Places to Eat Application Progress

Here is the running progress of what is happening while doing research for my possible new web application to store places you want to eat while home or traveling. The big reason for this idea/application is I’m always asking or looking for places friends, family, the internet, TV, etc. recommend to eat because they have been there and think I would like to go there. Having personal recommendations from at least a reputable sources is better than looking at some application.

Normally, I got places from people in e-mail, text, Twitter, DM’s, Facebook, in person conversations, etc. I want a place to store all of that information, which is accessible to my phone since I pretty much have it with me at all times.

So here is what I have been doing Sunday, December 6, 2015, from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

9:00 AM

Was able to get started on time, but had great difficulties with using my old 13″ White MacBook and Time Machine, which decided it had to take all the system resources, so it made using the internet near impossible. Did a quick update to the new MacBook Pro and will switch to that when I leave the house with a log list of articles, forums, website, and phone-based applications to research and review.

10:30 AM

Started writing this blog post on what I had done so far. Most likely around noon going to head out to local coffee shop or two to do some reading and writing about resources I have found so far.

Noon

Spent the last hour or so gathering more resources of food related websites, application, and further URLs to research, along with a few different categories of applications on iTunes to check on applications.

Later today time will be spent downloading iPhone applications that have some kind of community feature or ability to store restaurant recommendations.

Now, it’s off to St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub to get out of the house and start working my way through all the information I have gathered so far, which is a good 35+ URLs. My guess is that will lead to even more information to wade through.

2:30 PM

I have spent the last hour or so adding ten more URLs to my list of things to read while reading through the current list. Even asked a few foodie friends on Twitter what they use to store recommendations and it seems they use applications/websites to look at what other’s recommend, but nothing to keep a list for themselves.

It seems more digging is required and that not many people store this information in any formal way or at least that’s what I have found so far.

Think it’s time to finish this article and get a late lunch before heading to next coffee shop to do more work.

5:00 PM

Didn’t get much done last two hours, since ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in about a year walking towards my car so talked to then and then went to grab a late lunch of oxtail steamed buns and Miso Porky Ramen at Yano, which is a new Ramen shop in Arlington, VA.

Plus, talked to my father for a bit after he butt dialed me on his iPhone, which has happened to me more than once. Not sure how he manages that on an iPhone.

6:00 PM

Thinks it’s time to head home and use a proper chair or sofa to do more sitting. All these coffee shop tables and chairs are not meant to sit for long times or at least all the ones I sat in today.

Once home it might be best to relax on the sofa while downloading and trying out the different iPhone applications I managed to find so far.

9:00 PM

Ended up leaving last coffee shop around 7:00 PM after I did some reading on my iPhone to break up the staring at my laptop all day. Manage to get home by 7:30 PM and threw in some laundry before resetting my iTunes password and downloading the following iPhone applications that I need to investigate further.

  • Zagat
  • OpenTable
  • TripAdvisor
  • theFork
  • FourSquare
  • Yelp
  • UrbanSpoon
  • ChefsFeed
  • Dine

All in all, it looks like I managed to put in around seven hours of research out of the 12 hours I planned for the research activity for today. Which I don’t think is bad for an unplanned event on a weekend, plus I was running around to different locations to see if one was better than another and had to eat too.

In the short amount of time to do research I have done, I have not found anything similar to the application I want to build that stores recommendations and information I gather to use later. Will most likely have to spend time in many foodie forums to see how people are keeping track of where they eat, which I have got to believe a bunch of people is doing.

Conclusion

Started writing this blog post on what I had done so far. Most likely around noon going to head out to local coffee shop or two to do some reading and writing about resources I have found so far.

Thanks, for reading along with my progress on this mini researchathon for this project.

Please add comments or e-mail them to me if you have any recommendation or resources, you think I might find useful.

Starting a Places to Eat Web Application

Over the last couple of years, I have wanted to have an application that can keep track of places I want to eat be that from friends, new people I meet, the internet, TV show, etc. but I haven’t found it yet. Not that I have been looking all that hard and would know what best to Google for to find it.

So after being inspired once again by Amy Hoy, Alex Hamilton, and crew with their create something new in 24 hours I’m going to dive into to this with a 12 version Sunday, December 6th, to see what I can find out this idea. See #jfsathon and Just F’ing Ship the book.

Have already sat down and figure out a few things the application would need to get started and other things that would be nice to have later on. I know they would say I’m doing it wrong without doing research, so that is what most of my time fill be spent doing in this first 12 hours. Then over the course of the next few weekends and will most likely spend some time after work on more of this idea.

My 12 hour started at 9 AM and will most likely finish by 9:00 PM, so I can relax and get ready for a week of training starting on Monday morning. Of course, I will be taking a few breaks to get away from the computer and let things I have found out sink in to help me further down the road in this process.

If you have any suggestions or examples for me to look at please leave them in the comments.

