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Servers | KGS | An interview with Gabriel Benmergui (aka 'DexMorgan' 7d) - creating a new Go Server: Kaya.gs


 
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2011-08-28 Expert: DanielTom Rate: (5)  7 ratings

An interview with Gabriel Benmergui (aka 'DexMorgan' 7d) - creating a new Go Server: Kaya.gs


Q: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

A: My name is Gabriel Benmergui. I am known on KGS as 'Conanbatt', 'DexMorgan', 'danigabi', and by many other nicknames over the years :). I am from Argentina, born and raised. I have studied Go in Korea for short periods of time, and in my day job I am a software developer.

 

Q: When did the idea of creating a new Go server first came to your mind?

A: The thought crossed my mind long ago, but then I decided there were smaller ventures easier to do. My professional expertise did not help me to make websites, so instead I chose a smaller goal: a Go School. That was the Atsumi Go School, which had over 60 students for the 6-7 months I run it.

Right after the third month, I wanted to have some tools to administer the problems I was giving to my students, and so I thought of creating a website for that. So I started looking for a web-developer job to get the skills to do it myself.

In the meantime, my dealings with KGS concerning my school were fruitless; I had to do everything by myself, which was difficult, considering that I didn't have the reputation of other teachers like Guo Juan 5p or Cornel 7d (whom I much respect for his profession).

 Several months later, I realized that I had honed the skills to make a Go server, and it become a natural goal.

 

Q: You stated that you want to 'replace current servers [that] run on Java applets and desktop applications'. What do you consider to be the main advantages/disadvantages of browser applications, when compared to desktop applications?

A: Accessibility and flexibility. Let me explain each with an example.

I was once talking with a female friend online who was very curious about the game, and she wanted me to teach her how to play. I immediately realized that I could not show her a board in a single link, and chat & play there. Most of the options which allow that are very poor and non-server like. Yet telling someone who knows nothing about Go or Java applets to go to the KGS website, perform several clicks, accounts, buttons, etc, has great friction. A web-based application would allow you to share whatever is inside the server with a single link & click. That's really accessible, and it was one of the features that made KGS favored over IGS almost 10 years ago.

Regarding flexibility, the point inside a browser is that not all elements inside it have to be yours. Imagine logging into the server and being able to open up a small window that has GoSensations news right there, in the same page. Or being able to watch a Go video or feedback at the same time you are chatting or playing a game.

Doing it in a web-browser means that someone else can publish a video, and we can add it to the server, without having to talk, discuss, send emails, wait for approval, and see if a developer is able to make the change to fix this new content.

 

Q: Many people really like KGS because of its teaching tools for game reviews (and lessons). Are you preparing something similar for Kaya.gs?

A: The KGS teaching tools are by far the best out there. I am confident that we will eventually match the very same tools and also provide new and exciting features for that. One of the first ones that we will easily support is that teachers can give video feedback to their students or attendees, without requiring a teaching account or any bandwidth restrictions, as it will be Peer-to-Peer.

 

Q: Do you have any special strategy to attract strong players (if possible professionals) to the server?

A:We have some ideas, but that is going to take time. I will be spending some time in Korea after the KPMC [Korea Prime Minister Cup] specifically to talk with professionals and form a solid strategy. We have definite and concrete strategies to attract the strongest players from the West, which are one of our immediate targets.

 

Q: How will the rating system on Kaya.gs work? (Is it going to be like KGS or Tygem?) Which rating system do you personally prefer?

A: This is the most difficult point :). I will make a thread in the L19x19 Forum and discuss this with the community. Rating systems never leave everyone happy.

What I definitely don't like in KGS - it is unacceptable for me - is that people make many accounts. To me that's a sign of failure, and I'd rather have a less "accurate" and transparent point system like WBaduk to avoid that effect. But those aren't the only two options. In the feedback section of Kaya.gs people have suggested having double ratings: one for blitz and one for slow games. There are many ideas and systems to discuss before making a decision.

 

Q: Having a nice environment and a sense of community in the server is one of your ambitions. How are you planning to handle the conversation there? (Will off topic discussion be allowed?)

A: Of course :). There is no chatter without off topic. Regarding chatting tools, we have the following ideas:

a) Game chatter has 2 "channels". Off topic and purely Go. So people that just want to chat about pizza or Korean vs. Japanese pro ranks (which are real KGS conversations) can do it, while people that just want to discuss Go won't be overwhelmed.

b) We want to have a more feature-rich chat, and incorporate commands like IRC. For example, by writing someone's name, that person reads your comment in bold, calling for your attention.

 

Q: We are curious as to what your 'escaper' policy will be. What do you think is the best way to treat escapers?

A: It is clear to me that the Asian way is the way to go. That is, disconnections cause losses after X minutes. The KGS system looks good in theory, but most of the games that got interrupted never get finished, and those that do feel weird. And worst of all, the first thing you read when you enter KGS is what you shouldn't do about escapers. It provokes too much response. It is better to forget about it and play another game :).

 

 Q: Will it be possible for users to customize Kaya.gs (particularly through the creation of community-made desktop applications for those who prefer them)? Are there any plans in this area?

A: When we reach a certain level of maturity we will open-source parts of Kaya.gs, most likely the client ("The Board") and the widget creation. Widgets are small pieces of code that are self contained and unaware of other parts of the page: they purely talk to the server or an outside site. The idea of making widgets is that the community will be able to make one, and we can insert it into the server, knowing that it won't affect the rest.

