August 31st, 2015
Alwin here, with the CLZ Newsletter for August 2015.
Unlike previous months, August only brought a couple of small feature releases:
- Music and Book Collector: Alphabet Bar can now also be used on Title field.
- All PC & Mac programs: New “Ignore Sort Title / Ignore Sort Names” settings.
So I am taking this opportunity to tell you about all the other stuff the 11 members of the CLZ Team are working on “behind the scenes”.
Here’s an overview of the things we do besides building new features:
User interface re-designs
New features are nice, but in many cases the biggest steps forward can be achieved by re-designing existing functionality. To make things more intuitive, easier-to-use or just nicer to work with.
Some examples of recent and upcoming re-designs:
- New Update File Links “wizard”: Clear step-by-step process to repair broken file links. Released a few months ago, instantly annihilated all support questions about this screen.
- Edit screens: Recently re-designed to make them fully adaptive to any screen size, making better use of huge computer displays.
- More intuitive main screen behaviour: Implemented for Windows a while ago, with great results. Less confusing, more logical. Now coming up for Mac.
- Re-design of the “Field Selection screen”: Clearer, simpler, easier-to-use, just select Columns and Sort Fields by dragging and dropping. ETA: within 2 weeks for PC and Mac.
- Add Automatically screens: The core of our software, and not the easiest screen to digest. In dire need of a re-design. ETA: later this year?
Our programs for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android are what you directly interact with, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes too, on our server machines. And that is what half (!!) of our development team is working on full-time!
Some examples of server-side work:
- Cloud Syncing 2.0: Launched earlier this year, a huge re-write of our cloud syncing mechanism. Instantly solved most cloud syncing problems (working on some still!).
- CLZ Cloud 2.1 updates: more fields for the cloud storage and syncing, letting you upload your own data (as opposed to being dependent on our Core data). Already live for books, coming up for movies.
- Server upgrades: Up until a few weeks ago, all 5 Core databases *and* the Barry server were all running on one high performance server machine. To improve the performance and stability of all our services, we have started the huge project of moving all 5 Core databases and the Barry server to six (!!) separate server machines.
On August 17, we made the first step: the CLZ Barry server is now running on it’s own dedicated machine! The 5 Core databases will be moved to their own machines in the upcoming months, one by one.
- Image delivery: We have had a dedicated server just for delivering cover images for many years now. But to further improve download speeds and reliability, we are currently preparing to move to a super-fast world wide content delivery network for all images. An expensive, but necessary next step.
One of the key features of our cataloging solutions is the automatic data and cover art you get when adding by title or barcode. All this information is not “automagically” generated by the software, neither is it sneakily downloaded from 3rd party databases or websites.
Instead, all of the data and cover art is coming for our own Core online media database, on which we focus a lot or our time and attention. For instance:
- Adding new and missing entries: either reported by users through our Core reporting, or using relevant news sites and data feeds.
- Processing your Core error reports: To protect our central databases from bogus data, Core reports are manually moderated and processed by our content managers.
- Overall quality control: We continuously check and fix data and cover images, of course focusing on the entries that are downloaded the most.
- Creating in-house tools: To make sure our content managers can do their work as efficiently as possible, we develop our own in-house admin tools to do all of the above.
Last but not least, a lot our time is going to answering questions and solving problems. With tens of thousand of customers using our stuff on a daily basis, that is inevitable. We receive between 50 and 100 support requests every day!
And at Collectorz.com we always strive to immediately bring you in contact with the CLZ team team member who can help you best. Yes, that includes the programmers.
Our customer support work involves:
- Answering questions: about licenses, updates, how-do-I’s, etc… we answer them all and always within 24 hours, often faster.
- Investigating problem reports: we take all problems seriously and will try to come up with a solution ASAP, even if it means releasing a new build of our software.
- Adding FAQ entries: Some questions are so common that we added the answer to our “Frequently Asked Question” list. New FAQ entries are added all the time.
- Writing manual topics: We recently moved to a new tool for our online manuals and are still in the process of adding and rewriting manual topics. If you have a question, our online user guides and FAQs are always a good place to start.
As you can see, a lot is involved in keeping our set of cataloging solutions up-and-running.
To get the best out of your software and the content of our Core databases, and to stay compatible with the infrastructure that runs it all, make sure you’re always running the latest versions!