hi Nic,
I'm mostly a critic of the “project” and as you've indicated, you had limited control. I am suggesting that it really wasn't your project to manage. It was up to ACBL to get a more active person on their side. In particular, this person needed to counterbalance your views with ACBL concerns – scheduling, value earned verification, and cost/benefit analysis – project management.

I will look at the prototype, not to render an opinion, but because I am curious. My opinion won't affect the final outcome.

I don't like the wait, but first ACBL will hire a CIO, and then hopefully they'll bring in a strong project manager to look at ACBLScore requirements, and hopefully that person will take a hard look at your work and talk to Greg. And then they'll finalize any decisions. I don't like waiting that long. But that's the way it is – I guess.

Another Larry Lang story. On one project I was determined to finish ahead of schedule and under budget (I don't know if I've ever seen a project that has). And sure enough, after 5 months, things went very well and I was 1.5 months ahead and under cost. I pointed this out to management. “Look, we're ahead of schedule. How often does that happen?” The boss said, “That's great. Fred is behind, so we'll give him two of your programmers” I never got ahead of schedule again.





March 15, 2015
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How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb? None. That's a hardware problem.

Best I can do at the moment.
March 15, 2015
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Hi Dave,
I think you're comments are accurate, but I don't think the ACBL was ready when they came out with the first RFP.

“At the meeting, Greg didn't even think a complete spec was possible.”

If specs are not possible, then the project is too big. This means that it is going to cost one Hell of a lot more than people are thinking. There are several possible antidotes.

If the first RFP was basically a brainstorming device, which maybe it should have been, then a 2nd round of bidding and proposals were needed and maybe a third. Final bidding should only occur after the ACBL has a strong sense of the requirements.

It would have been a bold great experiment to have a specification or wish list document that all members could edit collaboratively, and then to cost out and prioritize each item – and go for low hanging fruit first. The editor would have to be callous, but if the right attitude was encouraged, it might have worked.

If complete specs are needed and if the buyer feels not up to the task, then often a “white knight” contractor comes in and develops the specifications first. But this works best if it is understood that the White Knight will not be bidding when the specs are done. Then the ACBL picks a different contractor for coding.

Also, functional specs (user wishes) come first, technical decisions come later. The original RFP had it the other way around (in my opinion).

Another option was to break the development into parts and just focus on pieces that were well defined, one at a time. Greg essentially suggested this at the last meeting. Then, after each part is delivered, the ACBL can evaluate where they are, and if they want to continue with the same contractor, and what the next piece is. Then they can release a specification for the next part, and so on.

I really like incremental development. I've seen too many “big bang” projects in which the developers just redo the legacy code using new technology. They always fail. At the end of the day, the project has spent a lot of money and has nothing to show for it. Also they “roll their own” for everything, instead of slowly changing the pieces out one at a time, which is much more economical.

But the real takeaway, I think, is that Nic's primary “job” was to do what is best for Nic. It was naive to assume that the interests of Nic and ACBL would automatically align.

I hate contracting the remodeling of a house for example. When you do, someone has to be there to scrutinize every single piece of work. Sometimes the workers do bad things but they are so focused on completion, they can't even see it. This is especially true with software programmers. Some are good at checking their own work, others are psychologically incapable. They honestly cannot see their own errors, even when they stick out like a sore thumb.

I never liked project managers when I was coding, and I didn't like being one either. But they are essential. And they need to be top dog. Hartman did not have enough time to do a good job as ACBL Project Manager – not for a project of that size.

I agree, Bridge Winners has been helpful.

I thought the meeting was humorous (in a dark way) when someone asked where the ACBL prototype came from. The guy to Hartman's left droned on and on, and essentially wore everyone down. So they moved to the next topic.











March 15, 2015
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The video that Greg recorded was enlightening and I thought it was well worth watching. Some of the body language was hysterical (I'm not going to give specifics).

I am now convinced that ACBLScore went wrong because very strong and very qualified Computer Science people essentially overpowered the Project Manager(s). I do not consider Nic to be the Project Manager. He was the contractor. I mention this because history could repeat itself if the ACBL is not careful.

Was Hartman the Project Manager? No. It was his job to find a good one, empower him, and make it all work. I don't view Hartman as the primary culprit (if there even is a culprit).

