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All comments by Nicolas Hammond
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Irrespective of which committee, the items which I expect most people to be interested are the main business questions going forward. Sure, everyone may want a scapegoat for what happened, but not likely to get one.

The main business questions are:

What is the expected cost of ‘finishing’ ACBLscore+ so it can be released? I've addressed some of this at http://bsp.bridgescoreplus.com/?page_id=44

What is the expected cost of enhancing ACBLscore to match the features of ACBLscore+?
ACBLscore+ has some features not in ACBLscore that ACBL are now trying to match.

What is the expected cost of maintaining ACBLscore+?
This is a difficult question because it involves time/money/resources. ACBL have little knowledge of the power of ACBLscore+.

How does this compare to the code of maintaining ACBLscore?
Again difficult question. How hard is it going to be to replace Jim. How many people are needed to replace him. Can they maintain his code?

What is the expected cost of improving being made to ACBLscore+ (e.g. Bridgemates in Swiss events) against the cost of improvements being made to ACBLscore?

What does the future look like with ACBLscore?

What does the future look like with ACBLscore+?

What is the training time for a new TD (does not know ACBLscore or ACBLscore+) to learn a new system?

Will ACBLscore+ save ACBL any money (automates repetitive tasks)?

Does ACBLscore+ improve the player experience?

Can any parts of ACBLscore+ be used?
Jan. 11, 2015
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The Board of Directors (BOD) committee is different.

The first thing I would do is to get the names of the BOD Technology Committee, then add them to the CEO Technology Committee. It would halve the amount of work the BOD Technology Committee would need to do and save the members who are on both committees from going over the same information twice with different groups.

I'd expect that BOD Committee to have a much wider purview, and also not be restricted in the information that they see. For items I listed in the last post on the CEO committee that may get provided to “independent” members, these should all be provided to the BOD committee.

The BOD needs to know what the problems were, how they were caused, what is being done to make sure similar problems do not occur in the future. They also need to review the decision to drop ACBLscore+ and the reasons behind it.

Here's the set of questions I'd be asking if I were on the BOD committee:

1. Did ACBL use outside counsel when creating the original ACBLscore+ contract?
If so, can we see the outside counsel's comments on the ownership/copyright issue.

2. Did ACBL use an outside counsel to review ACBL's various technology contracts after the ACBLscore+ contract was signed?
If so, what was the outside counsel's comments on ownership/copyright?
I'd want to see the original emails from outside counsel to ACBL.

3. When did this review occur?

4. Were the contents of this review reported to the board?

5. Did outside counsel recommend any changes to the original ACBLscore+ contract?

6. Did outside counsel recommend that if changes could not be made to the original ACBLscore+ contract that ACBL might face issues with using ACBLscore+?

7. When was this reported to the board?

8. Did ACBL make it a requirement to the contractor for any future work on ACBLscore+ to be contingent on renegotiating the original ACBLscore+ contract?

9. When did ACBL stop paying the ACBLscore+ outside contractor's monthly invoices?

10. How long did this go on for?

11. Why did ACBL stop making payments? Was the outside contractor told why?

12. What was the impact on the ACBLscore+ contract of not paying invoices?
(ACBL won't be able to answer this one properly - it was major).

13. Did ACBL management report to the board that ACBL had stopped making payments? Did ACBL management give the reasons why?

14. Did ACBL "provide the necessary information for to perform the work“?
(Wording is from the contract).

15. What were the list of specs/other items that ACBL failed to deliver?

16. What was the duration of each delay in providing the specs? What was the cause of each delay? What was the impact of each delay? Why were there delays?

17. At any point during the contract, did ACBL deny access to ACBL employees for Contractor to perform the work?

If I were answering this one for the board, I'd check with all the managers on the ACBLscore+ project, then I'd double check with them to make sure that they were giving me the right answer. Then I'd check for a third time. Then I'd check with the employees.

18. Did ACBL management report the problems from the two March 2013 incidents to the ACBL Board at the July 2013 Board Meeting?

19. What was the impact on the ACBLscore+ project from the March 2013 incidents?
(Not expecting ACBL to be able to answer that one, the impact was substantial).

20. ACBL were supposed to provide 1.5 staff for the ACBLscore+ contract. Who were those people? What work did they do? There should be 3 man years of work, where is it?


Now the important questions:

1. The ACBL counsel that negotiated the original ACBLscore+ contract and subsequent outside counsel have differing views on the importance of the Copyright issue. How does ACBL resolve these differences?

Until this is done, ACBL are not going to do anything with ACBLscore+.

2. To what extent was the ”technical" decision to drop ACBLscore+ based on outside counsel comments on copyright?
Jan. 11, 2015
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I haven't seen a remit for the two Technology committees, but let's assume that they are supposed to look at what happened, what is happening, and what should happen. The past, present, and future.

This thread was on ACBLscore+, not the other ACBL Technology programs, so I will focus on it. We will start with the past and focus on the CEO Technology Committee.

We already knew the outcome of the CEO Technology Committee. 6 of the 10 members were on the committee that decided to drop ACBLscore+.

For the new “independent” members of this committee, it is unclear what information they will be given.

I suspect that the committee will attempt to justify the “technical” decision last year to drop ACBLscore+ so if I were on the committee, I'd want to see the following:

1. ACBLscore+ running on Windows.

I've posted statements on BW about the difference between running in production mode and developer mode. Logging is also an issue that can slow a system down. I'd want to see ACBLscore+ running in production mode, with developer logging turned off. I'd want to see it on Windows XP and Windows 7, the two most common platforms for ACBLscore+. I'd want it configured with the full ACBL member database (310K members). Basically testing a real world platform.

Other than TDs, few people know the full extent of ACBLscore. So I'd want some idea of what I should be testing. I'd want to know what new features/capabilities are in ACBLscore+ so that I can compare.

You've heard me post about the missing specs from ACBL, so I'd want to know what's working, what's not. I'll ignore the reasons why something isn't working for the moment; I just want to know what to expect from all the different components that make up ACBLscore+.

This information is in the various status reports and the project Wiki and some Exhibits.

The project Wiki gives information on how to set this up.