 

NOT Continuing to Work on HoldAnEvent.com for Now

It’s been a long while since I updated you all on how the work on the HoldAnEvent.com prototype is going. The short answer is the prototype is as complete as it’s going to get. The next steps are where the real work needs to begin, which includes the following items but is not the full list of work to be done:

  • Database functionality (currently it’s all smoke and mirrors)
  • Accessible ARIA
    • Error handling
    • Success messages
  • Security checking
  • Payment processing
  • Performance improvements:
    • Minify CSS
    • Minify JavaScript
    • Combine files

The work on Hold An Event has NOT been moving along at all in the last 25+ months besides making some code improvements. The updates were about updating accessibility and some performance items. These improvements will make the pages load quicker by minifying files and  removing necessary code (not needed when using HTML5.)

Part of the reason I have not done any more work on this project is that it is larger than one person or at least for me now with the knowledge I have. I’m looking to work on a smaller project I can complete and learn what I need to complete Hold An Event.

That project is about being able to save information about places you need to eat at while traveling or even if you are staying in town. I’m always asking people where to eat, especially if I’m traveling somewhere new.

The web based application will be simple; in that you store the name of the restaurant and the city at first and can add more information when you have the time or on a computer or tablet.

It’s for when you are in a city or other part of town you can search to find things near you and then sort the results by city, or distance from you, or maybe even food type later on in the process.

If this project sounds appealing to you, please leave a comment. If you would even pay for this service tell me how much a month or year it is worth to you.

 

Looking for Mentors and Willing to Mentor Others

Lately, I have been thinking about the fact that I seem to be falling behind my peers on what I know and can do in the areas of web accessibility, along with front-end coding (HTML, CSS, and JavasScript (jQuery), programming, business, promoting myself and my events.  It’s finally time to start looking for mentors, along with mentoring a few people in what I know about accessibility, food, wine, etc.

About a year and a half or more ago I started a list of several categories/areas I was looking for mentors for work and in my personal life. To this list I have even  adding people’s names that I have met and think can help me in one way, or another. I’m not going to list those people here, but will list the different categories or areas I’m looking to improve on.

By writing this blog post, I will now have to start contacting people and seeing if they will be willing to help me further my career, along with improving the way I learn, teach others, present, etc. For those that are local it might be going out for food on me or a quick phone call or e-mail once a month or less if needed. For those that are not local or close (100 miles) it might work to do phone calls, Skype, and some other new modern way. I’m even willing to pay for food for them as well, so we can both do this over a good meal, which I find has worked at different conferences and after parties to learn sometimes even more than talks earlier in the day.

Below are the different areas I’m looking for mentors. Some have to do with my current work, and others are there for in the future either for starting my own accessibility company with others or working more on my event registration web application – Hold An Event.

Looking for MENTORS

  • Accessibility – I know a lot of general information, but need to work on the details and other areas I’m not the most knowledgeable in
  • JavaScript/jQuery – need to catch-up, since most places use these so much, and I have not had to do much of this type of work at my current job
  • PHP and other programming languages – need to learn more languages, so I know how to recommend changes to improve peoples or companies accessibility
  • Building web applications – help me improve Hold An Event with lessons learned
  • Running conferences – need to find ways to improve Accessibility Camp DC, BarCamp DC, along with monthly meet-up
  • Presenting and teaching – Need to improve both my style and knowledge for my talks, along with the quality of my slides/materials
  • Learn to design – to be able to improve my websites and web applications so they are simple yet appealing to others
  • Usability/UX – need to be able to build websites and applications that are usable and have a great user experience for people
  • Content Strategy – need to improve the wording and style of my writings (even this previous sentence needs work)
  • Business from an information technology standpoint – how to start thinking about getting Hold An Event into a stable form so people can start working with it, along with thinking about its future
  • Business from how to run a business – for ways to run my web applications Hold An Event once it’s closer to being rolled out to the general public
  • Marketing/Social Media – how to better publicize myself, my business, and my web application
  • Health and Fitness – if I’m going to do mentoring and be mentored I need to have more energy, which means exercising, along with better eating and sleeping habits
  • Food and Wine – always need to learn more about how to prepare food, where to go eat and find nice wines

The fun part is some of the people I have in mind as mentors fit a few of these categories which are really cool. Others on the list I’m not sure how I’m going to get in touch with them to ask for help, let alone if they can or want to mentor me.

The next step is to figure out how I’m going to ask people for help, let alone to mentor me once in a while or long term, since so many are overbooked like the rest of us with work, families, traveling, speaking, etc.

Willing to MENTOR Others

I’m also willing to help and/or mentor those that can use some of my knowledge about accessibility, food, wine, etc. So please get in touch with me if you want me to help you or maybe you only need a little bit of my time to run a few ideas by me or just to get my opinion or recommendations on how best to do something. If I can’t help you  on what you’re asking about I’m likely to be able to point you to  someone who can.

