Nov 27th, 2014: I'm still here, things are moving forward and are starting to become useful. There's still a good deal of rough edges and unfinished parts, but things are definitely getting better - step by step. I'm fixing and improving what is brought up by people as important. I'm thankful I'm not alone in this. Thanks to the feedback it's easy to stay on course and do something useful every day. Basically, the plan at the moment is to add convenience features, improve the existing features and to tackle site design (which I'm a bit scared of because this is the first time I'm doing web design).
Today I want to tell you that I think I'm crazy enough to join the crowd of people (yes, in the sewing world there already are a few sites) who build databases for patterns/fabrics/etc. Personally, I can't imagine living a "normal life" with a "regular job" and I'd so much love to see a sewing database that really, actually, works. And if, in a few years, I can use that site to learn how to make clothes that actually fit me that would be awesome.
Obviously, I can't be sure I'm the person that can make such a site work before I honestly try. Since April, I've been hacking away learning web development and figuring out a decent way to set up the database structure. In June I started talking to a bunch of really nice people from the "Sew Obsessed" group at Ravelry. They've provided so much useful input and dispelled a bunch of my false beliefs that I realized that there's no way I can build such a database while keeping all to myself until it's "done".
The reason I, as a non-knitter/-crocheter, found Ravelry was this blog post: http://sewaholic.net/a-cool-new-sewing-site-kollabora-plus-a-contest/. Well, actually it wasn't the blog post itself but the wonderful comments that people made. I'm really grateful I found this post when I searched for sewing sites.
So, I'm building a site. It's not done yet - actually, it's in a pretty unfinished state. I currently have rough sketches of
- a pattern database (with pattern sources and publishers)
- a designer fabric database (with brands)
- a thread database (with colorways)
- a local sewing store database
- projects that can be linked to patterns
- a basic stash management tool
- a basic measurements application
I'm gathering all my courage to show it to some people so they can comment and tell me about things that don't work or need to be changed to work better. If you feel you could be such a person, drop me a short eMail. I'll let you know how and where you can access the site with a test account.
The reason why it takes me so much courage to do this is that I'm not really an experienced web developer. I spent the last years of my life doing research on formal verification, hardware construction and other obscure computer science stuff. All I know about actually doing web development I learned since I started with this in April. I'm learning new things every week I keep working on the site. Yes, having a general computer science background does help learning all these things pretty quickly, but it's no substitute for actual experience. Basically, this means that, if you can precisely say how something should behave, I'll learn how to build it that way. Learning something new is always easier when you know the precise result you want to achieve.
Then, there's web hosting which I've never personally dealt with before either. That's the reason why there's just a test account right now. I can't let anyone make accounts with their own passwords before I haven't consulted with someone who knows more than I do about setting up secure web hosting and until I have learned enough about that topic.
(Edit Aug, 28th, 2014: Actually, the site is behind SSL with a self-signed certificate at https://kaava.net now and I can let you have an account with your own password. Still, make sure you don't use a password you use anywhere else. This goes for every web site in the world out there, btw. - I wrote most of this post in July before the move and some things have changed since then.)
Still, I have made something that I think might show a glimpse of how things could be - even if it's not yet in a really usable or final shape. If you join me in this effort, it means that I will listen to your ideas on how things should be. You can help shape the future of the site by warning me of things done badly (by me or by other sites) and by pointing out things worth copying (conceptually, not literally) from other sites. Since people do sometimes have contradicting opinions and interests, I can't promise I'll do everything you say - I'll listen to everyone and take your views into account when deciding how to develop the site in such a way that it works for most people who are into dressmaking.
When you look at my other posts, you'll find it's obvious that I'm seriously impressed by Ravelry. They chose a path where they truly put the users of the site first (and it shows in their advertising model). Obviously, for a new site any such path will be a different one because the situation is different - but the only way to find and follow that path is through the people who feel they could use the site.
Drop me a short note to take part in this journey. I'd be happy to have you on board to make sure we get a useful sewing site up.