Furry Little Critters

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably heard me talking about my recent side project. It’s a work in progress for a non-profit company outside of St. Louis, MO that helps save wild animals that are commonly found in Missouri. They rescue anything from squirrels to skunks, from cute to terrifying. My sister’s been involved with them for awhile, and found that they recently needed a more efficient manner of processing volunteers. Previously they had a PDF that could be downloaded, or you could call in and offer to volunteer. This obviously required humans to take a lot of time just handling and processing new volunteers. That translates to time volunteers can’t spend on event planning, fund raising, and most importantly, caring for animals.

Now they have a handy Django based application, that’s admittedly very, very basic. Ultimately, it’s just a form that saves information to the database, with the standard Django administrative application to allow admins to view their volunteers, and manage them. Naturally when a form is submitted, an email goes out to the staff alerting them of their new applicant containing the information that they submitted. Now they have the application at a glance, and can decide if they’d like to give this person a call, and if they meet their volunteer requirements or not. Initial feedback I’ve had so far seems to point to this being rather helpful thus far, as they deal with an influx of volunteers thanks to a recent TV spot, and other local news sources. Spring time equals mating season for many animals, and just like humans, mating always lead to at least *some* bad fortune.  As a result, spring is when they often need the most help.

As I was working on the site and dealing with their current host (who to my surprise was quite knowledgeable and helpful for being your standard “cheap” host); I offered to rebuild and redesign the entire site. I didn’t really have any side projects at the time as outside and personal interest in DjTracker waned, so I figured it’d be a fun project and who knows, maybe it’d save a couple of critters. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t deal with the stuff they deal with in caring for animals, so I figure this is about as close as I’m getting to actually nursing an animal back to health.  At this point the site is mostly done bringing us to what I consider the most awkward part of web development.

As we sit now the site is fully functionally CMS-lite system. I’m just using flat pages for the majority of the content, a simple blog build out for the news, django-photologue for galleries, and few other lightweight applications for odds and ends (gluing everything together, events, visitors, etc). The design and layout are pretty much set as well. Now where the awkwardness comes in is that you now have the child of two different people. On one side I put in a lot of effort to make this site, copy content over, and trying to make everything presentable. On the other side, this is a non-profit company’s “customer” facing website that will always represent them. It creates this weird situation where I don’t want to insult any of their ideas of what should change and how their site should be presented, and they don’t want to insult any of the work I’ve put forth thus far.

It’s no different than what I deal with at work really, except maybe the people behind this side project know me to some degree, and respect me which maybe just exacerbates the problem. It’s actually not a problem as of yet, but from working for other customers I know how easily it can get a bit tense.  Honestly, I just hope they like it, and that it makes their lives a bit easier. Ultimately, I think those goals will be accomplished, so I’m pretty optimistic about the situation.