To give an example, Greg said that perhaps a big reason for the problem was that the person who got the project also wrote the RFP. DUH!! That was a horrendous gaffe, and probably against the law since the ACBL Charter requires legitimate RFPs on major projects. Hartman wasn't even on board at that time.

That this could even happen essentially shows that Project Management was either weak or non-existent. I have no idea who the real project manager(s) were, and I'd rather not know.

It's not easy being a Project Manager, especially if there are high profile experts running around that can get you off their back as an elephant flicks a flea.

I don't sense much of a change in attitude. I hear about the future goal being to make “robust software”. Yes, that' important. But what I don't hear about is obsessive devotion to satisfying users at reasonable cost, a sense of urgency, clear goals, clear features, and early deliverable items that can be tested and verified.

I didn't hear it the first time around, and I don't hear it now.

March 14, 2015
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I like what I hear coming from the technology committee.

Everything Steve Moese is talking about is right on. Of course, you can take it too far. I've seen that happen several times. But keep the documentation down to exactly what you need to get the job done, and be prepared to iterate, and all is good.

On a favorite project I managed, the User Interface Description and User/Help Documents were pretty much one and the same. As soon as the User Interface Description was finished the User documentation was not far behind.

Non user “technical” descriptions were described by Unit tests and business rules. When our technical document was done, the test software was 75% done, and was folded into the technical document to describe the “requirements” of each module, before we started detailed coding. (We did have to add high level testing later when the project got more mature).

I hope the technology committee will stay focused on the idea that “It is all about people”. For example, technology decisions should be at least partially driven by the maintenance programmers. What would they like to see? The list of Ruby on Rails, C, AJAX, and so on seems a bit much for a one or two man maintenance crew. I admit I'm not familiar with some of those tools.

Free software only? Once again I think it depends on the environment that maintenance programmers will face. If ACBL is El Cheapo, I agree. But it's not a slam dunk, and it seems like the decision should be deferred until cost estimates are being studied.

Cost should drive technology decisions – because eventually all factors can be converted into costs. If a significant software effort is contracted out, there should be a bidding process that forces the ACBL to give due consideration to relevant cost trade offs. The ACBL doesn't have to go with the cheapest bid, but the trade offs should be well understood.

I'm not plugging VB.NET, but software development tools are not standing still. There is a thing called “Code First” Entity Framework, in which you define your data structures as object structures, and then the compiler creates A SQL database (or other), and seeds it with test data if you wish. Want to change the data base? Add a new field to your object, recompile, and the changes are propagated for you. The Entity Framework writes code, so when you manipulate data in your objects, the data automatically propagates into (and out of) the database.

Data columns and tables (which can be created by the frame work, or not) can be dragged and dropped onto GUI forms, automatically creating the visual components needed to service the data.

There is a thing called LINQ which is agnostic about database or data file or object collection, so one SQL like language can do your data handling no matter what kind of data structures you have. More importantly, LINQ syntax is checked as you write the code, so Intellisense can find syntax errors before run time. Normally SQL commands are submitted as strings to the database at run time, and errors are not detected until the code is executing.

The only plausible figures I've seen on programmer productivity suggest that VB is 50% more efficient than C#. This surprised me. Maybe this is because VB.NET compiles ahead as code is entered, catching errors sooner, and C# Intellisense is not quite as powerful. Admittedly, VB.NET has the same problem as Python, Ruby, and some Internet languages – it does not scale up as linearly.

I hope that the Technology Committee will consider the possibility of opening up next generation versions of ACBLScore so they can be “driven” by other programs – by script, or text commands, or as an object. Easier said than done, but it would help if programmers can write supervisor “modules” that ACBLScore doesn't even know exist.

I absolutely agree with muting the cry to “control our own destiny.” Some of the biggest changes to duplicate bridge were unanticipated – card dealers and bridge mates were developed outside of the parental arms of ACBL. We should encourage innovation by outsiders.

Kevin Lane brings up an interesting point. In one sense, the ACBL will get the most bang per buck by exploring ideas that focus on their productivity at headquarters. That's not where I live, but it is a good point to make.
March 13, 2015
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Thanks Tom,
I'll just say publicly that I absolutely agree with you about tournament mode. This is not mine to puzzle about, but for several years I've been wondering – if I was in charge of the project how closely would I try to merge Tournament Mode and Club Mode? They're sort of the same, but tournament mode is so much more complicated. And most of the time they are run by different people (but not always) and the use cases are different. Are we talking 2 separate applications or one?
It's an interesting puzzle. I was thinking that maybe the user interface looks entirely different, but many of the internals are shared.
I'm sure Nic has strong opinions on this.