I want to see how it runs in a real world environment. I'd probably want to take it to my local club and a tournament to see how it compares. I might need a TD to help with the tournament financials.

It would help if ACBL can pre-load tournament and club data (easy to do, details on Wiki).

2. ACBLscore+ running on a Mac.

This was an initial requirement, so I'd want to see that ACBLscore+ runs on Windows XP, Windows 7 and Mac.

ACBL have all the code for Windows 7, XP, and Mac (and Linux). The Wiki gives all setup details.

3. Testing

ACBLscore+ comes with built-in testing, so I'd want to see how this works. Easiest example is to take all the game files from a regional, import them to ACBLscore+, re-score, re-rank, re-masterpoint and see the differences between the output of ACBLscore and ACBLscore+. The test code is in ./lib/tasks/admin/test_gfs.rake and the sample game files are in ./examples/gf/regionals.

The ability to have an automated test suite is one of the advantages of ACBLscore+.

We've just seen a recent example of what happens without an automated testing ability.

4. Source code

It is unclear if ACBL will give access to the Committee to the ACBLscore+ source code. If I were asking to evaluate the software, I'd want to see it. I would want to get some idea of the style of the code, how easy it would be to “finish” the code. The majority of the code is Ruby/Ruby on Rails; the masterpoint code is in C. There's about 200K lines of code so a lot to look at. There's other code in C. A quick look at source code can typically give a good consultant an idea of the quality of coding/comments and the expected cost of new code.

For comparison, I'd like to look at the source code for ACBLscore.

The ultimate business decision that is going to be made is it better to continue with ACBLscore or should we work on ACBLscore+.

Knowing the state of both code bases, the practicalities of working with each solution, the ability to hire new staff to work with the code, are crucial for the decision making process.

5. Utilities

ACBLscore+ is not just a single program; it is a collection of different programs. One tool - gfprint - can read game files, output data in XML, then read that XML and create a game file. This tool is very useful for a variety of applications, including fast results, automated testing etc. I'd want to spend some time learning this tool, how it could be used.

6. Design

Source code is one thing; I'd like to understand the design of the underlying system and how it compares to current. This is going to take a little time to research.

If you get this opportunity, start with ./db/schema.rb and the files in ./db/migrate. This will quickly give you an idea of the underlying data structures.

Understanding the design of the software is important, because it comes back to the business decision of what is the best way forward.

Rails can create a flowchart. See ./notes/documentation on how to create documentation.

I'd want to see the erd.pdf, and the source code documentation.

7. IDE

What Integrated Development Environments (IDE) are there for working with RoR?

My experience with ACBL is that there is very little (none?) internal use of modern tools, modern IDEs that can make developing and maintaining code orders of magnitude better and faster than a terminal and basic word editor.


The above is what the CEO committee is likely to focus on.

The bigger question, which everyone probably wants an independent answer to, is what happened to cause ACBL to drop ACBLscore+. I doubt that the CEO Technology Committee will be given the information needed to answer this one correctly.

If the committee is tasked with finding out what went wrong with the ACBLscore+ project, then as an independent person on that committee I'd expect the following:

1. Access to the Monthly Status Reports (MSRs)

They are dull. There are 24 of them. Nothing very interesting in them, normal type status reports for a project of this size. But, you've probably got to read them, or parts of them. No reason not to release these to whoever wants them, except for the last 3-4 reports. These did not have the wide audience of the first 20 or so and were more specific.

2. Access to the Executive Status Reports (ESRs)

There were some months where I provided both a Monthly Status Report, but also an Executive Status Report which went only to ACBL Management.

I've seen prior discussion on if the Technology Committee should be confidential. Absolutely. These Executive Status Reports mention individuals by name.

I am sure that Robert (Hartman, ACBL CEO) will do his best to protect ACBL employees. I would support him in that regard. A long time ago, we both decided that “name and shame” is not going to be helpful to anyone. It was clear some time ago to both of us that there were some serious shortfalls with some ACBL staff. Robert has admitted short-comings with ACBL, and, to his credit, has taken personal responsibility for these problems to protect his staff. Robert did this both at the March 2014 ACBL Board Meeting, and also at the Phoenix ACBL Board of Governors Meeting. One of the things that everyone must agree on, is what is the purpose of the Committee. Name and shame should not be its purpose.

Releasing these Executive Status Reports, which I intended to be confidential, to outsiders is something that should be taken with great care. But, this is an ACBL issue.

The Executive Status Reports list the various problems that were occurring in more detail.

3. Private letters.

There were some private letters that I sent to Robert.

These would be even more confidential than the ESRs.

The first letter was regarding two separate (ACBL-caused) incidents in March 2013 that had serious consequences for the ACBLscore+ work. That letter doesn't mention names, but one can be deduced from the context of the problem.

I would expect Robert to have reported these incidents to the ACBL board at its next meeting in July 2013, probably without names. I assume the ACBL board are aware; releasing the issue/names to a wider public won't help though I'm sure everyone is now curious.

There were other letters, one in January 2014 comes to mind. I expect Robert to have informed the Board; but releasing them to the CEO Technology Committee is probably unlikely.

4. Emails

There are obviously a large number of emails back/forth. There is going to be little interesting in them. Most of the relevant or important emails ended up on the Wiki.

5. Wiki

We set up an on-line Wiki for the ACBLscore+ project. This was the main tracking mechanism for the project. After the contract was over, we took it down. A copy of all data was delivered to ACBL on DVD at the end of the contract. It should be trivial to set up the Wiki. This Wiki would be very useful to the Technology Committee to review as it will greatly simplify their work.

I've referred to missing specs, and other issues.

If I were an independent person on the committee, I'd like to see what they are, what the scope of the problems were.

On the Wiki, go to the top level items marked “ACBL Integration”, “ACBL Decisions”, “Board Decisions”. These track the various issues, along with dates.

The Wiki was open to all developers, and ACBL, there is little/nothing overly confidential on it.

6. Internal status reports

This was the most high profile project within ACBL.

I will assume that there were internal status reports generated on the work that ACBL was supposed to do as part of the ACBLscore+ work. I'd like to see them.

