I'm going to vent pretty strongly right now ...

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I'll check this when I have more time; I'm trying a triple!

Postby billvelek » Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:20 pm

By triple, I mean that I'm doing three brews right now. :D

I'll need to digest this later when I haven't had a few home brews. :D I'm in the middle of doing three consequitive batches:

1. An oatmeal stout
2. A 'coffee' flavoroer barley wine
3. A lawnmower beer (whatever) from a partgle from the tun

Will see what devolopes.

Cheers.

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Re: I'm going to vent pretty strongly right now ...

Postby just-cj » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:05 pm

billvelek wrote:but I think the lack of clarity in the BTP program, and its deplorable lack of documentation, is certainly much of the blame. I have been asking ... almost pleading ... for better documentation since I bought this program in October.
Bill, I have been quietly hoping for the same thing. There are a lot of terms in BTP that are simply not understandable (for example, look at the info for grains -- what do all those things mean? ), and at the very least there needs to be glossary of terms. Actually, that's not right -- there needs to be a glossary of terms in addition to a clear user manual.

So add my voice to the "We Need Documentation Now" movement. I've gone back to using my homemade Excel spreadsheet for recipe formulation -- yes it's a hell of a lot more limited than BTP, but it works for me. The BTP development team has been doing a great job in fixing bugs and adding new features, but a lot of those bugs were so fundamental that they should never have made it into a public release. And clear documentation should also have been part of the initial release back in October.

Right now, I have to give BTP a B+ for potential, a D- for implementation. :cry:
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You win

Postby jeff » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:44 pm

Maybe this is why the other vendors are so elusive? If the best I can come up with gets a D-, what else can I do? Signing off...
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Ouch

Postby lathe » Wed Jan 03, 2007 8:03 pm

just-cj wrote:So add my voice to the "We Need Documentation Now" movement.


Ouch.

Hard to make everyone happy I guess. I think the need for documentation is a very real one. A very large and challenging one. BeerTools is a small operation. We don't pay our rent with BeerTools. It's the kind of situation where we work 8 or 10 hour days, and then sit down for another 4 to 6 hours of BT. (In Jeffs case those numbers can be greatly increased.)

We are working like crazy on BT, in part because we enjoy it, and in part because we know it is truly needed. The infrastructure in BT is like nothing ever seen in brewing software...truly. The underpinnings of BT simply put everyone else out there in the stone age. This may not be apparent from the front end, but under the hood BT is designed with the future in mind.

Unfortunately, the long and the short of it is we are short staffed. It appears we may need to suspend development on inventory and session recording to fulfill the need for documentation. We were hoping that the forum could suffice until we had those larger features done.

For Bill, and Just-CJ if documentation is so critical to you why are there almost no posts by you in the BeerTools Pro Documentation topic?

The purpose of that topic is to have a place for you to say "I dont understand that field"...or "can you explain more about this point in the help file". We need to have you flag each and every topic in documentation with useful to the point questions.

Bottom line...we need you guys help in the documentation category. Please go in there and flag areas that need additional info...write what you think it should say for that matter.

We are feeling pretty stressed. It also seems like our efforts are very unappreciated. Although we know most of you don't feel that way.
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Re: Ouch