Another thing – I have never really liked “DBADD” – but have never came to an opinion on what to replace it with.
March 12, 2015
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Nic,
I think it's great you guys are working things out.

I would like to point out that “unfounded public speculation” occurs when people feel that either they aren't getting the straight lowdown – or when they feel disenfranchised.

Not all of us go to National events and attend meetings on the 41st floor – unless they are serving free wine and sandwiches.

My remark about the “secret Project Manager” and lack of prototypes was not a malicious dig. I was unaware that the ACBLScore+ project Manager even had a name until after the project was cancelled.

I read the stuff on the web and you and your company were anonymous. When I read that you were developing a “technology testbed” that was going swimmingly I cringed. To me this meant the project was run by technology fanatics and the user was going to be sold down the river.

You have been very open. But from a distance the project, which one month was going great guns, and then all of a sudden next month was a total wreck, came as a shock to some. I think you can see how people might be curious – just as you were when you asked for specifications and didn't get any.


March 12, 2015
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Nic,
Okay. Sounds fair enough.
March 11, 2015
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To those of you who get and read comments through EMail. Twice, I have started a comment, pressed the wrong key and had my half finished comment sent out. If you want to see the fully edited and complete version, I suggest you go out and review it on the web.
March 11, 2015
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This story is probably getting old, but I come from a city called Richland Washington. The primary corporations here (profit and nonprofit) are contractors that support a particularly incompetent government bureaucracy called DOE. DOE stands for Department of Energy, but I prefer to think of them as the Department of Entropy.

As software developers, we used to joke about how at Hanford (DOE), 80% of the cost of a project occurs after it is 95% complete. DOE-Hanford is one of the few places where this not only occurs for software, but for construction as well.

Hanford Tank Farms house 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive and chemical waste that is the byproduct of “reprocessing” spent nuclear fuel. The high-level waste is stored at Hanford’s 200 Area in massive underground tanks – 177 in total, most of them several decades past their design life and 1/3 of them confirmed leakers – a few miles from the Columbia River. Each tank is about the size of a large high school football stadium.

We have a 95% complete $20 Billion nuclear waste vitrification plant here that is supposed to turn high level waste into glass, so it can be shipped to Yucca Mountain for final disposal. The federal government taxes nuclear plants, because theoretically the government will eventually take their waste off their hands and dispose of it properly. The government never has received waste, despite the tax, and nuclear plants are now suing the Federal Government to either get a refund on the millions they have paid in taxes, or to have the government take the waste as promised.

One of the reasons the government cannot take the waste is because President Obama cancelled all funding to operate Yucca Mountain. This hole has been dug, but now that Nevada has received all the subsidies it can get without actually accepting nuclear waste, Harry Reid convinced Obama to make a decree and close the site – in what one government agency of independent reviewers declared as “a triumph of politics over science.” Last election, Harry Reid was almost defeated by a Republican that supported Yucca Mountain, so Harry Reid ran a series of ads showing huge fluorescent dump trucks bringing nuclear material to Yucca Mountain in the night and spilling the contents as they went down bumpy roads. This is a bit misleading, because nuclear material is transported in canisters that are typically stainless steel and almost indestructible. If they came from the Hanford Vitrification plant, the waste in the canisters would also be encased in glass, making it useless to terrorists.

Even though the vit plant is 95% complete, there are more than 500 design issues, making the plant unsafe to operate as presently designed. Because of the politics of funding such a large enterprise, it is typical at Hanford to “build as you design”. Ironically, the construction is 95% complete but because of all the safety issues, the design is only 40% complete.

The primary contractor for the plant is Bechtel, which gives huge political donations to both parties. They have a subcontractor called URS which is in charge of overseeing the quality of Bechtel's design. If URS protests about the design, Bechtel can fire them and get a new subcontractor. There were two top-level managers at URS, who in succession, protested about the inadequacy of the design, and Bechtel had them both fired. We have a name for these kinds of people at Hanford, we call them whistle blowers. They are both suing Bechtel and URS for being fired because they raised legitimate technical concerns. DOE is paying all the legal fees that Bechtel and URS incur while defending themselves against the law suits – while at the same time claiming that plant safety is the primary goal of DOE.