7. Talk to TDs.

ACBLscore+, or at least parts of it, have been used at different tournaments in the past 2 years. I'd want to talk to the TDs at those tournaments to get their feedback. Nothing can be better than unbiased comments from real world usage.

I've probably done more tournaments in D7 than elsewhere so I'd want to talk to the D7 TDs and also the TCs for D7 tournaments that have run ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+.

I'd also want to talk to the DICs. There's probably 4-5 of them. Ask what they think of ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+ when it has been used.

8. Did contractor do his job?

I'd like to see the original scope of work. It's in the contract but ACBL may not want to release. They can redact confidential items from the contract and provide a copy. Exhibits A, B, C, F, G can be provided. (D is financial, E is the copyright/ownership). Exhibits B and G are the main Exhibits because they lists the phases. Nothing particularly confidential in them, so copies of B and G at a minimum.

The work for ACBLscore+ was stored on the Internet using Github. ACBL should have been downloading a copy at least one a week, but certainly once a month, as part of due diligence to make sure that they always had a copy. (I never cut off access to ACBL to this site, even when they were not paying their bills). I'd want to see a copy of each week's code download to make sure the contractor was delivering.

Given the make-up of the committee, the expected report on ACBLscore+ can be summed up:

1. We (ACBL) made mistakes. We acknowledge them, we are working hard to rectify them and make sure that they don't happen again.
Jan. 11, 2015
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I've received the threat. ACBL league counsel can verify. My lawyer reviewed it, did not seem to be anything for me to worry about. I assume that it was reported to the BOD in Providence. Not going to post here.
Jan. 11, 2015
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A learning curve was expected.

Better way of looking at it:

A new CD, who knows nothing about ACBLscore or ACBLscore+, which is quicker for them to learn?

The original UI has evolved from 30 years ago as new features were added and new functionality put in. I doubt you would design the current UI given today's tools.
Jan. 11, 2015
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The old policy was broken. There were many issues.

This policy stuff was something that I started working with ACBL during the start of the ACBLscore+ contract, so about 3 years ago. My issue was that I did not want my company liable for transmission of data which could result in a privacy lawsuit. The new ACBLscore+ was supposed to have one database that contained all the ACBL members (about 310K names, with about 170K active members). No more downloading local Unit files, or merging local data, or all the other problems that club managers have with their data. Lots more tools to help with getting data off the system.

Let me try and give broad details:

The ACBL member database contains various information about you, including phone, email, ACBL membership data. It is transferred from ACBL to various places.

The database contains information on European Union (EU) members.

The database crosses state lines, and country lines.

The database can cross over into EU, e.g. ACBL club at an army base in Germany.

The database contains information on minors (different definition in different states).

The database has to be protected under different EU and US law.

The laws on protection of information on Personally Identifiable Information (PII), particular on minors, can result in severe financial penalties.

It is hard to find someone knowledgeable about all of the above, sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to give clear and concise legal direction given the complexities of minors, EU, US, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda law.
Jan. 11, 2015
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As a Unit Officer, you can request member data. The rules of use are (from MyACBL->Member Rosters).

“Rules
The list or ACBLscore Player Information file requested from ACBL is not to be used for personal or commercial use. It may be used solely for ACBL Districts, Units and Clubs to promote ACBL affiliated bridge activities.

These lists are not to be shared with any third parties. No information from these lists may be published on a web site, bulletin board or on similar resources without the express written permission of the ACBL member whose name is identified.

Violation of these rules may subject the violating party to discipline or sanctions under ACBL Rules and Regulations”

A strict interpretation of this rule is that you cannot create a local directory using the ACBL member database without getting written permission from each member.

An even sillier interpretation is that you can't print results from your Sectional on the Unit web site where you list the player's name and city/state because the correlation from your ACBL player number to your city/state is from data in the file you need to download.
Jan. 11, 2015
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 15, 2015
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The testing of ACBLscore is difficult. It is all manual testing, there are no automated tests.

The masterpoint code has been through lots of iterations. This latest iteration (Jan 1, 2015) is Masterpoint Revision 13 in Jim's tabulation of masterpoint revisions. In other words, he's been through at least 13 major masterpoint revisions with ACBLscore.

I feel for Jim. Previously releases would come out; if there were bugs they would be quietly fixed within the ACBL family and players would be none the wiser. With the Internet, his bugs are unfortunately more public. Jim is very proud, and rightly so, of ACBLscore. When I visited ACBL, Jim was always one of the first people there, the time between 6am->8am was usually the most productive for me because I could sit with Jim and go over various issues. I am sure that he is mortified that there were problems. The fact that they were fixed quickly is a testament to Jim.

There are so many variations with Masterpoints that it is impossible to test each and every situation. Also, it is very slow with ACBLscore to create a new test scenario. In other words, if it is 43 clicks (or whatever the number is) to create a new event that is going to be tested, then it takes an incredible amount of time to create the different scenarios for manual testing.

It is very easy for anyone to make the recommendation that ACBL needs a test department.

For those that have been involved with testing, test departments, it is very hard to find long-term employees.

What ACBL needs is someone with solid Test Management credentials, but I doubt they will find, or hire, this person any time soon. The concept of white box, black box, grey box, TDD, test coverage are all alien.

Also, if you look at the variety of ACBL products/services, there is a very broad range of services from ACBLscore to TourneyTrax to interactive web site. They each involve a different set of testing criteria.

The Masterpoint code within ACBLscore is some of most complex code. The formula has been tweaked at least 13 times. There are 3 similar, but different, software “modules” (different *.PAS files, not ‘modules’ in the classic sense) that do masterpoint code. For example, the masterpoint chart code is different than the scoring code, so you may have to make the changes to two different places.

Trying to replace Jim is difficult. He's been the only programmer for 30+ years on ACBLscore. ACBL have been unable to replace him. Jim is probably past 65, if that is the modern retirement age, but keeps working.

The structure of ACBLscore makes automated testing difficult.

There are some things that ACBL could do.

For example, autohotkey allows for automation of repetitive key strokes/data input. We used it in the ACBLscore+ contract to automatically generate the output from ACBLscore of the various movement files. I believe that some people use it for automated results generation from ACBLscore. Using autohotkey would allow for rapid creation of game files and speed it testing.

