Databases, Scrapers and Websites, Oh My!

Valeri Smith
Apr 25, 2018 · 4 min read

Everything began with a room full of strangers and a tiny bit of anxiety. Professor Quigley started off the semester by basically telling the class that what we wanted to do was completely up to us. We picked out team, we chose our project, we called all the shots.

Coming from dozens and dozens of lecture classes, this newfound freedom was jarring, but also really exciting. On one hand, it kind of made me miss the learn, memorize, test, repeat monotony of lecture classes. On the other hand, it felt nice to realize I’d finally get to make something.

And so, the mingling began. A small classroom that was half flat-screen TVs and half windows was filled with the chatter of a few dozen students sizing each other up, trying to pick a team that would be together until the end of the semester.

Eventually, I ended up on a team of six. And yes, I know that’s a lot, and I was told it would be hard, but I was never one to back down from a challenge. As a team, we decided to pick a project pitched by KUTX. They wanted a music map to be generated from a database so that people could use it to find shows around Austin, specifically show sponsored and put on by KUTX 98.9.

From the beginning, it smelled a bit like trouble. The project seemed too small for a gigantic team of six. However, for better or worse, the project turned out to be much more complicated than anyone realized. First, we thought we’d be working with a sizable database full of shows, times, and venues, as would be needed to fully populate a music map. However, it soon became clear that we weren’t just building a rinky-dink website, we were building the database and what felt like a million other things, too.

As time went on, having six people looked less of a disadvantage and more like a lucky break. Because there were so many of us, we were all able to get a lot done and go into profound detail with what we were working on. This ended up with the team having a Facebook scraper, a Twitter bot, an incredibly in-depth marketing plan, thorough focus groups sessions, and a functional database, the actual music map web page and more, all done in the span of a single semester.

Although, I have to admit, while I had my fingers in some of the big projects, from the beginning it was decided that a team of our size needed a person to keep everything on track.

That person was me.

Now, I have to say, being the person who sort of bosses everyone around wasn’t the glamourous role I saw myself having when I was daydreaming about the class last year. However, when I figured out how strenuous and unfamiliar it was, it dawned on me that maybe I made the right choice. Professor Quigley said that this class was all about struggling, all about learning something new, and boy did I.

Still, being project manager wasn’t all I did. I was also the person who sets the aesthetic for a lot of our presentations and official documents. I also designed all the surveys and co-hosted focus groups to make our project the best it could be. Additionally, I was the link between the team and the KUTX employee who pitched this project, Peter Babb. He is the the digital content manager at KUTX.

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Graph showing the results of the first survey I created.

Every adult I’ve ever met told me the most important thing in any workplace is being a team-player. That always really brought me down because group project of any kind were usually the worst. However, working with Atharva Pendse, Itohan Osagie, Peter Kishler, Terry Charnichart and Valerie Rivera made me think, “Hey, maybe working in a group really isn’t all that bad.” As the semester wore on, my team continued to make me feel this way as they each got to show off their talents and passions in a way that is going to make our final product incredible.

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The Tune X team (From left, Atharva, Terry, Valeri, Valerie, Peter, Itohan) Photo Credit — Robert Quigley

I always tend to get little mushy when talking about my team. I think it’s because I’ve been in the unique position of seeing what they’ve all worked on from beginning to end and seen how much they have improved.

As the semester ends and we hand off our final product, I’m ready to have a little time off, but this is definitely the semester I’m most reluctant to leave behind.

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The team after showing off Tune X

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