Recent Events, Part 1: The Pause, Some Press, and a Major Flood

(I haven’t had a chance to update this blog in nearly a month, so I’m writing a two-part post detailing everything over the last few weeks. As you will read, a lot has happened! I’m finishing up the second part of the post, and that will be online October 10.)

Wouldn’t you know… we decide to take “The Pause” with the QuickScore project, and we get some press! The writer for the Silicon Prairie News contacted me before we had decided to wind down and take a brief hiatus from QuickScore customer discovery. We had already “decoupled” from the cohort, and I was surprised that they were still interested in our project, since we weren’t really being talked about with the other six teams. Since we don’t really have much of a Web presence for our project, the writer actually contacted me through this Web site. I guess my little Web site has actually optimized in Google. Huzzah!

I was actually surprised when I found that the article had been published. I was actually reading through the weekly newsletter from Gravitate in Des Moines and found the link there. I knew that the article was probably going to be written and published soon, and I thought that the author might let me know when it was done. The lesson here is that it’s good to be plugged into the community in multiple places.

The Pause couldn’t have come at a better time for me. What I originally thought was going to be a small Web design and development project turned into a monster, and the three weeks of The Pause blew past while I was building out what essentially turned into a small content management system, complete with bells and whistles that I had to research before I could implement them on a test version of the Web site. The site is about 98% finished, with a bit of testing and a few bug fixes left to go before I can fully deploy the finished product on the client’s Web server.

Originally, I thought that I would be deploying some plugins on a WordPress site. However, after looking at the state of some of the plugins and considering the remark from the client that they don’t want to worry about their site breaking and relying on oversees developers to fix it, I decided to take the project a different direction and build out all of the features that they needed. I had built a much simpler version of a content management system for Gamicon (and I am actually finishing building a much stronger, more robust CMS for them at the moment), so I used some of the pieces from that to build out portions of the base for this site. However, a property management company has many more pieces of information in play than a gaming convention, including multiple tables talking to each other at once.

All in all, it’s been fun building out such a complicated site from scratch and seeing where the limits of my knowledge are. It’s been a long time since I’ve built out something this complicated – much of the code for the Gamicon site is several years old, and I built that when I was first learning PHP and how to work with MySQL tables. At that time, I was primarily working with Flash and ActionScript, but I needed to learn a programming language that worked with databases. Friends of mine at the time recommended PHP, and I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ve built some pretty neat things with that language over the past few years.

I’m going to start deploying this new site over the weekend, possibly even tonight. I have to clean up the database tables a bit more before deployment – I found a few places in the tables that confused my code, and it turned out the code wasn’t the problem, but bad data in the tables. I also have to uninstall Joomla off of their server after backing up everything, just in case something goes wrong. It’s going to take the better part of a day to make sure everything takes hold the way it should. However, it should work really well in production, and I’m looking forward to demonstrating the full version of the new site with my client.

The Pause also came at a great time with regards to the weather at QuickScore home base in Cedar Rapids. During the final week of The Pause, one of the tributaries upstream of Cedar Rapids received 12 inches of rain over the course of 4 hours. One storm cell just sat over a county in northern Iowa and completely washed out everything. That water then had to go somewhere, and flood warnings were posted all along the Cedar River. The building where QuickScore and NewBoCo are located sit in one of the lowest points inside the city of Cedar Rapids, just blocks from the river. It was time for the community to spring into action to save what had been built since the record-setting flood in 2008.

Flood Wall

They built a wall, and it was yuge.

I decided to stay out of the way that week, between the rush to get everything done before leaving for the GAN Rally in Denver and keeping track of a couple of sick kids. I was able to watch some drone footage and keep tabs on the sandbagging progress from my home office. A lot has changed between 2008 and now with regards to social media, technology, and the connectedness of the community. Facebook was just starting to come into its own in 2008, and other social media tools either didn’t exist then or hadn’t really picked up steam. When I surveyed the damage in Iowa City eight years ago, it mostly involved taking pictures and creating videos that were posted on Facebook and YouTube, respectively. E-mail and phone were still the best forms of communication then. Had this event happened with that technology, I don’t believe that the community would have pulled together the way they did.

Sandbag Mountain behind Brehemia

Sandbag Mountain behind Brewhemia

Luckily, the river crested three feet lower than they were originally predicting. For the most part, the levees and temporary barriers that were built held the water back. Things are returning to normal in the area, with restaurants and businesses opening up again. On the drive in, the first thing I noticed were the enormous mountains of sandbags lining the streets. You don’t realize how much work went into protecting everything until you see a 10-foot tall mountain of discarded sandbags in a parking lot and drive past an equally tall wall of dirt and mud that held back so much water. I’m very thankful for the days of work people put in to save the area from total devastation.

As The Pause came to a close, it was time to get on a train and travel to Colorado for a little bit of rest and relaxation, combined with a 3-day celebration of all things startups. The recap of the Global Accelerator Rally is featured in the next post…