Another feature within ACBLscore is the DOS Macro function. Properly implemented this can speed up a lot of repetitive tasks within ACBLscore. Few people use it. The most prolific ACBL TD user retired recently so many of his scripts may have retired with him.

As part of the ACBLscore+ contract, we developed a software tool, ‘gfprint’ or simply ‘gf’ that takes a game file, and converts to XML. It can do the reverse, take the XML and create a game file. This is a very powerful tool for large scale processing of game files. Very useful for testing. We used it extensively. ACBL seem to have a NIH mentality so I do not know if they use it or not.

Setting up any of these test environments would take time. You then have to implement a process to make sure that a software release goes through a testing cycle. If you are the developer, or the test engineer, then you need to make sure that each time there is a software release that all the tests are updated. If there is a ‘bug’ you have to figure out if it is in the test code, or the in the production code. ACBL does not have that development mentality. What is done has worked for some time. Occasionally there will be blips, as happened recently.

Masterpoints are complicated. During the ACBLscore+ contract, we asked for the Masterpoint Assignment and Eligibility specs. There was over a 6 month delay in trying to get someone at ACBL to start working on providing these specs. In the end, they never did deliver. I still think it would be very useful for players to have all of the masterpoint calculations, assignments and eligibility rules in one place.

There is the MPBOOK. This defines some of the calculation rules. But ACBLscore implements what it wants and doesn't follow the rules in the MPBOOK. As no-one has ever complained, what should probably happen is that the MPBOOK should be updated to reflect the actual MP rules that are implemented in ACBLscore, and not what the BOD passed. Those that have read the MPBOOK can see the places where the rules are not followed, and quite frankly, how many players really care to check? Making ACBLscore follow the rules in MPBOOK would be too much work at this point. Much easier to update the MPBOOK to reflect reality.

I also don't think players realize (or care) about the difficulty of calculating the masterpoints. How often do you as a player ever check the calculations behind the masterpoints assigned to you from an event?

As part of testing for ACBLscore+, we took the data from an ACBL tournament, ran it through ACBLscore+, re-scored, re-ranked, re-masterpointed using ACBLscore+'s implementation of masterpoints. We rarely have any discrepancies in the re-scoring, or the re-ranking, but lots of discrepancies with masterpoints. This is either a bug in ACBLscore, a bug in ACBLscore+, or incorrect configuration by the TDs. For ACBLscore+ we automate a lot of the calculations that must be done manually by a TD when calculating MPs for an event.

What we found for the tournament was that 10% of game files have masterpoint errors in them. Usually it was a TD mis-configuration, because it is very easy to mis-configure ACBLscore for a “complex” event for masterpoint calculations/awards. In some cases the errors was small, e.g. less than 0.1 masterpoints, but in some cases it was large (2+ MPs), or the wrong depth calculation which means either more people got masterpoints than they should, or far fewer.

The current ACBLscore process for masterpoint calculation/assignment/eligibility is manual. Always has been. There are requirements on ACBL TDs to manually check the results for MPs by using the masterpoint chart functionality but not all do as it is a very time-consuming process.

I agree with the comments about Doug Grove. He is one of the best. Another one that is retiring soon. He has the best Tournament cash tracking software (Excel spreadsheet) that I have seen. This should be used by more TDs. I hope that this does not get lost before Doug retires.


Jan. 11, 2015
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There is no equivalent testing in Turbo Pascal.

All of ACBLscore testing is manual.

Rails has a great testing framework. Some of the ACBLscore+ work was Test Driven Development (TDD) where you write the tests first, then write the code. We also added lots of additional testing, e.g. take all game files from a regional/sectional, import to ACBLscore+, re-score, re-rank, re-masterpoint, compare to ACBLscore.

The “Personal Web Server” is a different topic. This is one of ACBL's way of trying to dismiss ACBLscore+. Any attempt to use a local service means the software won't work. You are correct to rant.
Jan. 11, 2015
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During the ACBLscore+ work I went to many clubs, of various sizes, in different parts of the country. There are 3,000+ ACBL clubs. The majority are small. Typically they rent space from a community hall, church basement etc. Quite a few did not have Internet access. I don't see this changing in a while.

For many tournaments, the rate for the hotel WiFi can be prohibitive. This is the rate the convention center charges, not the (free) WiFi you get in your room. Often TDs are taking the results on a stick back to their room so that they can upload to Fast Results etc.

I don't see in the near (3 years) future this changing. It is still a reasonable requirement that the Bridge Scoring Program (BSP) does not require Internet access.
Jan. 11, 2015
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http://www.acbl.org/tournaments_page/nabcs/past-nabcs/nabc-casebooks/

Last one posted is Memphis 2012.
Jan. 2, 2015
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Jeff was fantastic. I don't think people realized how hard he and his team worked behind the scenes at NABCs. He took little/no personal credit for the work. He was always very protective of his staff, and would not tolerate abuse by players. Most players probably don't realize who he is/was. He often handed out Bulletins when you got to the top of stairs at NABCs. Jeff negotiated most of the NABC contracts - I know some of you have complained but he was always on the look-out for the best deal for everyone including ACBL. These are sometimes negotiated 5-10+ years in advance.

He will be sorely missed by ACBL. Condolences to his family. He was one of the best.
Dec. 31, 2014
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Robert, Tony, Ken, Bruce, Merlin, Russ. Surprised no-one pointed it out before. I don't know who else was on the committee that looked at ACBLscore+ - I wasn't involved or asked.

Tony is new; he's a consultant ACBL brought on-board in March 2014. Never met him. Talked to him in March, seems like a sharp guy. Tony is not a bridge player, but don't hold that against him.

Bruce is ACBL IT Manager (apologies if I got his title wrong), if it's a working committee he belongs on it; if it's a supervisory committee, then they are really supervising his department. He is not a bridge player. He joined ACBL about 2+ years ago.

Ken is a TD, works v. hard, he does not have a tech background. He was i/c of roll-out of TourneyTrax (not the developer/consultant on the project, but the ACBL face to the project). He got added to the ACBLscore+ project towards the end.

