Tripwire is a dynamic wormhole mapping tool created by Daimian Mercer, a 30-year old web developer from Madison, Wisconsin. Recently, we sat down to chat about this powerful tool, its history, development challenges, and more. Damien is a friendly, approachable guy who is extremely enthusiastic about Tripwire. His dedication has resulted in a tool that is popular and widely used by wormhole dwellers, day-trippers, and roving explorers. In March of this year, he celebrated the creation of the 10,000th Tripwire account by giving away a 1.3B ISK Stratios to the account owner. As a further sign of its popularity, Tripwire has been used as the back end to the EvE-Scout Web site since its inception with the advent of Thera in-game.
When asked what inspired Tripwire, Mercer said it started in his college days when he was in Blue Sun Enterprises (BSEN). He was studying computer programming for his Computer Science degree when his corpmates began to discuss a third party app specifically for wormholes (which existed for about a year into the game at the time).
“Somehow we all came up with the idea of an app that would keep track of the wormholes you had been in recently, and could pull API activity data for jumps and kills (back when W-space data was still in the API). The thinking was, that you could scan down a bunch of wormholes and then sit back and use the app to watch for activity in those holes. That’s how the name Tripwire was coined.”
Damien explained that although its original purpose was just to track activity in wormholes, Tripwire evolved to include sig data and a notes feature. It was really good at showing lots of data in a compact format, and was one of the few (and maybe only) wormhole mappers that was 100% functional in the IGB at that time. Early on it didn’t have a visual map, but eventually that feature was added. Its competitors at the time, primarily Siggy and EVE W-Space, offered similar features with a few differences.
“Staying competitive in terms of features is a huge part of third party app development,” he observed.
After nearly three years in BSEN—two of those spend developing Tripwire—Mercer took a break from EVE when the corp closed its doors. When he returned, many BSEN members had joined Lead Farmers in the KILL alliance (both defunct), so he did too. Shortly after that, they switched from Siggy to Tripwire and that’s when development went crazy as a result of lots of good feedback and ideas.
Damien spends one to three hours a day and perhaps as many as 10 hours a day on the weekends working on Tripwire. Asked why such a huge time commitment is worthwhile, he cited two reasons: one, the satisfaction of making a tool that is widely used and appreciated by the EVE community; and two, career advancement.
“Tripwire uses the latest technologies and security methods. It handles hundreds of requests per second at a cost of less than $40 USD per month. It is a very good example of what I can do as a web developer—a live CV of sorts.”
At times, the level of effort required increases enormously for a short period of time, as when Thera and the shattered wormholes were added to the game. Mercer explains, “Although the changes themselves were not that massive—maybe 10 hours of work tops—I was 100+ hours into a patch. At the time, I wasn’t using source code control, so I couldn’t just stop the patch or merge the changes easily. As a result, it took me another 100+ hours of work within a week’s time to get Tripwire ready for CCP’s launch day changes.”
In addition to work required to keep Tripwire working with EVE, Mercer maintains a huge list of features he wants to add to the tool. The list is roughly prioritized by level of demand from users for particular features or changes. He says, “What is coming next is a total revamp of how signatures are added/edited, more UI customization options, and the ability to switch masks like tabs. I’m really excited about the mask switching. Basically, it will, for example, let you look at notes on your corp mask, then click a ribbon to switch to your private mask, add personal notes there, then flip back to the corp mask in a few clicks and a few seconds.”
Integration with CREST is also in the cards for Tripwire, as there are some CREST end-points coming that will have huge impacts on how Tripwire works. Mercer praised CCP FoxFour and other CCP devs for their support of and engagement with third-party devs, particularly in the Tweetfleet Slack #devfleet channel. “Having a working relationship with CCP devs is so important, and having an experienced third-party dev on the CSM is very helpful in getting third-party developer concerns heard. Considering the widespread use of third-party tools and how vital they are to so many elements of the game, I’m inclined to say that having a third-party dev representative on the CSM almost ought to be a requirement.”
Asked about legacy plans for Tripwire in case he loses interest or is unable to continue its development, Mercer said that he recently put the software into a private github repository. At the flip of a switch, Tripwire can go fully open source, and others have been empowered to do that should it become necessary.
While many third-party devs cite satisfaction of a job well done and positive acceptance by the community as important rewards for their efforts, Mercer expands on that. “One of the biggest ‘attaboys’ I get is real money donations through the PayPal button on the Tripwire site. That money makes it possible to continue developing and evolving Tripwire without having to pay the entire cost of hosting and other expenses myself. The fact that someone values Tripwire enough to donate real world money—no matter how small an amount—is one of the most gratifying affirmations of my work. I am also extremely grateful to those who promote and defend my work.”
Asked what advice he has for others who aspire to develop their own third-party tools, Mercer suggests that anyone with the skills or interest in learning those skills should just go for it. He advocates doing as the best way to learn and get good at development. There are always more good ideas than available experienced third-party devs around to work on them; very few have the time to put their current projects aside to work on a new good idea. Mercer observes that many great ideas for apps probably wither on the vine because of that. Aspiring developers are encouraged to join the #devfleet channel on the Tweetfleet Slack and engage there with other third-party and CCP devs.
To learn more about Tripwire or create an account, visit the Tripwire site. Mercer welcomes questions, feedback, and suggestions for Tripwire; reach him via email, Twitter, Google+, or on the Tweetfleet Slack. If you’d like to know more about how to use Tripwire, see WingspanTT’s tutorial on YouTube.
Tags: Mynxee, tripwire, wormholes
Mynxee began her New Eden adventures in 2007 and has sampled most of the activities that New Eden has to offer in high, low, and null sec, but is best known as a low sec pirate and founder/CEO of Hellcats. She was elected CSM5 Chairperson in 2010.