A few days ago I came across some news about OpenHatch and discovered this non-profit that aims at helping would-be open-source contributors to find projects to contribute too.
I must say that I find this idea really nice. Of course that’s yet another open-source project directory coming after sourceforge, github, ohloh etc but what I like here is that they also try to formalize a way to define entry points for beginners (with specific tags on issues and a small pre-formatted FAQ).
So I decided to give it a try and see if I can attract would-be contributors to some of my projects, especially wateronmars, yapsy and shivasmiles. I expect that for all of these projects there is still a long way to go to make them perfectly welcoming to beginners, but the first step is done and we’ll see if we can do something out of that.
Another reason I like this “openhatch” idea is that in my actual job, when I interview people to hire, the ones that have contributed significantly to open source projects usually stand out. It’s far from being a strict selection criteria of course but usually a good sign anyway.
I’ve been using wateronmars on a daily basis for approx. 3 weeks now and here are my first impressions:
- Christmas time is the worst possible time period when to test a news reader (most of the feeds I’m subscribed to where on a break then)
- considering a beta test period before bragging about one’s software is a must (the last two big shameful bugs were detected and corrected during the first week)
- it’s really great to use a news reader again ! (I stopped trying other readers after the shutdown of Google reader)
Apart from that wateronmars has improved a little with some bug fixing and some speed optimization but most of all I’ve added a new way to display the sieve that is specific to mobile devices. It can be seen on the demo site (and even without a mobile device by selecting the “carousel” view).
By customizing a little Twitter Bootstrap‘s carousel and pluging in the TouchSwipe-Jquery-Plugin library it was relatively easy to handle a”(touch) swipe”.
So we can now go through the news as with a pysical newspaper, and it’s become my main way to use wateronmars :)
With wateronmars I’m obviously not claiming to have done anything original, but the idea of this project started about 2 years ago when I realized that news readers were my main window over the Internet (and not facebook nor google+ mind you) and that my bookmarks, that I would expect to be a solid basis for any kind of search over the Internet, were uselessly being stored and forgotten in delicious.
At that time I was reading Dave Winer’s blog posts about news and rivers and trying duckduckgo search engine in the hope that it would eventually offer better and more customized ways to search for information (I even proposed went as far as proposing that to duckduckgo team).
Eventually all this got me somewhat inspired and I decided that taking control of my “window to the web” was a very worthy motive to get my hands in the world of web apps developments.
This is a Python project based on django and which uses extensively Twitter Bootstrap, mousetrap.js and infinite scroll for its graphical components and UX, and south to ease future database migrations. Also the heroku platform was of a great help to experiment with the web apps as I was building it.
I must say that I’m pretty surprised of how much great (by their quality and ease of use) libraries and services are available to build web apps this days. It almost seems to be a more mature ecosystem than the one of the scientific and multimedia workhorse libraries I’m used too.
As a conclusion, let me just say that I would very happily welcome contributors to this project, so feel free to fork it on github !
Today, I’m officially releasing a personal project called wateronmars, a web app combining a news reader and a bookmark collection.
So this is just another news reader but this ones aims at being a free (as in freedom) platform from which users can explore the web.
A demo site is hosted on heroku: http://wateronmars-demo.herokuapp.com/
For now this web application focuses on offering a lean interface based on a very simple workflow:
- Take a glimpse at the news: a river views displays the latest news
- Dig in when time allows: a sieve (some would say a mailbox-like) view makes it easy to look at and filter out the news
- Take notes: a “collection” gathers all web pages that the user wants to keep the link to
- Subscribe to news sources: a “sources” page gathers all the web pages from which the user wants to see the news as they come
The source code (under Affero GPL) is available on github.
Although they make up a working and usable (IMHO) application I consider them as the building blocks for a slightly more ambitious web exploration platform.
PS: If you came here looking for actual water on the planet mars, all apologies and feel free to go on wikipedia.