Another short month!
While I love the holidays, quitting my job in November has made it a little hard to get into a good working rhythm. I had a few productive weeks at the beginning of the month before getting distracted by holiday cheer. It pains me to say it, but I’m looking forward to a boring month where I can get a lot of work done!
Let’s see what I did manage to do in December:
Success! It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but I was able to present questions and accept answers entirely through trivianight.fun. No one reported any issues and it seems like the experience was at least better than submitting through Google Forms (low bar, I know).
In a normal month, I think this would be finished, but I always forget how hard it is to get things done in December. I’m very happy with where the tools for hosting ended up, though I still need to add a welcome page and some miscellaneous functionality (just unimportant things like accepting payments…).
Check check! I actually built two somethings silly, but one of them was technically a feature of Trivia Night, so I’m not going to count that. The other is discussed in more detail below.
I spent the vast majority of my working time this month getting Trivia Night to a functional level. I’m trying to be conscious about only building the bare minimum set of features before launching, but it turns out that the bare minimum is still kind of a lot. Non-negotiables include:
I was hoping to get all of this done by the end of December, but I fell a bit short. Still, I’m quite happy with the current state of tools for hosting and presenting. Now I just need to add the ability for an external user to create a game (and pay me for it). So that will be the top priority going forward.
While I’ve done a good job of staying focused in general, I have let myself get distracted by adding a couple of fun, but unnecessary features, like this Vanna-esque answer reveal:
Spending a day building a silly feature like that probably falls under the category of yak shaving, but it's also a substantial part of what I enjoy about programming, so I'm willing to live with it. Feel free to stage an intervention if I still don't have anything finished next month!
My partner and I cook dinner on most nights and we both have below-average tolerance for repetition, which means we spend a good amount of our time trying to come up with new things to cook. When we find something we like, we try to write it down in a shared Google doc to remember in the future. Unfortunately, we often forget, leaving tasty meals to disappear from our lives forever. We’ve long discussed better solutions for keeping track of what we eat, but nothing has stuck. I finally decided to do something about it as a Christmas present / fun diversion.
Using Twilio’s SMS API, I set up a job that texts my partner at 9pm every night asking her what she ate for dinner. She can respond with a description of the meal, any notes she has (changes to make in the future, where the recipe is from, etc.), and a three-point rating (“Not so good”, “Good”, “Definitely make again”). The response is parsed and thrown into a Mongo DB collection that we can search through later.
In the future, I can imagine turning this into a generalized version that you could configure to text you any sort of question at different times, but this simple version is good enough for now. Best of all, the hosting and DB are free! The Twilio API does cost $1.50 per month, which seems like a reasonable price to make sure we aren’t leaving any delicious meals on (off?) the table!
I expect to spend most of my time on Trivia Night again. Here’s what I’d like to get done!
With a little more work, the site will be ready for external hosts! They’ll be able to sign up, select the categories they’d like to use, pay, present the rounds to their friends, and score everyone’s answers. While I’m going to personally test each of these steps as much as possible, nothing beats getting input from others. If you’re reading this and want to be a tester (no charge, obviously), let me know!
Even though I have roughly a million trivia questions written, they aren’t quite ready to be published yet. I wrote some automated tooling to pull down all the questions from the Google Sheets that they currently live in, then upload them to Trivia Night’s database, but I’m sure some errors were made in that process. Before publishing, I want to fact-check, proofread, and verify formatting for each question. I don’t think this should take all that long, but it will likely be pretty mind-numbing, so I’ll set a goal of doing ten rounds (400 questions) for this month.
In the excitement of quitting my job and working on other projects, I’ve let Black and White Crosswords lay dormant for way too long. In the long run, I’d like to be publishing a new crossword at least once or twice a month, so I’ll try to get started now.
See you next month!