I have a bridge partner who was the primary editor of a report that involved maybe 40 independent experts that found more than 500 design flaws in the vitrification plant. Some of the problems are minor. Others are major and stupid. For example, even though air conditioners have been around quite a while, the air flow capacity over the waste is inadequate for safe processing. Also, If waste is inadequately characterized, the “pre-treatment” module could go critical and melt. “Oops – well I guess we were unlucky on that one” as every major newspaper in the world reports on the idiots at Hanford.

Some of the components in the vitrification plant can never be revisited by human hands once the plant starts operating because of the high radiation levels. What DOE is reluctant to admit is that if the plant operates at the same percent of “production time” as the other two vit plants in the world, it will take 80 years to process all the waste. We will be talking about $100 Billion before this is all done, and this is a figure that DOE prefers not to discuss.

All but 5 of the tanks contain waste with shorter half lives. After 300 years, the waste in most of the tanks will be one thousandth of the radioactive level there is now (it is already at only 50% of the original level). One manager proposed taking the more benign tanks (about 172 of them), protecting them from rain and water, and letting them sit for 250 more years, and there would be no threat to anyone. (The waste in the tanks has mostly solidified into salt cake and isn't going anywhere). He was demoted and eventually retired because DOE subcontractors don't want the gravy train to end, and DOE feels that such a solution would be politically uncomfortable.

When my bridge partner compiled the latest final report on the vit plant and submitted it to DOE, they returned it and said, “Rewrite it so it's not so embarrassing.” This is understandable. If the public ever sees the report there will be outrage from Washington the State to Washington DC. But DOE made a completely indefensible comment as well. “We don't want to make Bechtel angry.” Who is hiring who?

5 of the tanks contain some really bad stuff with half lives of 1,000 years or more – plutonium, technetium, to name a few. Plutonium has a really bad reputation, which it doesn't quite deserve. Although it is a very strong poison, it is not as bad as some of other chemicals, per pound, such as caffeine. You can eat plutonium and you'll be fine. Inhale it, and you will be dead from lung cancer in 20 years. The 5 tanks deserve careful attention, and turning the waste to glass is probably a good idea.

DOE, in their latest thinking, has decided that for political purposes they should turn the low level waste, the waste that can just sit, to glass (at the cost of more than one million dollars per 4 foot log) to demonstrate that the plant is a success.

The high level stuff? They'll think about that later. Maybe after 60 more years a better idea will come along.

What does this have to do with ACBLBridge+? I wanted to share this, partly as a disclaimer to show how truly cynical I am. At Hanford, we dig holes until they are 95% complete, thinking maybe we'll put some nuclear waste in them, and then we change our mind and fill them up again. No one seems to object much. But I call this a “failed” project.

At a day long seminar class for Project Managers, our instructor said, “Sometimes your client won't let you succeed. No matter what you do, the project will fail because the customer won't allow success.” Most people in the room were nodding in agreement. I took this to mean that all of us had experiences in which we couldn't possibly succeed. If you have the wrong customer, you're doomed, no matter what. Nic may have been caught in a similar situation.

When I look at ACBLScore+ I consider it as a project. I have no idea whether Nic was to blame, Hartman was to blame, or some combination of both. So please don't assume I'm being critical of Nic. I don't know. What is clear – this is just another example of another project that seems to be on the verge of failing at the 90 to 95% level, exactly as Moore described – and like more than 20 other projects that I've seen at Hanford. At Hanford, most projects fail – usually at 90 to 95% completion. I don't know why. That's when it happens.

Another disclaimer. I bid on the project originally. So I'm bitter. My team mates thought we should offer to do it for $100K. Two of my team mates were PhDs in computer science – one from Yale, the other from Stanford. I felt the contract could be a trap. You get a list of “honey do” requests that weren't in the original scope and you say no, and then all of a sudden the customer thinks you're a bastard. I refused to give a price until we got more details, but I was thinking about $200 to $300K.

