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One man, one widget ... and a lot of toilet paper

What iOS widget did Senior Software Engineer Marco develop? We'll tell you!

from  Felipe Moroder-Bendyk
24.11.2020

Our Senior Software Engineer Marco himself could hardly believe the circles his iOS widget, which was probably the most popular one in Germany, has drawn. At first, smaller tech blogs reported about it. Then articles appeared in Business Punk, Berliner Zeitung, t3n and Computer Bild. A feature on private television on RTL Punkt 12 and two test videos with hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram (see highlight story "Toilet Paper") complete the picture. 

But what kind of widget did Marco develop? We'll tell you! 

A widget that Germany deserves, but doesn't exactly need

Actually, widgets are used to place useful information on the homescreen, such as new music albums or the weather. Well, with a suitable JavaScript you can also display the current stock of white rolls in the nearest drugstore or supermarket. 

And that's exactly what Marco has developed: THE toilet paper widget. A small iOS widget that shows the number of toilet paper packs in the nearest drugstore. 

Out of an evening's fun, the script was written using the Danish app Scriptable by Simon B. Støvring. A few days later, by coincidence, this very app lands at #28 in the German Apple Store. 

We don't know exactly how many users Marco's toilet paper widget has. By now, however, it should be a five- or maybe even six-digit number. 

How the paper got rolling

Perhaps some of you remember the press conference held by Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer. The latter pronounced a "toilet paper guarantee" in the wake of the second wave of hamsters. And it was exactly this "toilet paper guarantee" that Marco wanted to make everyone aware of at home. 

So one evening, developer tools in the REWE online store were used to check whether it was possible for every user to display the current stock of local stores. However, the inventory in the local REWE store around the corner is not available live for "normal users". In the online store, only products that are generally available will be displayed and the display of the exact number is not relevant for the user. This is rechecked in the background with every query.  

For this reason, Marco tried his hand at the dm-Markt. And ... it worked: Via webcall, exactly this data is available or retrievable. Via a specific DAN product identification number, one receives precisely documented information about the remaining stocks per product as well as store and recognizes indications of changes via this single webcall.

The JavaScript was thus ready for use and was the talk of the town within a few days. The developers at dm were the first to take notice of the widget via Twitter and LinkedIn. Everyone expressed their praise for the fun action. 

Other users, even without much JavaScript experience, added the products of their choice to the widget, so that, for example, flour or condom stocks can be displayed up to the minute. 

Thanks to the documentation and instructions on github, the app Scriptablerose to #28 in the German App Store. And Marco's script for the toilet paper widget is still among the most popular scripts in his internal App Store.

By the way: The most complicated part of the development was the look. Because here there was a controversial problem at the beginning: Marco had hung the toilet paper icon "wrong" way round in the first version. It's a good thing that there was no major shitstorm here and that his teammates "honored" Marco with a "correct" toilet paper emoji for the release after all. :-) 

The moral of the story

An idea that was not really meant seriously leads to a real insight: Thanks to a simple widget, a charming contribution was made to "calming the nation". 

And we do everything in our REWE stores, REWE delivery service and REWE pick-up service to ensure the supply of articles for daily needs. Based on the experience of the past few months, there is no reason to worry that REWE will run out of toilet paper.

In this sense: Thank you Marco for setting an unusual sign for, yes, solidarity in extraordinary times. Bravo! 

Next Story from  Felipe Moroder-Bendyk

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