Techdays Contest Interviews

    In the spring I talked about a campaign where you can go on a trip to warmer countries at the expense of Microsoft. The moment came, and the winner was determined - this is Sergey and Svetlana Popov, the developers of .

    I had a little chat with the winners and this is what happened.

    Tell us a few words about yourself and the Photokaravan project?
    Svetlana: is a non-profit photo project created a little less than a year ago for communication of all who are interested in photography. In fact, we will celebrate the year on September 23, 2010. We position ourselves rather as an informational photo project - we publish news from the world of photography, reviews of photographic equipment, a variety of analytical reviews on photographic topics, interviews with famous photographers, articles on photography techniques, and advice from the “sophisticated” - in general, our range of interests is quite wide.
    Well, of course, as with any self-respecting photo site, Photokaravan has a photo gallery where photographers can post an unlimited number of photos.
    In addition, Photokaravan holds monthly photo contests on a given topic. The photo contest “Night Shooting” has just ended, and now the reception of works for the photo contest “Technology and People - from the Past to the Future” is in full swing. A distinctive feature of our contests is a two-level voting system. At the first stage, site participants vote, ranking the submitted works, and the final twenty are determined by the results of these ratings. Then the jury begins its work, and it is the experts who determine the winners and prize winners.
    As a rule, the author of the photo, which won the first place, receives a prize of 150 US dollars or the equivalent of this amount in local currency, and the rest of the winners and authors of the works that entered the top twenty receive encouraging prizes and souvenirs. But sometimes, in addition to the usual prizes, the contestants receive additional ones, for example, four photos of the July photo contest “Night Shooting” will be awarded with participation in the photo exhibition “Equinox”.
    Another big part of the site is the Forum, which has already accumulated a lot of useful discussions of photographic equipment, and most importantly, there are experts who are very knowledgeable in the topic, who can really give people advice on choosing and using photographic equipment.
    Finally, the Blogs section recently opened on Photokaravan. Here, community members share their thoughts and ideas about photography and about life in general.
    Well, we are part of the development team. Sergey - team lead, system architect, developer plus technical site administrator. Svetlana is a designer, task manager, analyst, plus I also perform a number of administrative functions. Well, and since photography is my hobby, I often write articles, news, blog posts and publish my photos in the gallery.

    And why did you and Sergey decide to take up this project?
    Because of the money, of course!

    That was interesting. To me - because photography, as I said, is my hobby. And Sergei is interested, because there was an opportunity to tinker with various new interesting for him, let's say, not quite trivial tasks.

    Does the project really make a lot of money?
    The project has a host and an investor. Now Sveta will tell in more detail.

    We are not the owners of the project and are working for a salary. For a good salary. The project has a host, he is an investor, he is also an ideological leader. On the network, he is known as Vlad Caravan, and the site is named after him. Now the project does not bring money, but at this stage it is not planned. Everything has its time, as Vlad says, and he is a businessman with great experience and, by the way, is also an avid amateur photographer.

    How did you get the idea to participate in the competition? Did you expect to go to warmer countries?
    Actually, I wanted a mug - well, you are aware of this weakness of mine. It’s just that they didn’t give me the mug, in the Softline office where I called, they told me that they didn’t have mugs, but only t-shirts. But a t-shirt is not so interesting. I had to contact you for a mug, if you remember.
    I not only did not count on warm countries, but did not even consider this possibility. Therefore, when Photokaravan unexpectedly won this promotion, I was quite surprised.

    Why did you choose Microsoft technologies to develop your portal?
    Because we love Microsoft, because they have repeatedly sent us prizes and gifts for participating in various projects, because they always have the latest information on products and generally we like this company. This is me ... Sergey will seriously answer the question.

    Because we put together a collection of 8 beer glasses and mugs with the MSDN and Techdays logos, how could you choose another technology after that ?!
    But seriously, this is a very voluminous question ... If you try to formulate the answer briefly - for me, Microsoft technology is a significant saving in development time. I have experience with other systems, including the experience of system programming under Linux (though 10 years ago).
    And so - I managed to talk with Java, and with RoR, and MySQL ... But I feel most comfortable when I work with .NET and MS SQL Server. And with Visual Studio, of course - in my opinion, this is the best environment for software development. Of other products, only Eclipse can be compared with it, but with it its own difficulties.
    Well, when Microsoft released the ASP.NET MVC Framework, there was no doubt whatsoever to choose for Web applications (I must say that Web Forms never impressed me).

    Were there any problems with scaling the application? What is the load on your portal now?
    The load is average - more information, unfortunately, I can’t disclose now. But here are some comments on scalability I can give.
    The project now runs on a single dedicated server running Windows 2008 Standard Edition, 32bit (32 bits are associated with a difficult project history). The DBMS is SQL Server Express.
    There are no problems with scaling - when a single server ceases to cope with the load, we just build a farm of several servers - the benefit of IIS allows you to do this without serious effort. Only during development it is always necessary to keep in mind that two consecutive requests from one user can be processed on different machines - but this is not difficult.

