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CroquetScores.com:
the ongoing creation
of Tim Murphy

Interview with Tim Murphy by Bob Alman
Photos courtesy of Nicole Murphy and Stephen Richards
Posted April 6, 2014

RELATED LINKS IN CROQUET WORLD ONLINE:
CroquetScores.com, the "live" website
CroquetScores.com "try it" site for first-timers and novices
World Croquet Federation website


Tim Murphy is one of those rare techies who not only sees how to apply his special abilities to the continuous creation of something useful to the international croquet community in a number of ways, but proceeds to do it himself. After it's obviously successful, such a person can then seek financial support. CroquetScores.com allows anyone (after registering) to post scores on any croquet event anywhere in the world instantly, which can be displayed in a number of well-organized and easily accessible formats. As a self-confessed techno-phobe, this editor found the "try" site extremely user-friendly. My anxiety was instantly relieved, and the programmed solutions answered most of my questions before I even thought of them. Murphy is now seeking more financial support to greatly expand the site's features and improve its functionality.


BOB: The first event online in CroquetScores.com is the Australian Croquet Association's President's Ten in mid-February of 2012, and it was followed shortly by Association Croquet events. I can understand why you would start with "local" events, since you live in Australia. Is there any reason, in particular, that you started with Golf Croquet?

TIM: Just dumb luck. The site was ready and The President's Ten happened to be the first tournament where I knew the tournament manager, so it was a obvious choice.

BOB: And then shortly after that start, most people don't know that you had a debilitating stroke in April of 2012. How did that effect the development of the site?

TIM: Fortunately the site was "finished" enough for the upcoming Worlds in Adelaide. The first six weeks or so I was asleep for what felt like 20 hours a day. When the Worlds started I'd recovered enough to handle any issues.

Murphy first noticed fatigue as a persisting symptom of his 2012 stroke in his croquet game. Here he practices on one of the three courts of the Canberra Croquet Club, only 15 kilometres from the home he shares with his wife Nicky. She does not play croquet, feeling that's the best way to keep their relationship strong. According to Tim, Nicky enjoys the peace and quiet when he's away at tournaments.

BOB: Did the stroke require a long recovery?

TIM: The short answer is that I'm still recovering. It's the reason for my career change. The stroke itself was undramatic. I felt tingling in my right forearm, and at first I thought I'd knocked my funny bone. It was when I took a drink that I noticed my lips and tongue were affected--that's when I suspected I had suffered a stroke. I was seen by hospital staff rather quickly but it took about 15 hours before they confirmed it was a stroke. I was in the emergency ward and its corridors for 30 hours before being moved to the stroke ward. I was in the stroke ward for about four days.

BOB: With the treatment they gave you, you must have handled most of the symptoms pretty quickly, then.

TIM: Not really. I played my first game of croquet about two weeks after the stroke and found that after an hour I was exhausted. The Worlds in Adelaide were about four weeks away, and the doctors thought I could compete. How wrong were they! Two years on and I'm a lot better, but I still get very tired and consequently look for short-running tournaments. Day Three of a tournament and I start to drag my feet big time. Fatigue has always been the biggest after-effect of my stroke. The other lingering effects are tingling in my right finger tips and numbness in my front right tongue.

BOB: So the stroke was in the left side of the brain, and where you most feel the effect is in playing croquet?

A slight tingling in the tips of the fingers is another lingering symptom, but it has subsided sufficiently to not affect his game.
TIM: Yes, and not just with the exhaustion. The tingling in the finger tips was initially a bit of a hassle, because I couldn't feel the weight of the ball properly for delicate shots like backward take-offs. That recovered in a couple of months, but I still have some tingling in the very tips of my fingers. The tongue numbness is much improved but still bothers me. I'm very sensitive to any sign of salt in food and have to be careful while eating certain foods, in particular foods with sharp edges such as Doritos. Eating Doritos feels like my right tongue is being cut up.

BOB: But you'll completely recover eventually?

TIM: I'm getting better every month, and the doctors are encouraging. I feel it will be at least 12 months before I'm fully recovered. However, I've been saying that for the past 12 months. So it could be five years or more before I'm fully recovered.

BOB: Do you think the stroke changed your life, long-term? I mean, has it made you more health-conscious? If it has, a stroke that doesn't limit your physical capabilities long-term can even been seen as a positive thing. What do you think?

TIM: Well, just the fact of the fatigue is radical enough. That's the reason I'm changing careers--I feel I can't devote the time to my private clients that they need and deserve for certain projects.

BOB: What will it be?

TIM: My new career? I don't know yet. At the moment I'm collecting ideas. It might be outside the IT industry, with low work hours and low stress. Maybe dog walking. The most likely choice, though, is to continue programming. The difference will be that I will write and sell products/services rather than sell my time. When I've finished with Hordern House and while I consider my future options I'll spend four to six weeks principally working on CroquetScores. I'd love to have the finances to spend four to six months on the site, working on some of the 327 issues listed on https://trello.com/b/0dO0nmtg/croquetscores-com-development-backlog.

