Build Your Web App in Two Days

by pieterh on 29 Sep 2009 15:34

The prodigious leiger (Shane Smith) unveiled Multiplayer today, as "a website inspired by the calendar project and designed from the ground up for one purpose — to provide an easy way to schedule gaming events, most commonly matches between members of the website."

Shane adds that "As far as I am aware no website exists solely for this purpose (someone will prove me wrong)."

Take a look at this site. It is one of a new breed of Wikidot applications that we're making ("we" being ordinary non-programmer Wikidot users who have learned how to make Wikidot sing and dance for us).

Multiplayer combines several major pieces of work, by many teams, each solving different parts of a huge puzzle.

Wikidot is, of course, the brainchild of Michał Frąckowiak, who had the idea about three and a half years ago, of building the world's most enjoyable wiki space. Michał (pron. "mich-ow") and his team, which I'm happy to be part of, have determinedly improved Wikidot and kept the service running, and it's with a fast, stable, and increasingly powerful platform that we start.

On top of that, leiger, Sue Firth, tsangk, RobElliott, gerdami, and myself have been building a bunch of reusable site templates, called the Iron Giant project. One of these templates is the forum template, which recreates a "normal" forum using 100% wiki pages and comments.

When you look at the Multiplayer forum it's quite shocking: this looks very much like a traditional web forum. But unlike the Forum module, which is written in PHP by Michał and his team, this is written 100% in wiki code, by the Iron Giant team. The expert community is using this 'custom forum' heavily now. It works much, much better than the old forum.

While group one was busy organizing and expanding the range of site templates, group two - Phil Chett, James Kanjo, Helmuti_pdorf does not match any existing user name, and Timothy Foster - was doing strange things with JavaScript and CSS that ended up with the Calendars project. This is a jaw-dropping result, built 100% in wiki code.

Meanwhile, group three - ErichSteinboeck and many others - was developing more and more elegant solutions to the questions asked by Wikidot users on the Community site.

I've missed many names, and skipped many details, but what we have is a beautiful, elegant process that takes raw problems, real things people are trying to do with Wikidot, and refines that into layers and layers of solutions, each slightly more abstract and powerful. While the PHP layer remains slow and expensive to improve, the 100% wiki 'user space' is growing explosively. There are so many things happening it is hard to track them all.

With the result that the prodigious leiger was able to clone the Calendars project (which was itself a clone of the Iron Giant default template), then merge in the Custom Forum package (I suspect by using Kenneth Tsang's package installer) and turn a very original idea into a completely working web application in (from the history of the start page) under two days. I'm not a games player (Wikidot is more than challenging enough!) but what Multiplayer demonstrates is nothing less than revolutionary.

For your next Wikidot site, visit the Iron Giant project and use one of those sites as your template. Not all of us are able to do magic with JavaScript and CSS, but we can all benefit from the work this amazing community is doing.

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