Postby just-cj » Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:05 pm

jeff wrote:Maybe this is why the other vendors are so elusive? If the best I can come up with gets a D-, what else can I do? Signing off...
My "D-" comment was mostly referring to lack of documentation inside the program. The feature set in BTP is very good, but if we don't know how to use them, that doesn't really help us.
lathe wrote:BeerTools is a small operation. We don't pay our rent with BeerTools. It's the kind of situation where we work 8 or 10 hour days, and then sit down for another 4 to 6 hours of BT. (In Jeffs case those numbers can be greatly increased.)
I think we all appreciate the speed at which updates, fixes, etc are made. Like running a small brewery, it's a labor of love. I'm not trying to discourage anyone (and I don't think anyone here is), but I am a customer who bought the program. It's frustrating when I either can't figure out how to do something (and a lot of that problem is BTP uses terms in different ways than I am used to) or try something, get a strange result and don't know whether it's because I'm doing something wrong or the program is wrong. At the same time, I don't want to clutter up the forum or take up the developers' time with questions on simple things -- that just leads to less time to further improve the program.
For Bill, and Just-CJ if documentation is so critical to you why are there almost no posts by you in the BeerTools Pro Documentation topic?
I can't speak for Bill, but I have read through much of the Documentation topics. However, I felt that those topics were for explanations of how to do things, not for asking questions. And if I don't know/can't figure out how to do something, how can I contribute to writing up the documentation? However, an even more fundamental disagreement I have with your idea/suggestion is that it shouldn't be up to the customers to write documentation for a program that they paid for!
The purpose of that topic is to have a place for you to say "I dont understand that field"...or "can you explain more about this point in the help file". We need to have you flag each and every topic in documentation with useful to the point questions.
But, like I said above, often the problem is that the terms used in BTP are not defined or explained anywhere. The help file should have all those definitions in it. I think it was Bill who mentioned that going on line during a brewing session when a question or problem suddenly comes up isn't really a viable option. Clicking on the help file, searching for a term, and finding out what it means should be available.
We are feeling pretty stressed. It also seems like our efforts are very unappreciated. Although we know most of you don't feel that way.
I don't think Bill or I feel that way at all. But frustration over paying for a finished product that really is still in the beta stages (come on, let's be honest here) can become much stronger than the appreciation of your efforts and the potential for the future. That's what you're seeing in my post above and in Bill's multiple posts in this thread and others.

Again, sorry that I came on so strongly. But would you rather have us ignore problems here and instead tell friends not to bother with BTP because it's not worth it? Pointing out problems, both serious and not so serious, is the only way we can help BTP reach its true potential.
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Postby notbob » Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:45 pm

I agree that documentation is important. But, I thought for the basic set-up that the Documentation topic on the board here was the greatest help for me. It was laid out in a nice precise flow (I thought), and anything I didn't understand I was able to post about it in that room.

I do think that it might help if the documentation room, could be laid out the way it was the first day you posted it, and make them all stickies. That way the logical flow could be determined by the way the room is set up.

Personally, I "got it" after that room was set up. I was /am going to post a topic about how happy I was with my last recipe. It was a first time Barleywine for me and I hit all the numbers right on, and the program is starting to display information that I can use, in a better way.

I had a tough time during the beta, but this is how finally broke it down.

I went in and set up my system by going through each item in the Display drop down, and the when I was satisfied, I saved that as Default. Because that is MY system.

Then when I open a new window, those things are always set.

Then, once I formulate a recipe, I Save As and give it a name. When I'm satisfied with it, and as I make more changes I just choose Save.

Now, I normally do IPA's, but, if I were going to start doing another all together style, and was going to do it often, or, even for the IPA style, I might want to create a base for each time I brew that style, and then I would create a Template and save it for using anytime I want.

Do I have it pretty much right or am I missing something?

It's working for me just fine so far, and I'm loving each new update. I was real surprised when I went through the whole process with v18. Nice.

I would say hang in there Bill and CJ. For some reason I had a real hard start up time with this program, but a light went off, and now I'm seeing things clearer. I also am excited about what Lathe says about the engine they built this on. The future was figured into it from the beginning.

Try the Documentation room and practice.

Jeff, Lathe, thank you so much from a happy Mac user. I'm sure you don't hear enough from those who are real happy. I am. I'm still learning, but this last Barleywine really impressed me. I went into it a little backwards, and relied on the software almost totally. I hit the numbers almost perfect, and being an 1.101 beer, I'm impressed.
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Postby Brant » Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:43 pm

I'm kind of the type who has to be told to RTFM (if you don't know what it means, the first word is "read" and the last is "manual", and it is a pretty common muttering in most software support centers...). I'd usually rather play with software than to read the documentation, so I like software interfaces that are self explanatory. Since BTP has some pretty unique concepts in it, I had a little trouble up front with things like partial-data templates/defaults, auto-updating of several data fields with an edit of one other field, and how to setup a mash schedule. Between reading the docs, these forums, and some experimentation, I learned to understand these concepts. Now I find them amazingly powerful and reasonably intuitive. Once the light flips on for you, it gets easy! That's why I try to help when someone posts a question or has a problem.

