Starting the voyage
Greetings! This is the inaugural post documenting the journey of building Whally. The goal is to offer a peek inside the work and thinking behind building a new solution for educators. We'll try to have some fun along the way.
What is Whally?
"Whally" is the name of a new school management software platform that is being created as we speak. It is a pun on the narwhal whale, which is actually a real mammal despite popular perception as the mythical unicorn of the sea. They are a strange creature, given that their "horn" is actually a 10-foot long left tooth poking through their face.
What does this have to do with software and schools? Nothing, until now. I figure narwhals are fairly magical and Whally aims to be the same. Also, the domain was available 😉.
2020 is upon us, and Whally has goals like anyone else. The motivation behind the project is straightforward: create the next-generation software platform for educational operations, which is a fancy term for running schools. Given there are already tools available for this, Whally plans to justify itself by being distinctly more awesome than the existing options.
This includes many planned aspects, among them:
- Robust management of information for students, families, enrollment, staff, and other types of school data
- Perfect payments, both in the family experience and for the accounting back-end
- Complete flexibility through customization and integration options
- Consistent experience on any device
- Fast, modern, user-friendly
- Handle any scale, from 1 classroom to hundreds of managed schools
No big deal, right? Much work lies ahead, but progress is being made daily and at a satisfying pace.
Today is day 54 of development, at 434 hours and counting. Thus far, the focus has been on building the core of the platform, which will serve as the common foundation upon which the rest will grow. Mostly, this means technical engineery stuff like data modeling, application and infrastructure architecture, performance tuning, API design, user authorization, and the like.
None of this necessarily will or should mean much to Whally's eventual users, except that it "just works" and can be configured to do exactly what they want. This under-the-hood effort doesn't have as much tangible, visual reality as will the end result. Most people don't get excited about hearing how their car's transmission is shaping up, so I won't go into too much detail (unless you ask, which is welcome).
That said, there are visual shapes emerging alongside the code, as Whally's character is created. It started with some sketches (a professional's, not mine):
...and starting to show some personality:
...all grown up:
Code-level development is following a similar process, with rough sketches evolving to more polished features. Currently in progress is the authorization system, which will ensure Whally can allow any type of user to interact appropriately and safely in any specific way they're configured, whether that's a parent updating just their own child's information directly, an administrator managing records across multiple locations, or an accounting specialist reconciling the month's payments. All changes are tracked and individually attributable to prevent data mysteries.