Celebrations, reflections and announcements

Today Clubhouse is exactly 2 and a half years old! I know! Can you believe it….

I’ve never really noticed Clubhouse’s age before mainly because things have been moving at such a pace any milestones had have a cursory thought at best, however as some of you may have noticed I have been conspicous by my absence both on this blog and twitter for a large part of 2010. For those concerned individuals I can assure you both Clubhouse and its team are in rude health, we have 100s of active clubs and continue to develop the tools required to take Clubhouse to where we want it to be. However for the time being we have taken a step back for a number of reasons.

With the advent of our last major update we had essentially solved the problem of team selection given the angle at which we had approached it. That is to say a browser orientated closed application for players of large clubs fielding several teams weekly, managed through email notifications. Most of the problems within this domain were solved with elegant solutions. However our entire roadmap had largely been refinements of the ideas we initially had on the problem of team selection, the next step was not so clear. It became increasingly obvious as Clubhouse grew that team selection formed the keystone of a clubs weekly activities, and as such so many other facets of club life spawned out of and were managed through the processes inherent to team selection, and therefore potentially inherent to Clubhouse, fundraising, events, finance, membership, and news, to name but a few. Each club had their own priorities and friction points and a whole range of requests were made. Unfortunately in potentially going forward and solving any of these problems we were faced with additional complex challenges team selection on its own didn’t present, for example inter section communication, so, instead of Brooklands Cricket Club, you would be a member of Brooklands Sports Club, with the hockey, cricket, lacrosse, and tennis sections all being managed through one club while retaining their autonomy in the certain areas. Equally as Clubhouse aged, we were facing challenges, intrinsic to team selection, that Clubhouse was not initially designed for, archiving of players being the major example. With any of these directions are entire angle was in question, we would need much greater accessibility, it would no longer be just about players and captains, we would have parents, chairmen, and fundraising committees to think of. We would need an open application to allow anyone affiliated with the club to see what was happening, available in as many forms as possible. All in all, whichever path we chose it was going to mean major architectural changes on every level. At first we tried to work within the confines of our initial design and user interface but over time this became limiting. Despite completing large parts of our next update by March we had neither one thing nor the other, neither the original simple flexible solution nor a genuine step forward. We were trying to push features into a user interface which simply didn’t fit. Ultimately I decided we needed to take a step back, many pieces of software start off brilliantly and ultimately are ruined over time, I had no wish to see this happen to Clubhouse.

Around the time we were grappling with this update QMTech, the team behind Clubhouse, had the opportunity to take on a enterprise software project (largely because of Clubhouses success), building an event registration system which we initially sold to Mercedes Benz. This product, called Marquee, has been a major success, but given the calibre and size of our clients it has taken all of our resources and then some. Clubhouse is currently a free project supported by QMTech, as such until Clubhouse grows to a point where it can become self sustaining it relies on the benevolence of QMTech. Ultimately Marquee is good news for Clubhouse as it allows us to further our R&D into the area that Clubhouse lies, in the short term, however, it has squeezed the time we can spend on Clubhouse, and hastened my decision to step back temporarily to re-evaluate.

Fundamentally we have a service which solves, in the main, the problem of team selection for a lot of clubs, we’ve left this in place for now while continuing to support, maintain and use it ourselves. We do have major aspirations for Clubhouse though, and we’ll be back, most likely in 2011, with something new. I’ll try not to leave it this long before blogging again!

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