I'm not a kiss up, and I'll report bugs and deficiencies when I find them (even if they had been reported by someone else previously -- sorry 'bout that! :oops:). And there is no way I'd claim BTP is perfect. But I think it is in a good place for its stage of life, I understood what I was getting when I bought it (a couple of guys with a good idea, not a Microsoft sized company), and I have found it good enough for me to have already switched from the full featured and extensively documented ProMash because I like BTP's interface, accuracy, and potential.
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Postby slothrob » Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:13 am

I take everything CJ says seriously, so I guess the documentation is important, but I have to say that my experience with most software is that manuals are few and far between and significant experimentation is required to figure it out. I also find that forums are more useful for getting specific answers than most documentation. Though good documentation is a definite goal, I'm not yet convinced this is a priority over refinements of the program. If it's stopping people from using the program, then I'm clearly wrong.

That said, BTP has been a mixture of intuitive and confounding, as I learn to think like it thinks. I still have hangups about how I would like to see a couple features changed, but I've mentioned them before and won't rethresh them here, but overall, as of v18, I find it quite usable. I use it most every day, as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, I'm probably so comfortable with BTP's terminology that it's hard for me to identify unusual examples.

Bill has been very open about where he's run into problems and Dom has had some problems with scaling of recipes for partial boils and partial mashes, but I'd be curious where other's are getting hung up. Perhaps we could get a list and people who feel they are comfortable with a given feature could write up a short FAQ on the subject, or add a short tutorial to the Ducumentation thread.
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Attention: Jeff and Lathe (was Re: Ouch)

Postby billvelek » Thu Jan 04, 2007 5:45 pm

Well, I was almost finished writing this lengthy reply when I accidentally clicked on the "X" in my browser's tab while switching from one tab to another, and thereby closed it without sending. (Fixed that so that can't happen again.) Anyway, I think this is important enough to ... sigh ... write it all over again.

First, although I was a bit terse in my post which started this thread, my purpose was not to offend anyone or make anyone feel "unappreciated", but rather to emphasize the tremendous personal inconvenience and annoyance that the current state of BTP and documentation has caused for me ... and to help prevent the same from happening again to me or someone else. If I offended anyone in the process, I apologize. And I wasn't the one who 'graded' your program or efforts; if I've said it once I've said it a dozen times that I think that this is a great kick-ass program, despite its current shortcomings. I am very pleased in general, but I think my recent irritation and venting after inexcusably losing so much time and effort should be understandable.

Second, I want to address a few points in your post without turning this into a pissing contest.
lathe wrote:Hard to make everyone happy I guess.
Please don't make it seem like I am 'hard to please' or am being unreasonable. I've patiently waited for better documentation for over two months since purchasing BTP, and I'm certainly willing to wait even longer for the sort of comprehensive overhaul that I expect you have planned (e.g., a .pdf file, with more extensive coverage, and possibly some screen shots, etc.). However, the few fundamental and vitally important explanations that I believe are urgently needed could probably be accomplished in an hour or less. Please try to see it from my point-of-view; I just lost calibration data that took me over an hour to gather ... and which I insist that I had every reason and justification for thinking that it was actually saved by BTP ... all because of either a bug, or very poor implementation of the process of saving data, or, at the very least, inadequate documentation. Even if it is true that I should have intuitively known to do this another way, the complete loss of my data without any cautionary instruction in the manual or a pop-up warning or other safeguard does not make this a very "user-friendly" program. And I think I have clearly demonstrated by my step-by-step example that there is some sort of a real problem and legitimate complaint there, yet neither you nor Jeff have made any comments or even an acknowledgment that you are now aware of my concerns and are looking into it, despite that I know that you have both read at least part of this thread. And now, with another user posting that he has no problems saving such data, stating that he thinks that BTP is sufficiently intuitive in that area, and further explaining how it can and should be done "as expected", then for all I know you perhaps think I'm a completely incompetent idiot and that the issue doesn't even deserve any investigation. I know that replying to posts takes time, but a short: "We'll look into it", or something like that, would be nice.

