Building an app

For some time I’ve wanted to automate my caretaker job with some software tools. I guess I’m just lazy, but sometimes the sheer amount of side requests that come through to me is astonishing – every day someone will ask questions, suggest improvements to a building, or report a broken thing. Maintaining the list of ‘things to do’ was a full-time job for an artist using colourful Post-it notes on the back of my door. There had to be a better way, and I looked at CMMS suites as an option – many were excellent and even had a mobile app, however as they were all paid it was beyond my budget allocation which is basically zero unless I pay for it personally.

I’ve just started building a new app myself using some interesting tools. I get too interested in the tools sometimes, sometimes to the detriment of the end result and my wallet. Here’s what I want to do:

I want to capture a list of work and maintenance requests into a data store for review and annotation. Some or most of these will be completed by me, while some will be tagged for inclusion into what we call a “working party” where people come to the church, and work! Some party … but actually, it is a lot of fun to have a group of mostly guys hacking and wracking and packing. The break time is a highlight and we all sit around and talk, which is great.

However in the current circumstances it is impossible to get together in such close circumstances and I’ve thought of running it instead as a type of virtual party, one where volunteers can select a job they think they could do alone, then select a date when I’m available to unlock the facilities, then I would bring along needed items such as tools and materials and let them get on with it alone while I am busy elsewhere in the building. A win-win all around – I get things done, they get out of the house, and the building is repaired a little more.

One of the interesting things I have come across is AppSheet – now part of Google Cloud. It is a simple workflow automation tool set that takes structured data as input and displays it on a responsive display (ie. one that adapts to the display size: mobile, tablet, or monitor) with triggers to different events. I love event and flow programming as it fits my mind better than event-oriented programming or object-oriented programming. And as it is visual I can see the immediate effects and links between different classes and objects. Here’s an example:

Taken from AppSheet examples

I am going to take this and join together the data sources held on an organisation data source and meld it into a ad-hoc work-selection process, hopefully one that allows us to operate and encourage our volunteers – who are mostly older men in the ‘vulnerable’ category – to use their skills while the country is on lockdown.

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