Derbylisting.com

It’s been a while since I last posted. While a lot has been happening, I wanted to highlight one thing on particular. The list of roller derby leagues that used to live in a spreadsheet is now available as a website.

Introducing… Derbylisting.com

This will make it easier to find and easier for me to update since everything is now housed in a database.  Three cheers for databases!

Here’s a list of the tools and tech used to build the site…

  • Ghost was used for the blog portion. While I’m more familiar with WordPress, I opted for Ghost to try something new, and because it’s a bit more lightweight than WordPress. I modified the free theme Purple Slimer.
  • jqGrid was used for the list display. I tried DataTables first, and while it resulted in a more aesthetically pleasing grid/table, I found jqGrid’s logic easier for me to grasp and manipulate. It does appear that jqGrid is changing a bit (and changing names to Guriddo) so I do need to make sure the new version fits my needs.  And I plan on testing jqWidgets‘ grid at some point.
  • mySQL was used for the database. I don’t particularly love mySQL, but my host offers support for it so I just went with that. It’s also easy to use, despite it’s quirks.  I tried SQLite, but it required a bit more effort to make my data model work the way I wanted.
  • PHP was used to connect to the database and convert the results into JSON so that they could be displayed in the grid.

That’s the big stuff.

Special thanks to Chris Bojanower for allowing me to use the great photo on the site.

Forms!

So… I’ve been researching online forms options lately and the three that have risen to the top are Google Forms, Wufoo, and JotForm.

Google Forms (http://docs.google.com) is, of course, just a fancy way to enter data into a Google Spreadsheet. However, it’s compelling is that is entirely free AND the data is already in a spreadsheet that you can manipulate to your heart’s content. The main downside to Google Forms is that the forms themselves are fairly limited in what they can do. You can’t do data validation within the form, you can’t do dynamic drop down lists, heck you can’t even batch load a drop down list (each entry has to be entered individually). Still, being tied directly to a Google Spreadsheet offers a lot of functionality on that end that can only be replicated by pushing your data from another forms app/website into a spreadsheet or similar tool. Additionally, if you don’t mind getting your hands extra dirty, you can do some pretty amazing things with AppScripts and Google Sites to add functionality that is not already there. I’m fairly lazy when it comes to this stuff, but your mileage may vary.

Wufoo (http://wufoo.com) is the darling of the party. The site is super snazzy and the features of the forms is leaps and bounds ahead of Google. There is a fairly large amount of integration options with other apps/sites built into Wufoo, but none for Google Docs. This can be remedied by using Webhooks which is supported by Wufoo. For the casual forms user, this is a bit too advanced, but there are some third-parties that can help with that for a price (zapier, iduzzit). You can also do it manually with export/import options. Wufoo, of course, costs money if you plan on doing more than testing with your form… so that’s something to consider if you don’t actually plan on doing more than one form with just enough transactions to be above their free account. That said, if it’s worth it to you, there is a lot to like about the options built-in to Wufoo.

JotForm (http://jotform.com) is a Wufoo competitor. It has much the same functionality as Wufoo. While Wufoo has more partner sites that it integrates with out of the box, JotForm has, arguably, a more important integration built-in. Your forms can be setup to write directly to a Google Spreadsheet. This is, frankly, a pretty big deal. You get all the functionality of an advanced form design with all the options for playing with your data that is offered by Google Docs. Additionally, the free option for JotForm gives you more room to breathe than Wufoo, so if you’re over the limit in Wufoo, but under the amount to make paying worth it, JotForm may be the answer.

Each of these tools has its quirks. Google Forms is the most limited as far as options are concerned, but it also has a great backend reporting via Google Spreadsheet. Wufoo has a lot of great built-in features, including its own reporting options, but automating it with Google Docs is a bit of a pain unless you have the time and know-how to invest… or the money to pay a third-party. JotForm has some quirks in how it displays and it doesn’t have nearly as many built-in integrations as Wufoo, but it does have the most important one that Wufoo doesn’t currently have.

For my current need, I’m going to try JotForm with a Google Spreadsheet backend. If Google Forms ever gets updated so that data validation within the form is available and dynamic drop-down lists become an option without having to code everything myself, then it will win in the long-run. I also looked at FormAssembly, but there is no free option. Any others I might have missed?

Timothy McSweeney recommends…

I’ve read McSweeney’s quarterly magazine before. It’s great. If your local library or mega bookstore has it in stock, check it out. If not, there is always the website… http://www.mcsweeneys.net/

But what brought me to the website most recently was an odd web search which yielded this page on the McSweeney’s site… http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/recommends/.  All sorts of interesting things there.  I spent the better half of a morning just sifting through it.  Enjoy.  🙂

–sam

NYC: Poem in Your Pocket Day

April 30th is Keep a Poem in Your Pocket Day in New York City. The idea comes from the poem by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers. It’s a simple poem with a grand idea. I suppose there really is no requirement that one live in NYC to honor the day.

Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when your’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you’re in bed.

So – –
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you’ll never feel lonely
At night when you’re in bed.

http://home.nyc.gov/html/poem/home.html

Breath Control

Just caught “Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box” at the DMAC tonight. It was awesome. I highly recommend it.

After having just watched “Style Wars” the night before, it was a perfect extension to a hip hop documentary week at the lil brown boy household. Next we watch the Style Wars Bonus CD. Aw… aw… aw… Aw Yeah!

More info at…
http://www.ibeatbox.com/
http://www.stylewars.com/