On This Day In 2006

Looking Back

On this day in 2006 I’d just come to the end of a long weekend of coding and socialising. The code project was, of course, Three Rings, and Bryn and Gareth were helping out with the big push to make the initial release Three Rings 2 a success.

Three Rings is, of course, a project to streamline the administration of helpline services (like  Samaritans) by making it easier for them to manage their rota and volunteer resources. I kicked the project off back in 2002 (based on an idea that Kit and I had discussed as early as 2000), initially only for Aberystwyth Nightline – with whom I was then a volunteer – but it quickly spread and within a few years had become the de facto system for Nightlines everywhere. Later, my work with expanding and enhancing Three Rings comprised a part of my University dissertation.

Among the problems with that early version of Three Rings, though, was that it had never been designed to scale, and so eventually the time came to throw it out and develop a new one, from scratch, in the then up-and-coming Ruby on Rails framework. Gareth was a huge help in the early development, and Bryn got burdened with the task of coming up with a means to convert the data between the old system and the new system, migrating our users across: a horrendous task, because the two systems used completely incompatible data storage mechanisms, and the old system was riddled with quirks and workarounds. This weekend, back in 2006, was the cumulation of that work: Bryn hacking away on his Project: Rosetta system, a stack of Perl programs to translate the data… while Gareth and I made progress on redeveloping features for the new system.

It wasn’t all work, though: we also all took a trip up to nearby Ynyslas, a little way North of Aberystwyth, for a barbeque on the sweeping sand dunes there. As my blog post for that weekend reveals, this involved a fantastic prank in which Claire and I “hid” Jimmy by burying him under the sand, covering his face with an upturned cardboard box, and then frightening the shit out of Gareth when he – having been told that Jimmy hadn’t come – lifted the box to find Jimmy’s disembodied head staring back at him.

Looking Forward

Since that day, Three Rings has continued to grow and expand – it’s now used by a number of charities nationwide, and exists as a company in it’s own right. Gareth and Bryn are no longer directly involved with the project, but parts of their code live on in the system, ticking away in the background.

Ruth now plays a major part in the development of the system, and it actually formed part of her dissertation, too, meaning that my dissertation (which Bryn still has, after he borrowed it to help him write Rosetta) was actually cited as a reference in another document: something which pleased me inordinately.

Claire and Jimmy got together a year and a bit ago, and they’re now living together, still in Aberystwyth (not that you’d know from reading either of their blogs, slackers that they are).

And we haven’t had a barbeque yet since moving to Earth, but weather-permitting, the plan is to do so this week!

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

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