This morning I woke up quite late because I didn’t sleep well (and had been building Public Whip’s How To Vote). Today I’m not really working for mySociety, as I’m going to London this afternoon, but Tom had a couple of important bits for me to do. There was a bug in the admin page, and a missing link on the confirmation page. I fixed these up, improved the test suite a bit, and deployed to the main site.
PledgeBank is now ready for people to start using it in earnest. We’re still in testing, as we’re sure there’ll be lots of changes needed to it as it is used in the real world. But all the basic features, and fancier ones such as SMS and the auto-generated flyers, work. Tom’s just been on the radio, and he’s making lots of specific example pledges like this one about Shropshire. So, the hunt is now on.
My next jobs are to tidy up outstanding tickets which we have already fixed, and fix any bugs in there. The next feature we’re adding to the site is comments, so people can discuss the pledge.
Today I’ve mostly been nagging people about the final touches required for NotApathetic to launch, and for PledgeBank to be ready for public testing. We’re now actively searching for people to test PledgeBank – if you have a pledge you’d like to make please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve also been dealing with speaking dates, a proposal to put WriteToThem on interactive TV, talking to our first PledgeBank volunteers, and following up on all the people I met last week at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.
It’s nice being self employed so you can work where you like, but then it does open you up a bit to distraction… Today I went on a walk up past Llyn-Crafnant, which is near Betws-y-coed in North Wales. I managed to do a spot of work this morning, and I’m doing some more now, but the bank holiday Friday atmosphere has sucked me in a bit against my will. I’ve spent the week at a friend’s house in the country. Ben also works from home, and it has been a pleasant change having tea and excellent food cooked for me, and having walks with hills. There aren’t enough hills in Cambridge.
At the moment I’m improving the PledgeBank test suite. It’s a perl script which makes sure the PledgeBank code is working. An artificial browser clicks through links on my local development copy of the website, fills in forms to make new pledges, and to sign them. It also gets email, so it can follow confirmation links, and make sure the right messages arrive in the right circumstances. This is not just a good way of finding bugs, but extremely reassuring. Especially as I know we’ll have to change the site a lot as people start using it seriously.
Now, the problem with testing PledgeBank is that it depends on the passage of time. At the moment the test script gets the “pledge success” and “pledge failure” messages script to lie about which date it is, which tests that part. But that isn’t subtle enough, really the whole application including the website needs to bend in time. On my walk I finally worked out that I need to be able to override “today”, and that the best way to do this is with a function in the database which gets called whenever something wants the date.
So, that’s what I’m implementing right now.
We’ve just launched a testing version of FaxYourRepresentative. This is not a working site and not even a beta – because you cannot email representatives at the moment. What you can do, though, is practice sending messages – they’ll just be routed back to your own inbox so you can see that they’ve gone through.