Page Created: 6/24/2014   Last Modified: 3/14/2019   Last Generated: 11/16/2023

In the mid '90s, one of my film colleagues and I came up with the idea to host annual "Oscar parties" for watching the Academy Awards live on television. People would submit their guesses for the winners, and we'd give out prizes.

I began building computer systems to help keep score, at first creating Excel spreadsheets with complex, multi-page formulae. These formulae are a form of "spatial programming" where order is described spatially, unlike "procedural" or "imperative" programming where you describe steps in a temporal order.

But due to what I learned building the LandmarkFilmProductionSystem, I knew that a document-oriented database like Foswiki was a far better solution, and would move the system into Web 2.0 technologies, having many additional benefits. So I built the Oscar party system.

Instead of one person updating the spreadsheet, now multiple people could update the wiki, and it would generate the results on the fly. So after every winner was announced, the system would show who was winning, similar to how some public trivia events are hosted.

It also allowed remote communication and collaboration between my self and my colleague, working on the system independently.

Over the years, I improved it, adding the ability for guests to fill out their ballot electronically before the party, leave comments for other people, and the ability for guests that couldn't attend the party in person to participate and watch the results.

Most recently, I built an electronic invitation system which allows guests to RSVP whether or not they are coming and what food they are bringing.

I also built a Bash auto-mailer, to mail out invitations in one step.

And finally, people actually used the new system, something that I had never experienced before from any of my systems. Smartphones finally caused people to use these technologies, and in many cases, prefer them over the traditional ones. My systems were being appreciated, unlike the days of ThePhoneSystem .

But the responsibilities were greater. Due to its complexity, trying to transition system administration to my colleague has been difficult.

This is because my systems are not designed to be user friendly in the normal sense. I don't believe that hiding the inner workings, the messiness, is the path to simplicity. Education and open mechanisms are the key to simplicity.