Postmortem: October 2010 Edition
Earlier this month, we finally officially release the October 2010 Edition. The release of this edition went differently than any of the other version 7 releases as I'll explain.
Late last summer, we had finished up the initial work for the new Mobile Control interfaces. I was contemplating whether to make this available as a September 2010 Edition. At the time, we were also finishing up work on the new meta data/color search mechanism, a feature that had been in the works for quite awhile.
Sometime in August I was contacted by Worship Leader Magazine regarding their yearly October edition of the magazine for the Best of the Best Awards. I was asked to submit a list of new things we had accomplished in the last year, that is, from October 2009 through October 2010 (not August to August). So I put on my future-seeing glasses. If we rolled out the Mobile Control feature in September, then due to the overhead of releasing any new edition, it would be November, a the earliest, before we would get the meta data/color search feature released. However, if we waited to release both new features together, then it seemed like we could get that done by by October. I wanted to have the meta data/color search featured mentioned, so we went with the October plan.
When October arrived, the magazine hit the streets so it seemed necessary to announce the October Edition. Pre-announcing features and dates is something I have learned to avoid so I make every effort to resist such temptations. This time, it was necessitated by the release of the magazine announcement. As it turned out, finishing up the last pieces for meta data/color search feature took much longer than anticipated. The first beta test version wasn’t released until early December.
Once in testing, that phase then went longer than usual. The reason for this was that the two main new features, Mobile Control and the meta data/color search both required significant changes under the SongShow Plus hood. I'll address Mobile Control first.
With the new Mobile Control feature, users can control the programs using a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone. To do this effectively, it was necessary to provide a way for users to trigger each individual step within a program, including slide steps. This capability, however, has been missing from SongShow Plus up until now. Previously, you could present individual slides, but not individual slide steps (like bullet points). Multi-part songs use this same stepping mechanism. Previously you would simply click the Next Step button to present slide steps. But the Next Step could not be made easily available from the Mobile Control interface. The slide-based program control mechanism dates back to a very early time in SongShow Plus's history, a time before slide steps were even available. It was now finally time to deal with that issue -- and it wasn't trivial. The entire program sequencing mechanism was rewritten as a result.
The second significant change involved file access. The file access system within SongShow Plus had evolved into two different types of mechanisms. One was database oriented, the other file-system oriented. The file panels within the Control Window is were the database oriented system resided, but things like Background Improv, Display Properties, etc., used a file-based system. That worked okay for the most part. But the new search capabilities required that the searcing of files to act more like a database. We also wanted to provide this new search mechanism at all places where image and video files are used, along with all file importers.
Another consideration was the cloud-based on-line collaboration technologies that we began working on last year. These technologies, once available, will access files that do not actually reside on the local hard-drive, or are arranged in an atypical way. Accommodating this upcoming feature requires an abstraction of the file access system.
Because of these reasons, it was apparent that the thing to do was to dive in and finally build a fully database oriented mechanism for accessing files, and to make it consistent in all areas of the application. Like the modifications made to program sequencing, this was also a major under-the-hood change.
Both of these significant changes combined together made for a much longer testing process. If I could do it over, I would release the Mobile Control feature as a September 2010 Edition and the meta data/color search feature as a January 2011 Edition.
Anyway, the October 2010 Edition, while later than usual, contains two significant enhancements, as well as several smaller but useful ones as well. And since everything was announce in that month, the edition name has stayed the same despite its delay.