    But what about the scaling of the DBMS?
    At the moment, the DBMS does not carry any kind of extreme load, and, I think, one DBMS server can withstand the processing of requests, if not from 16, then from 8 Web servers for sure.
    I will not say that this is entirely the merit of MS SQL Server, I also had a hand in this - but designing the optimal storage for MS SQL is not difficult at all, since the development tools make it easy to track bottlenecks, and there are plenty of tools to expand them ... I think listing them is not necessary.
    Well, of course, no one canceled the knowledge of theory, and experience didn’t interfere.

    Long developed resource? How much effort has been spent?
    Our resource is not static, it is developed all the time of its existence. However, what we now see in the front-end took us 2 months - taking into account the fact that we didn’t do all the development directly, it took us a lot of time to agree.
    We still have a very small backend, focused on catching dishonest voting - here we had to tinker with it, but this task is rather knowledge-intensive, and not resource-intensive.
    And so - constantly have to finish something - however, this is a normal situation for a live project. Well, in September we are preparing a big update - here are the details, unfortunately, I can’t provide yet.

    Those. Microsoft's development platform came in handy here?
    Of course. And if Visual Studio 2010 came out six months earlier, they would have saved money too, would have managed without NCover and SQL Compare.

    Excellent. But are Microsoft tools really so good? Maybe there are some disadvantages?
    And who is without sin? Of course, there are drawbacks ...
    But I have already said that I feel most comfortable when developing in the .NET environment and Visual Studio.
    What can I recall from the shortcomings ... Well, for example, I still do not like the unit test framework from Microsoft, I miss many of the functions that it has in NUnit. Therefore, I use NUnit for unit testing.
    Secondly, I do not like how the Database Project is organized in Visual Studio - but here is the topic for a large article, and besides, this is my subjective opinion. I have developed my own approach to working with the DBMS, and within the framework of the Database Project I am closely.
    In the latter case, I have to manage with “crutches” - I write the code in Visual Studio or in SQL Server Management Studio, and I use my own set of scripts to run the database project. Maybe I will nevertheless gather my strength and make my version of Database Project for VS2010 - since this is much easier than for VS2008!

    By the way, where does your team get their knowledge in software development?
    Twitter, blogs, MSDN, Techdays, communication with colleagues, SUNETA. Special thanks to Vladimir Yunev and you personally - I myself simply would not have had enough time to process all the sources of interest.

    Question on infrastructure. Why did you choose a solution based on virtualization technologies? What did not suit the solution, for example, based on shared hosting?
    And we did not choose a solution based on virtualization technology. Photokaravan runs on a separate physical server.

    Even so. Then all the more - why did not arrange shared hosting?
    The company Vlad (owner of the resource) has its own data center. Therefore, the issue of hosting was not even raised.

    Clear. What are your future plans for the development of the resource?
    Oh, we have a lot of plans. Firstly, we want to make a complete database of modern cameras with the ability to search for models, compare specifications, and the function of "selecting a camera for you." Let's start with modern DSLRs, then connect the optics, and finally the compacts. Secondly, we plan to expand the capabilities of the gallery. There are some interesting thoughts that I will not share for now, but we will definitely make a rating system for photos, authors, the ability to add photos and authors to favorites. In addition, we will expand the functions of back-office - it’s not so interesting for users, but we will simplify our own lives. Well, and finally, there are a lot of plans of an organizational nature - in particular, we will give caravanseers the opportunity to participate in photo exhibitions. We are planning a separate exhibition at the fair in Moscow.

    Well, in conclusion - have you already chosen where to go for a vacation?
    Yes, in October we will go for two weeks to the Czech Republic. We will be based in Prague, but we will take a car for the entire stay and will drive around the country on our own. Perhaps even a glimpse into Germany and Slovakia. Now, with the help of the manager of the Aero Club Tour company, we select a hotel in the center of Prague, settle issues with flights, car rental and other organizational issues. I think that the rest will turn out beautiful - and that will be photographed, and the beer is tasty there, and they will not offend with a pig leg :)

    Why exactly the Czech Republic? Are there any specific places you want to visit?
    Initially, a European country was chosen. We thought about Germany, more precisely, about Bavaria, there are very beautiful castles on the rocks, and when they are in fog, it seems that the castle is hanging in the air. But this is Munich, and there will be Oktoberfest with a crowd of people. There is absolutely no desire to push. Especially since I was not in the Czech Republic, but Sergei was, and he wants to show me the places that impressed him at one time.

    Maybe there are some wishes for the readers?
    Read and watch Techdays, do not miss interesting promotions, use Microsoft technologies and just be happy!

    Thank you guys for an interesting conversation, good luck to relax!
    Thanks, Sergey, thanks to Microsoft, thanks to Techdays, thanks to Photokaravan!

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