The development of FilmDev (part one)

So, a while back I blogged about wanting to learn a new programming language.

A mere year after that I actually started doing something about it and a full year on I have some real progress to report!

I’d decided to learn Ruby and as I’m a Web developer by trade I decided to take a look at Ruby on Rails.

My first project was a very basic “point rails script at database” application to track the stupid amounts of photographic film that I keep buying on eBay.

It was simple to set up but as it was little more than a glorified spreadsheet I didn’t feel I had learned a lot about Ruby and/or Rails (it really helped me get my film addiction under control though).

I needed a meatier project to get stuck into…

Architecture – boncey

About this time I’d started developing my own black and white film.

I’d been umming and ahhing over doing it for quite a while and after reading dozens of “It’s easy!” type posts on various film groups on Flickr curiosity overcame my inertia and I decided to take the plunge.

Turns out they were right; it was quite easy. Even the dreaded “getting the film onto the damn reel in pitch darkness” bit seemed to go well (a combination of luck and a brand new Paterson reel I suspect).

As I only had Ilford film I followed their instructions, using Ilford DD-X as my developer.

Of course, there’s no rule saying you have to match a particular film with a particular developer – part of the fun of home developing is experimenting with different combinations.

It was whilst ruminating over this that I was struck by the idea that it would be really useful if there was a Website that provided an easy way to compare the results of developing a particular film with a particular developer.

The basic principle would be to allow people to sign in and describe what method they used to develop a particular film – a film developing “recipe”.

These recipes could then be linked to photos on Flickr via a special tag.

Thanks to the Flick API this would all be fairly straightforward to put together.

This then would be my first proper Rails project.

I started the project around the beginning of March 2008 and announced it to the world about 5 weeks later.

The site can be seen at

Although the initial version was basic, it fulfilled my brief, which was to learn some Ruby (and some Rails).

But at this point I still had a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

My hosting solution was a bit ropey – relying on Fast CGI (hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time!).

And such wonders as Capistrano were still a closed book to me.

I still had a lot to learn…