Merlin created a pre-cursor to ACBLscore (yes, that long ago!). He does work on results in D20. He was on the ACBLscore+ email list and Wiki etc. but not involved with it.
Dec. 31, 2014
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Jan. 1, 2015
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Robin:

In the UK do you have to wait until all matches of a round have been played before you get the assignments for the next round in a Swiss Teams (or Pairs) event?
Dec. 31, 2014
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Motivation:

I've had a couple of emails about my motivation for all of this (my comments/posts), so let me try and explain. “It's complicated.”

The best way I think I can explain is by an analogy.

I remember being in the ACBL offices a couple of years ago and Jay Whipple was releasing his Fast Results. ACBL could not understand his reasons. I'll be honest, it was also a little confusing to me. Jay was giving away software he created, not charging anyone for anything, obviously spending a lot of time on customer support, and ACBL were highly dubious why anyone would do this. ACBL were reluctant to work with Jay. Clearly he had alterior motives. But what were they? I'd given ACBL Fast Results, all they needed to do was to provide an ability for a TD to get a game file to a central server, and to provide a results database but Jay had beaten ACBL to both of those, and had also written the same Fast Results stuff I'd done. I had a personal vested interest in Fast Results, it was part of Phase 1 of the ACBLscore+ contract. Why would anyone/Jay give something away for free? That was what was puzzling to ACBL. And me. Why would anyone do this? This was well before Jay Whipple was on the ACBL BOD. ACBL actually made it harder for Jay to offer Fast Results. Two years later, Jay is now on the ACBL board, still giving away Fast Results, still taking support calls for free irrespective of time zone, still not asking for anything personally. As some people find it very difficult to get something for free, he set a rate a Regionals and Sectionals and asked them to give money to the ACBL Education Foundation. All of a sudden, it became easier for him to “sell” “free”. As with everything, we are suspicious of free, pay something and we are accepting of it. When he starting “charging” (the fee was optional) his “sales” increased.

It turns out that Jay did not have alterior motives and he simply cared about Bridge and wanted to give back. Or pay forward. Whatever charitable method you understand. His motives were pure, but it took some time for the “insiders” to accept an “outsider” giving stuff away.

So, I'm in the same situation. Except I don't ask for a contribution to a foundation. I'm a little behind where Jay was in his marketing.

The ACBLscore+ contract gives my company rights to the software created as part of the ACBLscore+ contract I never, ever expected to be in the situation we are in now, I never had any intentions of doing anything with ACBLscore+ in the bridge space, that's what ACBL were going to do. In April 2014, I pre-paid for a year of hosting/other stuff on the assumption HS may get more work from ACBL. Didn't happen. But we pre-paid. No problem. Not complaining. I wrote this off as part of the cost of doing business. In June/July ACBL decided to throw away ACBLscore+. Well, my company has zero marginal cost for hosting the software; I've made a commitment to Gatlinburg for 2015, so… giving this stuff away. Not sure what we'll do after April 2015, but not going to charge anyone for anything until then. For me, simply not worth the paperwork. At the same time, I'm not going to offer, nor am able to offer, the same type of support that Jay does. Gatlinburg 2015 will be very interesting to see how much money they can save because of the inherent efficiencies of what I have now rebranded as Bridgescore+.

Clearly there's a difference between ACBL saying ACBLscore+ is no good, and me giving it away for free to tournaments and all tournaments I've been to so far been very happy with it, all the feedback from players/TDs/TCs being positive.

After April 2015, I have no idea. Ideally ACBL will restart ACBLscore+. If they don't, we'll see. ACBL management and BOD have made it even more difficult to offer Bridgescore+ to tournaments. I understand that seeing Bridgescore+ is embarrassing to ACBL, but all tournaments so far seem to like it, both players and TDs even if we are only running a small portion of what Bridgescore+ is capable of. I'm expecting the ACBL management and BOD to make it even more difficult to offer Bridgescore+ to tournaments. We'll see.

I actually had an offer from someone (a bridge player, duh) to pay to finish the software. We declined. If ACBLscore+ is to be successful, it needs to have solid software support behind it, with a customer service team working the same hours as ACBL clubs/tournaments (from 9am in Bermuda, to after 11pm in Hawaii); that's not something my company offers. It is something that ACBL is best placed to offer. Also, the work that needs to be done to finish the code, will be done much quicker/easier if there are specs. Trying to reverse engineer the specs is a very difficult task. The biggest spec that was missing is on Masterpoints, specifically the Calculation/Assignment/Eligibility. The MPBOOK is not sufficient. If ACBL can write this spec, it would be helpful for everyone. Am sure as ACBL players, we would all like to know what these rules are.
Dec. 31, 2014
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First, a quick explanation. I work a lot. I travel a lot. I have to fund my bridge habit somehow…

Someone posts something, I'll write an explanation, often on a plane. By the time I land, there have been other posts making some of what I wrote irrelevant so I will re-write. So sometimes my responses may appear a little disjointed. If I'm at a customer site, or working for a customer, they always take precedence so I don't read bridgewinners.com, or respond to email/FB mail or may not read until that night/nex week, or respond until I travel again.

JoAnn Sprung posted on how to move forward and some scenarios. Let me offer my viewpoint. There are different scenarios. Let me try and map them out from my perspective:

First, is ACBL and ACBLscore+.

ACBL have announced that they have thrown away ACBLscore+.

This decision has caused ACBL some embarrassment. There is also a $1.9M write-off which is not sitting well with anyone.

It's going to be a difficult decision for ACBL management to overturn without causing even more embarrassment. Hopefully people/politics don't get in the away. Even it was the right decision (throw it all away), there's some embarrassment within ACBL for letting things get to this point.

Assuming that it is possible to overturn, let's look at the process:

1. Legal.

Before anything happens, ACBL is going to need to get a different legal opinion on the copyright issue. There have been some lawyers making comments on this thread. Who knew lawyers could be bridge players?

ACBL's in-house counsel signed off on the ACBLscore+ contract. I do not think that the in-house counsel chose to use outside counsel for the ACBLscore+ contract. About a year after the ACBLscore+ contract was signed, ACBL hired outside legal counsel to review all ACBL contracts and told ACBL that they would not be able to protect themselves (see a previous post of mine) thus making all effort on ACBLscore+ worthless unless the original contract terms were changed. You've all heard the story.

