The Story So Far…

Welcome to the new version of the Story Master.

There wasn’t really anything wrong with the old Story Master, but I can never leave well enough alone. And really, this little project is my sandbox. I mess around with code for the fun of it or just because an idea strikes me as something cool to do. It’s all right, no need to call the men in the white coats, I do this professionally, so that’s a really good excuse for my complete geekiness.

The original Story Master was written using a combination of javascript, php and html. Actually, the original Story Master wasn’t even a web application. Last year for my birthday I got a Kindle. And what I wanted more than anything is to be able to read the stories I was following on the Kindle instead of my laptop.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but for me, laziness is. I just didn’t feel like copying and pasting every time a new chapter of a story was released, then converting it to a format my Kindle could cope with and transferring it. It would have been no-brainer, boring work. Being a VB programmer, I decided to write an application to do it for me. So the first version of Story Master was born. It was a straight windows application.

The first version let me enter a story url, profile url or community url and retrieve any combination of stories I wanted. It would convert it for me and move all of the stories to my Kindle. I loved it! The code was sloppy, but who cares? I’m the only one who’ll see it anyway.

Then I happened to mention my little app to some friends and they started asking me if I could get copies of stories for them. I got more and more requests until I was spending a considerable amount of time copying and pasting urls out of emails from friends of mine to get them the stories they wanted.

Here’s where laziness played mommy again. I figured rather than process all these requests from my friends by hand, I’ll just write a web page for them to submit the requests and handle it all automatically.

There were a few problems with this idea. First, I’m a back-end developer. I work on client-server stuff, not web apps. Second, I know enough HTML to be dangerous, but I don’t know any other web language. Third, I had no idea how I was going to get the requests from the web to my laptop for processing. I just knew that all these things were possible, not how to do them.

Long story, shortened; I seem to have a particular talent for looking at code I find online, figuring out how it works and tweaking it for my own needs. I couldn’t write it from scratch, but if it’s already there, I’m good enough to adapt it to my needs. And that’s how I wound up with a page with javascript ( which I know just enough to hate ) and php ( which I don’t know at all ). But it had these cool tab things and forms and… well, cool stuff. The interface was ugly, but then I never had a talent for doing interfaces.

This was good enough for about 9 months. A few months ago, I got a project at work which I couldn’t do unless I learned a few new technologies. In a stroke of genius ( or masochism, depends on your point of view ) I decided that I would learn Silverlight, RIA web services and general web development by rewriting the Story Master.

There had been several things that bothered me about Story Master that had become increasingly frustrating. Like no validation on the front end, meaning users could submit bad data and then Story Master would cough up a hairball. And I hated the black and orange interface. What was I thinking?!?! Like I said, I have no talent for UI. There were others things too, improvements that I wanted to make.

So, I learned Silverlight and rewrote Story Master. You should notice some small differences in functionality. ;-) I’ve spent about 35 to 40 hours a week for the last 18 weeks or so learning Silverlight, web development and writing the new version of Story Master. Yes, I have a full-time job and other responsibilities. I’m a little sleep deprived right about now.

Story Master has grown from one php/javascript page and one small service to a full Silverlight client/server application that has 3 DLLs and 2 web services. There’s now also a Story Master admin application that’s another 2 web services and 4┬áDLLs. Oh, and the processing service, which is 13┬áDLLs and an EXE. I may have gotten a little out of control in my coding exuberance. This thing’s turned into a monster and taken on a life of its own!

I had a blast playing with Silverlight and creating this version of the Story Master, which is all original code written by me, not scavenged from Google. I have many more improvements in mind, but this current version has the minimum functionality I felt comfortable with releasing.

I hope you enjoy using it.

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