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Creating an any to any multiplex

September 3rd, 2013

[Note: This article was originally authored by Ben West, one of the first employees we hired at Tidepool. Ben is now a key contributor for the Nightscout and OpenAPS projects.]

You never know how things are going to come together—being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and a winter break spent learning web technologies were the first in a series of events that led me to Tidepool. I was diagnosed with type 1 during my senior year in college. Which was also right around the time I fell in love with coding. I was at home over a winter break. My dad is an engineer with an interest in programming so his idea of a present was this big, thick PHP book and a list of all the things I could do with PHP. Once I started, I was hooked.

I took over the living room/parlor with the piano and the computer. I was exploring what can be done using PHP and this new thing called the World Wide Web, which was just becoming a real thing. Since then I've added many tools to my set, but always with a keen interest in the relationship between the problem I'm solving and the people who will be affected.

After being diagnosed with T1D, the first thing that my doctors wanted were all of my insulin meter readings. So I used an index card. I wrote my readings in three rows, filled it up, turned it over, and that would be good for a couple of days. To get the meter readings to my doctor I was faxing them, or transcribing and emailing them, or sometimes I was phoning it in—reading the results over the phone and they would write them down on the other end. I thought there has got to be a better way. So I wrote some PHP scripts that generated a bunch of web pages so I could go and fill it out just once.

And when I saw what kind of mess I had created, I was horrified. I thought no one is ever going to use this thing. I'm not going to use it. It was painfully tedious and I thought "If I can't make sense of this, what chance does a child have?" That experience has shaped my thinking whenever I create something new or look at a program that somebody recommends. The first thing I check is how does data get into the system?

Which is one of the items I'm working on at Tidepool. I'm organizing and completing projects to create a system of software that works together—a lively, open source ecosystem where people can contribute features that they think would be helpful. A lot of what I'm doing is examining and implementing elements and methodologies that are known to be effective, and helping to develop a platform to make sure that all of these pieces of software are able to work together.

We're creating an "any to any multiplex" where it doesn't matter where the data comes from or what you're trying to do with it—it'll get to where it needs to go and be extremely useful when it gets there. It's about making the data available to those who need it in order to create better outcomes for people with type 1 diabetes.

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