Wednesday, June 04, 2008

 

Beta Users / Beta Testers Wanted

Updated July 8 to use the latest version.
I've been working on creating a tool that can be embedded in blogs to display chess PGN files. The tool and the supporting web site are now in beta testing. I'm looking for a few brave bloggers to try it out and give feedback.

Update: Here's one brave blogger.

Ideally, you already have a blog or a web site, play chess and already know what a PGN file is.

If you're interested, you can sign up at http://chessflash.com/.

Here is my game against Rocky Rook in the recent LEPer tournament. Another one is starting soon, see http://www.liquideggproduct.com for details.



NoTB-RockyRook-LEPer.pgn

And, a big thanks to likesforests who has already done some great testing and provided some great feedback.

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Comments:
Freaking awesome, dude!!!!

Overcomes many of the obvious limitations with the stuff already out there, in particular the fact that they are awful at showing comments on moves.

This looks to be a major coup. Congrats on a great product.

I'll use it for sure in my yearly blog updates if I do them :)
 
BDK:Thanks for the kind words! We have lots more features planned...(eventually). But this should be pretty close to what the initial release will be like.
 
Hi Glenn, I've had a quick play with it and added it to my last post. Looks great. Took a bit to get the sizing ok, but is simple enough once you're used to it. Thanks, Dean
 
Dean: Thanks. Looks good.
 
I tried to register, but haven't received an e-mail. Apparently, people have been able to use it, so maybe it's just something wrong on my end. (Or a PEBKAC.)

Has anyone else had a problem?
 
liquideggproduct: No one else has reported a problem and I have not had a problem registering.

I just now created a new test account and got the email in seconds...

I'll email you a password...
 
liquideggproduct:Did you get the email I sent (from gmail account)?
 
Obviously the mascot and the chessflash are having a fight.
 
Jut to repeat, this is a great contribution to internet chess publishing generally. I really look forward to the 1.0.

I have some minor suggestion comments, but bear in mind overall it is excellent so I had to get really nit-picky to find things to complain about:

a) It is great that it scrolls for you when you do moves! Perhaps it could scroll far enough to show not just the move, but all the comments after the move? I realize this may be very hard, as if the comments take up more than a page, it would actually push the move off the page, so perhaps what you have done is optimal. Or perhaps you could handle such cases easily and only go so far as to put the move at the top of the scrollbar without the text pushing it off.

This might give the auto-scrolling a more 'natural' feel than the push up so it shows at bottom algorithm present.

b) The 'click to play' arrow could use an aesthetic work-up.

Just brainstorming, I'd likely make it smaller, make it not match the color of the strip that it overlies (and you did this in the black board, making the outline grey), and perhaps the arrow should be moved so it doesn't cover the board at all?

I really like the semi-transparent fill in the arrow.

c) The 'play next move' button looks strange, like a square with a yellow outline or something. Why not just keep it a play button? I was confused, thought it was displaying a 'thinking' icon or something like the program was processing.

d) The 'sideboard' thing (I just noticed it) is awesome. You didn't just improve on the features other people already had, but kicked their ass!

How hard would it be to have a sideboard that let's the user manipulate things? So instead of just following what you entered, it actually lets the reader play around with the pieces?
 
BDK:Maybe the Mascot and Donnie are having a fight and the Mascot cut off his email?


Perhaps it could scroll far enough to show not just the move, but all the comments after the move?
My intent is for it to show some context on either side (before and after) of the move, and yes, the current behavior can be improved on.

The 'click to play' arrow could use an aesthetic work-up.
That was actually a last minute hack when I decided to introduce this feature for 1.0. The arrow is quick-and-dirty and looks that way. The point of the click-to-play is to not load the pgn file until the user wants to see that game. If lots of these games are embedded in a web page this makes the initial page loads faster.

The 'play next move' button looks strange, like a square with a yellow outline or something. Why not just keep it a play button? I was confused, thought it was displaying a 'thinking' icon or something like the program was processing.
This is because that button has the focus. A button with focus can be activated by pressing the space bar. I found that using the space bar was an easy way to navigate through the moves. Click the "back" button and it will get the focus. I think it is important to give visual feedback on what button has the focus and this is the default way that Flash does it. I agree that it is ugly and can be confusing. I'm just learning Flash and I don't know another way to do that :( but I would like to change it. I may possibly remove focus altogether and space would just always == the play button, or write my own "focus". I had to write my own scrollbar (and it still needs some tweaks and functionality).

The 'sideboard' thing (I just noticed it) is awesome. You didn't just improve on the features other people already had, but kicked their ass!
Thanks for noticing.

How hard would it be to have a sideboard that let's the user manipulate things? So instead of just following what you entered, it actually lets the reader play around with the pieces?
Not a 1.0 thing but doable. My plans are grandiose and naively optimistic. What I am currently working on (for possible inclusion in 1.0) is puzzle modes (study tactics!) and training modes (study openings! study endgames!). The 1.0 versions of those would be limited. Also, definitely planned (but not for 1.0) is sound/voice so the viewer can be a platform for chess "lectures" ("videos" of sorts).

Thanks for your great comments.
 
BDK: Also, this focus thing might be an example of advanced functionality that might one day be disabled by default but the end-user could enable it via the user preferences menu. (But if "focus" could be on and not interfere with a new-user's experience it probably does not need to be controlled by user preferences).

But first, I need a user preferences menu. :( Menus will also probably be used to access functions like load/save pgn, highlight moves made, show arrows for moves made, etc.
 
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