Now, I realize that I have been very prolific in my posts, some of which were simple mistakes on my part due to my lack of familiarity with BTP, but many have been legitimate complaints; and I hope I haven't been coming across as being picky just because I've posted so many suggestions -- which were actually made as constructive criticism to help make your program even better. And in the process, maybe I do occasionally jab you a bit over the lack of documentation, but that comes with the territory and your skin needs to be a little thicker if it bothers you.
I think the need for documentation is a very real one. A very large and challenging one. ... snip ... It appears we may need to suspend development on inventory and session recording to fulfill the need for documentation. We were hoping that the forum could suffice until we had those larger features done.
As I've said above, the changes that are crucially needed shouldn't take more than perhaps an hour or two at the most, and I'm happy to wait for the big documentation overhaul until all other program development has been completed.
For Bill, and Just-CJ if documentation is so critical to you why are there almost no posts by you in the BeerTools Pro Documentation topic?
First, from most outward appearances, that forum looks like it was formed for the development of a User's Guide during the 'beta' stages of BTP, and is largely defunct at this point. Nearly all threads and posts predate BTP's release in October, and there appears to be very little new traffic (looks like a total of just 13 posts since December 1st, with 5 of them -- over a third -- being by me, including one thread that I started).

Second, because it is not as popular as this forum, it is less than an ideal place to seek advice -- not if you want a timely reply. Case in point: user "kevponce" posted a question on January 1st (in a 'sticky', no less), and it wasn't answered by anyone until _I_ answered him on January 4th -- three days later.
We are feeling pretty stressed. It also seems like our efforts are very unappreciated. Although we know most of you don't feel that way.
Now, it would be easy for folks to think that you are referring to me as being one who is unappreciative, and that is certainly not the case. I really do appreciate your hard work, and your usually prompt replies and fixes, and I know that I've said as much several times before this. However, I will also add that a vendor complaining about being "unappreciated" is, in my opinion, pretty much misplaced except when a vendor has gone well above and beyond the call of duty ... of what is reasonably expected. Customers who have paid for a product that isn't working correctly and/or is flawed in some other way are not required to feel appreciative when the vendor merely fixes the problem. But I repeat, I am certainly grateful for your dedication to making BTP the best brewing software available.

Cheers.

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Thanks...everyone...YES that means Bill and CJ

Postby lathe » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:37 pm

You have been heard. Dissenting views hurt no one, and in fact can be very useful. On some level Bill and CJ are not speaking only for themselves. We openly acknowledge the need for better documentation. My previous BT job list has been put on hold. We have put documentation as my top priority...it will take me some time, however.

We have a Wiki client that we have been testing for a few months. We will probably be going that direction with docs in the future. In the mean time, may we ask a favor? Could we get the documentation related traffic going in the "BeerTools Pro Documentation" topic? (Thanks Bill saw you already started) Please begin "Flagging" the areas that you would like to see more information in.

Here is our general idea:

Each subject will contain these three parts.

1) How. This is the various steps to accomplish an action inside BTP.
2) Why. The reason behind the action...some items might even venture into brewing science...etc.
3) Example. This may be either written or an image.

Some of our users understand the How but not the Why, other users understand Why but don't know How to accomplish it in BTP.

So which ever category you fall into, feel free to add your two cents to the documentation topics. Once we have the Wiki set up how we like, we will move your comments over to it. The Wiki should allow for a more community driven help system.

Thanks to all of you.
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BeerTools Pro Documentation Wiki

Postby lathe » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:37 pm

We have set up the BeerTools Pro Documentation Wiki.

Please feel free to explore and add on to it.
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