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Perlmonks SmartPhone App

by perl.j (Pilgrim)
on Jul 15, 2011 at 17:21 UTC ( #914664=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hi Monks

I know that PerlMonks works fine in a smartphone browser but it is hard to use on a small screen. Is there any way we can make a simple, easy-to-use, PerlMonks app on smartphones? It would be great publicity and a great way to make money for the site. Free iPhone/iPod/iPad apps that crack the top 100 make, on average, $15,000 a month.

Please take this into consideration.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by davido (Archbishop) on Jul 15, 2011 at 17:38 UTC

    I see the biggest challenge to using PerlMonks on a small device (aside from the difficulty of typing markup and code on an alpha-centric keyboard) is the fact that the nodelets at the side take too much width away from the main section.

    Rather than a dedicated app for each platform I see more value in (and have thought about this before too) allowing a URL to have a rendertype=tiny, or something along those lines.

    As for what that would do: All active nodelets would render at the bottom (below the main section). That way I get more width for what counts. Hand in hand with that, the Nodelet Settings page could have a column dedicated to minimal displays to allow me to pick and choose which nodelets I want to see on my screen-size-challenged device, independently of the standard settings used everywhere else.

    Of course what this requires is a lot of work, and it's hard to find a volunteer who knows the site's internals well enough, and is motivated enough to see a project like that through to the end, and has the time.


      allowing a URL to have a rendertype=tiny, or something

      Um, I've used PerlMonks on tiny screens for years. That's why for years we've had the ability to insert /bare/ into any standard URL here (and why we don't use CSS for sizing and positioning of elements -- tables are much better at resizing than almost anything done in CSS, in my experience -- an experience that has repeatedly tried to prove otherwise but always failed).

      There are several improvements that make a lot of sense for that "start", many of which I've surely talked about before. No, none of them are actually close to my top priority right now. I guess we'll see if anybody can effectively get that work done (one of my higher priorities was actually making it easier for others to effectively get changes applied to the site; sadly, it didn't turn out to be enough of a priority for some others enlisted to help on that -- maybe that will change at some point).

      As for a mobile app, I'm certainly not stopping perl.j from writing one. Or was this a "please somebody else do that for me" request? :)

      - tye        

        I came up with the idea (as many others have before me) and thought it may benefit the site. It is said here, on the Perl Monks Discussion page that I can "offer ideas on how the site could be improved" so that's what I did. Tye, I'm sorry if did not see that but it is simply what I did. I know I cannot build the app, although if I knew how I would be happy to build it, but it is an idea that I threw out there for all to see. Just an idea...
      I agree with davido. From my experience it is difficult to use the PerlMonks website on a small screen. The nodelets could be in a menu for themselves within the app.
Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Chancellor) on Jul 16, 2011 at 06:30 UTC

    Coincidentally, I just finished watching an Innovation at Google infoq talk where Patrick Copeland started by trying to sell "an idea that could make a billion dollars" in a sealed envelope for $1000. As you might expect, nobody was willing to pay $1000 for such an idea. After reducing the price during the talk, he finally sold the envelope for $20. Google have vast databases of "great ideas" submitted by their many brilliant employees. Copeland argues that these ideas, by themselves, are not particularly valuable. He further mentioned the web site and The Pretotyping Manifesto namely:

    • innovators beat ideas
    • pretotypes beat productypes
    • building beats talking
    • simplicity beats features
    • now beats later
    • commitment beats committees
    • data beats opinions

    Studying the above links should give you a greater appreciation of why you've received such a luke warm response to your "brilliant new idea". To get a more enthusiastic response, you'll need to do some more work. If you lack the technical skills to actually do it, you could follow Palm Pilot pioneer Jeff Hawking's lead and try using a pretotype of your idea for a couple of weeks to simulate the core experience of actually using your proposed new application. Or try to gather some hard data in support of your idea.

      Thanks for the great advice. I will definitely look at all of the links.
Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by davies (Parson) on Jul 15, 2011 at 17:42 UTC

    As someone who has never owned a mobile 'phone (truly), I'm not best placed to comment. But this is, I think, relevant. An app built "for the sake of it" is more likely to turn customers or users away. Of course, if someone could write a good app, that would be different. But PM's USP (at least, a major advantage) is that it's good at giving lots of information - TIMTOWTDI, after all. I can't see that fitting usefully onto a 'phone's screen.


    John Davies

      Of course we could always make a smart, simple app.
Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Jul 15, 2011 at 23:52 UTC
    Is there any way we....

    Who do you mean by "we"?

    Go ahead. You have all the permission you need.

      I feel like the Miami Heat in this node. Everything I say is getting dissected like a science project. All I meant by "we" is "we as a Perl Monks Community". Is this such a bad thing? Please do not take this offensively but I mean these things in the best of ways. I'm not trying to get on anyone's bad side.
        All I meant by "we" is "we as a Perl Monks Community". Is this such a bad thing?