Our prime example is the ASR [Advanced Study Room, a famous room on KGS] widget. Figure that if you play in the ASR League, you can have a small box with statistics on your play there, your missing games, your opponent stats, league stats, etc. The whole point is that the ASR guys can make the statistics, and we can include them in the site.

 

 Q: Somewhat related to the last question: will it be possible for bots to run on your server?

A: Definitely :). (That was an easy one...)

 

 Q: Regarding how to get a game on Kaya.gs: will the pairings be negotiated (i.e. match offers) or automatic?

A: This is a good question. I am experimenting with a model right now on our development server which is pretty similar to KGS' open games, but it has less friction (it requires less attention and less clicks to start the game). Supporting automatch is likely.

 

 Q: Will the games played on the server be saved and available to the public?

A: Yes, and even more: we will make a server where certain operations can be done on the game database. Potentially pattern searching, or other things like special searches.

 

Q: One promising aspect of Kaya.gs is that the players will be able to "host video conferences or audio lessons as much as they want and without limit". Please mention some other exciting features that you are planning to implement on the server.

A: The development "backlog" (the list of features we have already decided on doing) is very exciting.

Some delicious teasers:

- Fake betting;

- Sharing game variations and reading them dynamically on the board;

- Game scheduling;

- Community organized tournaments and leagues;

- Integrated training tools;

- Karma system;

- Following of players (getting notices when your favorite players get online or play);

- Tournament video feed while watching a game;

- Included Go videos/shows inside the server;

- A room & channel system, where you can access spaces sponsored by the server and get special and unique features related to communities or services, and where you can create any space to chat with your friends, clubs or anything else;

- Being able to do pattern searches or consulting joseki dictionaries directly on the board of the game you are watching;

- Server currency that you can purchase or gain, and utilize to get lessons or materials from retailers, teachers and different services;

- The ability to send the game you played to get reviewed by a community or private service with a single click;

- etc etc.

 

Q: Some of our readers mentioned that they would like to see a server with better graphs (visual interface: colors, etc) than what we have on KGS. Overall, people seem to like the Kaya.gs prototype: have you been getting good feedback?

A: The prototype was drawn by a recommended designer we have, and we liked it very much. I fell in love when I saw it, and that was before we made loads of fixes on it. My partner, Polly, has a keener eye for design and he said "we can do much better".

As I know, everyone liked the prototype a lot, although some people were worried that the colors were too bright. (They are used to grey, I suppose :).)

Readers can tell their opinion on our site, we have a feedback section where you can suggest things and even vote other people's suggestions.

 

Q: You mentioned quitting your job so that you could work full time on the Kaya.gs Project, and that is why you are asking for donations. What is your situation at the moment?

A: The quitting day has been set already. By September 5th, I will be 100% devoted to Kaya.gs. This is definitely happening. Donations are a really big boost to us because they will allow us to make a better first version fast, without worrying about money for a few months.

We are looking for other ways to finance it; in the ultimate case we will fund it ourselves. The communities' help here is vital to our prompt success as each hour we spend looking for funding through investors is an hour we are not adding previously mentioned features.

 

Q: What would you say are the chances that the Kaya.gs project will succeed? Can you give us some estimation of when it is going to finish?

A: The server itself is in a quite advanced stage, we have been working on it since April part-time. We are not so far from a first functional version.

We have played in our internal developer servers, chatted away, made channels, opened games. However, there are still many things to polish, especially the user interface. We will go out as soon as possible, but no sooner.

We are hoping to make a showcase in the KPMC, as I am representative for that tournament, so 70+ of the strongest players in each country in the world will get to see it. Of course, our already 30+ supporters will enjoy a private showing before that happens.

We estimate to have a very nice featured application by December. It will not have all the features that current servers have, as you can imagine that takes time. But more importantly, it will already have features which no other server ever had, will have or are even able to have.



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Org
3d 2012-04-26 01:04
I love Kaya, it is so beauty and + that it will all the features I miss in other Go Servers + the ones I did not even know I missed hehe
Groovy
2011-09-12 04:09
Hi, this is great news! I hope it will be HTML5 compatible so that it will work in all browsers.
Marcato
2011-09-03 09:09
For more ideas of things that KGS users are missing have a look at

http://senseis.xmp.net/?KGSWishlist

Implementing some of these ideas would be great!
Gnux
2011-08-29 06:08
Would it be free software?
WinPooh
2k ( RU ) 2011-08-29 02:08
Please consider adding rating graph feature. Just like on KGS, but better - not only for the last year, but for randomly chosen interval in time or games axis. DGS's graph could be a good example.

BTW, shouln't Go board on prototype image turned 90 degrees (counter) clockwise?
aaaaaaa
2011-08-29 03:08
will it be firewall friendly? i can only play on goshrine.com since they installed it at my place :(
nonymous
31k 2011-08-28 06:08
seems nice only thing that puts me off is that Kaya.GS has really similar abbreviation as K.GS
shaomi
2011-08-28 02:08
Hello everyone!
My first thought was that there are already alot go servers, but after reading the idea's for kaya i think it has a lot of potential if you manage to realize all those planned features !

I have only one little concern, that is, the server creater will be Gabriel Benmergui but he is also a very active player and a teacher, i think there will be conflicts, there should be Separation of powers , meaning admins should only be admins no more to avoid any form of corruption.

Good luck with the project
Murchup
1dan ( AN ) 2011-08-28 12:08
Some of us have different opinion.
The design of the KGS board is so boring. So do whatever, but not KGS style.
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