HS's lawyer's opinion has not changed. The wording in the contract is sufficient to protect ACBL going forward. But we clearly have a different legal opinion, and frankly our lawyer does not represent ACBL and so has no validity.

Until ACBL gets a different legal opinion, nothing will change with ACBLscore+. So, let's start there.

I'm willing to share the terms of the ACBLscore+ contract, under normal non disclosure agreement (NDA), providing ACBL agrees, with any sufficently competent lawyer that is willing to discuss this with ACBL's in-house/outside counsel. HS is not going to pay for this (why should we?), so either someone is going to act pro-bono, or at some reduced rate with ACBL. This needs to be a lawyer with sufficient credentials to over-rule ACBL's hired outside counsel. Not an easy task. Until/unless this happens, all other discussion is moot.

With all due respect, I didn't see anyone on the ACBL Technology Committee with any business law background or experience.

This is a very specialized technical area. IANAL. It needs to be someone who is very familiar with software, “ownership”, “copyright”, and “licensing” and ultimately protection of software within an organization. Remember, you will be having to negotiate between two other lawyers (ACBL counsel and ACBL's outside counsel). ACBL's counsel thought the original contract was fine, ACBL's outside counsel “one of the best there is” (what I was told…) disagrees. ACBL are currently going with the outside counsel's view. This disagreement between in-house and outside counsel is a $1.9M dispute. Ignore the technical issue(s) for now.

If any of you are a law Professor, it's actually a pretty good scenario for your students. Good way for them to learn about the different aspects of modern computer software law.

Continuing the legal thread:

If you are a lawyer, and sufficently qualified/capable of handling the above, then….

Just a tiny example, HS has 70+ (transferable) licenses with different corporations/vendors/individuals that make up ACBLscore+. HS does not have a NIH mentality. Someone needs to be able to explain to ACBL what an MIT license is, how it applies, how this license applies to ACBL, how this license applies to ACBL's customers etc. in language that they can understand.

Just to warn you, in case you are willing to accept this assignment, we also have the 2 clause BSDL license, Apache 2.0 license, BSD license, GPL license, MIT license, MIT license with reqs, Postgres license, Public license, Ruby license. You need to be familiar with all of these and be able to explain their applicability to ACBL and its software. I'm willing to help… but remember, IANAL. I have all the licenses. If you are a lawyer in this space, then this should just be simple paperwork. I've got all the details you need. ACBL also has all the details you need because we provided all that information to them.

So… step one…. find someone willing to give a legal opinion on the ACBLscore+ contract. Not sure how to proceed, or if I should even be the one to make the effort, probably not, it ought to be an independent person, possibly from someone on the ACBL Technology Committee?

For you lawyers posting on this site, sorry, I can't vouch for your legal credentials so I'm not going to share the contract (I've already been asked by some). We need someone that ACBL will respect and be willing to change their legal position. If ACBL comes forward with a different expert outside legal counsel, that is the first step.

I have not shared stories with problems that we have had with ACBL's legal department regarding modern software licensing and other issues. There were/are a few. But remember, IANAL, so what do I know? Unfortunately, a ridiculously large amount of (our) time and effort was spent trying to explain how modern software is licensed and to educate ACBL. 6+ months of the ACBLscore+ contract was spent trying to get ACBL to write a license so that we could release the software as an alpha release to some clubs. In fact, by the end of the ACBLscore+ contract this wording was still not provided, so we could never release to clubs (tournaments are slightly different). This is one of the many reasons few have seen ACBLscore+. For those that are familiar with software releases, one of the critical path items is feedback from users (e.g. TDs/CDs). You do an alpha/early release, get feedback, incorporate to next release etc. This is a critical time element for software. Should not be rushed. Every day you can't get feedback is a day delayed. Some stuff you can't rush. A baby always takes 9 months.

OK… one example, can't resist …. HS had negotiated with a company, that will remain nameless, for said company (SC) to donate some software to the ACBLscore+ project, with no payment, no licensing fees to HS, ACBL, or when ACBL delivered ACBLscore+ to ACBL's users. Basically an MIT license. If we had to develop that same software, I estimate it would have cost over $100K. Of course, I did not tell SC this. This software was outside the scope of the ACBLscore+ contract, but, business is business, this would be extremely valuable code for a Version 2.0 of ACBLscore+ so we did the deal. Not really much to negotiate when it is free. Couple of hours of work, if that. So HS negotiated a transferable license with SC, we got the software, for free, incorporated it into ACBLscore+. Not exactly function creep as it allowed us to do something else that we were supposed to do using this software. Basically code was a gift from SC. Told ACBL. ACBL now wanted to negotiate with SC. We said no need, SC said no need, we (HS/SC) had a deal/license, transferable to ACBL. No cost to ACBL. Just like the other 70+ licenses we had. Well…. a deal like that isn't acceptable to ACBL. They insisted that they negotiate with SC. Why did they want to treat SC differently than the other 70 companies we had licenses with. SC said huh? what is there to negotiate? why are we different? isn't free good enough? what's wrong with MIT license? we aren't going to spend time/company on having our lawyers reviewing your contracts when we already have a license giving it to your free! What was in it for SC? Good question. Bridge is a surprising sport. Some people like it and are just willing to give software to help support Bridge, and indirectly ACBL. They just wanted to see ACBLscore+ succeed by donating software to it. Either way, SC did it. So, SC, thank you. Your software is in ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+. You know who you are. I've wrapped other (free) code around it. For those that were on the ACBLscore+ status report list, SC is no secret. But SC wanted to do this deal quietly, without any benefit to themselves. I've seen no mention on SC's web site about this, so as they are not seeking credit for it, not appropriate for me to release SC`s name. I'll see if there is some way to effectively release (and support) this software as it is very useful for clubs/tournaments/teachers. As with the 70+ other companies/individuals who have licensed software (for free) to ACBLscore+, they are all listed in Help->License.

ACBL's IT department is getting a lot of criticism for being behind the times, but they are not the only department…

Embarrassment.

