Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tales from the Conference Call

Today we had a multi-site conference call with hundreds of people called in. Fortunately, someone set it up so that few of the callers could actually talk at the meeting; most only listened.

Substantial time was spent discussing how best to subscribe people to mailing lists against their will. When someone starts using a supercomputer, do you sign them up for the list that tells you when the system is scheduled to be down (but put an unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email)? Or do you make people log on to the portal and set up their profile and do their own subscriptions? And what about RSS?

And how should this relate to the user forums? And should we give out prizes to the people who are most helpful in the user forums? The user forums are not meant for questions like, "Which compiler flags should I use to get best performance on this system?" Rather, the users only should ask vague and open-ended questions on the forums. Do we give away t-shirts or iPads for the best answers?

Last but not least, how best to use social networking to enhance this experience? While the parts of the project that no one takes seriously has long made use of social networking, can serious computing also use this technology?

And so I present SupercomputerVille, which I would not talk about on a hundred-person telecon but I would tell you about.

You start with as empty supercomputer. You then earn XP by scheduling jobs on your supercomputer and tending to them as they run. As you progress through the game, you can pester the other supercomputer operators to see if they have an install script for GlobusOnline that works on your supercomputer or you can save up to buy an archival storage system that you can share with the neighboring supercomputers. At the most advanced levels of the game, you can take part in ridiculous telecons with the other supercomputers.