WCF embraces CroquetScores.com
(from the BLOG section of croquetscores.com)

Tim Murphy, the owner and developer of CroquetScores.com, and the World Croquet Federation have today reached a 12 month co-operative agreement regarding the website. The WCF will pay the annual hosting costs of CroquetScores.com in return for Tim Murphy continuing to evolve the results website for the good of the game.

The CroquetScores.com website allows tournament managers anywhere in the world to easily provide up to the minute results of events which they are managing. During the first year, it is planned to add a live commentary facility and possibly further features including lawn diagrams and live scores of games in progress.

The WCF world championships during this initial agreement period are:

  • WCF Association Croquet World Championship 2013
  • WCF Association Croquet World Team Championship 2014 Tier 1 (MacRobertson Shield)
  • WCF Women’s Golf Croquet World Championship 2014

CroquetScores.com will provide an archive output of the scores shortly after each WCF Event, and also simplifies the input of accurate results into the World Ranking systems.

During the agreement, the website will be available without charge to any croquet player, WCF Member association and the WCF. It is the intention of both parties to enter into a long term agreement at the end of this initial 12 month period.

BOB: There was a mysterious breakdown during the 2014 Australian Nationals. You monitored it closely and commented you would likely change providers. Did you do that yet?

TIM: I wouldn't call it mysterious, the problem was 100% with the provider. They seemed to have fixed it. I'm still intending to change providers, but I have around six or eight hours work to complete before that can happen.

BOB: You were doing a lot of work on the site around that time.

TIM: Yes, beginning in January 2014 I spent three weeks improving the automated tests, automated deployment of new code, and the code infrastructure. But there are still plenty of issues to handle--327, to be exact--and some of them are really important. The top (and big) items on the list are:

  • Change to a faster and reliably available database.
  • Improve the visual design of the website.
  • Improve the admin section.
  • Enable the automatic refreshing of results.
  • All other development will come as soon and I've earned enough money for the week or I have enough donations to cover my time, which will enable me to spend more time on the website.

    BOB: With those four handled, you'll be down to just 323 issues! Your vitae lists "high school certificate" under the "education" tab, but obviously you have been become very expert in IT. Was that self-taught, or did WestPac train you in that first serious IT job, back in the late eighties?

    TIM: I am completely self-taught, which has served me well. The pace of change in technology is amazing now compared to 5-10 years ago, let alone when I started 25 years ago. I'm continually self-teaching. The email I get keeps me hopping from one thing to another, solving problem after problem--which pretty much is how the IT game goes at any level. By the time you get to the end of the problems, you've perfected the programing, or at least learned how to go around really tough issues that can't easily be resolved on the first go.

    BOB: I got along very well with the try-it site, where there is that a long list of "priorities," which I started exploring. You have put most of them there yourself, it seems, but they're all dated in 2013, so far as I can tell. Have you not added any lately?

    Tim and his wife have decided not to have children, but they lavish attention on Freddy. Although Tim chose Freddy alone they share responsibility for the little budgie's care and well-being, and Freddy is never punished in any way for "talking back." Between sunrise and sunset Freddy has full reign of the lounge room and doesn't resent being returned return to his cage while Tim takes one of his two or three naps each day.
    TIM: There haven't been many new suggestions in 2014. The ones I have received have gone on a new Trello board where I'm moving all cards in an organised fashion.

    BOB: What do you consider the three most useful/most pressing of those issues. When do you estimate they'll be done, and why are they the most pressing?

    TIM: Changing web host providers is the top priority. Why? Because too often we are receiving time-out options. When? ASAP. This is getting 100% of my attention after urgent work demands. Switching the database engines is the second priority, so web pages display is quicker. Third is to pay down more technical debt.

    BOB: What's that?

    TIM: At various times I've been under a time constraint to complete certain features and consequently taken shortcuts along the way. In the programming game we refer to this as technical debt, which you can read more about at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_debt. So far in 2014 I've primarily been paying down this debt. It's likely that in August I can start taking advantage of the debt pay down and start adding new features to the site.

    BOB: So your priorities are always immediately obvious to you, because this is totally your baby, and you always know what needs to be done NOW, whether it's fixing a user problem or streamlining the background programing to shortcut or avoid a lot more little problems, and along the way doing things now which don't require much time/work?

    TIM: That's pretty much it. Fixing bugs is always the most pressing issue, and I'm pleased to say that this has become a rarity. I do spend time answering support emails. Most weeks I don't get any, but other weeks make up for that. The majority of support emails are from new users who have not used the try site and/or read the help pages.

    Freddy oversees Tim at work in his home office from the top of the central of three monitors. Tim's major client is in Sydney, far away, so Freddy may not notice any change when he winds up his work for that client in May, giving him more time to work on CroquetScores.com.

    BOB: As an American and one who plays American Rules, I have noticed there is no category now for registering and reporting on American Rules tournaments. Or do you expect me to do that under the AC category and just use the same scoring notation used for AC?

