UltiStats: The Man Behind the App

by | May 16, 2011, 4:25pm 0

Every Ultimate team that is serious about winning and progressing their play should be using UltiStats. It gives a team the ability to track turns, scores and assists and so much more. With its automatically calculated relative plus/minus system, a captain or coach can easily see which players really are impacting their teams ability to score and who is the true difference maker. Available in the itunes App store, if you have any of the iphone/touch/pad this stat will be with you always.

The man behind the app, Chadwick Boulay, was generous enough to supply the staff of Skyd with copies of the app so we can provide detailed stats of tournaments. I wanted to know who this guy was and why he decided to make the leading stat keeping app for Ultimate. Turns out, he is one smart, smart guy.

First off, who is Chadwick Boulay?

I am a 5th year PhD candidate studying Brain-Computer Interface and CNS plasticity at SUNY Albany. I am also a Canadian ex-pat, a husband to a wonderful Japanese woman, and a father-to-be. I got involved with ultimate back in ’98 when I was a freshman at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, in the same way any college freshman stumbles into the sport. I have always been more of a nerd than an athlete, however, so I have never competed at anything higher than rec league or casual club teams. The ultimate community has been great to me. I’ve made great friends through ultimate wherever I’ve lived. I’ve traveled for ultimate, and it’s how I met my wife in Tokyo.

Why did you create Ultistats?

There were several reasons. My research requires me to work with MATLAB, which uses primarily a scripting language, but I thought it would be beneficial to learn object-oriented programming. Also, I have a great appreciation for the unheralded players in ultimate that work hard and contribute to a shutdown defense but they don’t necessarily get points in the blocks, assists or goals columns and I wanted a way for these players to get recognized. Finally, the iPhone was so hot it seemed like a good platform to work on.

It was only after I was nearly finished with UltiStats for iPhone that I discovered the previous UltiStats for Palm. I contacted the author, Alan Harder, and he gave me permission to use the name UltiStats. I think there are some similarities between my app and his but those can be attributed to either my beta testers suggesting things they had seen elsewhere or on Alan Harder and I coming to the same solutions to the same problems.

What have you heard back from users in terms of reviews/requests for Ultistats?

The feedback I have received by e-mail or in person has been almost entirely positive. To be honest, I don’t really read the reviews in the App store. The one time I did, the majority of the negative comments were complaining that they couldn’t delete items even though the mechanism for deleting something in UltiStats is the same as in any other iOS app and I had instructions on how to delete on my website. I understand that it is easier to leave negative reviews than it is to go to the website or ask the developer. To help, I tried to post a review that explained how to delete but it never showed up. I hate iTunes. So I only respond to e-mails now, and I respond to every single one as soon as I can. The only other comment I’ve received is that it’s too hard to take stats unless you have an injured player or significant other devoted to doing so. This is of course true, but UltiStats can also be used to keep score or other basic data simply by ignoring the items you don’t want to record.
Requests have mostly been of two types. The first type is to divide stats like turnovers between multiple players. The second type has been for specific plays, like breaks or defensive breakdowns. The answer to all of these requests has been the same: Statistics are meant to be unambiguous and objective. I left room for some judgment about throwaways vs. drops but I hope that as a community we can reach a consensus on their definitions (I use the rule that any offensive turnover is a throwaway unless it hits the receiver’s hands). I have also received requests for usability improvements and I will try to incorporate those into the new UltiStats.

What is the future for UltiStats?

The cloud! Recorded data will be synchronized online, in real-time where available. I have a lot of work to do on the back-end but I am determined.

What exactly is the new web based program?

From the end-user’s perspective it won’t be a whole lot different than the current UltiStats except that it will run in a web browser instead of as a native app. This means that it will work on any mobile device with a HTML5-capable browser (Android, iOS, BB). For an example of how this might work, check out m.leaguevine.com .

How will you incorporate the ease of UltiStats into this new web based program?

I haven’t yet decided how the new UltiStats is going to look. The original program took most of its design elements from the Apple handbook. I’m willing to separate from that but I’m not much of a designer so I guess it’ll depend on how much my designer friends are willing to help me.

If people wanted to contribute what can they do?

I think I’m going to keep UltiStats in-house and maybe only share the code with my friends. However, I do need a lot of help on the other project that I’m working on which is directly related to UltiStats.
Through my conversations with Chris Oakman (of pickupultimate.com) I realized that UltiStats, and really all other ultimate web applications, would benefit tremendously from being able to share data. We would especially like access to schedules, scores, and rosters from official databases like USAU, WFDF, etc. Well, in order for this to happen, we first need a specification defining what the data will look like, and tools for exporting the data in this format. USAU has also decided that this is a worthy endeavour and they have given me a grant to do so. This is what I am working on now and it is all open source. Check out http://ultistats.com for a glimpse at my work in progress and a link to my github project. If you have an ultimate database and are willing to share your data, please contact me and we’ll work together to get your server to share data in the appropriate format.

Any final thoughts or comments?

I want to take this opportunity to thank the beta testers that helped me get UltiStats from a clunky tool to a useful app, the customers for supporting the application, Chris Oakman and Mark Liu for some useful insights into data management, and, most of all, my wife Kumi for letting me spend countless hours at my desk working on these projects.

Thanks again the Mr. Boulay for taking the time to design the app and for lettings us interview him. If you have questions or comments feel free to email him at chadwick.boulay@gmail.com. The more people that can contribute to a project like this will only help progress the sport. So for any of you smart, tech savvy Ultimate players, consider contributing to this unique project.

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