Version 0.12: Getting Ready for the App

It took almost three months to create a new version. The reason is simply that there are not many new features left to be done and that we are now focussing our efforts on the mobile app.

invite friendsMost of the changes have happened behind the scenes: We have removed many bugs and increased the speed, and much has been done to help the mobile app play nicely with the server software. We also added a new feature: Users have been requesting the possibility to invite their friends to groups.

If you like to see it live, try it at the demo deployment. And stay tuned for soon upcoming news about the mobile app.

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Version 0.11: Mobile API Speed and Bug Fixes

This version has been lingering in the queue for quite a while. Most of the changes won’t be immediately visible to users. For this blog I pick one that exemplifies the priorities of the upcoming mobile app:

Testers inside Burma (Myanmar) have reported that downloading the initial data to the app still takes considerable time. This will need to be addressed by an improved download mechanism, including lazy loading. Since the development version of the mobile app can now determine the network speed, we are also able to transfer different image sizes depending on the connection quality.

The avatar sizes of the fictional user Ma Lay, for example, are:

  • 12.1 KiB for the full-size avatar
  • 2.1 KiB for the large icon
  • 1.4 KiB for the small icon

On the list view, the API therefore delivers on slow networks the small (instead of the large) icon and on the detail view the large icon (instead of the full-size avatar). For our sample deployment, this reduces the amount of data for the list view from around 59 KiB to 30 KiB, which amounts to roughly 50%. This ratio results from the fact that images make up the main part of the volume. For the detail page, the difference is 14 KiB versus 4 KiB – reducing the volume by about two third, as a rule of thumb.

These amounts seem negligible to us who are used to have a fast connection but they appear to be relevant on networks that allow just a trickle of data.

Looking at the trade-off in terms of image degradation, the difference becomes particularly visible on larger images:

Note that the image quality loss has not been caused by a different JPEG compression ratio, but by enlarging an undersized image. Using a different compression would mean additional work for the API, while simply delivering a different image size can be done from resources that are already available.

Find the code at GitHub and the changelog at the docs.


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Version 0.9: Ajax and Side Bar Chat

The latest version comes with two major novelties:

  1. The first feature is something you know from most other websites, and we have already employed this technology in the chats: Most pages – and particularly where you browse through lists or click to detail views – are now reloaded only in their central parts while the unchanged components are not fetched unless needed.1
    This “partial reloading into the existing page” tremendously speeds up the browsing speed since data amounts and the number of requests to the server are drastically reduced. If something gets stuck, you can of course still reload the page in the browser. You are also able to share the URL as direct link to a page.
    This feature might need some further testing under various conditions, and particularly an unsteady connection might lead to lost page transitions. Nevertheless, we are confident that it deserves to be released in this beta version due to its importance, and of course only after much in-house testing.
  2. This new feature enables us to deliver a second feature, namely to attach a chat window to the steady part.2 Users can therefore browse the pages while keeping the chat open.
    The chat (precisely private messages) on is fully WYSIWYG-enabled and it is therefore not easy to squeeze it to slimmer dimensions. We decided in favour of a solution that lets the user switch between the full width and a very reduced sidebar that regularly polls the server for changes.

If you need more details, move on to the changelog.


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