The best laid plans of diarists… (and the time zone saga)

I was going to post a short photo-essay of a release I just did, but my first attempt to log in to the HamiPiks site was unsuccessful (basically, it won’t let me past the terms and conditions page), and of course, Steve posted a message the other day saying that support requests won’t be answered until Tuesday, so not much I can do about it for now.

It wasn’t that exciting a release anyway, just a book dropped at a nearby bus stop, mainly to help out on the beta-testing of a tweak to the Bookcrossing database, but it was the first time I’d used one of the new release bags from the supply store, so I took a few photos, and thought I could write a diary entry on releasing a book. But that will just have to wait.

At least the database tweak seems to have worked, as far as I can see. The tweak being needed at all was partly my fault, so I thought I’d better help out on the testing 🙂

OK, I suppose now you’re wondering what terrible thing I did to break the Bookcrossing database, but don’t worry, it’s really only indirectly my fault. When Bookcrossing was first set up, it was mainly Americans using it, so the database was set up to use the US Central time zone as “BC Time”. Which was fine, until us antipodeans got in on the act, and noticed that whenever we released a book, the date would usually come up as the day before (because America is around 20 hours behind New Zealand, so when it’s Sunday morning here, it’s still Saturday afternoon over there). This caused a lot of confusion, because some NZ and Australian bookcrossers would leave the date as it was, and others would adjust it to the “correct” time (but then the book wouldn’t show up on the Go Hunting pages until the next day, because the database would think it was a planned release that hadn’t happened yet), so anyone looking at the Go Hunting pages and seeing that a book had been released wouldn’t know whether it had just been released that day (in which case there would be a chance that it was still there, so it was worth looking for it), or if it had been sitting there for a whole day and had probably already been caught. Most of us “old-timers” used a work-around of noting the correct date in the release notes, but newbies were always getting confused by it, and it was a common question on the forums.

Anyway, eventually frustration built up enough that there was a concerted campaign on the Feature Request forum, and a thread started by Australian Bookcrosser newk asking for time zone support ended up with nearly 300 posts on it. I think non-antipodeans were getting sick of us constantly asking for time zones, but the squeaky wheel eventually got the grease, and the wonderful Bookcrossing support team (i.e. Ron and Dan) changed the database so that times were now not only shown as absolute BC-Time, but also as relative time (e.g. “two days ago”). After extensive beta testing, this feature was added to the main site, to the sound of much celebration from Down Under.

However, recently a problem arose with the database, which seemed to be caused by the extra effort taken by the database to calculate the relative times (which is how I can claim to have broken the Bookcrossing database, because I was one of the loudest voices calling for the time zones thing that caused all the problems… sorry everyone!). As a temporary fix, they removed some of the location details from the release notes (I don’t know why that fixed it, but it did), but that’s been the cause of a lot of complaints and confusion, because it looks really strange. Anyway, they announced today that they’ve found another way round the problem (by changing the way the release times are displayed), and are beta testing it before they put it up live. So, being a member of the beta team (not really the huge honour it sounds – the only requirement for getting on the team is to volunteer), I thought I should dash out and release a book, to check if the new system is working ok. So I did. And, like I said, I was going to also use the opportunity to write a bit about releasing books, complete with pretty pictures, but that will have to wait for the return of Steve.

Happy Bookcrossing anyway!

Currently reading: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris