Verified case study

Building TellTrail - a privacy-centric social site

by Kye Etherton | 21 November 2016

Building TellTrail - a privacy-centric social site

Client testimonial

"Kye is a responsive and conscientious team member who was instrumental in helping to overcome the many challenges involved in laying the foundations of TellTrail v6.  Through the many issues and successes we always enjoyed mutually good-humoured, frank and open communication and I would be very happy to work to work with Kye again.  The door is always open"

Tony Amey, Founder,


Executive summary

TellTrail is a unique social media platform based on privacy.
With $21 billion lost to identity fraud [1] and 33% of young people exposed to unwanted sexual comments online [2], Founder Tony Amey decided to set up a social network built on privacy that users can trust, understand and control.
Creating a social networking site with complex privacy provisions is a tough challenge. Tony worked with several developers on early versions of the product without success.
The team who took the product to market in 2015 comprised five freelance developers, including Kye Etherton. Kye implemented the complex privacy requirements, and ran the robust testing processes crucial to delivering a product that lives up to its privacy claims. launched to beta in 2015, and IOS and Android apps are currently in development.

Client profile is a uniquely structured social media megasite built on the principles of privacy, integrity and service. 

Content is organised for visibility and easy lookup with users conveniently and easily specifying the privacy of each posting (from one recipient to fully public) at every addition.

Built in the UK, in addition to offering celebrity level privacy, TellTrail’s unique features include open photo albums (allowing others to contribute), Lost & Found, Personal Reminders (never forget an anniversary or birthday year), private message boards, special facilities for charities and user-recommended businesses and a variety of incentive/reward schemes.

Following comprehensive testing and audit, the TellTrail website has been made responsive for use on mobile devices and the IOS/Android App. is expected to launch by January 2017.

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The vision for TellTrail was a social site where users could specify who could see their content, and trust that the site would be robust enough to support their privacy requirements.
The requirements for the site included:
  • User profiles
  • Contact requests and private messaging
  • User defined privacy levels
  • A range of content types –classified ads, business and charity directory, blogs, news, forums, advice, lost and found, events and image albums
  • Functionality to drive 'member get member' rewards

 The biggest challenges around developing TellTrail were:

  • Finding a good fit with a development team to take the product to market
  • Implementing the complex privacy requirements
  • Testing the privacy to ensure that it met required standards



Following initial unsuccessful build attempts, Tony hired five freelance developers, one of whom was Kye Etherton.
The developers started work on version 5 of the product. It quickly became apparent version 5 performance would not support a high volume of users.
The infrastructure required rebuilding while retaining the key features of the site. Kyes role was to lay the foundation for version 6 of the product.
Kye re-wrote the site in PHP using the DIEM content management system which is built on top of the Symfony 1.4 platform.
Over the course of the project, Kye delivered a gallery system, responsive CSS work, implemented the privacy requirements and ran the testing process.
With privacy as the unique selling point of, it was critical that privacy systems were flawless, and robustly tested.
Following the direction set by Founder Tony Amey, Kye set up four states of privacy involving content and user groups. Users have the choice of sharing their content with the public, other TellTrail members, their friends or only one other individual.
In short, the user defines who can and who cannot see their content.
Kye delivered the privacy requirements by setting up a .YML file to define the database, he constructed a privacy matrix and wrote PHP code to generate selectors and create filters.
A combination of JIRA issue management software, Stash code repository, Skype video conferencing and weekly meetings worked well for effective project and code management.
Delivery of the privacy requirements occurred over a period of six months and progressed quickly and efficiently.
The rigorous testing process took four months using Lime unit tests and manual testing. Testing activity included the import of a .CSV file of 86,000 dummy users into an SQL-lite database, to search and determine which parts of user profiles were public.
The manual element of testing required the Development Team to assume different user profiles and review what was visible.

Outcome launched to beta in summer 2015.
The privacy functionality is performing well with members sharing content both publically and privately. User acquisition comes from marketing efforts to retailers and charities, and an on-site feedback loop rewards users for introducing new members with points towards an iPad or a cash sum for retailer sign ups.
The next steps for are to push forward with marketing strategies, and the development of hybrid native/wrapper IOS and Android apps to launch in 2017.



[2] Livingstone, S and Bober, M, (2005) UK children go online, London School of Economics


Kye Etherton

Managing Director of Sugar Cube Productions.



Success factors

Technical innovation


Project status


Written in conjunction with Case Study Ninja.