It wasn't for real, so nobody saw it!

Written on September 20, 2018

“Ma come fai?”, that’s the direction the conversation took while talking to my English teacher about a website I built towards the end of last year. I asked her to clarify, since I had just finished talking about how yesterday I released an update which made it load exponentially faster, but her not being a technical person, I was wandering what she was really asking.

First a bit of context. 2 years ago I built a Telegram bot which made it much faster and simpler to lookup school hours and receive notifications when notices got posted, since our school’s website is painful to use and it’s not the type of thing you want to check anyway.

That bot got used only by a few of my friends, mostly out of a Telegram group called “Risoluzione Incubi Informatici”, name inspired by a thing one my of teachers used to say, but never got traction outside of it, mainly because almost nobody has Telegram.

The project was really interesting, since I had to crawl my school’s website, and I encountered a few problems along the way, mainly the fact that a few times they decided to split the hours page into two, only to recombine them a few weeks later, or when for some reason they made a link invisible instead of simply removing it, making my bot follow the wrong one for a few days.

Anyway, last year I decided to make a web version out of it, which got used by a few friends and teachers, including the one which I was talking to today. At the time she liked the idea so much she talked about it with some of her colleagues.

This year I improved that website and I’m currently trying to get more people to use it. While talking to my teacher today we stumbled upon it and she asked if it was already working this year, which I replied with a yes. Other people had asked me that same question before, so I didn’t think much of it, instead her reply blew me away…

“Ma come fai?” “How are you doing it?”

What does that even mean? I thought.

She clarified. She thought I was manually putting in the pages, and my school having many classes and teachers, it would have taken a lot of time. I told her it was automatic. She understood.

With that I saw how simple it would have been for somebody else to build such a thing. I’m not in the IT course, and I learned programming all by myself. Some of my friends on the other hand are, but when I ask them what exciting thing they did last year, this summer, or what they expect to do this year, their reply is a bit depressing.

Why is that? Why didn’t they publish that project? Why did they waste time on something who’s never going to see the light of day? Also, what happened to that website you showed me last year? Oh, you had it on a usb stick and now you lost it? Great.

When we toured the school we saw some of the things they did in other courses, like spinning tops, which are really simple conceptually, but it’s also very interesting to see how they made them, the IT course instead was new, so they had nothing to show.

4 years passed, what would they show right now? Cool, they made something with Arduino, but is that exciting? If you make a spinning top it’s simple, does it spin or not? And it’s always something you can leave sitting on your desk, where mine is still sitting in right now. It has a purpose and it looks very minimalist but good, while for some reason in the IT course they throw all of that out the window and work on things nobody is ever going to see.

That’s strange isn’t it? How is it possible that a class where they teach programming stuff anybody can work on from the comfort of their home, and host using free tier services, still hasn’t taken that opportunity and run with it?

Two years ago I critiqued something I found on a public folder on a server, only to get an anonymous reply saying it wasn’t for real, it was for a test. Perhaps, that’s the problem.