In my last blog post, I wrote about how Chris DeCairos, Mohammed Buttu, Scott Downe and myself from Seneca's Centre for Development of Open Technology went down to Berkeley California in order to assist highschool students using Popcorn-Maker to better showcase their videos on the web, as well as provide their users with a more interactive and fulfilling experience.
Popcorn-Maker is essentially the Popcorn.js authoring tool, which allows non-programmers to easily user Popcorn with their videos in an easy, user friendly manner. It also provides a familiar interface, similar to Final Cut Pro, in which their is an idea of tracks that contain numerous track events ( popcorn events ). All of this combined provides the user with a sleek and comfortable area to create amazing web movies. So BAVC essentially provided us with an opportunity to get some early feedback on our alpha version of the software, as well as help students with their films on the web, it was a win win situation.
BAVC days 1 and 2 were quite hectic in the amount of code that we wrote and the long hours the we pulled in order to get stuff done in time. This didn't change too much on days 3 & 4. On day Thursday, we were all a bit more rested at this point and came in ready for some more coding and bug fixing. Days 3 and 4 were a lot more about fixing a lot of user facing bugs, such as not being able to export their projects properly, deleting issues, and some of the custom editors not doing what they were expected too. It was also about adding in some nice to have features, that really made the application feel more and more like final cut, as that's what film makers are used to. This involved keyboard shortcuts such as ctrl+ arrow keys used to move track events left and right on a track. Scott also added in even more functionality (which is outlined in his blog post here ) for moving track events in greater increments and allowing us to increase decrease there size via keyboard shortcuts. We also made spacebar play/pause, as pretty much everyone is used to this functionality, so it was definitely nice to have. These type of features were really awesome to implement, as it really followed the "quick to cool" mentality, as it was something that was really cool to have in, and was all implemented in a few hours. It was cool to be able to get some feedback from one of the film-makers, then go and implement it, and be able to show them a working version of what they wanted by the end of the day. It felt good to be able to actually see someone, in person, using what we have been working so hard on all summer long. It was one of those moments when you can't help but be happy and smile.
Friday was essentially left to tie up any major loose ends and provide any last minute help that we could for the students. Mohammed and I mainly worked on getting a properly formatted export HTML working. The original problem that we were having was that export HTML was working ( thankfully after a late night sprint the night before with Mozilla's Bobby Richter, we finally got it working), but when the user copy/pasted this code, the pathing could be wrong if they didnt place their newly created html file in the proper directory. This can become very frustrating and difficult very fast if you don't know what the errors you are receiving are referencing to, or dont know any html. The idea that we had was to somehow export a cleaned up directory to the user if they so wanted it. This file would contain a zipped version of the users project in which they could simply open the folder, and click there index.html file and it would just work. The idea was that we would only include what was necessary in this export and set up the structure for the user ourselves, in order to reduce the probability of errors. Although Mohammed and I were not able to fully get this working before we left BAVC, it is well on its way to being done, and will be ready for our next release. We continued to fix small bugs for the rest of the afternoon and then said our goodbyes to the students, the BAVC staff, and everyone else. It was crappy to have to leave without everything being 100% done, but I suppose that's software development, and there will always be 1 more thing that could be done.
Overall the experience was an amazing one I won't forget. I learned how much hard work really goes into releasing software, how many unforseen bugs come up when you let your users use your code, and how much it truly is a team effort to get all of this done. There were so many points where I was completely stumped on a bug, and someone would come by and just talk it through with me and we would always figure it out in the end, and vice versa. We put in so much time and effort together over the last month and half or so, and it really showed. We came out with an awesome alpha version of our software, and it can only get better from here on out, so keep your eyes peeled for upcoming releases of Popcorn-Maker.
Id also like that thank Brett Gaylor and Ben Moskowitz for their hospitality while we were down in California, driving us around all over the city, getting us food, and countless other things, made for an awesome time. And finally i'd like to thank David Humphrey for everything hes done for us at CDOT, from getting us involved in such an awesome project, to giving us the opportunity to experience something amazing as this. Here are a few pictures of the trip, sorry I didn't take more!