I didn't really want the project. I retired at 55 and life is good. I don't particularly like cruises so we have more than enough money. But who else knows as much as I do about Delphi, managing a bridge club and directing. I was probably the only person in the world who could do the project efficiently. (Yes, very arrogant. But there are very few people who have played as much bridge and directed as I have, that also devoted the proper amount of time to their career. By all rights I should be a bum on skid row searching for cigarette butts because of a bridge addiction). My wife indicated that if I picked up the project, divorce was an option. (I didn't believe her). If I got the project, I would have to check out of polite society for about a year – but what the heck, one last hurrah. When the expression of interest from my team was summarily dismissed, my ego was hurt. I thought we had the best proposal, and I was mad. So there you go. I'm biased. When I found out that Nicholas Hammond helped author the RFP, I was really mad. But I have no reason to believe that Nicholas Hammond is not exactly what he purports to be.

Greg thinks I'm an old fuddy-duddy, devoted to machine based code. There is probably some truth to that. Greg seems too devoted to code that runs in browsers, from my perspective. Greg's picture looks like a 10-year old with a mustache (if I remember correctly). I don't care if he is a brilliant PhD programmer. Greg and I disagree on basic approach, architecture, programming language, and final goals. So what's new? We all have our own opinions. And both of us are probably right in our own way.

Here is something I learned at Hanford. What if your client is basically schizophrenic and won't let your project succeed? Then you should break your big project into lots of little projects. That way, if the client loses all touch with reality along the way, and summarily dismisses you, at least he'll get something out of it.

What should you do if politics rules – and trumps all logic? At the end of each small project, the client gets a “treat”. Everybody gets a treat. Everybody that the client cares about gets some little small something. They tell your client, “we liked that”. The client gets kudos. He is very happy, and keeps paying you money to continue, even if it doesn't quite make economical sense.

Am I accusing Nic of NOT being smart, diligent, or of improperly performing Project Manager duties? Absolutely not. I am accusing him of NOT seeing what I have seen – difficult clients. Would I have succeeded in Nic's shoes? Probably not. I would have tried to structure the project so that both sides could win, and probably would have lost the work because of it. One of the reasons I “lost” the project (if it was ever mine to win) was because I was so skeptical of getting involved.

Am I accusing Nic of being naive? No. He got the work. I was not there when the contracts and requirements were negotiated. I have no idea what demands the ACBL may have made as part of getting the work. I am retired. I didn't care if I got the contract. Nic probably did.

But I AM accusing Nic of NOT breaking his work into smaller projects. I don't care who your customer is. It's mandatory. We used to talk about “Waterfall” projects, “Bubble Up” projects, “Extreme Programming”, “Agile Programming”, you name it. Extreme programming calls for releasing a new product every two weeks, which is – extreme. Agile programming calls for maybe a new product every month? Releasing a product every two years is perhaps most economical, but pragmatically it is insane.

Maybe Nic asked for a site in which he could place his latest beta version of ACBLScore+ for downloading and comments. I would have. Maybe ACBL refused. A beta version should have been available, and mentioned on the ACBL home page. A beta program is important, so that club managers like myself can see what Nic is up to and comment as he goes along.

Maybe Nic asked to post his schedule and specifications, and prioritized wish lists and UTube demonstrations – and ACBL refused. If so, shame on ACBL. Regardless, I felt totally disenfranchised during the entire process.

Nic says, “I'm sorry, but clubs are at the end of the list.” Clubs are all I care about. And if Mama (clubs) ain't happy, no one is happy. And that includes the ACBL. And if we ain't happy, Nic doesn't get our support. ACBLScore was originally written for clubs (it was called CompuScore originally).

When I lost the bid, I wasn't real upset, except that ACBL didn't acknowledge or thank us for our efforts. Nothing was said and we never found out what happened. I'm out in Washington state, a diagonal from Mississippi. If the ACBL had asked me to temporarily relocate to Horn Lake, a reasonable request, I would have said no. But when I finally read the terms and conditions granted to NH, I was very upset. No schedule (we were asked to finish in 9 months). No specs were made available, and cost information was secret.

When I read the web pages authored by the secret project manager (later to be revealed as Nicholas Hammond) I knew exactly where this was going. I don't know how I knew. I've seen enough software projects. To me it was obvious. This project would eventually come to a bad end. “Create a better ACBLScore without changing how it works.” A project objective that guarantees failure. I predicted 1 to 2 million, and 1.5 to 2 years of development, and then the ACBL would receive, being who they were, exactly nothing.

The real indicator? There was no deadline for the first version. It was maybe 1 to 2 years away. This was a guarantee for failure.

