Talk:Comprehension Convention Engine

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I am the author of the tool mentioned.

I want to talk to any con runners that want to learn more about CCE!

CCE is free for all volunteer run conventions. --Tbmorgan74 14:35, 12 February 2007 (PST)

From Bill Taylor

I notice over in Scheduling that you say CCE is in Microsoft Office. Isn't it more true to say it outputs in MS Office format? CCE is certainly not a Microsoft product. I don't object to you mentioning it, but the facts have to be accurate. --Bill Taylor 14:33, 14 February 2007 (PST)
ps. I would have thought you would name it Convention Comprehension Engine, but either way is fine with me. --Bill Taylor 14:33, 14 February 2007 (PST)

Its written in Visual Basic. But that is not what is important to users. It is written for the Office platform. Like many other packages for sale or public domain. Excel, word, or access files that need office to run. But CCE specifically uses Excel and Word. Try it out, please!--Tbmorgan74 15:11, 14 February 2007 (PST)
Without actually having run it yet, I would like to see a descrip[tion of what reports come "canned" with the software. Software is scary for a lot of folks, and they dont want to "program" the computer. For example, individual schedules for the program participants, individual schedules for the rooms, instructions to the hotel for room set up for each program, catering instructions, AV instructions, etc. A description of the convention "model" the engine uses would be nice (what data does the user provide, and how is it interconnected and reported). I think most people will be wary of joining a Yahoo group without more info on what will be there and what they are getting into. --Bill Taylor 16:44, 14 February 2007 (PST)
Thanks for the feedback. Did you read the faq that I put a link to yesterday? That does answer the questions. If people actually find it and read it. The faq is something that I will maintain as part of the CCE distribution. I don't want to translate all of it to the wiki, because it should remain under the configuration control of me, the author. However the wiki would be a good place for other people to collaborate on how they use it. If after reading you still have questions, ask them, and I will answer them in the next faq iteration. Also, are you yourself a current convention organizer?

--Tbmorgan74 13:25, 15 February 2007 (PST)

I read the FAQ. It has good information and certainly the goal of the CCE is a good one. I agree your FAQ should be yours to change. What I was after is not so much a manual of operations as just answering questions on basic programming needs. I think people would want to know how CCE does things vs the way people are already doing them. Also, how it overcomes common or especially aggravating problems they are facing. Pretty much every programmer has to deal with the same problems. They all come up with methods to solve them, with varying degrees of success and effort. They will want to know how your tool makes the problem easier that whatever they are doing now.
--Bill Taylor 07:48, 20 February 2007 (PST)

Programmers vs Coders vs Program Directors

Im getting confused with terminology, so I would not be surprised if other people are too. I think the word Programmers (People who write code) is too close to the word Program Directors (those who populate convention program grids). And programming can ambiguously be writing software, or populating a convention grid. So I propose to use these terms in the specified meaning.

  • Coder: He who authors source code for a software tool in a given language.
  • Program Director: He who is in charge of a Convention's schedule.
  • Cognizant scheduler: Not necessarily the Program Director, but a competent user in which ever software tool we are talking about.

Notice that those people may or may not be the same person. If a coder is also the program director, then he can write his own software. The director may or may not be the technician who uses it day to day. The most general case would have the author of a piece of software be a distinct person from the user of the software. CCE assumes the latter, the author and the user are separate people.

This long answer to Bill's question comes down to this: CCE is targeted at users who previously created convention grids, program books, and inventory manifests manually. Using pen and paper, or simple word processing documents they manually tracked each datum separately and tried to keep things in sync. I suspect that they largely failed to to keep things in perfect sync. Or they dramatically simplify their prep work and accepted less scheduling rigor. Example: they may not know exactly how many DVD players they need, or how many they can expect to borrow, and just wing it the best they can when they arrive at the hotel. --Tbmorgan74 14:48, 20 February 2007 (PST)

from JohnPomeranz

Hi, TB Morgan. As someone who has been a long observer (and occasional participant) in the Quest for the Perfect Convention Software (tm), I am delighted to learn about your latest entry into the effort. Good luck! It is a worthy and difficult task you have set for yourself. Please permit me the presumption of offering a few thoughts...

As you probably already know, there have been previous attempts (e.g. the MCFI dBase-based system, Linda Deneroff's Access system, and Arisia's system, to name just a few). Although none of these systems is wonderful, I hope that you have examined them for their strengths and weaknesses as you work to develop your own.

