The Nextcloud Polls app: Meet the developers!

Originally published at: https://nextcloud.com/blog/the-nextcloud-polls-app-meet-the-developers/

Creating polls are an excellent way to collect information for meetings, events, and daily work. Not only do they get you the feedback you need fast and efficiently, but are a fun tool to interact and collaborate with others on.

The Nextcloud Polls App is a social and communication tool that allows you create, share, and implement access options for polls. For example, if you want to create a poll only open to a specific group of users, this app makes it simple.

In this special edition blog, we’ve interviewed the creators behind the Nextcloud Polls app: Vinzenz and René. Read on to discover their stories and how the Polls app came to be!

Meet Vinzenz and René

Tell us about yourself!

Vinzenz: I studied Computer Science in Tübingen, Germany focusing on 3D topics and graduated in 2015. During my studies, I was amazed by free and open source software, so I began to switch to Linux on all my work-related computers. I discovered alternatives to proprietary software but also still had to be able to work together with other students and their proprietary software. This wasn’t always easy – especially back in 2009! Back then, MS Windows and it’s Office suite were the default and could be acquired by students for free at the university. Now, over the last six years, I work as a software developer at the university and help institutions that want to have cultural heritage digitized in 3D. Besides my job, my hobbies are playing football (soccer) and (landscape) photography.

René: First, I have to mention, that I never learned programming and never wanted to be a programmer. I have an economic education and studied economics. However, I always loved to automate things and make routine work easier; out of pure laziness. In the 80s, I started to try programming in GW-BASIC and pure batch files, later dBase and Clipper, VBA and VB. I sometimes earned some money with that, but it was all just for fun or done as a hobby.

Why did you develop this app and publish it?

Vinzenz: Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, there wasn’t much awareness for data privacy and cloud services such as Dropbox or Doodle offering easy to use and “free” applications. Learning groups and even professors have been using these services to share documents and schedule appointments or exams. By then, my web development skills were far from good and I only used HTML, PHP and other (outdated) web languages at school and the university. However, I wanted to create a better and FOSS Doodle. There have been some alternatives like Dudle, but I wanted to have a solution where all polls I attended on, created or shared with me are in one place. That is, not have to have another account or host another software. At the time, I used ownCloud despite the learning curve for such a big app. Luckily, someone already had the same idea as me and released a polls app for ownCloud. This allowed me to start working on smaller parts of the app instead of starting one big project. This was back in 2014. In late 2015/early 2016, unfortunately the developer no longer had time to maintain the polls app so we decided that I take over development and released “my” first version (0.6.9).

René: Initially, I was searching for an app that could help me organize meeting polls for a sports club where I was volunteering at. I found polls and ownCloud and judged it as quite usable for our purpose. Vinzenz was the maintainer of the app in these days, which he forked from another app. In 2017, I wrote my first change request for this app. A few months later, I contributed my first pull request and then things evolved.

How was the development experience?

Vinzenz: It was really easy to start working on smaller parts and fixing bugs in existing features. Later on, it took more time to keep the app up-to-date. When I started my job in late 2016, I had to accept that developing a large software from scratch as well as learning a couple of web frameworks already took a lot of time. Nextcloud also has their own frameworks and APIs. With every new release and possible changes, I had to do a lot more research and investigation of these changes. Doing this after doing the same in a full-time job I realized that I can not work on the polls app the way I’d like to, to get a feature-rich polls app.

René: It was tough in the beginning because the learning curve was very steep and all I used was git and a text editor. However, it was quite impressive how low the barrier for cooperation of total strangers was. The communication on GitHub was straightforward and there was an absolute understanding of the people involved. This cured the pain with the local dev environment. I really enjoy the focused way development within the community works. As the development environment developed further, it was more fun. 😉 For me personally, all experiences help me to keep up with the times and handle developers at the same eye level.

What are Nextcloud Polls best features?

Vinzenz:

  • Flexibility with different poll types
  • Integration into the Nextcloud ecosystem

René: I would say it (Nexctloud Polls) is an absolute replacement for comparable commercial tools. Also, the features you have to pay for when using the competitors tools are included in ours for free.

Have you had any feedback from the community yet?

Vinzenz: There has always been a lot of feedback from the community which I really, really appreciate! This showed me that this app is needed and helps a lot of users in their daily routine. Also the feedback from the dev community was awesome! Especially René helped to push the app forward and in 2018 he took over development when I couldn’t find the time to maintain it. Since then, he’s puts in a lot of work and effort into it to develop new features and keeping everything up to date.

René: Unfortunately, not as much direct feedback as I’d wish. However, since Polls was voted in the top 20 apps of Nextcloud, I think we did a good job until now.

What are your plans for the future with the app?

Vinzenz: Whatever René’s plans are!

René: There are still some key features missing that I would like to make a reality. One thing is a smart calendar integration (a heavily desired feature judging from the change request on GitHub). The other thing is to offer public poll creation.

Install the app

Install the Nextcloud Polls app on your server at our App Store

Nextcloud Polls App

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