Final thoughts

So if you have any ideas on people you think that can mentor me in any of these areas or want me to mentor/help you leave a comment or get in touch with me from my website or twitter.

 

Why I’m Building Hold An Event

I created Hold An Event because all the other event registration web applications are not accessible to those using assistive technologies, like screen readers (JAWS, NVDA, Window Eyes, etc.), along with voice recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking). They are also difficult to use even on smartphones let alone an lesser phones. I found this out while running my first Accessibility Camp DC back in October of 2009 and then with our follow-up monthly event, Accessibility DC. People would show up without registering because they deemed the service I had chosen not to be accessible, even though these people would be considered by most to be power assistive technology users.

After the first Accessibility Camp DC and a few monthly meetings, I started looking into event registration systems and everything I found was inaccessible in one form or other. I mostly looked at all the larger ones is all. So over the last two and a half plus years, when I have had five minutes here or a half hour there, at coffee shops, on the train, or wherever, I put notes into my iPhone about creating a web-based event registration application. At first, I used the iPhone’s built-in notes application, until a few people suggested I use Simple Note. This was because it had an iPhone application, along with a web application. By gathering all the different pieces of information you would need to create and run events over time, I had the time to really think about the roles/personas needed for an event.

The type of people I came up with could be people putting on the event, the attendees, paid attendees if that applies, sponsors, speakers, and even event staff. These roles work if you are holding a simple birthday party, the monthly book club, a tech event, or even a large conference. So we are talking a great amount of information, and I really had to think this through.

At times, I was like this is way too much work for just one person or I had other things to do and would do nothing about it for weeks or even months. No matter how hard I tried, the problem never seemed to go away and kept coming back to me. So after reading a lot of books, articles, etc. about start-ups, web applications, usability, and the like, as most would say I just needed to start and see where it would go.

When I Started

So over the summer of 2011, I finally started building the prototype to make sure I had the correct process, flow, and usability of the web application down before really starting the difficult work of making this a true working application. I even started with the mind-set of Mobile First (great book), which some are great ideas from Luke W. and others. My guess was that if I started coding the web application using web standards and accessibility in mind from the start, and if a person could do everything they needed to on their phone, then it should work wonderfully in a browser or on a tablet.

I started out simple and built a few of the needed input forms, which got me playing with responsive design and media queries. I made a concerted effort to get those few main screens right before building out a ton of pages. Once I got most of that complete, I moved on to the next set of forms.

My goal was to have the ability to make Hold An Event’s web application to seem like it was processing real information such as a search for events, to registering for an event, etc. This was done by passing parameters in the URL to tell each page what static content to place on the page. This idea seems to be working fairly well, since when showing friends lately what Hold An Event looked and acted like, they asked what kind of database, etc. I’m using. I would then explained what I had done to make it a look like a fully-functional application.

By the middle of October 2001, I had a bunch of pages that worked well enough to start showing people at that month’s Accessibility DC event and then more people at my annual Accessibility Camp DC event. Once those events were over, I didn’t do any more coding until New Year’s Eve 2011, sitting at my parents kitchen table coding from like 11 PM to 1:30 AM, because everyone else in the house more or less had gone to bed by 10:30 PM. Since then, I have been doing something to improve the Hold An Event web application just about every night and on the weekends too. Sometimes it was a little tweak here or there; other times it’s been to add a new page.

At one point, I added a few different smaller non geek/tech events to be able to show people different types of events types and how the process worked. I also had to add in some code to display the different navigation paths people used, depending on what type of user they were. For example, is the person running the event or attending the event, which are the two types I’m worrying about now.

How You Can Help

The next step is to let people play with Hold An Event themselves instead of me demoing it on my iPhone, which means making it look and act better on a tablet or in a computer browser. Currently it’s not the prettiest thing in a web browser, but it will do as a prototype.

Other big tickets items I’m going to have to think about are the security of peoples’ information like name and e-mail address to start, along with taking money, once I get to that point, which is far off in the future. I’m only working on this a few hours some nights after work and then 6 hours max on the weekends, for a total of 10 to 15 hours a week.

So here’s to making more progress over the next few months.

Where to find the Hold An Event Prototype

For those wanting to look at the current prototype, start by using the “tab” key on the Hold An Event’s home page, doing so will let you find the link to the demo/prototype web application. Remember this “prototype will not save” anything you place in it at all. So please don’t try and create an event to invite people to it and think it will work because it won’t. Once you’re there, use the search box to find events in “DC”, which will currently give you a list of nine events to view.

If you want to sign in to see the process of creating and viewing current events you’re running, your past events, or ones you’re attending, all you need to do is make sure you place at least one character in the user name and password fields. It doesn’t matter what they are, just as long as there is something there.

Feedback Welcome

P.S. Have fun and please send me feedback about what needs to be done, improved, etc. I’m a big guy and can take the the bad with the good. I’m mostly looking for ways to improve things.