Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

The project starts to get a little more real

I decided to spend the past week working on something relatively mellow and easy for Querki, while I catch my breath from the party. So I decided to add one major new feature (Tags, which I've been talking about in more detail over on the querki_project development journal), and then what arguably counts as The First True Querki Space: my Poker Encyclopedia. The first draft of that is now done (as expected, it only took a few hours, mostly on cut-and-paste), so it's time for a burble.

It occurred to me a little while ago that my Poker Variations are the perfect App for Querki: a small amount of mostly textual stuff, heavily cross-linked, with a good deal of somewhat squishy structure. Like so many ideal Querki applications, I've been keeping it as simply one big text file (well, one big wiki page), which kinda-sorta works but not very well.

So here it is. Folks who have been using this wiki page should note that this list is much more complete, with dozens of variants that I hadn't gotten around to recording there yet.

Yes, the look and feel is almost ridiculously spartan. That's intentional, although that's partly because the link above is the "chromeless" version, which removes all the Querki frou-frou and lets you just make the Space look however you like. (This will probably be a paid-user feature in the long run.) To see the menus and stuff, use this link instead. Of course, that's still very simple compared to most sites, moreso because I'm only using a tiny bit of CSS for this Space. In the long run, I'm sure it will get a *bit* more complex, but I'm hoping to keep the pages pretty clean, in contrast to the modern tendency to fill the screen with as much as possible.

When you look at the thing, there's a temptation to shrug and say, "So? It's just a wiki, right?" But the thing is, it's a wiki *plus* a database. Most of what you see here is a single Model valled "Variant"; for each game, I've made an instance of Variant. Variants have useful Properties like Name, Rules, Analysis, Category, Derived From, and so on. Setting up Variant took a couple of minutes of point-and-click.

And the displays are simply generated from that. For instance the page for Seven Card Stud knows that it is itself a Variant (so it shows Rules), but it also has other games that have it as a Category, so it lists them as well. It doesn't need to know anything about them -- the fact that they declare the relationship is good enough. It isn't a page, it's a *Thing*, and it knows how to relate to other Things.

Moreover, I don't even need to define the category at all -- for example, the Stupid Poker Games page doesn't really exist, but defaults to showing all of the games that are tagged as "Stupid". (Yes, we play Mexican Sweat almost every month. It's still stupid.)

That's the key, and it's why Querki was created in the first place. It's for all those trivial little applications that people mostly do in documents or spreadsheets, but which are *really* databases. The goal is to make it easy enough to build them *as* tiny databases, with no more difficulty to create than a document. (And usually with better ease of maintenance in the long run.)

But that's only half the story. What's *really* exciting is what comes next:
  • Pretty soon, I'll be adding the invite system so I can invite people to join in, and it'll become trivial for the other folks at the poker table to edit, update, add new variants and so on.

  • In the near future, we'll develop the ability to have conversations hanging off of any Thing, so we can discuss the variants, make suggestions, and generally collaborate in the Space.

  • A bit after that, we'll add the What's New module, making it easy to track new Variants as they get added. (Right in Querki, as an RSS feed, or in FB/G+.)

  • Then will come the ability to "lift" Apps out of Spaces. That'll be a lot of work to implement, but once it's done, it'll take me maybe five minutes to turn my Poker Space into a general-purpose App that anybody can reuse to record their own tables' ideas.
And so on. The key is that *none* of these features are Poker-specific. The beauty of this project is that there are *so* many useful things we can build here, and all of them will become instantly available to all Spaces.

It's terrifying, but incredibly exciting -- after a solid year on this project, I'm still generating new ideas all the time, and still marveling that nobody seems to be doing anything like it yet. I am really looking forward to opening this up and beginning to bring some of you into it...
Tags: querki

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