For the last couple years, Shira has put together a fun Jeopardy game for her office. And every year I watch her do this in PowerPoint and cringe. It's not so much the basic creation of the game (one slide has a big grid on the it, and uses hyperlinks to slides with questions) - but it's the tweaking that gets me. Whenever any change needs to happen, there are inevitably a ripple of additional changes.
So last night I did something about it. We decided to work in parallel - she'd start in on the PowerPoint version and I'd roll my own app for her. After 30 minutes, she was making good progress with the PowerPoint, but I had a beta version for her to play with. It was good enough that it convinced her to go with a more custom solution.
Here's a few lessons learned from this quicky app:
- JSON rocks! I was quickly able to roll my own file format, just like I might with s-expressions. And best of all, didn't have to spend any time on a parser. Hopefully, JSON will keep replacing XML as a format choice.
- Surprisingly, laying out the main grid using CSS floats was way easier than if I had used old fashioned tables. I usually try to go tableless because it's the Right Thing Todo. But in this case, it saved a big chunk of programming headache.
Shira uses the app in a few hours. I guess that will be the true test of whether or not it was smart to roll my own solution.