Tourney Pool Manager 2K5 - An Update

posted on 2005-02-06 at 00:08:11 by Joel Ross

I just finished implementing the last feature of the Tourney Pool Manager tonight. It's a Go-Live subscription, so the Tourney Pool Manager will automatically set itself up to "go live" when the time is right. More on that below.

First, let's talk about some of the new features for this year. We added a bunch of subscription web services to that the Tourney Pool Manager can take advantage of - for no additional cost! There are four services you can subscribe to. Last year, we had a couple of these already, but none were automatic - you had to manually request the update. This year, we have a polling mechanism, so information will be downloaded automatically.

Before we talk about the services, let's talk about the data that is communicated between an installation and our website. You send us the year and the pool id you want data for, and we give you the information you requested. There's nothing being sent back to us, like number of entries, scoring configurations, prize mode, or anything like that. While we'd like to know some of this information (mainly to see what features are being used, and how they are being used), we won't take it without asking you for permission. Obviously, through our traffic logs, we can see where you are coming from too.

We just have one more thing to get out of the way before we talk about the services available. When you start up the Tourney Pool Manager, which is done either by going to the site, or starting the client, depending on which version you are using, the polling service starts up. If you have any subscription, the Tourney Pool Manager will poll our site, and our site gives it the updates. Along with that, it gets the number of minutes between pollings. This tells the Tourney Pool Manager to either slow down or speed up how often it downloads data. It also means we can tune the Tourney Pool Manager to get results delivered as quickly as possible, and still ensure our site doesn't get overloaded when nothing is being updated.

With the details of how it works out of the way, let's talk about the services available. The first one is teams. We had this available last year, but it was a manual process. Sunday night, we will be watching ESPN and entering teams into our website. When the Tourney Pool Manager polls our site, it will update it's teams with the correct teams for this year's selections. Also, we don't support picking the "play-in" game on Tuesday, so initially, the team name will be Seed 16a / Seed 16b. After the game is played, it will just be the winning team. 

The team subscription will also update the final four configuration. For those that don't know, every year, the final four configuration is different - it's not always west vs. midwest and south vs. east. It changes every year. Also, last year, they started naming the regions by location rather than west or midwest. The team service now updates that information too. This is turned on by default. It is also available to update manually. You can update teams whenever you want, but the final four configuration update is only available when there are no results or entries - changing the final four configuration with results or entries in the system could have undesirable effects, so we don't allow that.

The next subscription service available is results. This is completely new to the Tourney Pool Manager. Every time a game is played, I will enter the results on our servers, and your Tourney Pool Manager will get them automatically. This is where changing the polling interval can really help. We can leave it to poll every couple of hours most of the time, but when the games are being played (Thursday through Sunday), we can get those updates to you every 15 minutes. Results will only load if the final four configuration is the same as on our servers. This subscription is on by default.

The third subscription service available is some pool configuration data. There is a ton of ways you can configure the pool (including a couple of undocumented ways), so we don't update everything. We just manage the entry start and end dates, and the path to a printable bracket. This is so we can automatically tell the Tourney Pool Manager to only allow entries after the selections have been made and before the first game is played. This subscription is off by default.

Why is it off? Because if it was on, you wouldn't be able to test the Tourney Pool Manager when you install it (you are going to download and install it, right?!?). It would tell you that it's too early to submit any picks. But that doesn't help you evaluate it, does it? So we turn it off by default, and set the entry start date to some time in the past. That way, you can submit picks, view results, and see how the Tourney Pool Manager works.

But what about the test data? Having that information isn't a good idea once the pool goes live. There are two ways to deal with this; the first is to manually delete all results, entries, and set the correct pool entry start and end date. It works, but it's not ideal. Will you remember to do all of that?

What if it was automatic? What about our last subscription service, which is on by default. It's called the Go Live Subscription. Here's what it does. When a certain time comes along, which we set on our servers, the Tourney Pool Manager will delete all entries, delete all results, subscribe you to team updates, results updates and pool configuration updates, and remove the go live subscription. So once the go live subscription runs it's course, you have no test data in the system, and you're ready to go live!

Some of the other, smaller, features we added are as follows:

  • Alias: When a user enters their pick, they also enter an alias, which will be used on to display on the site. We still collect first and last name, but it isn't displayed on the site. If you don't want your participant's names on the site, turn on aliases.
  • UDFs: These are user defined fields you can collect. Last year, we could collect up to five, and you could set them to be required or not required. This year, you can have an unlimited number, and you can set the width, the max length, and what type of field it is. The pool comes standard with zip code, phone number, numeric, and date, but you can extend it to have any type of data, as long as there's a regular expression to validate it.
  • Scoring: We added another scoring system. Now, you can either have the pool score by the points you set up in the admin section (the default, called Regular), or you can have it favor underdogs, where you get the number of points set up in the admin section multiplied by the team's seed. That means in first round, if a 13 seed beats a 4 seed, and the pool is set up to be worth one point in the first round, the 13 seed would be worth 13 points, instead of 1. That is called the "Favor underdogs" scoring method.

There are a few other features and bug fixes, but this touches the major things we've done this year. We should be finalizing the release this week, so look for it soon.

Oh yeah - one more feature. In addition to all of the new features above, we lowered our prices! The biggest price reduction? If you run the Tourney Pool Manager on an internal server (i.e, not a public website), you can get 10,000 entries for less than $30.00! That's a big change from last year, and should help out a lot of office pool admins!

See anything missing? Something stopping you from using it? Let me know. We are always looking for advice about what is good and what is bad, and want to improve it as much as possible.

Categories: Develomatic