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Site Update

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Last night I updated the Activate Your Glutes website. As a user there are two things you might notice:

  • A bug in the display of data in the body measurement grid has been fixed.
  • You can now add your own things to measure. Previously you couldn’t measure your neck – but now if you want to you can add it yourself. To do so go your account page and click the “Manage Measurement Types” link at the right.

If you’re following the project on CodePlex then you might have noticed that under the hood there has been a lot of change primarily to beef up the quality of the codebase and make it easier to add new features going forward. Which hopefully means it won’t be long till I’m posting the next Site Update blog entry!

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Categories: site, tech

Open Source Site Release

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

A few posts ago I spoke of my intention to release the source code for the Activate Your Glutes site under an open source license.

This morning I did so and if you’re curious you can find it on CodePlex.

In the end I plumped for the MIT License which is a very permissive license – you can do nearly anything with the source as long as you retain the copyright notice.

Categories: site, tech

An Open Fitness Platform

January 2, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve kind of hinted at it before but my goal is for Activate Your Glutes to be an open platform by which I mean:

1. Your data is yours.

2. Your data can be consumed and updated both through the web interface provided by Activate Your Glutes and through services that allow any developer to, for example, write an iPhone application that interacts with the site and your data (assuming you allow access). Or a WordPress plug in that lets you show your fitness stats on your blog. The possibilities are endless.

3. Something you can host yourself.

Which is all well and good but is an open platform truly an open platform if it follows a closed source model, if its proprietary?

I don’t believe so.

But to release the source code really requires me to focus on what I want to get personally from investing my free time in this project. There has to be a return on my investment after all. Having done some head scratching I would prioritise my own payback as follows:

1. I’m not happy with the other fitness tracking sites out there. I’ve not managed to find one that meets all my needs well so first and foremost I get a website that I want to use and can tailor as I see fit.

2. Much of my professional work for the past 15 years has taken place in a single vertical market – at least 10 of those years off and on. By working on Activate Your Glutes I get to tackle some new and fresh challenges.

3. I get to develop the code 100% according to the standards and ethics I believe are appropriate for software development. The only timescale pressure’s are those I impose on myself. The features I add to the site are those that are useful and I think will be fun to work on. In short I’m free of commercial concerns. For someone who at heart is a coder thats liberating.

4. There’s the possibility that the site eventually takes off in a big way and I can become my own boss full time working on a product that is worthwhile and is related to something I love (wprking out).

Does making the code open source preclude any of that? No I don’t think so. You could argue that if the code is open source then its harder to make money from which could make it harder to make money from the site and therefore become my own boss but do the majority of the people who would be interested in using Activate My Glutes care about the fact they have the source code? No. What they care about is having a site and service that works and works well. There’s always the possibility that someone else takes the source code and does a better job of hosting it but if they do then good on them and there’s nothing stopping me charging for support or even switching to using there hosted offering.

On the other hand making the code open source opens up some interesting possibilities:

1. Other people may choose to contribute and that would accelerate development and introduce peer review. Those people may also bring skills I don’t have – for example my design skills are extremely limited.

2. Having the source code out in the open for a well developed running website is, frankly, a very useful thing to have on a CV. Currently nearly all the source I’ve worked on in the last 15 years is closed source (except CocoaTrek which is just something I used to learn Objective-C and Cocoa development on the Mac and is not something I consider to be a good codebase – I made many mistakes made while learning the frameworks and language but it served its purpose).

3. Having access to the source would, I believe, increase the likelihood of other developers working on peripheral applications like the iPhone application I mentioned earlier. If you’ve got the source code then you’re not dependant on the original author continuing to host the project – if the site shuts down you can simply host a new site and point your application at that. You’re not developing something that is wholly dependant on a opaque organisation.

4. Other developers looking to use and learn the same technologies I’ve used to develop Activate Your Glutes would have a working example they can look at. This gets an element of peer review into the source code (something that right now that is lacking) and, I would hope, will bring me into contact with a wider number of developers in the community.

So having thought this through I will be releasing the code as Open Source in the next few weeks. I don’t see this as “charity” but simply the benefits outweighing the negatives and it furthering my goal to have an open fitness platform.

Categories: site, tech

Site Launch

January 1, 2010 Leave a comment

What better way to see in the New Year than with a web site launch.

Activate Your Glutes goes live today and is online now.

I’m my own first customer and have started moving my fitness data across.

Currently the site is free to use and ad-free. That may change in the future as the site becomes richer in functionality and if growing
usage necessitates further investment in infrastructure but if that does happen there will be plenty of notice.

In the short term I’ve got four improvements planned:

  • Smoother registration process
  • Minor refinements to whats there now
  • Programme setting
  • RESTful web service access

I’ll cover these off in more detail over the coming weeks.

In the meantime any feedback – positive or negative – is appreciated.

Categories: site

Back To It

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

After three days of self indulgence and unrestrained greed its back to training and healthy eating. Irritatingly I’ve picked up a cold but fortunately its not bad enough to put the kibosh on the gym.

As best as I can tell I’ve got around 15% body fat and I’d really like to get that down to abut 12% by the end of February. As long as I can keep the focus and discipline I managed in the last couple of months I think that should be achievable.

In site news… the first iteration is nearly ready to go live. Hopefully just a couple more days now.

Categories: fitness, site

Wireframes

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

A useful tool when building a website, or any other piece of software, is the wireframe mock up: quick and simple sketches of how the website will be structured. They can help you figure out your sites structure and get a handle on how the user will work with your site and you can show them to people without the risk of them thinking you’ve got a finished product, which is always a danger when showing people a “buffed up” design.

Below are three wireframes from the Activate Your Glutes website showing the homepage, a graphical summary of body measurements and the body measurements themselves. Things have shifted around a little during production but this gives you a flavour of what is coming.

Homepage Body Summary Body Data

I like to use a tool called Balsamiq Mockups to do my wireframes – its not as quick to use as a pad of paper but if, like me, you have the drawing skills of a mongoose then its an awesome next best thing and handily works on both the Mac and PC – the two platforms I use.

Categories: site, tech

Your Data is Yours

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

So lets say you pick a website to help you track your progress and achieve your fitness goals but the site closes down – what happens to all the data you’ve entered? What if you choose to use a different site? What if you simply decide to use a spreadsheet instead?

All too often, on fitness websites and in the wider world, the data you enter is locked up on that site. You can access it through the site but its difficult to extract all the data you entered – you can’t simply export it. I’d suggest that in that case the data is no longer yours. You’re locked in and its difficult to get out without consequence, lost data.

A core principle of ActivateYourGlutes is that your data is yours and you should be able to get access to it in its entirety so that you can use it however you like. To that end you’ll find that the site contains a number of “Export Your Data” links that will let you do just that – download a file containing all the data you’ve entered.

Its not glamorous, its not exciting but it is important and something many websites neglect.

Categories: site