    TIM: It is on the to-do list. AC is probably more appropriate but is doesn't really matter.

    BOB: What do you mean by that? Your format seems to fit American Rules as well as AC and Golf Croquet.

    TIM: At the top of the tournament lists there are buttons to filter the tournaments displayed in the list. Currently there is AC & GC. I want to add more filtering options. This includes, but is not limited to, American Rules, nine-wicket, and countries.

    BOB: As a relatively young man at 47, you have nevertheless made arrangements for DISASTER which remind me of my own arrangements in my 75th year for the continuation of Croquet World Online Magazine as my major croquet legacy. (See the KEY PERSON DISASTER MANAGEMENT sidebar.) I'm wondering: Does your wife Nicole currently have the Power of Attorney referred to? And should you both be killed simultaneously (god forbid!) what mechanism would ensure the complete transfer of ownership of the site to the WCF?

    Key Person Disaster Management
    (From the BLOG section of CroquetScores.com)

    The World Croquet Federation (WCF) has raised founded fears of CroquetScores.com being lost to the croquet community should I (Tim Murphy) not be able to continue running the site. With that in mind I make the follow announcement.

    In case of death or permanent incapacitation and I have a life-partner, then that person has de-facto power of attorney of CroquetScores.com. My current wife, Nicole Murphy, is aware of this announcement.

    In case of death or permanent incapacitation and I do not have a life-partner then I wish the following to occur:

    The WCF and I will come to suitable arrangements to enact this announcement if required.

    TIM: Given all arrangements are with family members we haven't drawn up any legal documents. Nicole, my father, and my sister all have instructions on how to transfer the code, etc, should the need arise. So the site can continue uninterrupted if disaster strikes.

    BOB: I take it that what you mean is that the basic site is now so well-advanced and self-managing that a part-time administrator could handle it.

    TIM: Absolutely.

    BOB: You must be pleased with the instant success of CroquetScores.com, and the degree of cooperation you've gotten from everyone; and of course you know that's because the top players are vitally interested in having this kind of well-organized resource. You've already vastly improved the Nottingham Board by taking all the running text commentary off it and onto CroquetScores.com. Will CroquetScores.com ever include a resource for posting videos or real-time live streaming of events--which is the next logical step beyond the real-time reporting on your website?

    TIM: My to-do list has now grown from 327 to 328 :-) Thanks for the suggestion.

    Murphy has often been a part of the New South Wales inter-state team, competing for the Eire Cup each year. This photo shows the team in Hobart, Tasmania, site of the 2011 team event, the second year of a three-year winning streak, with Tim as captain. From left to right, back row: Peter Landrebe, Rosemary Landrebe, Ken Edwards, Tim Murphy (captain); middle row Robyn Easther, Alison Sharpe (vice captain), Pam Gentle, Stephen Richard; seated Claire Bassett. According to Tim, "This is easily my favorite croquet event, and although I'm a long shot, I'm doing everything I can to be selected again in November."

    BOB: You've gotten a measure of formal support from the WCF but not outright financial aid. Do you honestly expect to get volunteer donations from croquet players in substantial quantity? Wouldn't it be wise to seek, at the same time, other sources of financing? Grant support comes to mind, since Australia is known for supporting all sorts of sports activity. Or maybe a wealthy croquet player who properly appreciates the value and only partly explored potential of the site?

    TIM: I'd never thought of a government grant, thanks for the idea. The WCF agreement fully covered hosting costs, approximately $250 US per annum. I've been surprised by the level of support through donations. The ACA and most Australian state associations have made generous donations. I received a few generous donations from individuals. Last but certainly not least are the smaller donations from individuals, typically $20.00 to $50.00. I'm not likely to ever consider CroquetScores.com as income stream to rely on. The website is my gift to the sport I've got so much from, and the donations I receive are greatly appreciated.

    BOB: I'd like to end with a personal "thank you" on two counts: not just as someone who follows major tournaments, but as a writer and editor who reports on them. Tournament directors are already so accustomed to using your site for instant reporting that I have no need to dog them trying to get results summaries and complete final scores. I just go to your site. And in all the postings of major events on Croquet World's Bulletin Board, I include something like, "Go to CroquetScores.com for complete results." So: Thank you, Tim Murphy, for the gift.

    TIM MURPHY, IN HIS OWN WORDS:

    I live in Queanbeyan NSW, on the border of ACT. My home club is Canberra Croquet Club, and I play croquet as often as I can. My partner Nicole and I met on the internet in January 1999 and married January 2000. Until recently it was just us. In November 2013 we got Freddy, our much loved budgie :-). My major client is Hordern House Rare Books, based in Sydney. However, I've decided on a career change and given notice. I'll finish before June, probably late May. My top personal priority is CroquetScores. I'm totally engrossed in perfecting the site and expanding its usefulness. The more donations I get, the more time I can devote to the further development of CroquetScores.com.


     
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