ActionsForge that Was
ActionsForge is 5 years old this year, and has seen a lot of use by the Freeway community in that time. I built it to scratch my own itch — with so many different sources of Actions, it used to be difficult to find the right one when you needed it.
Today, ActionsForge is used by dozens of authors, who've created hundreds of Actions for many thousands of Freeway users. There's nothing wrong with it as it is. But there's a bunch of things I would add if I had the chance, and a lot of little rough edges that keep bugging me. There are a lot of places where it could be made easier, which would mean that it would be used more often and the whole virtuous circle would turn — to everyone's benefit.
But we can't just add new features on to the existing site, or give it a tune-up, because the underlying framework needs to be replaced, too. This is an opportunity to start over, from a blank piece of paper, and build the application I actually would have built in the first place if I owned a time machine.
This project is a new Web application to organize all available Freeway Actions and their authors, present a curated set of "favorites" to the community, and provide a rich set of sharing tools so members can help one another build better Web sites with Freeway Actions.
A secondary goal is to provide a simple and robust version control system that all Actions can use.
What's the Plan?
ActionsForge is built on an open-source framework called MyActiveRecord. This PHP Rails "clone" has a lot of good points, but it's not Rails, and it doesn't have the security or testing smarts that Rails has. I've delivered a lot of Rails sites in the past 5 years, and I'm well positioned to use it for this project. Using Rails gets us Ruby, which gets us Nokogiri, and that is an important step on the path to solving the version-control problem.
What would I change?
- Currently, a developer has to go through a multi-stage process to upload an Action and assign its versions, particularly if there are multiple Actions bundled together in one file or bundle. This makes the process harder than it needs to be, which means that developers lose interest in using the site. The server should read the uploaded file, so uploading a new Action would immediately populate the database with all of the versions and Action names.
- Checking versions shouldn't be a hunt-and-peck affair for the member, either. The server can keep track of who downloaded which version of what Actions, and remind each member when they next come to the site — or by e-mail if they prefer — when a new version is ready to download.
- Developers and members should be able to add links to multiple examples of an Action in use. Currently, there's room for just one.
- Photos in the Action descriptions and articles. A picture is worth a bunch of words!
- Which Actions are the most popular? At the moment, we don't really know.
- And don't get me started about the Wish List...
What would you change?
I need your input (along with your pledges) to make this project a success. Everyone's ideas are welcome, but those who pledge at the $100 and higher level will be members of a private mailing list where we can discuss new features and existing problems and look at sample solutions together.
How I will do this:
When this project is funded, I will start a mailing list for the beta team and solicit ideas from the $100-and-up sponsors. I will devote a minimum of two weeks (more if the goal is exceeded) of full-time work to build the site, interact with the team, shepherd the new features, and finesse the details. The beta site and the production site will be hosted on a new VPS server, most likely at Joyent.
I can't do it alone
I built the first ActionsForge as a labor of love, and provided hosting for the first 5 years. There's more work to be done here than I can affort to do for free. Which is where this Kickstarter campaign fits into the picture. With your support, I can devote two or more weeks of my time to building an amazing new ActionsForge.
In addition to a new Forge for everyone in the Freeway community, you will also get a fabulous gift or two, and the warm and fuzzy feeling that you were able to give back to the Freeway community.