Building a guard rail

When you use a tool you built, you know where it’s sharp edges are.

You can avoid slicing your finger off. You need not worry about electrocuting yourself, you know not ot pull on the cable too forcefully.

The same is true of software.

I’ve been working on CorrectedTime since Star Wars day, 2009. It’s hosted the dinghy sailing results for Sheffield Viking sailing club since December 2010. In all that time, I’ve been the sole user.

Each week, I bring home the race sheets (entered on A3 paper, as the club has no electricity and little mobile phone coverage) and enter the sailor names, boats and lap times into the Rails app.

Issues that have plagued the app for literally years, that were niggles, not deal breakers for one person are now getting addressed.

For example:

  • I only needed one user login (did not have password resets, email confirmations or smooth sign in page).
  • Sometimes, a helm and crew would be displayed with the helm as the crew. A quick edit and this would be fine.
  • I needed to deploy a new build if the handicap for a boat changes (these numbers are often tweaked yearly).

Presentation was good enough for the small audience, with minimal styling, but not great.

Over the last 6 months the rate of change has accelerated. The CorrectedTime has become better and a smoother experience. It’s now nearly ready for new and non-technical users to evaluate and use week-to-week.

I think I’m going to enjoy using and sharing CorrectedTime with it’s refinements. After all, I’m a user too.

Building a guard rail

When you use a tool you built, you know where it’s sharp edges are.

You can avoid slicing your finger off. You need not worry about electrocuting yourself, you know not ot pull on the cable too forcefully.

The same is true of software.

I’ve been working on CorrectedTime since Star Wars day, 2009. It’s hosted the dinghy sailing results for Sheffield Viking sailing club since December 2010. In all that time, I’ve been the sole user.

Each week, I bring home the race sheets (entered on A3 paper, as the club has no electricity and little mobile phone coverage) and enter the sailor names, boats and lap times into the Rails app.

Issues that have plagued the app for literally years, that were niggles, not deal breakers for one person are now getting addressed.

For example:

  • I only needed one user login (did not have password resets, email confirmations or smooth sign in page).
  • Sometimes, a helm and crew would be displayed with the helm as the crew. A quick edit and this would be fine.
  • I needed to deploy a new build if the handicap for a boat changes (these numbers are often tweaked yearly).

Presentation was good enough for the small audience, with minimal styling, but not great.

Over the last 6 months the rate of change has accelerated. The CorrectedTime has become better and a smoother experience. It’s now nearly ready for new and non-technical users to evaluate and use week-to-week.

I think I’m going to enjoy using and sharing CorrectedTime with it’s refinements. After all, I’m a user too.

Sharing with the world

Several years ago, I wrote a spreadsheet. It was awesome.

Then I wrote a quickly aborted php app. A Shoes app (Thanks _why). Finally, a Rails app. It was awesome.

So, winding back a bit; I race sailing dinghies at weekends. I became results secretary for my local sailing club. This entails taking lap times and finishing times from a piece of paper, and doing some calculations to find out who won.

It was these calculations which were in my awesome spreadsheet. There were apps that could do the same job (hello sailwave). However, our sailing committee were keen that people could swap boats during a series of races and still be awarded points. So my spreadsheet would take the race results (per boat) and assign them to people. So as Ed moved from one boat to another, he was not penalized; for helping john who had no crew that day, or for taking one of the club-owned boats for a blast in a heavy breeze.

And jump forward again. Spreadsheet to php app (aborted). Spreadsheet to Shoes app (aborted). Spreadsheet to rails app.

For several years, the rails app did what was needed. It gave people their points. They could see if they were a winner, or how far behind they were that day.

But last year, I found a new podcast, Startups for the rest of us. I’m not going to get rich with a niche product, but I thought I could take our results tool and apply some extra love, some polish (and a lot of fixating), and share it with other sailing clubs.

The ‘brochure’ site is live now, and has had as many as three visitors since December 2014. I have lots of cosmetic and structural changes I want to make to the app. I don’t have any method for collecting revenue. I’m not even sure there is a market for the app outside our club.

But hey, if you don’t try, you won’t know.

Without further ado, I give you the one and only CorrectedTime dinghy racing results app. I think its awesome. But only just awesome enough to share.

The next post may well describe more about the problem domain, or why I do things a certain way. It might even announce our first external user. Who knows?