Having announced my ambitions, I had better announce my intentions: what application shall I write?
My trusty Rails reference is Dave Thomas and David Heinemeier Honsson :'Agile Web Programming with Rails', which describes a simple shopping cart application. A little copycattish to do that again, I think.
Instead, since I am going to be developing the application in triplicate, I shall choose something that caters for multi-user interaction: I shall create a conversation whiteboard.
What this will allow is for each version of the application to interact with each other (in theory!).
Important stuff first
What to call it?
Well, it's a chat application with multiple varieties, so a starting point of 'N-chat' leads naturally to calling it:
How do I imagine it operating?
Starting with a conversation board, a user can select which of several groups they might like to join.
(There might even be a snatch of overheard conversation to help them decide)
On selecting that conversation, the user then sees a number of views*:
- one for what is typed in
- one for the general buzz of conversation
- a few extracted streams, associated with user.
There are any number of refinements that can be added to all this, but I think this will be more than enough for a training exercise (especially if muggins here is going to be doing it in triplicate!)
OK, what we have already suggests a number of design issues:
- two main displays: the main listing, and the conversation area
- A database (which isn't strictly necessary for casual chit-chat forums, but which might prove useful for playback. This poses a small problem in that I don't actually have a database that is accessible online...so we may dispense with that. That would be a pity, since ORM is a major support feature of these frameworks)
Tackling the main listing first, it should handle the following use cases:
- view conversations (default)
- create conversation
- join existing conversation
The conversation space should handle the following, at least:
- add to conversation
- update conversation
- leave conversation
In the spirit of Agile programming, we will leave the list at that, and add to it as time and experience suggest.
*You will note a few mixed metaphors going on here, as I try and cram square pegs into round holes, and describe a visual application for what is, traditionally, an aural/oral activity. This isn't an idle observation: I think it's a major issue of chat sessions, which we will not be solving here)