Category Archives: Thoughts

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.

Reflecting on Greenwich

The event at Greenwich was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet other project teams and consider the future direction of my project. It also opened my eyes to some of the other issues that other teams were facing.

One theme I noticed from a couple of projects (including my own) is the issue of trying to integrate the system we have built within an institution’s IT system. After a very interesting conversation with Scott Wilson of OSS Watch, who outlined some of the issues with IT system integration, this has led me to consider other potential business models for the project going forward.

What’s the message?
When working on a project, often the developers get lost in the idea and start thinking about what else they can add to their project. This is fine, but often what the project actually is gets lost in the message.The event was very valuable to me as I was able to see this problem by watching a few pitches (and helping a couple of projects clarify their message). My advice was “focus on the three best features of your project and sell those.” This means that you aren’t stuck reciting a paragraph each time you are explaining your project, it’s just a couple of bullet points.

Feature creep
This is often a very dangerous position to be in. There is always something which could be added, and the trick is to be happy to say no to many great ideas – at least in the short term. The “Dragon’s Den” was great for getting feedback on projects, but some feedback should be taken with a pinch of salt particularly when creating a minimum viable product.

I’ll be taking all these ideas on board and will hopefully be pitching my ideas at either the event at the end of September or at the event in November.

Useful resources and support I have discovered

(I may have just lifted that post title straight from the guideline posts Jisc sent us…)

I tend to think that I am often sitting in my little bubble, developing this system isolated from the rest of the world. I have been developing web stuff for around 8 years, so am pretty familiar with the techy side of it all.

But there is plenty of support that I have received, in the form of University support from Neil Witt and his team. I know that if I have any issues with the project, I am more than welcome to pop in and ask them any questions. After being introduced to the whole team, they all seem very familiar with the way that Jisc projects work and the best ways of tackling problems.

I have also been sent some very useful project planning documents from Neil, which are based on Jisc’s project guidelines. These have really helped formulate my ideas and get them out of my head and onto paper.

Aside from this, I have been browsing around a few sites like UI Parade for some design inspiration (or procrastination) for when the time comes to design the product.

The Jisc mailing list has been very useful for hearing about some of the issues other people have been having with their projects, but also getting some tips from them about getting the project going. Because I couldn’t attend the event at the Google campus, it’s good to still have the contact with the other projects – and look forward to meeting them all in Greenwich at the end of the month!

Who should have which permissions?

One problem with building new systems is that you have to decide how things should work. Very often, there aren’t existing systems in place which you can copy the behaviours of. Because of this, as I am building the project, I’m realising that there are many problems within my project which haven’t really been solved in an elegant way, which is meaning that I have to think carefully about each decision I make to ensure that it is moving in the right direction, and keeping the system as simple as possible.

The big problem I am having at the moment is who should have permission to send messages? I want to make the system inclusive so, for instance, a society could use the system to send out messages to their members, as could the university to let everyone know of some news. But we don’t want people in a society sending messages to the whole university, because this would make the email problem worse, not better.

In addition to this, we don’t want to have to add confusing permissions to user accounts which will just alienate many users.

I’m settling on a “group” based system, where “managers” of a group can send messages to all the members, but the members can’t send messages to the whole group. Anyone is free to create groups so anyone can send messages.