About SomewherenearSomewherenear is designed as a geographic search engine - allowing you to find things by proximity to other things, based on distance. It's hard to do that with other Internet search engines, and althought the idea is obvious, we think that by doing it the way we have, we have come pretty close to a 'first' in terms of just going ahead and building the site. The idea first saw daylight when we all went for a drink the day before Christmas Eve 1999. Very tentative versions were running by the end of January 2000, but the initial public presentation for end-user comment and acceptance testing was on Monday 13th March, 2000. There's another document which describes its purpose and direction in more detail.
The initial database was based on pubs in the UK, because we had been compiling a list of those for a separate project and could easily incorporate the data. Several other categories of location-dependent things are already under preparation and might well be live by the time you read this.
How it was builtThe whole system runs on top of GNU/Linux. A front-end server provides query forms and generates the results, whilst the database back-end sits inside our firewall and is built from mySQL. The front-end web server is Apache, using CGI scripts written in C++. The C++ code is specifically designed to provide the robustness that we feel is necessary for a site like this, being responsible for checking and enforcing the logical operation of the site. The C++ query scripts perform no formatting or interpretation of the results, but instead serialises all of the output data and hands that over to the page-generating subsystem which is written in php3.
The separation of query logic from presentation is very successful (in our view). It allows us to reformat the results in various ways and allowed to build a WAP/WML version of the site (for mobile phone users) in about a day. There is more technical information about the architecture for those who wish to read it.
We have been incredibly lucky to be able to make use of the brilliant tools available from the open-source community. Gnu/Linux, Apache, mySQL, php3, the compilers and other tools have been a treat and a delight to work with. All of the other software in use has been home-written by us.
The Guilty PartiesThe team responsible for the development of this site are:
Julie, Queen of the Postcodes
PrivacyWe do not under any circumstances use any information we collect about email addresses to be disclosed to third parties unless directed to by a legal court order. We do require email addresses to be validated so that login accounts can be enabled and sources of votes and opinions verified. We expect occasionally (but no more than once a month) to contact registered users to inform them of changes and additional features made to this site. Users will be given the opportunity to opt-out of even those mailings in the not-too-distant future.