The first prototype is almost done – I just need to add a couple presentation elements (listing articles by date submitted, highest scoring). When I get the site up (I still need to read how to use Capistrano to deploy a Rails site), we’ll open it up for a few people to start playing with it.
Goals of This Prototype
There are a few goals of releasing this prototype into the wild (in a restricted way to a handful of volunteers):
- See what I can accomplish in a week with the language (while learning the language and tools).
- Get the earliest possible valuable first version out there. The minimal functionality of value is done (submit, rate, browse articles).
- Begin getting feedback on interface design / work flow / layout. Use that feedback to prioritize refactoring with the next pieces of functionality.
- Start getting some great articles into the site.
What is Done So Far
The prototype is functional – it has the following:
- User signup, login, logout, authentication, optional “remember me” cookie support
- Passwords are encrypted in the db (but I believe still transmitted insecurely like many sites, no SSL / https yet)
- Users can rate articles on a 1-5 scale, and the article will have a score that is the average of all logged ratings.
- Login/Logout happens in the sidebar from whatever page you’re on. Signup takes you to a separate page.
- Anyone can view the article listings (and ratings) as well as individual article pages. Submitting and editing articles requires you to be logged in.
- Articles can be categorized by six predefined categories. Each article can be in multiple categories (or none at all).
- Articles are tagged as being either Beginner or Expert articles.
Things that will be updated before it goes live
- I don’t think you have to be logged in to rate an article – it might even throw an error if you are not.
- Currently, the main page lists articles in order of creation. Needs to be reverse order (e.g. Latest Articles)
- Need to add “Top Rated Articles” view as well
- A couple minor tweaks to the CSS – really not doing anything heavy yet – just making it “less ugly”, not trying to make it “look good”
Things that won’t be updated before it goes live
- Any registered user can edit an article (the title, link, abstract, beginner/expert rating). Unlike wikipedia, we don’t have versions to roll-back, so someone malicious could trash an article and we would lose the info forever.
- I suspect that any user can rate an article (logged in or not), and people can rate articles multiple times.
- A host of bugs that I haven’t found yet.
Contact For Access
If you want to be able to review the prototype when it goes live, please comment on this article. Include your email address (which is only visible to me), and desired loginID. Once the prototype is set up, I will create a user account for you with temporary passwords, and email you to let you know when and where you should be able to hit the site.
Only the first 10 people will get accounts now. Why? Because the site has very limited functionality, and is hideously ugly. If 100 people form a first impression from this, it won’t be a very good thing. With each iteration, we will improve usability, appearance, and performance as needed while adding functionality. We will also add some more users with each iteration, and open it up for everyone as soon as we have enough quality and functionality.
So only ask for an account now if your goal is to make suggestions that come from playing with it, and find the inevitable bugs that must be there. This is a prototype, not even close to an “alpha release.”
If all goes well, the prototype should be up tomorrow, in time for our second anniversary.