Bug in the administration

Case number:699969-764139
Topic:General
Opened by:DisposableHeart
Status:Closed
Type:Question
Opened on:Thursday, December 25, 2008 - 17:43
Last modified:Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 16:12

As I expected, it is not about the media that things are not going smoothly with the support. This Feedback section of the site is just as useless as the forum, if the responsible people are not responding to us. 70% of the issues we posted here are not handled, not even assigned to someone to deal with.

The Team is striving for a much bigger user base, but handling even the current size of the support request load is beyond their capacity.

This is not too much encouraging. Is there another place where I could complain about this?

Thanks,
Peter

(Thu, 12/25/2008 - 17:43  |  20 comments)


admin's picture
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Status: Open » Open
Type: Bug » Question

This is ridiculous. It's not a support issue, it's a complaint. I'm closing it as such. If you wish to complain, use the forums.

Joined: 05/19/2008
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Wish you were fast enough assigning issues to relevant people just as fast you closed this one. :)

Brick's picture
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It's not a support issue,  it's a "lack of support" issue.

Sounds like valid feedback to me.

xiando's picture
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I can't help myself. I have to comment here, as I really think there is a virtual war going on for this program between two camps, one which seeks to redefine the fundamental paradigm of foldit to a BOINC-style, virtually hands-off application, and one that seeks to simply improve its function for the original paradigm, and finally that some people, in my humble opinion, need to remember that

a ) this is not a open-source application and will likely not see that status for a long time, and it contains proprietary code owned by the University of Washington,

b ) it was created and is supported by a relatively small number of students and their advisors, not an army of commercial programmers and a cash hungry management team, and

c) attacking the developers is not a very useful or practical way to get yourself heard or your ideas enacted.

Take my comments as you will. I have no personal emnity towards any of you (well most people in the foldit community anyway), but I also feel a certain need to call for a reality check.

I think some users are thinking as though this is a commercial gaming site, in which a dedicated staff of hundreds of underpaid sweatshop workers are furiously typing away in their cubicles while seeking to support their paying clients so they retain their $10/day jobs for the enjoyment of the paying customers and untold profit for their International Management Or School Of Business Superiors. (IMO SOBS)

Well, here's the rub..it simply tain't so, and those users are mistaken. Sorely mistaken. This is a paradigm shifting BETA application, and it was created and is maintained by a handful of students who also have classes to attend and lives to lead outside of foldit. Sniff the coffee. You aren't the center of the world.

Secondly, this feedback tracker was created only a short time ago, with the purpose being to establish a managed list of tasks, bugs, suggestions, network issues, etc. and its creation and exhibition was followed by three very important events for which no-one has control, ie, University semester finals, a server crash, and the Christmas, or if you prefer, "Winter" holidays.

On the one hand, we have a complainant that seeks to have the entire game redesigned (nay, redefined) so that he can essentially run it as Rosetta, instead of as it was originally intended, ie, human powered, and so he gets mad because the student developers don't immediately respond by complying with his wish for the application to do so, and the other who just wants to whine and doesn't really even believe the project is anything more than a joke (I will gladly pull the logs of your statements Brick if you want to push the issue)

Sorry, but I disagree with the both of you. I think that this thread is rude and uncalled for.

First, DH, you really need to consider doing what many others of us do, and consider this application for what it is intended, for the fundamental hypotheses that it presents, and for the user-base at large, not just for you and the handful of high-scoring individuals who frankly, use a multiplicity of tactics towards solution, although it is clear that some are using an algorithmic approach. Unlike the supposition you forwarded the other night in chat, the end-game is not everything...and what I mean by that is this, even the highest scores do not statistically differ greatly from those nearly 20 ranks down usually, although since the developers caved to your demands (and others in your make-the-application-a-new-Rosetta camp) and altered isolated wiggle and shake so that the bulk of points can be garnered thru more algorithmic manipulation via variants on backbone walking, the raw scores are currently much higher (imo because of those very changes, rather than the superiority of your methods, and I personally proved as much time and time again last June and early July and again when I rejoined, prior to these very program changes.) Redefining the game back into a different version of Rosetta isn't what is needed here, in fact it's implicitly and explicitly contrary to the fundamental paradigm presented by this "game" as one which seeks to harness the unique human contribution of intuition to provide quantum changes in compaction, rather than algorithmic solution visa vie computer grind towards infinitesimal gains requiring ever growing computational hardware resources and programming skill and experience to achive results. What is needed is thoughts towards making the system work better towards the hypotheses that are presented by the paradigm of this endeavor. Otherwise, BOINC may simply be more to your liking.

