Archive for New Features

Another Winter in Hopville

I’d started the winter focused on building another juicy web app having no connection to Hopville. It was the kind of project that would make me rich and famous and handsome and smart.  As these things go, while I concentrated all of my time and energy elsewhere, Hopville sneakily enjoyed a significant growth spurt, approximately doubling in traffic in the trailing months of 2010. The site had been on auto-pilot for months, so I was surprised and inspired that it’s slow, steady march toward success suddenly sped up. I doubled back at the beginning of the year and started working on Hopville in my (still very limited) spare time.

The result is that, over the last few months I’ve gotten several days’ worth of work on Hopville done. Lots of small changes and new features have made it to the site, mostly unannounced.  While I plan to continue working on new features for the near future (because now I realize that Hopville is the site that will make me rich and famous and handsome and smart), I wanted to take this time to summarize the stuff that has already made it to the site in 2011:

  • Customizable yeast attenuation. Each strain will continue to have a default attenuation value, but brewers can adjust the attenuation percentage on their recipes in order to better match their own situation or experience.
  • Hopville now includes a feature allowing you to follow other brewers.  Now folks can easily keep tabs on each other’s brewing activity.
  • Malt additions can now be marked as Late Boil Additions. Ingredients marked in this way will not affect the calculated gravity of the boil, which means they also won’t affect IBU calculations in formulas sensitive to boil gravity. Many brewers who use extract in their beers requested this feature – late boil additions are a great way to maximize hop utilization when brewing with extracts.
  • Another common request was to allow for “each” units for miscellaneous ingredients so that, for instance, you don’t have to calculate or guess a specific weight or volume for something unit-based, like a Whirlfloc tablet.
  • Brewers who measure the color of their finished beer can now store their result as the measured SRM/EBC.
  • Added a page to highlight Brewing Statistics. What’s there now is a first draft – as time goes on I hope to find lots of interesting information to pull out of Hopville’s database and display here in fancy graphs and charts and things.
  • Added a “share” button to easily link any recipes to a post on one of several social media sites.
  • Created the official Facebook Page for Hopville.com.
  • Added a new category for recipes, Extract with Specialty Grains. Formerly all Extract recipes were sorted and filtered equally, whether or not the recipe included grains. Now folks looking for one type of extract recipe or the other can find them more easily.
  • Bug fixes improved sundry items: top navigation, large volume batches, recipe cloning, metrics mode, BeerXML syntax, recipe sorting, recipe “interestingness” score, direct heat mash rests, partial mash categorization, lovibond range…

Most importantly (in the grand scheme of things), now you can Support Hopville with a simple donation via PayPal. I’m hoping to create a positive feedback loop where Hopville’s fans provide significant enough financial support to keep me from getting distracted by other projects. By staying focused, the site’s improvements will come at a much faster rate, hopefully feeding back into increased financial support, meaning the site could become viable as a part-time job for me instead of the hobby site it is now.  Paying members are encouraged to participate directly in this feedback loop by voting for their favorite future features on another new part of the site, the “Future Features” page.

Current recipe count: 50,205

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Mayor of Hopville back in the office.

I recently got hired again after six months of (mostly voluntary) unemployment.  While I normally don’t muddy up the Hopville blog with details of my personal life, this is relevant purely because of how shockingly little I accomplished during all that time off.  I mean sure,  I traveled a lot. I worked on the house. I interviewed and interviewed and interviewed some more.  Did some volunteer work. And so on.  But I took a long overdue break from the tech industry, and from software development in general, for the entire time.

Luckily for Hopville, now that I am about to start work again, I’m learning lots of knew stuff and I’m completely energized about getting back into web development.  On a recent trip back east, I had some productive time on the plane – including my first-ever launch of website features from a chair in the sky (since my Delta flights were equipped with WiFi).  Here’s what’s new:

  • Recipe pages now have dedicated sections where the brewer can add tasting notes and taste ratings.
  • Brewers pitching multiple yeasts in a single batch can now list unlimited yeast strains and bacteria cultures on a recipe page.  Previously only one yeast was allowed, so brewers pitching multiple cultures had to list the supplemental strains in the recipe comments.  Now the extra cultures become a part of the main recipe.
  • Measured OG and FG can be recorded on recipe pages – when present, the display of the measured values takes priority over the values estimates by Beer Calculus.
  • Brewers can easily export their entire Hopville recipe catalog as BeerXML from their recipe page.  This is a nice shortcut for folks who want to backup or export their entire list of recipes at once, rather than one at a time from each recipe page.
  • New and slightly more enticing homepage…though it’s still a work in progress, design-wise.  Much improved version launching in a few weeks.
  • Featured recipes! Recipes are now given an “interestingness” score which allows Hopville to feature lists of the juiciest recipes on the site.  Now that there are over 10,000 recipes on Hopville, this kind of highlighting will become an important signal-vs-noise aid, making it convenient to find the best recipes quickly.

