Standing on the shoulders of giants

Hello all, hope you're well and enjoying the relative freedoms that we've had since lockdown "phase four" began last week... I for one have appreciated being able to meet up with friends and family (in groups of under six of course, with full social distancing!) without having to claim I'm just testing my eyesight or about to fall ill with Covid-19 and on a mad 260-mile dash for the nearest relation willing to help me with childcare.

As I mentioned last time, I'm still pushing hard to find a way to get the app built and available by the end of 2020, although I knew from the outset I had taken on a much bigger "first app" project than anyone would advise. One of the great aspects of IT that has enabled me get as far as I have is the wonderful culture of collaboration and sharing that exists in the developer community. It never ceases to amaze me just how much people are prepared to give away for free, simply for the pleasure of knowing they are helping others.

One of the features I have been building in the last week is opinion polls, an essential for any politics simulation. Finding the standard Apple software lacking in charting capability, I ran a search for the best free charting tools available, and all sites pointed me in the direction of a piece of software called (helpfully enough) Charts.

Like much of the best free iOS software, Charts is available to be downloaded for add-in to other projects (such as Number Ten) via a site called CocoaPods, essentially a library of free software for developers of iOS apps to use as they wish. The majority of add-ins (or "pods" to use the terminology) on the site come complete with helpful documentation explaining how to install and use the software, and in many cases even include a free sample project containing example code.

Within a couple of hours of having found Charts, I had digested the help guides, installed the add-in, and had a working opinion poll chart within my own project. The results can be seen below.

Charts was written by a developer named Daniel Gindi, and is itself based on a similar free offering for Android (MPAndroidChart) by another developer, Philipp Jahoda. I've learned that both of these tools are known almost universally throughout their respective development communities, and yet neither of these gentlemen demand a penny for using them (although small donations are gratefully accepted - even developers have to eat). Had I decided to build my own chart, it would possibly have taken me longer than I've spent on the entire build so far. Thanks to the tremendous spirit of collaboration that exists in the IT development world, I'm able to use the fruits of far brighter minds than mine to bring my own ideas to fruition.

Incidentally, although the headline phrase is widely known, partly through its appearance on the side of the £2 coin, partly through being the title of a very bad Oasis album, it is often attributed to the great scientist Isaac Newton. While Newton certainly used the expression, it dates back at least as far as the 12th Century. The theologian John of Salisbury used it in a Latin treatise in 1159, with a translation being "we are like dwarves sitting on the shoulders of giants". We can perhaps forgive John his politically incorrect language (different times, I'm sure he'd claim...) for providing us with such an evocative expression.

On the N10 feature list for the next unofficial sprint is the interview function. It won't be any great surprise if I find myself needing to call on the services of the free developer community again. Who knows, these altruistic minds may yet help see this thing through to an App Store release? Here's hoping...

As ever, stay safe,


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