Project born from pain…

It was February 14, 2013. I had the flu, but needed medicines for my Diabetes. So I had no choice, took my car to drive the 800 meters (!) from home to the apothecary to pick them up. It was snowing a bit, the streets were slippery because and well.. My car just made sure that I did not have to walk over 800 meters of slippery, icy streets. Just about 20 meters.

It did not work. I slipped and badly injured my back while I tried to get back into the car after picking up my medicines. I managed to stand up reasonably quickly, which assured me that I had not broken anything severe, but the pain… The pain…

I’ve started this project on Sunday, four days later. The pain is still there and my physician subscribed Paracetamol 1.000 mg and Ibuprofen 600 mg, three times per day. That’s probably enough to sedate a horse, but I still feel the pain. To make it worse, it just hurts most when I try to stand or sit, although standing or sitting quietly will bring the pain down again. So here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to deal with the pain and making my mind wonder about what to do. Still, as times passes by, I do manage to handle the pain better.

Well, that’s not too difficult. I’m just going to create a new project which I would consider practical and educational. I don’t know how much time it will take to finish but that’s no big deal since I’m not going anywhere. But first, what should the project be?

Well, after considering how Wikipedia and Twitter work, I think it would be nice to have something with similar, practical usage. A website that links words and phrases together by hyperlinks and short texts. This could even be expanded by adding images, video and other content, as long as things are kept short. I am thinking about a header with an icon and title, a few special tabs on the right side for specific topics and beneath the title the working area. Below the working area there would be a footer with copyright information and other stuff about the site itself.

The working area would be divided into three parts. A left column containing a word cloud showing the mostly related words to the current topic, with a list of links below for outside references to other websites. The right column would contain short phrases which would also lead to other topics, plus a list of related meta-data like images, videos, documents and other stuff. The center part would be the main content and would contain a short description, possibly with a small image or video included. This content area might also contain an input-form so visitors can offer their own data here.

This would be a perfect web site to create using Visual Studio 2012 with MVC 4. Plus the entity framework for storage. However, there is another challenge: how to fill it with data? And for this, I decided on a reasonable unique concept: a second website! Why? Because I want the main website to be read-only. A root domain name followed by the word that needs to be looked up, nothing more. I have no use for a “/setup” or “/admin” path because that would mean I could not use the words “setup” or “admin” as descriptions. A second site that would share the same database would be more practical.

But two sites means using two (sub)domains. But that’s not a big problem. All I need to do first is add those two sub domains to my current domain. So I go to my domain registrar and add two A labels to my DNS settings. I want to create for the site itself and for the configuration site. And I need to tell IIS on my web server to start hosting those sites, even if they’re not doing anything. It will take some time for the DNS system to actually find my sites but by reserving the domain names already, I have one delay less once I really need to start testing in a production environment.

Then again, this production environment is still experimental. If the project is finally finished, the real version will be hosted somewhere else. Most likely under Microsoft Azure or a RackSpace cloud. Why? Because my simple web server at home won’t be able to handle more than a few requests per minute.

Now I have the whole hosting solution ready so it’s time to design a few things. I start with the user interface of the site itself. This should tell me the data that I will need to store. And this can simply be drawn with pen and paper. Once the design is done, I need to consider the data that I see within my design and how to store it all. Storage would end up in an SQL Server database plus a small bit within the configuration file of the project. Once storage is done, I need to think of a web service that will allow me access to this data, and I would need to do that one twice. Once for read-only access for the site itself and once with read/write options for the setup. (And the reading part would be shared between both.) Once the web service is set up, I can start designing the user interfaces. The site itself will use MVC 4 and ASP.NET with C# as the programming language. The setup is something that I want to be a challenge so I’m considering to write it as a client/server desktop application and possibly port it to Android using Delphi or Oxygene.

All in all, this project will thus have the following steps, which I will elaborate in some next posts:

  1. Design the user interface on paper. Scan it, add some descriptions to it and make a functional design.
  2. Consider all data that needs to be stored, create a database structure by generating an Entity Framework model around the data.
  3. Define the web service methods that I need and find a simple way to share all read methods between two different websites.
  4. Create the user interface for the web site. Use a simple SQL script to fill it with some dummy data.
  5. Build the setup application using whatever technique is most appropriate.

And yes, this is a waterfall technique. If I was more than one person, Scrum could be very useful since multiple me’s could work on each separate thing. Since I want to create it all by myself, doing it step by step will be good enough.

And now back to bed. It took three days to write this all with all the pain in my back. At least in bed I can easily hold the pen and paper and do the first step…

2 thoughts on “Project born from pain…

  1. Pingback: The Wordchain data model. | Wim ten Brink

  2. Pingback: The first design of “WordChain”… | Wim ten Brink

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