This doesn't even address fundamental contributions of members who don't even rank top ten and yet have solved specific problems presented within some of the challenges that not even one of the top performers addressed individually or with the group-method in their high scores.

As for you Brick, you simply need to grow up. If you don't believe in the project (as you stated quite clearly in chat by calling the entire project a scientifically worthless joke), if you believe the application is a "turkey" (stated categorically on over ten occasions in two days), if you believe the developers are stupid, then perhaps you need to consider WOW, FFXI, or some other childrens' game more suited to your patience level and maturity, as they might be more to you liking.

In neither of your cases have I seen even one post that addressed the needs of all players.

Sorry, but there it is. I don't enjoy this post any more than I enjoyed the battle for a level playing field, but someone has to do it, before the game goes south. Let the knife fall if it must, but the truth will still stand on its own merits.

Brick's picture
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There could be much more done to maximize the available support resources with a little testing, planning and coordination.

1) Don't roll out major web site changes when you *know* that no one will be around to support the fallout. Wait until after semester/winter/whatever break.

2) Try testing the releases on ALL supported platforms and OS before launching it into the world.

3) Don't release program updates when you *know* that no one will be around to support the fallout. Wait until after semester/winter/whatever break.

4) If a release bombs as has been the case more often recently, roll it back to the last stable release. Oh, and hang around to see if your release bombs. In the most recent case, it should have been rolled back to before the hot keys were changed - whatever version that was called.

I think I can see why commercial software is getting so sloppy. The Computer Science programs don't seem to be able to train their students on how to support their output. It's hard to believe that a place like UW would allow this kind of sloppy work. The people working on the product need to understand the development, release and support cycle - otherwise they will just practice the same bad behaviors when they got out of academia and into the real world.

I don't know when it became acceptable to release software to the general public using "BETA" status as an excuse to not support the product. BETA should be limited to a controlled group of users who represent ALL the platforms supported and not expect the general user population to be your BETA testers.  It's frustrating all around..

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While your points 1-4 are valid, Brick, I have to add that (2) is impractical. The whole point of it being a beta application is that we can achieve two goals at once: 1. pursue the scientific goal, and 2. improve the game by fixing issues, adding features, as the users suggest. It would be ridiculous to achieve this goal in the traditional videogaming way, i.e. to have an army of developers and testers, and giving the public only a highly controlled final product. Commercial games can do it because they have no fixed purpose but have a definite target (a bug-free game corresponding to the original design and specification). By contrast, we do have a fixed purpose, but we have no definite target -- we are researching how to fit the scientific goals, but nobody knows how in advance.

I am here only giving a shadow of the account of what Xiando was explaining, so I recommend you read his post if you find mine confusing. But this is the basic reason why the game is a beta, and why we release it to the general public as a beta, with bugs and with planned improvements down the road. The code is not free software (in the sense of freedom, not in the sense of gratis, because there is no cost to using it), but it is "open", i.e. developed with the active participation and feedback of its users.

DH's or Brick's point that this is after all feedback is valid, so I will reclassify this "Noted".

And to answer your question, DH, I cannot respond to many of the feedback issues because they are in parts of the codebase I am unfamiliar with. My primary responsibility is the server. As winter break ends, you can expect to see the game feedback reviewed.

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The announcement of the open availability of testing the new releases is going most of the way toward meeting my point 2).
However, in the recent incident surrounding a bad release, the announcement came much too close to the actual release. If the community had had time to figure out what this testing mode was, and how to use it, I think a larger group would have been able to test. As it was, it came out barely a day before the release, and similarly a day before a puzzle closed, which is when most users who are interested in their score are madly trying everything they can, and not really interested in testing.

Once a new release is available for testing, perhaps a notice woud be in order -  "New release available for testing in Devloper area" ,  and also try to get testing commitments from a variety of user platforms.  I'll step up and say that I will test on Win XP.  Don't release to the general population until testers have reported in.  Use the community  to test, but don't ask them to test on live puzzles!  The spirit of competition may outweigh the spirit of helping :)

 I'm still not sure how this testing mode works - I understand the part about editing the options.txt file to switch between "beta" and "main", but are we able to revert back to the released version to play live puzzles at will? Or once we download the testing version, are we stuck with that version until it's eventually released?

The News article has dropped off the main page, so I can't refer to it now. Is there a way to see old News postings?  If so, can it be part of the menu scheme?

