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The Commute Calendar Web ApplicationAs you can see from my cycling blog, I have a passion for exploring the countryside by bicycle, commuting to work by bicycle, and sharing this passion with others. I volunteer as a committee member for the Bannock Transportation Planning Organization which is dedicated to improving transportation in my home town of Pocatello, Idaho. They needed a better system for managing their Bike To Work Month employee challenge, so I seized the opportunity to create a great web application and help out with alternative transportation at the same time.
Migrating From Microsoft Excel To A Web ApplicationMicrosoft Excel and other generic spreadsheet software is a handy tool. It's a way to throw together some data and make some sense of it. But many times in my career, I have seen how companies and organizations get married to a tool like this, and struggle to keep using it after the data and structure of the data has outgrown the software. At a former workplace of mine, engineers were attempting to use a spreadsheet to manage product specifications that were enormous in size and complexity, and they asked me how they could keep the spreadsheet software from crashing long enough to perform some edits on the data. Reassessment of software needs is definitely something to do periodically throughout an ongoing project. Change is good thing, most times.
Web Applications Are Fun, Easy, And AddictiveWhat the BTPO needs is software that is modeled after their data flow, user roles, and event needs. They need a way for users to effortlessly enter data for themselves, and for the event organizers to monitor and manage the data, run reports on the data for ordering and passing out prizes, and produce participant statistics.
Since I have been a participant in Bike To Work Month event for the past 2 years, I feel like I have a good handle on how the software is supposed to look and feel, and the BTPO committee has given me a ton of great feedback throughout the development process. The software works by directing participants to a sign-up form which they fill out and which sends them a "welcome" email containing their password. After logging in, they can edit their personal details, log their commutes into the commute calendar, view their commute statistics, and view their co-workers and colleagues as participants. There are Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace links that allow them to post their commute statistics and spread the word about Bike To Work Month.
Data That You Can UseThe administrator of the system is the BTPO event organizer, and she has the ability to log-in and have special privileges to view and modify anyone who has signed up, run a tally on how many prizes and which t-shirt sizes to include in each "pick-up bag" which participant team members will pick up at the end of Bike To Work Month. The BTPO staff can also mass-email all participants in the system, or email only those participants that fit a specific profile, such as those who haven't selected a t-shirt size yet. Several neat "extras" in the system include the ability for users to view real-time lists of statistics of participants as well as by-company alternative transportation averages, and post these results to social networking sites. This gives a bit of a competitive feel to the activity and gives participants a fun challenge.
Do you have a similar project that requires information gathering, statistics, and data reporting? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's talk about it!