Alpino in Chapel Market, Islington, London is a small Italian cafe; it’s tasty, good value, and one of the team’s favourite Friday lunch jaunts. We have an annual tradition of going to the cafe close to Christmas – they do a great Christmas lunch – and we usually end up filling the entire cafe, so booking and ordering in advance is usually required. This year, I volunteered to collect our lunch choices and decided to utilise a certain information management system… and so, the Elements Alpino Edition was born!
First things first, a few Christmassy touches: some adjustments to the background HTML to make a tessellating Christmas tree, applying Snowstorm.js to give each page a lovely fluttering of snow, and some background music supplied by, It’s Christmas Let’s Be Glad by Sufjan Stevens. Plus, of course, the Alpino store front itself on the login page. The next step was to make it capable of organising lunch choices.
The first challenge was adding users to the system. I didn’t have access to an HR feed of any sort, so in a lunch break I wrote a little program which downloaded the source HTML of our “Meet the Team” webpage. It then grabbed the element for each person on the page, copied their name, job title and picture, and created them as Users of the system. And just like that, the whole team was in our Alpino Elements instance.
The only content this instance was going to manage was lunch choices. So “Professional Activities” were renamed system-wide to “Lunch Choices”; all other categories of objects were disabled. I added one (very) custom type of “Alpino Lunch Choice”, which had the available options added as a dropdown selection.
And thus it was complete! I emailed the URL to the whole UK team, and soon I had a populated SQL database of lunch choices. All that was left to do was to give the information to Alpinos. Luckily, that was simple, using the Reporting functionality.
And so, with a few tweaks and some Christmas magic, Elements went from a Research Information Management system, to a Lunch Information Management system!