Thanks for posting here Tjash. We really appreciate brewers taking the time to post in this thread. Let's have a look at your post and see if we can make some things clearer.
Tjash wrote:Release BIABacus. Let the forum population decide whether or not certain features are useful, or whether or not certian things are applicable/easy to find/useful.
We have a thread here called, Use this thread to convert recipes to suit your equipment...
. We have followed that thread very closely since its start and those who answer the questions there never envisioned many of the questions that have been asked. What is useful to 25% of brewers may not be important to the other 75% however their questions are valid. For example, how many people maxi-BIAB? Quite a few. So, we have covered this base in the BIABacus and this took a lot of work in both the formulas but more importantly the design and layout. Many other bases have been covered and these may or may not be important to you as an individual brewer.
Tjash wrote:Who cares if it's in a beta format, or if you're going to release a different version in a few weeks or months? Just put a disclaimer on it that any ruined batches of beer are the brewer's responsibility, and that if the user isn't sure about something, double check the output with another source.
One of the main problems with existing brewing software is that they either have incorrect formulas or terminology that is quite useless. See the recent thread here
for an example of this. So, which program can anyone check their formulas against? To date, I haven't found one.
If other brewing software worked well or wasn't confusing, there would be no need for a BIABacus. Having no other software to use as a reliable benchmark was one of the biggest hurdles we had to solve and this took a long time. Firstly we had to discover why formulas in existing software were wrong. Secondly we had to make sure we were right which, mentally, is not an easy hurdle to get over. Thirdly we had to write up small spreadsheets with the true formulas so as to save checking everything by hand. Then the whole process of creating new, unambiguous terminology had to be thought through and designed. The simple formulas had to be then developed to handle a complex web of variables. Through all this, the layout and design of the BIABacus had to be constantly altered. Of course, there have been many more challenges than this.
Tjash wrote:We're all big boys and girls and can decide for ourselves if a program meets our needs. We don't need you to define BOTH our needs AND the solution.
BIABrewer.info has always realised that we are not all big boys and girls. I've been BIABing for 6 or 7 years now and still come up with problems or information I had never heard of before. So, even I am not a big boy yet. I also come across, every day, incorrect information. BIABrewer feels there is a need for definitions to be set, needs for the different categories of brewers to be determined and an appropriate solution to these needs provided.
This is what the BIABacus is all about. The new all-grainer can use the BIABacus and terminology to get under way quickly and confidently. For example, the new brewer doesn't even have to consider things like efficiency and evaporation. This is all automatic. As they gain experience, they can over-ride defaults such as these. In fact, the experienced brewer will find many interesting capabilities, flexibility and speed in the BIABacus that can't be found elsewhere.
Tjash wrote:Any decent engineer will tell you that there is no such thing as a 100% solution. You seem to be trying to solve every issue and every concern a brewer might have. Aiming for a 100% solution is going to take 100% of time (aka, forever!). Give us something we can work with, and we'll tell you where the quirks are. Instead, all we see are promises of how in just a few more short weeks we're going to have access to the Shangri-La of brewing software suites.
There's a few things that need to be understood here.
1. You already have access to the BIABacus - Becoming a beta has been offered many times. Until several months ago, there were no entry requirements in becoming a beta. Unfortunately, one person broke that goodwill spirit which cost this community well over a months development work (a lot more really) and me, personally, a lot of time and money. So, now we do have some entry requirements but the offer is still there.
2. Until the BIABacus is released, anyone can get good help with numbers here on the site - People who ask questions in the, "How to Convert Recipes to Suit Your Equipment..." thread get looked after very well. The formulas in the existing "The Calculator" are actually very good. The BIABacus just allows a lot more flexibility, safeguards, better terminology, more answers etc, etc.