Over the next month I’ll be continuing to do some major upgrades in preparation for a larger rollout of changes I’m planning to launch on February 25th.  It’s nice to be having fun with code again…and Hopville stands to reap the benefits.

Current recipe count: 11,134

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Miscellaneous Developments

Continuing my second sweep through Hopville, lots of new stuff happened over the weekend:

  • New “miscellaneous ingredients” section added to the recipe page to handle flavorings, clarifiers, etc.
  • Recipe types have been added.  Search and style browsing both now include filtering by recipe type so you can find relevant recipes (all grain, extract, partial mash) more easily.
  • Recipes can now be exported as BeerXML.
  • Lots of little UI tweaks in pursuit of beery beauty.

Right now I’m trying to shoehorn the 2008 BJCP style guidelines into the database, and fleshing out new style pages that will make all the style information readily available on Hopville.

Current recipe count: 633

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Hopville goes better with search.

I’ve pretty much burnt out on fixing up my house, which has been my big summer project.  So now it’s back to working on stuff in my newly clean office space.  It’s stylin’.  I’m preparing a significant Hopville release right now, but it’s mostly significant in the guts of the program.  I’m converting the database to use metric units to store all recipe measurements.  This will make the site a lot more useful for non-U.S. folks.  It’s true that most users of the site are in the States, but that’s partly because the site is effectively useless for non-citizens.  We’re the only remaining stalwarts of the ancient English system.  Except maybe Burma.  And Liberia.  Not a lot of homebrewing going on in those locales.

But I’m not just converting to metric in order to feel wordly.  This change will also facilitate recipe importing and exporting features.  BeerXML is the language that brewing software uses to communicate with other brewing software about recipes, and it only speaks metric.

The metrics conversion shouldn’t affect U.S. users at all, the Beer Calculus interface and calculations will remain the same (assuming I didn’t mess up…but I’m being especially careful with this release), but users will be able to create, view, and edit recipes in whichever system they like.  Hopefully I’ll be rolling out that release by the end of the weekend, along with some navigation improvements.

Speaking of navigation improvements, I finally added search to Hopville this week.  It was a big, gaping hole in the site navigation so I’m glad some users contacted me to cow-prod me into adding it.

Current recipe count: 613

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One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Site

The Hopville recipe count turned 100 today! Okay, it’s a relatively small milestone, but it’s also the very first milestone. And when you launch a site with three recipes on it, do no promotion/advertising/blog commenting, and have almost no Google exposure (which is still true…Google’s last crawl was on the 11th), 100 feels like a lot of recipes. Hey G, why don’tcha come on back and see us sometime? We’d like that. The more, the merrier. With 41 registered users, I think we might’ve already surpassed the population count of the real Hopville, OR.

In other news, recent developments on the site:

  • First draft of fleshed-out brewer profile pages. You can now add a profile picture, a link to your website, and a few words about your brewing self to the profile page. That page has been split into tabbed pages for Recent Activity, Recipes Created, Recipes Favorite-d, and Comments.
  • Editing individual ingredients in Beer Calculus is now AJAX-based, so each page load as the recipe gets designed and updated is a wee bit faster than it was before.
  • Completed the list of recipe types so all BJCP beer styles are represented.
  • Added a beer style dropdown to the style page, making it easy to switch between styles when browsing recipes. Search soon to follow.
  • As usual, lots of little design changes accompanied these updates.

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On the Road to 1.0

I managed to avoid hangovers this weekend – at least, debilitating ones – and made more steady progress on Hopville. When I started thinking about releasing the site as fast and light-weight as possible, I reckoned there’d be three stages of the initial roll-out. With the addition of the recipe comments feature, I’m about half way done with the “second phase”. I suppose that means I’m about half way to a launch-ready site, and the current participants are unwittingly acting as Beta testers. Shhh…

New Stuff

  • Comments are now allowed on recipes, so brewers can share questions, compliments, and tips on their recipes
  • The points per gallon of sugar extract, as well as the lovibond rating of each fermentable ingredient, are now customizable.  Previously there were default settings for each ingredient, which were fixed and never displayed.  That was handy for keeping the interface clean, but continued design tweaks on the calculator are facilitating more customization options without huge costs in terms of clutter.
  • Added White Labs yeast strains, as well as Rice Hulls as a mash/sparge ingredient


Other Updates

  • Improved the way stylesheets handle the “printable” version of pages, so more information is displayed on the printed version, and a separate version no longer needs to be maintained
  • Fixed some bugs with “save” versus “save as” when updating saved recipes
  • Made the maximum weight per fermentable ingredient dynamic, dependent on batch size. Most people will never know this happened, but it’s much more convenient for folks brewing batches of 10+ gallons.

Current recipe count: 74

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