Pro-gramming for the amateur-grammer
May 8, 2014 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I have a number of projects in mind that boil down to: make a database, then overlay an interface so that users can do some simple queries from a webpage or (ideally) a webapp on mobile. What programs should I be looking at to make this happen?

So as a simple example: imagine I had the headline from every newspaper going back 50 years. My dataset would look something like:

> headline | newspaper | date | region

Users could then put in their birthdate and city and see the headline from the local newspaper when they were born. Whee! This is the kind of thing I could build in a database, or even Excel, pretty easily. However I have no experience programming for the web or mobile. And I'd like this to have a nice UI.

This is just a hobby (not my job) so I'm willing to spend a little money and a lot of time learning.
posted by 2bucksplus to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I think it would be helpful if you could clarify whether your intended hobby is "learn to program for the web" and these database-driven apps seem like a good way to get started on that, or whether your hobby is "come up with cool database-driven web apps" and the programming part is just a means to that end.
posted by contraption at 1:09 PM on May 8, 2014

So, you can do this with any modern web framework, fairly easily. If it was me, I would make a Rails app! But that is because I'm a Rails programmer - there are loads of other ways to do it. If you followed Michael Hartl's Rails Tutorial you could have a web app (running in a browser) like what you're talking about up and running by chapter two.

If you identify as a woman (or are friends with a woman with similar goals who will bring you) you might want to go to a Railsbridge workshop to get started.
posted by mskyle at 1:16 PM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: contraption: the latter, "come up with cool database-driven web apps" and the programming part is just a means to that end.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:18 PM on May 8, 2014

For the last 10 years or so, the LAMP stack has been the de-facto standard for this sort of thing: Linux + Apache + PHP + MySQL. If you use the appropriate sort of ISP (e.g. Dreamhost) the installation of all this software is pretty much taken care of for you, so you're left with writing your website (in PHP) and setting up your database (in MySQL). All of this software is open-source, hence free (as in beer), and there is plenty of advice and tutorial information available (some of it even accurate :-)).

You can substitute Ruby on Rails for PHP, others can debate their merits.

Your only out-of-pocket cost will be for the web server. The software is all industrial-strength, no compromises.
posted by mr vino at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take a look at Grails.
posted by CathyG at 2:38 PM on May 8, 2014

I taught myself how to program doing exactly this sort of thing with Ruby on Rails. There's also django, which is similar, but uses python.
posted by empath at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2014

I would recommend setting up on heroku over something like dreamhost, but then you have to use git (version control) which adds another layer of learning curve but is SO WORTH IT.
posted by mskyle at 6:14 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a Rails dev... I wouldn't recommend starting with Rails. I'm a firm believer in understanding a topic before you cut corners and develop without a clear idea of what's happening under the hood. Rails does a lot for the user, most of which is shit that you don't need. Thus, Sinatra.

Use Sinatra. It'll help if you eventually want to move everything into Rails. Or not. Sinatra is awesome.

Then use PostgreSQL. This is your database. Store all data in table(s) and reference them based on tables/columns/ID/dates/etc.

As mskyle mention, Heroku is your best friend. You'll be able to migrate your app and local database to the sever with ease.

PM me with questions.
posted by Wynkoop at 10:23 PM on May 10, 2014

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