We have to worry about embarrassment. No-one is going to make a decision that might embarrass themselves for previous decisions they have made. Let's be mindful of that.

ACBL CEO will happily admit that he INAL and not technical, marketing is his expertise. He has relied on ACBL counsel for legal advice and then outside legal counsel. The legal issues are not something that he can be held responsible for. It's still a difficult decision to override because of the public pronouncements.

ACBL counsel is currently the one with the biggest problem. If he didn't use outside counsel for the original contract, and relied on his own skills, but new outside counsel said the original contract was useless, then there isn't much he can do. Buck stops there. If he did use outside counsel for the original ACBLscore+ contract, then it simply a case of stating that they got bad advice the first time around. No embarrassment by stating that, there are always multiple legal views. Big problem is that the initial opinion on the contract is different from the opinion at the end of the contract. If ACBL used outside counsel for the ACBLscore+ contract, then is something that presumably the board/ACBL management know. If ACBL counsel didn't recommend outside counsel for the original contract, and subsequent legal advice is that the terms were invalid, there's a little problem.

Alternatively, ACBL could state that the problems with the ACBLscore+ project/contract were technical and not legal. So the legal team may get a pass. But someone from the board or the ACBL Technology Committee will review what I've written and may come to the same conclusion regarding the legal issues, irrespective of the technical issues. The emails are all there.

Oops. The board has been threatened by management/counsel of disciplinary action if they review the contract. Never mind. No-one is going to review the legal issues with the contract. Presumably management notified the board in November 2013 about the legal issues as ACBL had stopped paying HS. If no-one from the board was told, then we do have some embarrassment all around. Not my concern.

We do need to get the legal issue resolved.

Put bluntly, does ACBL have sufficient legal protection for itself if they continue with the ACBLscore+ code base?

If the answer is no, stop here.


2. Technical

No point discussing until legal has been addressed.

ACBL have claimed some technical reasons for dropping ACBLscore+.

ACBL formed a committe in April/June 2014 to review ACBLscore+, and based on that technical review, dropped ACBLscore+. 6 of the 10 members of the new ACBL Technology Committee were on that review.

Now we are getting into an area that is complicated.

I've made it more difficult by posting videos contradicting any technical issues posed so far. Sorry.

So…. some of this is probasbly best handled privately to avoid embarrassment.

I've made it quite clear that I'm very happy and proud of the work that HS did for the ACBLscore+ contract. We finished the contract on time, on budget. As I've stated many times, anything with a 3 month or longer delay from ACBL, or something impacted by such a delay we didn't do. I deliberately have stated 3 months because anything less than that we have accomodated (unless that was with less than 3 months of the contract to go).

Adam has stated that he's seen a copy of Gap analysis (what's missing/what's needed to be done). It was a $150K report (how much ACBL spent reviewing ACBLscore+ code base). Amount is from numbers given out at Providence BOG meeting - I'm traveling at the moment, I don't have exact numbers with me. Report would be been done April->June 2014, somewhere in that time frame. I haven't seen the report. (Hey, they could have asked me what missing, or just taken the last status report and information from project Wiki).

Should this interal ACBL report be made public? Probably not. Why? At least, why for now. Let me explain. First, in general ACBL should not expect that any internal report it writes might be made public. It's easier to write something that might be critical with the knowledge that it will remain private. To the extent that there is anything critical about me, or my company, I have no problem with the release. Not trying to hide from anything, it's just the general principle I object to.

Some of the gap analysis may be opinions, rather than facts. “It's too slow”. Well, that's subjective. No-one can ever match the redraw speed of ACBLscore on DOS running on a modern computer (assuming same RAM, same CPU, same disk speed). For a task, ACBLscore+ should be quicker, for a single screen re-draw, no. I've posted videos to that effect. If they ran ACBLscore+ in a developer mode, not a production mode, when doing the comparions then oops, a little bit of embarrassment there, so releasing information won't help. “It doesn't work”. Well, is this one of those 3+ month items (there are lots of them)? It could very well be that ACBL has decided that the cost of implementing all of these 3+ month items are more than then cost of implementing ACBLscore+ features into ACBLscore. That's a valid reason to drop ACBLscore+ and go back to ACBLscore. I would expect this to be given as a real “reason”. “It's too complicated to use”. Again, subjective. Don't use current TDs/CDs for the comparison. Get a newer CD and see what they think. I used new CDs for input on screens. As stated previously it was very hard to get good feedback from TDs as the mind set if ACBLscore based. What ACBLscore+ needs is real life usage by TDs to get honest feedback from them. This can't be done by showing them the software, they need to use it in real world usage. A lot of TD work is interrupt driven. It's not a simple task flow. Any TD that I've trained, and explained _why_ the new software works a certain why has understood it.

I use caddies when running Bridgescore+ (if possible). Ironically I had to grab a caddy to give a demo to some DDs at a tournament. I gave the caddy a 5 second training, “here, enter these numbers here, click edit if you get something wrong”. And, that was all the training she needed, even to fix data entry errors. Of course, there are far more complicated things to do with ACBLscore/Bridgescore+. But I've been doing UI for 25+ years, I'd like to think I know a little about what I'm doing. Absolutely, ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+ works differently than ACBLscore, but that was a deliberate design decision to make it much easier to use, particularly for newer users. BTW, usage of caddies is one example of how we can make tournaments run better. Thinking outside the current framework is important.

Having a group of people argue these technical issues in a public forum probably won't help much. Someone may be upset/embarrassed. You want people to give their honest opinions, doing so in public can be difficult. I'm probably the best one that can state how long something will take to develop in ACBLscore+. My estimates have all been good, from estimating how long the RFP would take, to each of the 6 phases of the ACBLscore+ contract. I'd probably like to take a look at the ACBL technical committee report from May/June 2014 and give an honest answer of what it would take to address any technical concerns. But let's do it privately. Also, there is a difference between me saying how long something should take (you typically estimate in terms of man months, elapsed man months, and also have to factor in the person/people available to do the work) for one of the HS developers, and also how long it would take ACBL to develop the same code. This may be at the root of the technical problem in that ACBL would not be able to make a honest assessment of how long it would take for some code to be written in ACBLscore+.

