Town Square is a feed Aggregator launched on 1st July ’09 with the intention of getting bloggers together. I wanted a place where any kind of blog could join- whether cookery or business, photography or personal. A place where I could easily find posts on a given tag or topic across blogs and preferably with a preview of each post along with it. With those many thoughts in my head I started off the ground work on Town Square.
The making of Town Square –
1) March ’09 I decided to create the site. At that point of time I did not really know any language or platform using which I could make such a site. All I knew was that I was going to call it Town Square 🙂 I had tried my hand at Google’s App engine earlier and remember going completely blank on seeing the tutorial video. I dropped the idea for sometime but found myself thinking a lot about it. Soon I got back to App engine and decided to create a small application which would do no harm to anyone. I wrote a sample application which would just repeat whatever you typed in.
2) Mayank got me a book on HTML and CSS. Being the supportive hubby and an excellent mentor he would always know how to motivate me. I read the fat book called ‘HTML & CSS- Head First’. It was an amazing book, very useful for beginners. (It also has the perfect pillow height if you fall asleep over it 🙂 )
3) After having written my first dummy application on Google’s app engine framework I felt sorted. I thought that I just needed to learn a bit of python, html, css and I can past the test. However there was a little bit of knowledge required in other fields too – like Django, ajax, java scripts and jQuery. The funny part was that sometimes while coding I would forget exactly which of these languages I was writing in. Thats when Hubby dear would walk in with his stick and wacked me so I remembered 🙂
4) Town Square code evolved gradually. Initially it was a site that just had a form for registration and un-registration. If I remember right, form validation was the toughest part of the coding. I was stuck for days on the topic. What if the member enters his home url and it fails? What if the Feed URL also fails? What if ? What if ? Seriously I was sobbing my the head over it, wishing I never got on this ride.
5) There is a little picture of Ganeshji whom I look at for help when I’m really stuck. Also, there is Mayank who jumps in to help when I’m struggling too much. With everyone’s help the form section was done. People could automatically be registered and unregistered with no intervention from me. I had a home, contact and about page. I was happy. Thats when Mayank pointed out that everything was done except for the most important part- the Feed Aggregation! Oops! I almost forgot 🙂
6) I picked up a few feed links and started working on the parser. The feed aggregator was not such a difficult part. The universal feed parser was readily available and I just had to put it to good use. The back end work however was of database management. There was also certain information that was unavailable in the feed parser output and needed to be located using local search functions. Soon the feed aggregation started working on my development environment and I was ready to deploy it on the server.
7) By June ’09 end Town Square was ready. Thats when I started decorating the site a bit. I sat down with some snaps that best fit each page and edited them to go with the overall look of the site. Most of the photographs used were the ones I shot while I was in San Diego. It took me nearly two days to shortlist, edit and upload the snaps. The whole site was ready and now I didnt want to go ahead. Again – what if it didnt work when people joined ?
8 ) Final push came from Mayank. He told me that I could continue adding features even after I deployed Town Square and took up registrations. I chose the date of July 1st for the launch and thankfully by 10pm we made it happen- Town Square was on!
Srivalli Jetli was the first member to join Town Square, she also helped me spread awareness on the site. When I woke up on 2nd morning I was thrilled as 8 people had joined Town Square overnight. Happiness lies in these small things.
The few weeks right after the site was launched were full of fire fighting. Basically all my testing was done on the local development setup so I was unaware of the problems that could crop up once the application was deployed on the server. Also, the testing was done with a handful of feed files and the application was not prepared for different types of feed files that started pouring in suddenly. With some amount of bug fixing the code was stabilized in a couple of weeks.
Town Square has completed two months and has already registered 100 members. This was the membership count I was expecting after one year of launch. Thank you all for being supportive and encouraging towards the endeavor. Thanks Mayank for being such an excellent tech lead right through the development of the project. I’m grateful to Google App Engine for providing an awesome framework for developers like me.