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Tech is Dead, Long Live Tech

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s a whole bunch of stuff I’ve wanted to write about in relation to the development of the Activate Your Glutes site, particularly since releasing the code as open source, but its all rather boring to the 99% of the population who don’t write code for fun or for a living.

To that end I’ve set up a new blog imaginatively titled Activate Your Glutes Tech where I’ll post anything of that nature.

Categories: tech

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!

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

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

Activate Your Glutes – An Introduction

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome, welcome.

Coming off the back of an atrocious week of eating, drinking and correspondingly poor results I thought what better time to launch a new fitness site and blog.

Firstly the site – www.activateyourglutes.com. When I got back into fitness and the gym about 9 months ago I went looking for a web site to let me track my programmes, workouts, progress and occasionally nutrition. Over this period I’ve tried a number of them (well known and otherwise) but have yet to really settle on one. Some are pretty, some are social but they all seem to share a common theme of poor usability when entering data: programmes are hard to set up, and daily food diary takes too long to record. Being a developer I’m prone to thinking “I can do better” so thought I’d take a shot.

Now if you’ve got ahead of me and clicked that link above you’ve probably found it goes nowhere, and thats because the site isn’t quite live yet. Bear with me – it will be shortly. The plan is to roll out features in stages with the first thing to appear being body measurement tracking, followed by programmes and workouts, then nutrition and finally the social aspects.

Secondly the fitness – I’m a pretty keen gym guy who generally gets a big kick out of my workouts but my fitness history is what you might call potted. In my teens and early twenties I did a lot of rock climbing and that kept me fit, in my mid twenties I spent too much time behind a keyboard and drinking beer with the inevitable consequences, in my late twenties I joined a gym and by the time I hit 30 was in the best shape of my life – at which point it all went badly wrong: I bought a car and it knocked out all my routines and made me phenomenally lazy. Bad move. Then 9 months ago I got fitted up for a DJ – the numbers read out to me were truly alarming and I resolved to do something about it. I rejoined the gym, sold the car and got back on the pushbike, hired a personal trainer and 9 months and lots of graft later I’m in reasonable and healthy shape.

And thirdly the tech – occasionally, for the geek / fitness crossover crowd (we’re quite large despite the perception that we’re all skinny pale geeks who never leave our keyboards) I’ll post some technical details of how the site is implemented.

Finally – you might be wandering where the name came from. When I first started working out with my trainer a frequent phrase used was to tell me to “activate your glutes”. Made me laugh every time and has stuck with me – though I’d like to think my bottom is no longer sagging.

Categories: fitness, site, tech