I strongly believe that the committee didn't run ACBLscore+ in production mode when reviewing the software. I wasn't asked to give a demo, wasn't asked to train anyone to give a demo. No-one from ACBL management has ever asked for a full demo of ACBLscore+. However this is addressed, someone is going to be embarrassed, hey - it could even be me. But let's do the initial assessment privately, and not publicly. I'll be the first to admit if I was wrong. I've even published a roll-out plan that addresses how ACBLscore+/Bridgescore+ could be rolled out.

What makes little sense for those of you reading this is ACBL would not run ACBLscore+ in March 2014 at the Dallas NABC (average less than 1,000 tables a day). Yet, I ran ACBLscore+ in Gatlinburg in April 2014 (average 1,200 tables per day). In May/June 2014 ACBL announced that there was nothing technically useful in ACBLscore+ and were abandoning the project. That's the big disconnect for everyone. Me incuded. I'm still out there happily running parts of what used to be called ACBLscore+ (now Bridgescore+) which I'm told is technically useless. Yet ACBL are spending $600K to implement the features in ACBLscore+ into ACBLscore.

Embarrassment factor:

Let's minimize it if we can. Without trying to minimize it we will get nowhere. I know I probably am not helping with this post…

As you know, I've been working on some improvements to ACBLscore+, rebranded as Bridgescore+ to avoid any lawsuits (same code, just more features). All because I gave a committment to Gatlinburg from last year…

ACBL could see the new version and say, well, we didn't realize it was going to be capable of all of this. It will avoid some embarrassment. The real reasons for ACBLscore+ being dropped could be forgotten.

Or… well … I could be the most embarrassed of anyone.

The new Technical Committee could make the same decision as the old one (with 6 out of 10 making the original report I think I already know the answer).

I have nothing to gain by sticking my nose into this discussion. We did the work. My company got paid. I'm going to keep running Bridgescore+ at tournament where I'm asked and will continue to do so until ACBLscore's features are at least as good as/better than Bridgescore+.

It could be that the ACBL decides that the ACBLscore+ code base is too complicated to find developers/support for. It is difficult for ACBL to get/keep good developers. That could be a valid reason. I've tried to address that by giving a roll-out plan to allow them to train/develop these programmers.

3. Political.

These are all internal ACBL issues between the ACBL management, BOD and ACBL members. I'll stay away.

The second issue is ACBL/Hammond Software.

ACBL/HS had a contract which ended. There was discussion of future work, but didn't happen. I keep repeating, that it was a business decision by ACBL, there are no hard feelings from our perspective. ACBL's legal position was that we needed to redo the original contract in order for HS to get more work from ACBL.

Being blunt, finishing ACBLscore+ would go quicker if I'm involved or some of the other developers were; but the software was at the point where work could continue without us - that was always the intention - transition the code base to ACBL. ACBL were behind in hiring the developers to replace the HS developers, but that's not our fault. We did a code transition to ACBL in March 2014. From what I heard, they liked the code. It would be no good for us (HS/our developers) to finish the missing code in ACBLscore+ because ACBL are the ones that would need to support it long term. Finishing what is there needs to be done with as much ACBL involvement as possible as the long term support needs to come from ACBL.
Dec. 31, 2014
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I'm sorry to hear about Jeff. He worked incredibly long hours at NABCs making sure everyone had a good time. He was one of the really good guys.
Dec. 31, 2014
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment Dec. 31, 2014
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6 of the 10 were involved with/on the committee to drop ACBLscore+ in May/June 2014.
Dec. 31, 2014
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“We” don't need state-of-the-art. It would be acceptable for ACBL to be a couple of years behind. It's a bit cheaper than being state-of-the-art. Remember ACBL is a big organization, with 3,000 clubs to support and 100-200 TDs. Change isn't cheap. A good roadmap showing the necessary transitions would be a helpful document for all ACBL clubs/TDs.

Easy-to-use, accurate, fast and dependable are all important. Between all of us we may have different agreements on exactly what each of those terms mean.

It's not just scoring software. There is so much more that can be done to help tournaments and clubs. The software is also lagging behind in those areas. For the users, most of them aren't even aware of how things could be done differently because they are so used to there only being one way. I'm only volunteering my time now, but as/when I have time to roll out something that will help tournaments/clubs I will, but obviously I can't provide the same support that ACBL can.
Dec. 28, 2014
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This is the model in the UK where there are 2-3 competing scoring programs.

The scoring programs output results in an XML format and send this file to the English Bridge Union (EBU).

Clubs pay based on the data in the XML files.

FYI: I did look at this format during the ACBLscore+ work.

Am not sure that the ACBLscore file format is one that should be the required format. It is quite complex, unnecessarily detailed in places, many fields not relevant for results or masterpoints.

ACBL could create an XML format. And require programs to adhere to that format. However, ACBLland have become accustomed to using free software to run clubs/tournaments. Opening up the marketplace may not attract many competitors.

But it would probably attract improvements to what we have.

It is only when you see what is going on around the world that you realize what we have here. There are still some things that ACBL (and ACBLscore) does that are not common in other parts of the world, but technically we are slipping behind.

ACBL could provide free libraries for certain functions, e.g. masterpoints, movements.

Actually, ACBLscore+ had all the masterpoint code in a C library. There's no reason that could not be opened up.

i've tried to attract developers to some open source Bridge code, but there are few takers.
Making your business critical software open source is not the panacea one may think. For example, before any changes from non-employees can be merged in, you need to understand the code that was written and why. We forget that lots of money passes through ACBLscore to ACBL for both tournaments and clubs. There is little business reason to what to open up all of that. Parts of the scoring, masterpoint calculations sure. But the processing of the dollars probably should not be open source.

Creating an XML format is likely to attract the software developers in the English speaking world (and also bridge scoring software from other countries). Being able to provide support is an issue, among many.

It could just start out with ACBL publishing the interfaces for areas that they are willing to have outside vendors.

However, one of the reasons for the success of Bridge in ACBLland is ACBLscore, its consistency. All the TDs/CDs use the same software making support a lot easier/cheaper.

UI is not easy to make shareable. For example, one vendor may use .NET, another HTML, another Java.
Dec. 28, 2014
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