I’m pleased to announce my entry into the 2009 Force.com Cloud Developer Challenge .
The Challenge is designed to evangelize the Force.com platform, encouraging lots of people to discover, learn and use Force.com. The rules are wide open — just build something using Force.com, Visualforce and Sites (so that it is publicly accessible). It’s a very clever idea — sort of a small version of the X-Prize , with the concept that offering prizes will encourage more people to do interesting than actually directly paying people to do it!
So, would you like to know about our entry?
Yes, I use the word ‘Our’ rather than ‘My’ because I’m happy to say that I teamed up with David Schach, author of the X-Squared on Demand blog . Previous readers will remember that I met David some time ago when he visited Australia . Well, it just so happened that David read my previous blog entry about the Cloud Developer Challenge and dropped me an email to say he was visiting Australia again, and did I want some help?
This was a god-send, because I had been hitting lots of brick walls in my ramp-up of Visualforce and Sites knowledge, and David is an absolute expert in the subject. So, I did all the high-level UI, he did all the low-level ‘engine room’ stuff and we worked in the middle to make a very exciting site.
Introducing Daily Shinro
The site we developed is a Social Gaming Website that we call Daily Shinro .
The idea for the site began with my work team at Atlassian , where we play a daily game of SET , a really fun logic puzzle that changes each day. To keep track of our scores, we created a shared Google Apps spreadsheet with our scores and we soon discovered that it was actually just as fun to analyze the scores as to play the game!
We had been looking around for another daily puzzle that we could all play, preferably something that only took a couple of minutes and which had a scoring element. Unfortunately, very few online games took our interest. However, around that time, I had become addicted to playing Shinro Mines on the iPhone. Shinro is a little-known puzzle that has been described as a cross between Minesweeper and Sudoku.
So, once I put together the desire to enter the Cloud Developer Challenge, the need for another team puzzle with a social scoring element and my enjoyment of Shinro Mines, the choice of project became obvious!
A Social Gaming Website
There’s really two parts to Daily Shinro: the game and the social aspect.
Raphael was actually written by Dmitry Baranovskiy , a colleague of mine at Altassian. I highly recommend you look at the demo pages!
To provide a ‘daily’ concept for the game, a new puzzle is made available each day. The background picture for the puzzle is a daily selection from flickr, selected with the help of the beautiful Idée Multicolr Search Lab . It just adds a bit of spice and variety to the daily puzzle!
From the very beginning, my intention was to create a ‘social’ gaming experience, based upon the spreadsheet developed by my work team. Basically, scores are calculated by how well each player beats the team average. Therefore, it needs at least two people to play the puzzle and all scores net-out to zero. This has the advantage that, if somebody doesn’t play one day, they aren’t penalized.
This scoring system is implemented at two levels in Daily Shinro — Public and ‘League’.
At the Public level, players’ scores are compared to the public average. At the League level, scores are compared only amongst your friends or office co-workers who are members of the same League.
Leagues are all about comparisons within a team rather than between teams — sort of like a private gaming site for friends. Thus, everyone can create their own League and invite friends to join. The score graphs then reflect the scores amongst members of the League.
The charts are generated with some magical Apex code that gathers up League scores, compares players to game averages and then outputs the results into a Google Charts URL.
I invite you all to visit www.dailyshinro.com and play the game!
If you find any bugs or strange behaviors, please let us know!
Will we win?
Ah, that’s the big question! My personal goal is to have the site ‘mentioned’ in the results pages of the Cloud Developer Challenge. That way, we’ll feel rewarded for the long hours that were put into the site.
We’ve done several things to give us an advantage in the competition:
- We made a fun site that is attractive and enjoyable to use.
- We utilized lots of different technologies to showcase how Force.com can ‘pull together’ capabilities from across the web to build an even richer application environment.
- We added lots of pages of explanations , showing how we used Force.com technology. I’m hoping that this will help the folks at Salesforce.com promote the Force.com platform, which means that they’ll want lots of people visiting our site to help promote their technology. And what better way to do this than mentioning us in the final results?! (Clever, eh!)
- Finally, there’s this blog, which I know is read by about 1000 people per month (including some legendary Salesforce staff!). Throw in David’s blog and we’re hoping to get the attention of enough people in Salesforce that we’ll get on the short-list.
Oh, one word to the judges — we fixed a few bugs in the last couple of days. So, if you visited the site already, please visit again and see it in its fully-working glory!
It’s been a tough Challenge, but it was great fun and an utterly fantastic way to learn Visualforce and Sites. I started with zero knowledge and now consider myself a competent user of those technologies. I’d also like to thank David Schach whose knowledge of Visualforce and Sites is just incredible. I couldn’t have done this site without him.
The Bottom Line
- Visualforce and Sites are mature and capable technologies for building websites on Force.com technology
- The Cloud Developer Challenge was an excellent way to ‘spread the word’ and get people to use the technologies
- You’ve got to visit Daily Shinro!
- If you know the judges, please tell them how great we are! :)