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When a userr decidded to test beta code, it is done, as you noted, by chaging the options.txt entry "main" to "beta".

While in beta mode, you will not be able to compete, as beta tools may (or not) give you an advantage over standard play tools

It is also quite possibly more unstable...

To switch back, one changes the group in options.txt back to "main" (not exactly sure where that is in vista if that's what you are running), but for Windows XP it is the
documents & settings/ all users/application data/foldit directory.

Once back in Main group, you will be able to play your stored solutions again.

To be safe, I would strongly urge you to make a backup copy of the original installation by duplicating the contents of the foldit data directory and program files *foldit directory, so that in the event of a problem, you can simply overwrite.

note that changing you update group from beta to main (and back) currently requires a separate download. I believe they are considering a more optimized method, but for now this is the way it works.

Joined: 05/19/2008
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When you go out there, you cannot use excuses as "university students", "beta version", "winter break", and other nonsenses. You are dealing with real human players commitment, time, contribution, and best efforts to make it a whole lotta better.

If the developer team takes repeated requests for a better support a personal offense, I just feel sorry for the whole project.

The responses here meant to me: you take it or leave it.

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I don't know...your language and suggestions are pretty clear to me. I tried to address them, but I guess I'm failing to get a basic point across to you or you're just being purposefully obtuse.

I think it's clear that the project is a success...hands down success in fact... And that success will, in my opinion, only grow with time. It is in my estimation an inevitability, a natural fact, so to speak, due to the obvious nature of human intuition as superior in many (or most)  recognition tasks to that of computer algorithms, but now it also has been proven via CASP8. CASP9 will, in my opinion, show even greater success for the model proposed by foldit and its participants. There is no cause for sadness or pity. Instead, there is cause and justification for cheer and a certain pride for this accomplishment within ~6 months of the project's birth (although not announced until shortly ago, the CASP events were addressed within approximately 6 mo of the public beta release).

I think it's also clear that your desire is for foldit to become an augmented Rosetta, in which you can essentially manipulate the algorithms, either by way of direct interface (your suggestion for an api to Dot Net), or by way of macros (your suggestion for a macro-able version of isolated wiggle and hotkey changes). In my opinion and that of others, including, I strongly suspect, the people who conceptualized, designed, programmed, presented and host foldit, that is quite clearly in opposition to the premise upon which foldit is based, and focusing suggestions on the application's redefinition towards that end does little or nothing, if not less than nothing, to support the efforts of the entire team towards the present and clear goals set by the development team, just the small subset of programmers who seems as a group (exceptions noted) to desire the same goal as yourself,. I don't deny the efficacy of automation toward solution of proteins. In fact, without it there could be no foldit, since it provides the "raw" data from which we work. But foldit's purpose is different than that of the automated portion of the solution, because it seeks to create a new paradigm for scientific problem solving, and because ti seeks to study and characterize a unique human attribute. It's explicitly stated by the development team's declaration of intent for the project. This is not rosetta.

Finally, your obtuse view regarding the brand spankin new feedback tracker and its presentation at a time in which three major holidays, University finals, and a server crash occurred puzzles me to no end, as I just don't believe you can't see the obvious impatience and condescension you're displaying. I agree, the program could work better, it could be redesigned, it could be optimized, it could contain a macro editor or an api could be written to allow you to essentially alter the code and make it automated FTW!., it could allow direct participation in its development by players via user manipulation of the ...oops proprietary code, the network server could be bulletproof, complete with automatically staged backup layers with concomitant cost, and the list goes on......But it's simply not realistic. You confuse a beta project vs. a project with beta code...the code and its intuitive human interactants IS the project

If you truly believe these are "excuses", then what exactly are yours, for ignoring the fundamental premise of this project and continuing on your quest for project redefinition to suit your misunderstanding of the project goal?

sincerely,

Andrew Jenkins

Joined: 05/19/2008
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Xiando,
I do not understand how you could interpret my request of more serious support as a request for "project redefinition to suit [my] misunderstanding of the project goal".

My complain was not about that the plenty of suggestions, recommendations, and requests, feedback in other words we, active folders gave, are not realized. My complain is about that these are mostly ignored with no feedback. And not only during the holiday season, but almost ever since.

I am not going to make a list all of these here, but highlight only one issue: Give us a roadmap and a list of planned features, so that we will not bug you with issues that we acknowledge you acknowledge.

If "I ignore the fundamental premise of this project", then the project ignores the fundamental nature of human beings: desire to communicate.