So now we are being asked to compare BridgeScore+ to ACBLScore+. I can tell you how I vote as a Club Manager and director. NO!

If you all feel you would be better off with what you see from BridgeScore+ – you are stakeholders too, and you should go with your conscience. But don't try to second guess the clubs and don't try to second guess the tournament directors. And if the tournament directors tell you they would like BridgeScore+, balance that against the clubs.

And if you are totally confused. Then let the technology committee decide. That's what I'm going to do.
March 11, 2015
Larry Lang edited this comment March 11, 2015
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While I'm ranting. What would I like in ACBLScore as a Club Manager? Surprisingly, many things.


1. Utility that automates posting of club results to ACBL website.
2. Default settings for different clubs/directors, especially in regards to movements. The ability for each club/director to link their favorite movements to the number of pairs at their game.
3. Advice of best movement for novice directors.
4. More stable/robust link between ACBLScore and BridgeMates
5. Swiss Teams for Bridge Mates
6. Auto reminder when it's time to send in monthly report/fees
7. Auto update of Master Point increases when they are posted by ACBL
8. Auto update of ACBLScore when revisions are made.
9. Link between ACBLScore and BridgeMates to allow Swiss Pairs (notice – pairs not teams).

I'm sure I could come up with more if I thought about it.

When it's over, it's still not over. Suppose Nic does finish in 9 more months at a cost of say $900K. Now the system must be maintained at perhaps $300K per year, but we still want our features. I'm sure the tournament directors and headquarters have lists as well.

Maybe another $2M to get our wish lists worked off by Nic? Are we up to $5M now? Isn't this getting pretty expensive? Can this all be justified?

Of course it is a shame to throw away all of Nic's code. But that assumes the code is thrown away. Greg has said several times, if it is a good choice to use it, it will be used.

I keep arguing that the old code had some merit. Put a software wrapper around some of it, if needed, and change it to a DLL. That's probably not going to happen. But this new code was meant to replace the old code. If it isn't usable either, what are we doing here? Constantly rewriting code to replace something that almost works? Over and over again?

Doesn't seem right to me. I think it all comes down to not ruthlessly analyzing benefits and costs before the contract was released, and not really understanding what the ACBL can and cannot live with.

That's my take, for whatever it's worth.
March 10, 2015
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Apparently I'm a minority of one. And perhaps I'm being unfair about the copyright issue.

But I am a stakeholder. I am a Club Manager and Director.

What am I getting out of this? I don't care about bracketed KO events. I like to see the match points assigned to each player before I aggregate results – not after. I don't have a Mac. So apparently, I'm going to get an application that I won't like as well as the one I have - maybe 8 months from now. For $2M out of ACBL pocket money.

Where is my piece of the pie that I can touch and feel, and say, “Yah Nic. Good job. Keep going.”

I'm not sure the tournament directors care that much – one way or another – but I could be wrong. Nic did once accuse the tournament directors of being Luddites. I thought that was a very interesting word, looked it up, and Nic's usage was right on.

That leaves ACBL Headquarters. But they aren't all that thrilled either.

I'm not blaming Nic. I blame the contract. Nic was given a paradoxical assignment. Make ACBLScore the same, but better, without exceeding scope. If you examine the statement in detail (admittedly my own words) it is a contradiction and cannot be fulfilled. In my opinion Nic could not win when he started, and he can't win now.

I'm sorry, but showing me a module that brackets knockouts won't do much for me. I am much more in line with Moore's request. Show me something I can use – now.

Maybe it's not hopeless. But I keep trying to think of a working piece of software that Nic could show us that would turn the whole thing around, and I'm not aware of any.
March 10, 2015
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Their are few people with less tact than Larry Lang. And although I am committing political suicide (which I do freely and naturally at the drop of a hat) there is something that needs to be said. No one is saying it, so I will.

Nic,

If this is all about copyrights, then you were negotiating with children when you got your contract, and as such, you held moral responsibility to ensure that it came out right. If that is correct, then in my mind, you got a very lucrative contract, and now you're playing hardball. And if that's true, I don't feel sorry for you. ACBL would be foolish to do any more business with you.

But I suspect there may be more to it than that. You may be one of the smartest guys in the world, you are certainly one of the most prolific writers I've encountered, and you are obviously sharp, put your best foot forward, and you know your stuff. You may also be one of the best system analysts and programmers in the world as well. You may be one of the hardest workers in the world, and you may be absolutely sincere. I wouldn't put it past you.

