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Practitioners Reports


Tuesday, 28 October – 15:30-17:00

15:30 - 16:00
Experience in Developing the UrbanSim System: Tools for Developing Research Software for a Politically Charged Domain

Bjorn Freeman-Benson, Center for Urban Simulation and Policy Analysis, University of Washington, bnfb@cs.washington.edu
Alan Borning, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, borning@cs.washington.edu

UrbanSim is a sophisticated simulation system for modeling urban land use, transportation, and environmental impacts, over a period of 20 or more years, under alternate possible scenarios. Our purpose is to support democratic decision-making on such issues as building new transit systems or freeways, or changing zoning or economic incentives, as well as on broader issues such as sustainable, livable cities, economic vitality, social equity, and environmental preservation. The domain is politically charged, with different stakeholders bringing strongly held values to the table. Our goal is not to favor any particular stakeholder values, but rather to let the stakeholders evaluate the results themselves. This need for neutrality has several implications for the development process, among other things resulting in our choice of an open source/open process model. UrbanSim is also an NSF-funded infrastructure project with a mix of research and development goals. Unlike most academic projects, this one has real customers (municipal planning organizations) with real needs.

Thus the UrbanSim project has a number of simultaneous goals, which are in some tension: producing credible, reliable code; utilizing a flexible process that adapts to new research discoveries; maintaining coherent architecture and continuous development progress; and using part-time and inexperienced student staff in addition to experienced full-time staff. (This is in contrast to the usual model in XP and other agile development processes, in which all developers are considered equally experienced and skilled.)

In this report, we discuss the tools we have chosen, modified, or developed in-house; and the reasons why these tools are good choices for this mixed research/product development environment. Our tools include: Eclipse, MySQL, CVS, Ant, Fireman (a Tinderbox-like automatic build and test system), JUnit, FIT, Wiki, Bugzilla, a physical traffic light, and a daily project dashboard. The tools are tightly integrated and collectively support our agile process.

16:00 - 16:30
Experiences using an ODBMS for a high-volume internet banking system

Vincent Coetzee, eBucks.com, vincent.coetzee@ebucks.com
Robert Walker, GemStone Systems, bob.walker@gemstone.com

Few large corporate organizations make the decision to use an Object Database Management System (ODBMS) when developing high volume transactional eCommerce web sites. This report examines the architecture used to power a website that encompasses banking, online shopping, and the management of a Customer Loyalty Currency called eBucks. This system proves that an ODBMS can be used in a high volume transactional system with great success. While the choice of this technology has many merits, there are drawbacks. These drawbacks are examined along with the solutions that have been used at eBucks to either solve or ameliorate them.