3. This project has not been easy - If we had known it would be so hard, we probably wouldn't have started it. It's been a very slippery slope. No matter how much we, you or any other brewer thinks or wishes this should be a simple exercise, it is not. The more we worked on the project the more we found obvious errors and shortfalls in other programs. Getting the right numbers and putting them into a design and layout that is relatively easy to use has been a big leapfrog process. I personally think that this may be where some other software runs into problems. They start with something basic and build on that code. Later, when they discover they do have a major problem and re-writing the existing code becomes too hard. I think we have thought forward and back as best as we can and that the end result will be worth it.
Over 10% of the entire posts on this forum to date are not visible to newly registered members or fully registered members. Nearly all these posts concern the development of the site and the BIABacus. Several thousand emails also exist behind the scenes. We are not engineers and we certainly haven't come up with a 100% solution. Our aim has been to make sure what numbers and terminology we put out make sense. Once we solved that problem we were half way there. A design and layout that serves as many users of different levels and equipment and allows them to grow gradually into brewing was our other primary goal and we won't be apologising for that. The latter has been about 80% of the work.
Tjash wrote:I understand and appreciate the effort that has gone into development so far. Please don't take this comment as an insult or a slam. I am very interested in seeing the program and would very much like to give it a spin. I'm just tired of the promises of a masterpiece when all I want is paint-by-numbers. Give us beer, not perfection!
The other thing not to expect is perfection. There are many things that can be immediately ridiculed about the BIABacus. For example, there are no drop-down lists for grains or hops. (We had these in a prior version but they would not work across platforms). Automatic conversion from US to metric we also had in a prior version but the same problem resulted. These are things easily fixed in a non-spreadsheet platform. In reality they are minor inconveniences or in some cases, advantageous.
Before We Release
There's only a few of us that can get the site and the BIABAcus co-ordinated for a public release. Not much concentrated time has been available for us in the last 6 weeks or so, however, behind the scenes, we already have a series of posts that are looking at the fastest ways to release the BIABAcus. We've worked out many areas we can compromise without too much detriment but some other areas we are still thinking on. For example, as the BIABacus is a spreadsheet that can be posted anywhere on the net, we have to think about three different groups of people, existing members, first time visitors and those who discover the BIABAcus on another site. Trying to funnel them into a common place may seem simple but a bit of thought should make things easier for everyone.
Many other site layout and structure issues we knew we would have to deal with are now at the forefront of our thinking and these will take time to solve. Re-structuring the site is not an easy thing to do and we only want to do it once.
Also, before release, I want to think on how the work that has been done on this project can be best protected and developed further. For example, Kostass put in several months of very detailed thinking on a database when we were looking at making the BIABacus an online program. Working with someone who thinks so well and is thorough, friendly and communicative is rare and amazing. If at all possible, I would like to find a way that people like Kostass can develop all this BIABacus work and be rewarded for their efforts. Many other people deserve recognition. These things are of no interest to the end user but are important to BIABrewer and that I have no instant solutions to.
The above is about a tenth of what we are thinking on and solving atm Tjash but hopefully it is enough to let you know that the BIABAcus is actually just one part of a very holistic package that is being thought through as best as we can. In the internet/technical world, we often see an impatience for releases, developments or just plain cash. This instant gratification mentality is interesting, exciting and even fun but it often really doesn't serve the end user well. The developer might spend 30 hours on a tiny problem and have a great desire to release it to the world. But, they have only solved one problem of many. How many programs or interfaces do you come across every day from big companies that are appalling? How many interfaces do you see that have been 'engineered' with little or no consideration for the user?
Thinking things through thoroughly, from the user's point of view, is rarely done. It is a common fault of software engineers. (This is why someone like Kostass is so rare.) I think the BIABAcus, whilst being primitive 'software', a spreadsheet, is a huge step forward in this direction and will result in a lot of advantages for all brewers, BIAB and non-BIAB, if we release it correctly.
Also bear in mind Tjash, that all this work has been done with goodwill. That's thousands of unpaid hours and, for a few people a real cost of thousands of dollars. The forum is relatively small now so I think we can wait a bit longer to ensure that the BIABacus is released in an environment and context that encourages and enables the user to discover and utilise all benefits relative to them as quickly as possible.
Thanks again Tjash for your post. Posts like yours always make a difference.