Chronologic, a piece of software history

It’s long past time to call Chronologic a project at it’s end-of-life. About a year ago, it went into serious use as the storage system for social timelines in Gowalla. About six months ago, the Gowalla servers were powered down; no epilogue was written. In my work since then, I haven’t had the need for storing timelines and I haven’t been using Cassandra much at all. So, what purpose can Chronologic serve now that it’s not actively moving bits around in production?

A pretty OK Ruby/Cassandra example application

If you’re curious about how to use Cassandra with Ruby, Chronologic is probably an excellent starting point. This is doubly so if you’re interested in building your own indexes or using the lower-level driver API instead of CQL. If you’re interested in the latest and greatest in Cassandra schema design, which you should be, Chronologic won’t help you learn how to use CQL, secondary indexes, or composite columns.

Chronologic is also an acceptable take on building service-oriented, distributed systems with Ruby. It is a good demonstration of a layered, if not particularly OO, architecture. That test suite is fast, and that was nice.

A source of software archaeology

Chronologic started out as a vacation hack that Scott Raymond put together in the winter of 2010. I picked it up and soft launched parts of it in early 2011. As Gowalla went into a drastic product push in the summer of 2011, the development of Chronologic accelerated drastically. A couple other developers started making contributions as Chronologic become a bigger factor in how we built our application and API.

Within the branches and commits, you can probably see design decisions come and go. Dumb bugs discovered and fixed. Sophisticated bugs instrumented, fixes attempted, final solutions triumphantly committed. An ambitious software historian might even glean the pace of development within the Gowalla team and infer the emotional rollercoaster of a big product push through the tone and pace of commits to Chronologic.

An epilogue for Chronologic

I’m a little sad that Chronologic couldn’t become a more general thing useful to a lot of people. I’m a lot sad that, by the time Gowalla was winding down, I was sufficiently burnt out that I wanted little to do with the Chronologic code. All that said, I’m very glad that Scott Raymond encouraged me to work on it and that the team at Gowalla worked with me as I blundered through building my first distributed, high-volume system. It was stressful and challenging, but I’m proud of the work I did and what I learned.

Adam Keys @therealadam