WhatAList is almost ready to go

A few weeks ago we made a post to introduce our first Rails application named WhatAList. During this period of time we reviewed our work to be sure it was exactly what we intended to deliver.

A simple, plain and useful list management application, free to the world. We knew that list management could be a real major hit especially if coupled with tags. In our first internal version of WhatAlist we didn’t considered enough tags value and during a brainstorming session, some people proposed new and effective ways to bind lists to tags.

That meeting made everything clear: we had to rewrite part of our application to add tags feature and to leave out some others ready to go functionality we discovered were not so important.

From the very beginning we stated that if any of us has a good idea even the night before delivering the application, we have to consider its value immediately. Sometimes this means some rework – the minimum necessary code change.

This was the case: we had to postpone WhatAList already scheduled launch for few weeks, change what we considered unnecessary and put some new ideas into the application. After all we considered WhatAList a test bed and details matter.

We want to share with you some lessons learned during this review phase:

Lists are challenging

Working with lists can be very tough even if apparently the topic seems quite easy to address. A list is basically a collection of ordered items; someone creates it; others want to change the order you proposed; others want to specialize your work because they think they could do better.

Once your list is submitted to the system, people can use, add items, vote items order or ignore the information you shared. Seems easy. Well actually it’s not. We learned a huge amount of stuff from our mistakes. Do not underestimate what seems to be simple.

Too much Ajax could be a nightmare

Experimenting script.aculo.us set of functions was really fun and exciting, but soon we got that Ajax can be very distracting. Its purpose is to simplify everyday work, highlighting what needs to be notice and take users closer to usable applications.

On the other hand Ajax is cool and you can get amazing things with a small effort – especially if you base your work on structured libraries. So a simple and plain project can become nightmare: 20% of your time on coding features and 80% on the coolest way to display them. Think simple means act simple.

People want to comment

Our first idea was to not permit people to comment. Wrong. People want to interact without too much effort. You need their comments to get the feeling on your contribution.

Lists love tagging

Lists can be a great thing. You share your opinion with the world, you provide your experience as a service to the people. Many others want to do the same thing. In any case every list matters only on a specific context. You choose that context and Tags are the perfect tool to help you.

Search the tag cloud

When you look for something is better to search into the semantic dictionary. Tags are the semantic tool you use on the web, they help you to slice information along keywords. So, search the tag cloud to get the lists space.

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