As part of our ongoing 10th Birthday Celebrations, we thought it might be nice to take a look at how Three Rings used to look, back in the day. We think it’s interesting the way websites change as technology and standards improve – if you compare what the BBC News Website looked like in 2001 to how it looked about this time last year it’s pretty obvious that a few radical overhauls have been made along the way.
We’ve got a few screenshots from one of the early versions of Three Rings, Version 0.721, ‘Aloha’, so we thought we’d share (just click on any of the images to see a bigger version).
We’ve never given much away on the login page, although the image of the phone’s long-gone, and now-familiar checkbox to allow a Certificate to grant extra permissions on a trusted computer won’t even be in development until 2009!
Beyond the login screen, however, things start to look a lot more old-fashioned – for a start, the Overview page isn’t called the Overview, and Aloha didn’t even have an Upcoming Events section:
As the news article says, all of these old screenshots were taken from dummy data on the Beta server, back when Aloha was still in testing. (Incidentally, we’re just as keen to get extra testers willing to support the project now as we were then, so feel free to get in touch to volunteer!)
The brown look, incidentally, is because it’s Autumn. Once upon a time Three Rings cycled it’s themes’ appearance based on season (which wouldn’t be much help to clients outside Europe!) For comparison, here’s a view of the system as it would have looked in Spring:
Moving down the links – rather than changing section using ‘tabs’ at the top of the screen! – we can take a look at the Rota.
Generally people looking at the rota are surprised by how compact it looks, but back in 2003 even software developers were using much lower screen resolutions than they do now. There’s also no option to change view – it’s a month or nothing (although since this was designed for Nightlines, all running just one, long, shift each day, that’s not the problem it would be today).
With the new rota system making it possible to run more than one rota at once, organisations using Three Rings can display extra information (like the name of the Shift Leader), as well as keeping seperate statistics for things like Day and Night shifts.
It’s quite fun to compare how the Directory used to look to how it might look today, in this screenshot from our dummy “Demonstration Branch”:
Even today the Directory doesn’t look perfect – we won’t have fixed the strange cropping of photos until Milestone Jethrik is released! – but it feels quite a bit friendlier these days.
The star char above represents the only statistics option in Aloha. Today the star chart still exists, but it’s supplemented by several more reports to help you keep tabs on the running of your organisation. On top of that, it’s now possible to output several stats reports in different formats, like spreadsheets or PDF files, as well as viewing them on the web.
The Service Delivery Report even outputs a graph, and can be really useful if you want to track how well your organisation is filling the shifts you’ve said you’ll run.
Finally, here’s a bit of a bonus: a snippit of the ‘change list’ from the very early days of Three Rings. So far all the old screenshots in this post have been from ‘Aloha’, version 0.721. The oldest changes, at the top of this picture, are from the even earlier version 0.044, ‘Easter’!
It’s hard to make a direct comparison, because we’ve changed the Milestone naming structure since then, but Milestone Jethrik, coming soon, would be about equivalent to something like “2.14.1″ – the fourteenth numbered update since we launched Three Rings 2 to Samaritans clients three years ago.
There’s some fascinating things tucked away in here – you can see that 0.2, ‘Mortarboard’, only expected Three Rings to be used by the volunteers at Aberystwyth Nightline, and that one of the very early bugs, found in 0.423 was discovered by Liz, the world’s first ever Three Rings Champion, who described introducing Three Rings earlier this year.
It’s quite nice to look back on where Three Rings used to be.
Partly, that’s just because it’s nice to see how things have changed, but it’s also because from here in 2012 we can look at these early versions and know what’s coming – News arrives in Release 0.52 ‘Fleet Street’, weather forecasts will appear on the rota for 0.65, ‘Perfect Storm’. Last November’s improvements to Inactivity types were themselves an improvement to a feature that’s existed since version 0.5, ’3am Eternal’.
Looking back the idea you’d only ever need one rota, or two people on a shift seems crazy – the challenge to make Three Rings suit the styles of such varied clients as we support now is part of what makes it so rewarding, but back then we thought we’d support around 40 people at one organisation. Even looking back we can’t imagine how we’d have felt if we’d known then that we’d supporting over 13,000 separate users by now. Looking back is nice, because it gives us the cosy glow of hindsight.
Looking back is also exciting. A decade ago we didn’t know where we’d be in 2012. In the same way, we can’t tell from here how Three Rings will look in 2022, or how it will evolve to meet the demands of its users over the next ten years. But knowing the changes and improvements we’ve made so far, knowing that most of our ideas come from our users, looking back gives us the confidence to keep improving Three Rings to better match the needs of our organisations as they move into the future with us.
Based on how far you’ve carried us over the last decade, Three Rings in 2022 ought to be quite something!