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Leveraging the power of the open source community lets developers create cost-efficient apps that have real-life solutions for people in need. We speak to Chris Sainty, who proved anything is possible in OS by using it to develop a Blazor app that connects charities to people in need of social housing. 


Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’ve been a software developer for a little over 15 years nowI started out using VB.NET early in my career and then transitioned over to C# a few years later. I’ve also learnt JavaScript over the years and then TypeScript more recently. 

I’ve worked in lots of different industries over my web development career. I’ve also always been drawn more to frontend/UI programming. I’ve worked with everything from WebForms, to MVC, to JavaScript frameworks like Angular. 

In terms of tooling, Visual Studio is my go-to IDE for almost everything. When I’m not using full VS, I’ll be using VS Code. It’s an awesome text editor and is my preferred environment when working on JavaScript applications or general scripting. 


How long have you been active in the open source community? 

I’ve been a user of open source for many years. But it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve started giving back and actively contributing to the community. I think this was largely due to a fear of people seeing my code and thinking it was terrible! But once I got over that, the experience has been really rewarding. 


What first attracted you to using open source? 

I’m honest, it was probably the cost, or lack there-of. Now, having been using open source projects for so long, I would say it’s the fact the code is open—everyone can contribute to improve it for everyone else. If something is missing you can raise an issue, discuss it, raise a pull request, and boom! You now have that missing feature you wanted. But it’s also there for everyone else as well, and that small donation of your time is going to benefit many people. 


What are your favourite ever open source projects? What makes them special? 

There are so many great OS projects I’ve used over the years. XUnit, Serilog and MediatR are pretty much in all my project now-a-days. But my favourite open source project has got to be ASP.NET Core. It’s an amazing framework to work with. 


What was the inspiration behind your project? 

I used to work for a housing association where we had some conversations with a charity in our area that connected people who need help together with volunteers. They did this using a paper system which was hindering their ability to expand. It also made the process complicated and difficult to manage. 

We offered to write them some bespoke software which would move them from a paper based system to a fully electronic system. It would also provide automation where possible to streamline their process and allow them to focus on the people, not the paperwork. 


How did the project start and shape over time? 

We started by defining the requirements with the charity and scoping out a minimum set of features for the MVP release. Once this was done, the team got to work breaking the features down into small chunks in order to begin working on them. At this point we also decided on the technology we would use for the project. 

We started building out the initial infrastructure of the project and then moved straight into building features. But we have used several open source projects to help deliver the solution. We’ve used MediatR, Serilog, Blazored Toast, Blazored Typeahead and Blazored FluentValidation. 


How successful has it been so far? 

We were able to deliver the MVP in just over a month.  

The charity absolutely love it, so far. When we showed them the product in a review they wanted to take it there and then. Seeing what we’ve built so far has also made them think of lots of other ideas for features so the roadmap is filling up fast! 


What’s next for the project?  

We are currently working on some feedback items before starting work on the next milestone. At the moment, we want to get them up and working with a live system. Once they have this, they can begin using it and reaping the benefit over their current paper based system. 

We will then start focusing on features for the second milestone, which could include rolling the solution out to other branches the charity has. 


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