In addition to this conrunner's wiki, I urge you to let people know about your software in other likely fora. The SMOFS list is the most obvious place. You might also consider attending SMOFcon, the convention for convention runners. There was also, for a while, a listserve for people interested in developing convention-running software, but I don't know if it still exists. (You could ask about it on the SMOFs list.)

I also urge you provide some information in your FAQ (or on your user page here) about who you are and what your convention-running and software-programming experience has been. Despite their shared love of the literature of new ideas, fans -- especially convention runners -- tend to be a conservative lot. They are more likely to seriously consider using your software for their convention if they know that you have helped to run a convention and if they know you have some expertise in developing a reliable software application. If you don't have that experience, it doesn't mean that you can't accomplish your task, but people will be more skeptical.

Regarding features...

  • Does your software track and incorporate into its conflict checking data about your program participants such as hours of availability, do-not-schedule-with-this-person, or do-not-schedule-against-this-event data? There are important features (and one of the the things that the existing applications actually do, to one degree or another).
  • Does or will your software support some system for program participants to submit data in an easily incorporated form. Recent Worldcons, for example, have used web-based programming questionnaires to gather everything from contact data to programming preferences from program participants. Note that this need not require a change in your (reasonable) decision not to support a distributed system if the central keeper of the software can receive the output of these online sources and integrate them into the central database.
  • A review of your FAQ suggests that, like other convention-running software, you have decided not to integrate registration software into your program. That may be the right decision, but it does require duplicate entry of names and contact information for people on your program -- non-trivial for a large convention such as a Worldcon with hundred of people participating in the program out of a membership of thousands, but probably soluable via data export and import.
  • I have suggested to others interested in convention-running software (almost all of whom have called me wrong-headed) the idea that the software should be able to self-generate a conflict-free program for a convention that the convention programmer can use as a starting point for developing a good program. Accomplishing this would require that for each possible participant you track some basic descriptive criteria (e.g. "Author," "hard SF," female); that for each possible program item you define the criteria sought for panelists; and that you provide some basis rules for program generation (e.g. use each participant at least once, make panels diverse in gender, age, or race when possible, etc.). Obviously, someone with a better sense of the art of programming would have to revise the computer-generated rough draft, but I think it would be better than starting from a blank page. As I've said, others think developing this as part of a convention-running tool is daft, but I'm enamored of it, so I felt obliged to mention it here.

Again, good luck with your effort. I look forward to learning more about it as you proceed. --JohnPomeranz 15:16, 17 February 2007 (PST)

> the idea that the software should be able to self-generate a conflict-free program
Wiscon's system can do this. All of their programming is excellent, but you can really tell which panels were auto-generated. --phi 20:54, 18 February 2007 (PST)

response to JohnPomeranz

The Faq has been updated. Some information about me is included there. I will address johns bullet points here, point by point
  • My plan has always been to detect conflicts with arrivals and departures, particularly as they relate to airline flights
  • Web forms are great. But a core value of CCE is not to prevent standalone work in the Office environment. The faq goes into more depth.
  • Software should only fix what is wrong. My experience has identified a long list of problems that do need fixing. And Registration was not high on the list. As you say, carefully manipulated import or export can accomplish alot. Most people running registration can make a mail merge list to create badge stickers. If there is a huge problem out there, I would like to hear more about it.
  • CCE avoids all attempts at expert systems, AI, or automated decision making. The faq goes into more detail .
Thanks for the interest--Tbmorgan74 15:25, 19 February 2007 (PST)

question for the group

Pardon my ignorance. Is there a convention software package out there that is what I call deployed and ready to be distributed to users? But that I mean it has a web site, documentation, and/ or maintenance strategy. This differs from coders sharing code with other coders on the side. But are they ready to be deployed to non coder users with the expectation of real mission critical use?--Tbmorgan74 15:31, 19 February 2007 (PST)

Zambia is not productized in the way you describe (but we'd love to share code with people who are willing to deal with setting up the infrastructure it needs). Wiscon's system is probably the most mature but they were not willing to share it with Arisia which is why we wrote Zambia. HRSFA also has a web based scheduler but it does not do conflict checking. There are a large number of web-based Microsoft Project analogues, most of them fairly expensive, which can be made to do nearly anything programming needs (or you can use Project itself); all of these meet your definition of "deployed" above. --phi 21:29, 19 February 2007 (PST)
Update: Zambia has now had a successful third-party deployment without any support from Arisia nor prior familiarity with the tool on the part of the (generally skilled) sysadmins who installed it. I suspect this is what you really mean by "deployed". --phi 17:22, 20 January 2010 (UTC)