In This Edition:
The Feature/Future Game
5 March 2014 — Are you ready to play?
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been sweating out the convergence of elements that will ultimately become known as Helix 6.2.3. But we have also been shifting our focus toward the future. And so now, we are inviting you to play the much-heralded, long-awaited second edition of The Feature Game. This game has been played only once before, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
If you’ve been sweating through the development of Helix for macOS along with us — and if you’re reading this, you probably have — then you may recall that way back at the beginning of that adventure, we stipulated that we would clamp a tight lid down on feature requests until the products were running natively in macOS.
Of course, there are many new features that Helix “got” simply by virtue of having made the trip to macOS, and although we all know that ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray,’ we stuck pretty much to our guns. Making Helix AppleScriptable was a notable exception, but it was a vital step to cutting the “Classic cord.” and in spite of the “iconic backlash” from some Helix purists, AppleScript in Helix is already paying dividends well beyond what we had originally envisioned.
And now, by virtue of the completion of the trip to macOS, and of having seen so many Helix collections successfully adapt to this new environment, we have arrived at a joyous moment in the history of Helix: we can once again contemplate new features, knowing we have laid a solid foundation for Helix’s future.
The next essential step in the evolution of Helix for the 21st Century is putting together a blueprint. A vital step in this process is in soliciting your input, this game being your first step in helping us understand which features you want to see added to Helix.
Over the years, we have become the guardians of requests for features people want to see in Helix. At the start of this process, those requests were like a giant pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces. By telling us which pieces you consider most vital, you give us direction in shaping the future of Helix.
Preparation, organization and presentation
Twenty years ago, Helix was in the middle of an exhilarating evolution of features and capabilities. Its potential as a tool was virtually limitless. Its future was bright… but then it was plunged into a dark period that dragged on, with occasional glimpses of light, for a decade or more.
Yet all through that dark time, and all through our recent period of recovery, the list of feature requests continued to grow, encompassing every hope and dream anyone has ever expressed about Helix. Our broad familiarity with its content has guided much of our decision making over the years. It has constantly reminded us of our original intention, which was to see that evolution resume.
The feature requests we are presenting to you in The Feature Game come from several sources, among them…
From these varied sources, we have culled, sorted, refined, organized and distilled ideas into the game you will play today. Where necessary, we have done our best to recast original ideas in ways that make more sense in today's world.
When it was clear that we were finally at the new frontier, we began to really tear into the content, reducing each request to a clearly written headline and one or two supporting sentences.
These requests have been divided into 21 distinct categories, resulting in a list of ideas that runs the gamut from wrapping a command rectangle around an irregularly-shaped image to connecting to your Helix server from a smartphone or tablet to virtually anything you can imagine in between.
How to play/how to help
First: this is not really a “game” so much as a mental exercise. Doing it properly will require perhaps an hour or more of your time, some patience and some concentration. Like an Olympic ski run, it is a somewhat imposing and treacherous course, but we have groomed it nicely for you to minimize potential trauma.
We suggest that you begin by looking over the course. Click on a category name to view its content. If you want to print the entire list — or just be mesmerized by it sheer size and scope — the ‘Expand All’ link in the left column opens them all at once (and then turns into a ‘Collapse All’ button so you can hide them again!). Since you cannot save your work in progress, we strongly urge you to print the entire thing out (it’s 17 pages) and really look it over, work on it offline and then come back and enter your votes.
Everything found in the game ‘lives’ in techdb. In the game, each of these has been distilled down to a headline and brief paragraph, intended to convey the essence of the request. For some of them, this may tell you all you need to know. For others, more detail and discussion can be found by clicking the “R” number shown at the end of the headline: a pop up window will show you the techdb summary and discussion. If you want further explanation, or are simply curious, you can also log into techdb, where you can add to the discussion and help us (and others) better understand the request.
We anticipate that many of you might feel overwhelmed not just by the amount of material, but also by the breadth of subject matter covered. To that end, we invite you to join us each of the next four Fridays at noon in HelixChat to discuss anything in the game for which you need clarification.
For this edition of the game, we’ve upped the ante: you are being given 10,000 units of whichever currency you prefer — in virtual money, that is — to spend on the features you most want to see in the next Helix upgrade.
Here is how to play the game:
As you play, please keep the following considerations in mind:
While we are making no commitment that the feature requests that get the most votes will automatically become features, it is also fair to say that many of the things you vote for in this round of The Feature Game will become part of Helix.
So let’s play!
Over the years since we began this journey, we have insisted on using Helix not simply to build precisely the system we needed, but to test it, debug it and improve it as we went along.
That insistence has kept the flame of Helix burning brightly all through its journey from Classic to macOS. While many new applications have come along since 1984, including many with capabilities Helix does not yet possess, the Helix concept of database application design remains unique and light years ahead of its competition.
With your help, we are about to define and refine the next iteration of Helix software. We want to thank you all in advance for your participation.