Peter

Joined: 05/19/2008
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Please forgive my persistence.

When speaking of project goal - since we went off-topic, - please show me a public document on the site that explains us the project goal. But seriously! We all have some sort of concept what this is all about, but not one document first hand of Zoran or other project managers. Explaining my understanding - on a higher level - is irrelevant, and most probably speculative.

For me project goal is very pragmatic: gaining as high score as I can using the tools of the application. My requests for improvement aim this solely: give me better tools so that I can fold faster and better.

I hope now you understand my note from the other day: I feel like a folding slave. The more we're talking here, the more so. Only the whip is missing... and the fence of course, so that I can walk away.

One thing I'd like to emphasize beyond all these discussions: I am not here to fight or get into flame wars. I would like to make it better, provided the goals are clear. I have my daily games elsewhere and China is a good enough court for that. ;)

Actually Zoran's recent posts and comments in the blog are more reassuring than anything else ever since I started folding. Thanks for that.

Peter

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So - If I can re-phrase all that:

If I switch to "beta", it will download the beta software if it's different that "main", and conversely if I switch back from "beta" to "main". Will the code *always* be different, or are there times when "beta" and "main" are the same, with nothing new to test?

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not exactly sure...I expect that the beta may at times be functionally equivalent, however you still will not be able to compete with it because of inbuilt protections against opening competition files.

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I completely understand the part about different sets of puzzles for "beta" and "main".

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Sorry if I said things you knew. I was trying to be thorough and perhaps misinterpreted the nature of your query.

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I assume that you have a good understanding of OSes and making your way around in them. Your  posts in main chat (in general) lead me to believe that you're computer saavy, so I'm relying on that in the next suggestion.

Let's also assume that there will be times when the beta and main applications are functionally identical (not withstanding the security gates present in the Beta version)

Finally, Let's just suppose that the developers will not get to a consolidated system for the immediate future. Who knows, but better armed that unnecessarily ticked off because a feature isn't present..

So here's the suggestion.

Duplicate the foldit content (program files and doc/settings directory entries) and renmae that duplicated content to foldit2 or whatever your choice is...

Create a shortcut that points to the original installation. Call the shorcut "Foldit Compete" or whatever yourt heart desires

Create a second shortcut that points to the duplicated entry. Call the shortcut "Foldit Beta" or whatever your heart desires

Open the options.txt for the sceond version (the Foldit Beta" and change the update group to beta. save options.txt

Run the Foldit beta shortcut and install the beta application

Voila, you now have two separate installations and runnning the beta will not cause problems with the compeition version



Joined: 05/19/2008
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I don't know if it is used, but in my Vista there is a registry entry for the install directory. This issue should also be addressed to be on the safe side. Maybe it is used only for updates (that would make sense to me,) but in that case your folder order should be swapped, I think. I didn't try and I am not planning to.

Also, in the install folder there are 3 files only. There is no direct reference to the data folders. I have no idea how Vista figures or stores where the data are put (C:\ProgramData\foldit; maybe only mirroring the folder by name), but copying folders does not seem as simple as on XP.

(By the way I just found in the registry: Foldit is listed among the apps that leak the heap memory.)

Peter

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Yes, Brick, the main and beta code may be the same at times. I also agree it would be nicer to have a beta period lasting longer.

As for the idea of a main page archive, it was originally there but we scrapped it for some reason. I think it'd be good to add it back, but please do make a separate issue for it.

"If the developer team takes repeated requests for a better support a personal offense, I just feel sorry for the whole project."
We don't take it as a personal offence. I mostly view it in the same light as my own cosmic request for an Aston Martin. It's not practical.

Within our capacity, we could be doing better to answer questions and give feedback and listen to players, and in general communicate. Hence we've been taking steps for a long time to improve what we can do in the time we have. We haven't gotten to the limit, of course, but we are trying, and there is a limit, and it can't be exceeded without more people.

Just to make sure my remark about the Aston is not misunderstood: yes, we are trying to have better communications. It will never be perfect and it will always be unsatisfactory to some, and I suspect that once we hit that limit it will still be unsatisfactory to you. So instead I urge you to be patient. I think we Hungarians as a society have an unhelpful sense of entitlement, but that of course won't get the improvements ready more quickly. Many players' complaints about communications or gameplay I've seen addressed after several months. Now, this is not ideal, but it does at least show that we try, within our capacity, and that we usually get there.

Joined: 06/17/2010
Status: Open » Closed

Feedback is working well... most of time :) Closing.

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