Originally posted in my old blog at My Opera
So, the Solid Fireparty is over now and I'm back home. Something like 1200 kilometers driven. I have also posted some photos to the photo gallery and more can be found at http://fireparty.org/lanikuvat/, so check it out.
Getting back on the usual topics, let's look at what kind of software is needed at a LAN party.
There were something like 300-340 visitors at the event, and we had various web-based systems running. I'm going to describe them a bit and some other applications that could come in handy at a slightly larger event like the Fireparty.
The biggest system used at the Fireparty was the place reservation system. This is a vital piece of software; without one, there would be no visitors or it would be quite bothersome to sign up as the other options would probably be email, phone and snail mail.
For more details on the system itself, check out my post about the place reservation system.
There was also a list generator, which would let the admins choose the fields they want and generate a list with those fields. It would use the user data from the reservation system as the base, and this was very handy when looking for the place where a certain visitor was sitting in.
Another useful feature to the reservation system would've been map printouts. The reservation system didn't display the place numbers for each place, so it would've been useful to be able to get a printout of the map with the numbers. Now we just did a quick modification to the live (uh oh) code of the system to get the numbers visible.
The intranet used at the Fireparty was called the lol-internet. It wasn't designed or coded by me, so I don't know the dirty details, but I'll cover it from a user's point of view. The intranet was programmed by stam.
Basically, the job of the intranet was to provide information and various features such as polls, feedback and pizza ordering for the visitors. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it gives a lot of value for its users:
- You can find the information you want when you need it. We had big screens and such displaying various information, but they might not always have everything because they have to be projected. On the intranet on the other hand, you can have as much details as you need, and links to websites that the users can click.
- It reduces the workload of the helpdesk. Typically, if you don't know something, you would go to the helpdesk and ask there. Also, if we wanted to have pizza orders, the helpdesk would have to deal with them manually on a per-user basis.
- Feedback. It's always important for event organizers to know what the people attending it think.
Our intranet was quite good and easy to use for our users. They could use their account from the place reservation system to log in to the intranet, so it worked quite seamlessly. One feature which could come in handy in the future would be to be able to “push” info to the users – If you wanted to check for news, you had to go to the intranet manually. This could be changed so that the users could sign up for email alerts or perhaps subscribe to an RSS feed, which would improve the general knowledge of various things a lot, since many people won't bother checking the intranet manually but if they can get automatic notifications of things they will read them.
This part of the intranet deserves its own headline.
We had a pizza ordering system in the intranet, which is in my opinion a very useful feature to have. People will want to order pizza at an event like this and making something visitors want to do easy for them is always a good thing.
Minttu had made a deal with a local pizzeria that we could make orders by phone at their pizzeria. The event visitors could simply log in the intranet, go to the pizza ordering page, choose the ingredients they want and the pizza would be delivered to their place.
The ordering system worked very well and it was easy for the organizers to deliver the pizzas to the visitors as the system would display the place and room where the person who ordered it was. There were few small mixups with the pizzas, but it happens when the orders are very large.
Point of Sale software
PoS software is the software used for checkouts when you buy something.
We sold various drinks, foods and candy at the event, so a PoS application is important for keeping track of how much we have sold and which items.
One could do without this, but it would either require tedious hand written sales reports or no reports at all which would make it impossible to calculate revenues and items which weren't sold much, which might be wise to drop from the next events if one was to be held.
We used the same software used at a previous event, so it was tested and worked well. This was a browser-based PHP application programmed by Dilaz. The UI of the application is very bare-bones, but it's easy and quick to use which is important when there are many customers. It did not, however, support using a barcode scanner (and we didn't even have one of those anyway). Having a barcode scanner would speed up sales and make the tracking of sales more accurate, so in the future getting something like this could be considered somewhat important.
That concluded the software used at the Fireparty. These were all custom-made by members of The Group.
In addition to these three, one more was suggested after the event: A organizer status/job listing. We used simple printouts of excel spreadsheets to display the jobs of each organizer etc. Sometimes an organizer would not be available to do their task, or they would simply “disappear” – Something like “I'm going to buy some cola” or such.
This was a small problem at times, so it was suggested that we used something to track where everyone was at the next event. Perhaps a simple web-based application where each organizer reports what they are doing if they aren't doing what they should be doing. The job spreadsheet could also be made so that it can be updated live and that other organizers can do changes to it if they, for example, do some other organizers job in their place.
Another piece of software needed a lot is something which can be used for projection. We used Powerpoint for this, but there are some things it can't do very well such as live updates to the projection slides.
There is also software used on the servers at the event and network monitoring tools, but I don't know that much about those, so no comment.
All in all, there's a lot of custom written code in use at our events. It would be interesting to hear if any of you who read this blog have had changes to see the applications used at LAN parties and what they are.