Project Nexus

I realise it’s been a while since I last wrote here. I think, given the current global situation, I’d like to revisit this blog and use it, once again, as a repository of my thoughts — particularly on the projects I’m working on. As creators, one the best ways to engage with our own work is to write about it. (And it gives me an excuse to do more writing!).

In 2014, I embarked on an ambitious digital adventure to create a complete student administration system for our karate organisation SKKSA. The project, called “Osaka” (after a line in a Coldplay song I was listening to at the time — Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love) enabled us to streamline a lot of our admin. It also gave me the opportunity to lean a lot about software dev and C# programming in general.

Over the years, of course, this suite has grown to reach the limits of its capability. And my new experiments with web-based technologies like PHP/HTML 5/JavaScript has afforded me the opportunity to rethink the entire system.

Enter Project Nexus.

The login screen on the mobile web portal (“MyDojo” is the front-facing name; Nexus is the internal codename)

Named after the original app I envisioned almost 10 years ago (Nexus), this is an entire reimagining of the student admin system. It also opens up opportunities for having a more meaningful front-end student portal. More importantly, it allows us to have a more engaging, meaningful experience in understanding our students, their progress, and more.

Envisioned as a platform rather than a collection of apps, Nexus is a system that will allow our instructors to get access to live data from training sessions, and completely streamline a lot of admin processes such as creating diplomas and enrolling new and returning students.

The platform comprises 2 major elements: a web portal, and a traditional desktop app.

Rather than using a local Microsoft SQL Server Compact database as the DB backend, we’re harnessing the power of the Web by using MySQL as the new backend. Porting over from the old DB seems to have gone fairly well so far.

More importantly, this allows us to have a more powerful web portal. This means instructors have access to important data about their clubs on their mobile. This includes access to our training syllabus, student attendance records, student contact details, and more. A future feature I have planned is a digital attendance record register, where instructors can use their phones to scan students in to sessions, and then manage that attendance data later on the desktop app.

The desktop app remains the central hub, but this time its redesigned, streamlined and powerful.

I will write more about this project in the coming days and weeks as I continue to develop it in my free time. We’re hoping to launch the first release very soon. I’m excited about the opportunities that Nexus will open up — not just for SKKSA, but as a system that can be scaled-up for commercial use in the far future.

The best writing app

I’ve been getting back into the writing groove over the past few weeks. Often though, I tend to keep searching for the ideal app that will help me be productive and write more often. Usually the criteria is an app that allows me to write across devices — iPhone, iPad or macOS. The thinking behind this is that I’ll be able to write wherever, whenever.

However I’ve discovered that the ultimate app for my writing is actually not an app at all.

Analog writing — writing with my Sonnet fountain pen into my Moleskine notebook, is the best way to keep me focussed and connect more with the actual content. At this point my focus is writing for myself, to explore a host of ideas that are clamouring in my head. Writing by hand is also a nice way to reconnect with my thoughts and ideas, to stay disconnected from the chatter of the digital world, and to actually be present in the act of writing.

This doesn’t mean I’m not discounting the digital writing world — I’ve expressed my undying love for Scrivener and I will continue to use that as my app of choice for long-format writing (I’m currently planning a long-term writing project for which Scrivener will be invaluable, as usual). But for now, for me, the ultimate writing app is my Parker Sonnet and a notebook.

Podcasts to work with

Podcasts are seeing an amazing resurgence in the last few years. I’ve been using them since I started working in 2015 as an alternative to music when working. As an architect, I’m often confronted with doing long stretches of work that affords me the opportunity to have something playing in the background without distracting me. I’ve found podcasts to be an excellent way to keep me going through the day, and to learn something new along the way.

Here is a list of some interesting podcasts that I enjoy whilst working:

My podcast app of choice is Overcast for iOS; but there are plenty of other good apps, including the stock Podcasts app on most phones, that works just as well.