But are you the best Program Manager in the world? I think you have potential if you can learn a simple lesson out of this last foray.

I was taught as a software Project Manager, you MUST get buy in from all the stakeholders before you start, and also while you are developing, and also after you deliver. If you do not, you will fail.

You only have a 6 month window before the town folk start gathering around your project with garden hoes and pitch forks, wondering what you're doing with all their money.

This means you want people to feel that they were listened to before you start. Not that some mysterious project started up which is beyond their control.

You want to demonstrate prototypes as you go along, as frequently as possible, to convince people you know what you're doing, and that you heard what they asked for.

You must deliver something tangible with new benefits that weren't available before – within 6 months.

If you can't deliver a car when it is expected, at least deliver a rumble seat, a motor cycle, a jet engine … anything that shows undeniable progress.

This didn't happen. On this particular project, you failed as a Project Manager. Learn from it. I don't think you can recoup this one, but maybe you can become a dynamite project leader in the future.






March 9, 2015
Larry Lang edited this comment March 9, 2015
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Wow,
Just to clarify my comments. I hope I didn't say anything that was taken the wrong way. I was mostly asking questions.

I was not trying to imply that BridgeScore+ does or does not handle master points or duplicate movements – or anything else for that matter. I've never seen it. (Although a little voice in the back of my head says that duplicate movements are not completely done in BridgeScore+ – from something I read).

As for browser based – I mistaken assumed it was a requirement? I've met many people who feel if you just run everything from a browser all your problems are solved. This strikes me as being overzealous. For the most part, when you add a requirement, you add cost, unless it specifies what the program doesn't have to do. I like to consider different technologies on a case by case basis, or develop prototypes, which apparently the ACBL did? If they really checked it out, I gotta commend them for the effort – even if poorly timed, not everything was done above board, and they buried their findings.

Programmers tend to look for the “Holy Grail” – the next big thing that will change everything. Or at least I have this tendency. I remember when everything was going to be object oriented. C is still with us. Favorite software technologies tend to flip flop back and forth in popularity, for at least a little while, and I suppose we all favor what we are most comfortable with.



March 9, 2015
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Hey Adam,
ACBLScore is a hybrid. Half is Turbo Pascal. Half is Delphi. Delphi is a super set of Turbo Pascal, so it is “upward compatible” if that is the correct term.

Much of ACBLScore for Windows is written in Delphi – I believe 7.0, which apparently was a good year.


It is surprising how much of the old code isn't worth much – mostly because GUI components have improved quite a bit, and DOS really left it's toll on the code. But the DOS part can be stripped out pretty quickly.

I'm thinking that the code (about 50% are tables) for movements and the code that computes master points could and should be saved pretty easily and reused. The same for manual entry of scores. It is amazing how complex some of that stuff is – especially movements.

March 8, 2015
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Hi Greg,
This may be a question you'd rather not answer, and if so fine. But I thought I'd ask.

No one can convince me that Jim Lopushinsky did not do an excellent job in the past – considering when he started. The initial assumption was that he was the primary programmer. The code didn't have to be documented to the tee back then.

Now I hear, he's back. Why isn't he playing a larger role in this process? This is not an accusation – just a question.

I was disturbed by the assertion that Delphi/Object Oriented Pascal just can't handle it. I agree that longevity, cost, and popularity are all a concern. And portions of ACBLScore should probably be browser based, but not necessarily all. Any attempt to claim that Object Oriented Pascal would be hard for new programmers to learn is a bit over the top. The strident tone of the objections struck me as if the authors were not closely watching the developments at Lazarus, Embarcadero, Free Pascal and Delphi. Likewise, Microsoft is now moving cross platform pretty quickly, and almost giving away versions of Visual Studio – one free version is for python. I personally consider Visual Studio and Delphi to be 2 of the best tools for drag and drop GUI development. Object Oriented Pascal code is particularly easy to deliver – apparently more so than BridgeScore+, and Microsoft has come out with “Click Once” builds.

To be honest, I'm worried that the committee is focused on using the greatest and latest technologies – and is dismissing some of the less expensive options that I would argue are more pragmatic and more in line with what the ACBL should pay for the task at hand.

Comments? I don't want to get into an argument, but I would like to know what the committee is thinking at the moment.

March 8, 2015
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