Family Main Programming Tech + Kynetx: How websites could be better with your family

I’ve been playing around with technology. I think it has a lot of cool potential for helping users see who their relatives are across multiple websites.

For example,

  • What if you could see your relatives directly in Facebook?
  • If you knew which LinkedIn users were your relatives, would you be more likely to do business?
  • If you knew which Twitter users were your relatives, would you be more likely to follow them?
  • If you discovered that a comment on a political news story with which you strongly disagreed was from a relative, would you be more careful how you responded?

Here’s a demo video:

Business Entrepreneurship Main Programming Tech

Reminiscing about and Scraping the Course Catalog

One of my first web development projects and biz partnerships with Brian Stucki was We were roommates at BYU and conceived of a website where students could share events — parties, concerts, football games, etc. We were already in our beds for the night when the idea came, but we couldn’t go to sleep before buying the domain. I think it was the first domain I ever bought. It was September 2002.

I developed a calendar in PHP and wrote a few scripts to scrape and retrieve the sports schedules. I also developed a WML app so Brian and I could add events to the calendar from our pre-iPhone mobile phones. I recall being at a party in south Provo, in a former dental office, and using my Nextel phone to add the party to Provo411. If you go back far enough, you can see events on the calendar. My brother Alan did the artwork.

I always wanted to have a course schedule alert system. Perhaps students would pay $3 to receive an email or SMS alert when hard-to-get classes had an opening. It shouldn’t have been hard technically, but the publicly available course catalog isn’t updated in real-time. I could have scraped the authenticated course catalog on Route Y, but BYU might have objected and it’d be a fragile business model.

My brother Michael recently came home from his mission and started school at CSN. The business classes he wanted were full, so I put the old “course schedule alert” idea to the test with some new tools — Ruby and Mac OS X’s speech. Here’s what I came up with:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

# a list of course call numbers to check
call_numbers = %w{ 46405 46407 46409 46411 46415 46413 53252 53254 53256 53258 53260 53262 53268 53270 53272 53274 46423 46435 53276 46443 }

# auth_token obtained via Firefox+TamperData while my brother logged into CSN
auth_token = "123456789012345"

say "Checking"

call_numbers.uniq.sort.each do |call_number|
    c = `curl -si -d CONVTOKEN=#{auth_token} -d AUDITT=N -d CALLT=#{call_number} -d CONTINUE=Continue ""`
    print "Call number #{call_number}: "
    if (c =~ /<p class="p5">([^< &#93;+)<br\/>/m)
        if $1.strip.empty?
            puts "May have openings\n"
            3.times {say "Michael, class number #{call_number} may be open!"}
            puts "#{$1.strip}\n"
        puts "could not find message"
        say "Help. I cannot access the C S N website."
    sleep 5

# Ouput an audible message via Mac OS X's speech function
def say(message)
    `say "#{message}"`

We set this to run every 15 minutes on the living room iMac, and we turned up the volume. Every 15 minutes we could hear “Checking” from the computer. A few hours later we heard the script announce that a class had opened up. Michael, I’m still waiting for my $3.


More Flow, More Happiness

I usually spend only 20% of my workday programming, but this week I’ve been doing more of it and it’s been awesome. There’s something really rewarding about refactoring code — making it more concise, more logical, more consistent. More beautiful. This isn’t even new code; I’m just pruning the old stuff in preparation for coming additions. Jon Udell says good programming is like good writing: you need multiple drafts.

For me, programming is the way I get into flow. Sometimes writing can do it for me too. For my grandmother, I think it was quilting. I believe much happiness comes from creating something.