Like many people, in the context of Twitter seeming to be mismanaged by Elon Musk after the surprise acquisition, I went back to use Mastodon, and found quite some interesting activity there.
Simon Willison launched there the idea of explaining daily one of your projects (until you run out): read the idea here in his own words. I like this idea, so, I started a thread like that here but it felt strange to publish such information without putting it too on my blogs, also in the spirit of “owning you own words” as often advocated by people on Mastodon. So, here is the content of that thread about zofa.biz:
In 2009, my partner, who’s a physician, explained to me how people in her service at the hospital had a monthly meeting (fight?) to assign the night shifts of the next month, and how there were always absentees at the meeting, or forgotten constraints leading to lots of planning changes. These were handled by a secretary for who it quickly became a full time job.
I offered to take a stab at a website to help with that process.
I met with the head of the service and offered to do for free a system where:
- doctors could encode their day preferences
- he could assign the shifts based on that and the history of previous months and then publish the planning
- any change later on could be arranged by exchange between doctors through the site and directly published.
He accepted to be the guinea pig, I called the website after my twin daughters, Zoé and Fanny, and zofa.be (now https://www.zofa.biz/) was born.
It was my first real web application, so I learnt a TON: web apps, Django, JQuery, transactional flows, email sending, logins, hosting (on djangohosting.ch at the time) and much more.
I did it for free because it was for my wife’s hospital, and a learning experience, but since then, 9 more hospitals joined (mainly due to doctors moving to another hospital and missing the solution) and I’m now charging 90€/month/service.
Something like 2500 doctors have used the system. It now makes enough money to justify that I spend a few days maintaining it every year. I just updated its deployment to a more recent Python version.
It’s probably the slowest growing saas you will ever meet, but frankly, I’m still fond of it. It’s been used by 600+ doctors over the last month, and it’s been fun over the years to meet some of them and see they eyes light up when I explain the name 🙂
It fits really well my goal in software: create useful, if simple, products.