Category Archives: About

Thank You!

I thought I’d put together some thank you’s to everyone who has helped with the project. I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

Thank you to my parents for supporting me from the beginning – and thanks to my dad for pointing this opportunity out to me!

Thank you to Neil Witt and Plymouth University for supporting me, and helping with all the financial stuff!

Thank you to everyone who voted for me back in June!

Thank you to everyone who spread the message and encouraged others to vote for me: Mike Gentle (and his friend Alice), Jake Salisbury, Alistair Clarke, Will Howe, Jo Rowland, Harriet Elder, Michael Lewis, Debbie Finnegan, Victoria Allen, Chronis Kapalidis, Sam Smith, Duha Al Musaddar and Neil Witt again!

Thank you to David Kernohan and Jisc for providing this valuable opportunity for me to develop a product and meet fantastic people along the way – and providing the funding!

Thank you to the other projects I have been lucky enough to talk to. It has been a valuable opportunity for me to meet other like minded people and a kind support network. In particular, I’d like to thank the teams at Pitchpatch and Konnect.

Thank you to the experts who I met at the Jisc organised events. The useful feedback I was given by these people enabled me to shape the future of the project and helped me think about the long term, past the “Summer of Innovation”.

It’s been fantastic to get all of this support from everyone, and I am hugely grateful for it! It’s opened my eyes to the world of technology in HE and has been brilliant fun too.

Development Planning

I have spent the past few days thinking about how this product should work. This has involved talking to a number of people about how possible things are to build, which has helped me think through the idea in more simplistic terms.

The product will be a web application, built in PHP (on a standard LAMP stack). This application will be designed in such a way to allow it to be integrated within an existing Intranet website homepage (possibly using JavaScript embeddable codes and single sign-on).

The application will have two key parts to it. The first part is for sending out messages. It will have a very similar interface to a new email window, or a blog publishing tool. The user will be able to enter a subject and the main body of the email, including any images or attachments they wish to include. This form will also have a number of categories (eg. Announcements, Co-curricular Activities, Research, Placement Opportunities) which the sender can select from when sending the message. Finally, this will also have an area to select recipients. These could be individuals or groups of students, for example “First Year students in the Business School“. (There will need to be some moderation to prevent abuse of the system.) There will be a final option for the message to be public or private, which will be explained in more detail in a short while.

Once the sender has composed their message and sent it, the recipient list is looked at, and any people within the list who wish to receive messages matching that category will have the message sent to them (it is an opt-out system, rather than an opt-in system). Some recipients may choose to have a summary of all messages in a particular category at the end of the week. If this is the case, then the message would be shortened and sent to the recipient at the end of the week along with any other messages, in a single email message.

The second part of the web application would be an interface to be able to see all messages being sent within the institution. This will only display messages marked as public, as well as any messages which have been sent to you. This would look very similar to a blog layout (a list of messages which have been sent) and would be very easy to read or skim through.

This part of the application would allow people who weren’t included in the original message to also read this message, spreading the message further than it may go with a traditional email system.

The reason why I have chosen to build a separate web application, rather than building something within an email system (which is a question I have been asked many times) is because the email systems aren’t designed to be tampered with. In addition to this, JISC is particularly enthusiastic to have systems which can be rolled out to a number of institutions, which may be using different email systems. So by building a web application, the product can be transferred between any organisation far more easily.

The Elevator Pitch

Using the app Elevatr, I have produced a brief elevator pitch to sum up the main ideas of the application. This will hopefully explain in a little more detail what I plan to build and some of the features which would be included within the product.

The Idea

A web application which sends messages round an institution, sending them to people who are interested and showing all messages in the app.

The Problem

People are receiving too many emails. These emails may or may not be relevant. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to adjust the number of messages we receive and also see those which weren’t directly sent to us?

The Solution

An application which stores all the messages being sent, displaying them to whoever may be interested and also sending them via email to people within the institution who could be interested. This will be done by providing a number of categories for messages to be sent through (eg. Announcements, Co-curricular Activities, Research) and a list of people to be included as recipients. If the recipients want to receive the message (if they are subscribed to a particular category) then the message will be emailed to them. The message will also then be saved within the system and, if made public, can be viewable by everybody within the institution through the web app.

Use Cases

  • Sending messages to large numbers of people who may be interested
  • Viewing all the messages within the institution to find something of interest
  • Communicating with members of a club or society

Product Features

  • Repository of messages
  • Analytics for messages being sent
  • Opt in/out of messages sent to you

About Later

Later is my entry into the JISC Elevator Summer of Innovation competition. Later allows people within an institution to choose specifically which emails they receive and how often. For example, a student may opt to have a summary of all placement opportunities at the end of each week, get all emails about co-curricular activities and not receive any emails about research. They will also be able to read all the messages being circulated around their institution and respond to any which they may have missed.

I am Edmund Gentle, a second year Computer Science student at Plymouth University. I will be developing Later this summer, and will have it ready for institutions to use in September.