        I find inappropriate pluralization infantilizing in general.

        In technical contexts, I find it most often used by people who want to tell other people what to do without doing anything themselves.

        If that's not you, great! Build such an application. I'd like to see it. You have all the permission you need: a computer and programming skills. Just about everything you see on this site or in the Perl community has come from people who built things they wanted to build. Go and do the same.

        Everything "we" reply seems to get interpreted so harshly. Why are you taking such offense while asking everybody else to stop taking offense?

        And this seems to be interfering with your appreciation of much of the feedback that has been offered to you.

        - tye        

Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by JavaFan (Canon) on Jul 15, 2011 at 19:20 UTC
    Please take this into consideration.
    Perl is an Open Source community, driven by volunteers. Which means things don't get done because someone, or an a large group, wants something, or has a cool idea.

    Instead, it means people scratch their own itches. If you think an iPhone app is such a great idea - even one you can make money off - start building one. It's much easier to get people contributing if you're showing that you care enough that you've started coding. It's pretty damn hard to get a lot of collaborators with a 3-line Perlmonks post that's basically a plea of "please build this for me".

      This is not an idea made out of selfishness, this was an idea that would help this website, which I am a huge fan of, in more ways then one.


        What do you think volunteers do here that is "out of selfishness"? Just going by one example, me, let's see what my contributions have been (not counting the stuff I get XP for).

        You see that "Reputation: -12 (+0/-12)" that shows up after you've voted, or on your own nodes? I did that - it was something I thought would improve the site, I got in there, made a patch, got it tested out for a while, it was rejected, improvements suggested, and finally repatched and applied. I felt that it would be an improvement, and drove it through completion. If I had waited for others to do it, it might not be done yet.

        I found Newest Nodes to be difficult on my eyes (the goggles, they did nothing). So, again, I did something about it (you can use it, too, I won't complain).

        Both of those examples had to run through the gods here, so may not be directly comparable, though if your wanted app required more ways to display nodes, it would definitely be more work, and you'd need the gods' approval on any code changes that you would make. Note the highlight. If it's your itch, like the above changes were my itch, you do something about it.

        I've also contributed to perlmonks off-site: Chatterbox Addicts not-so-anonymous/Tanktalus' CB Stats relocated (temporary, I hope), which is coded completely independently of the gods (their only input is that I'm following site policy, which I think I've bent over backwards to accommodate, thus everyone, or at least most everyone, is happy), and last hour of cb is back, which required tye's intervention only to modify the owner of last hour of cb so I could update it, but the code that does all the real work is off-site, thus the gods don't concern themselves with my implementation (only my output).

        The key here is not that I did these things. It is that I wanted them done, therefore I did them.

        If you want a smartphone app, go ahead and write one. I remain unconvinced that there would be any money in it, but, then again, I'm too cheap to get a smartphone (they're cool toys, but I can't justify the expense). And, though I'm unconvinced, I'm not going to try to stop you or discourage you from doing it. Let us know when it's finished!

        this was an idea that would help this website
        You got any data to back up that statement? Do you have any examples of sites that are similar to Perlmonks that were "helped" by the creation of an iPhone app? If so, in which way were they "helped"?
Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App
by Anonymous Monk on Jul 15, 2011 at 17:27 UTC

    Hi Monks I know that PerlMonks works fine in a smartphone browser but it is hard to use on a small screen. Is there any way we can make a simple, easy-to-use, PerlMonks app on smartphones? It would be great publicity and a great way to make money for the site. Free iPhone/iPod/iPad apps that crack the top 100 make, on average, $15,000 a month. Please take this into consideration.

    But what would it do? See perlmonks iphone app

      It would basically be a simpler PerlMonks layout in app form. Of course, as was said in perlmonks iphone app, we could make a mobile site. But that has it's cons such as no money would be made.

        It would basically be a simpler PerlMonks layout in app form.

        I don't have an iphone, so maybe you could elaborate -- specifically, how it would be different from /bare/?node_id=914664

Re: Perlmonks SmartPhone App [Nodelet Hack]
by LanX (Bishop) on Jul 16, 2011 at 02:40 UTC
    > I know that PerlMonks works fine in a smartphone browser but it is hard to use on a small screen.

    Just use a nodelet hack (i.e. JS in the Free Nodelet) to check the user agent of your mobile browser. Then you can modify the CSS or change the UI with new controls running JS actions.

    See Free nodelet hack: Auto-Fold threads in RAT for special browsers for an example.

    No "App" needed, just HTML, CSS and JS. (My phone is neither iOS nor Android).

    Cheers Rolf

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