Sunday, 6 September 2009


The three of us made the (shortish) journey down to Manchester on Thursday morning to take in the wonders of the JISCRI workshop. The venue of the Man City ground at Eastlands was a nice one, though Keith, a Man U fan, was slightly less happy about it :-) As it turned out, the MCFC wi-fi network was a touch ropey; not a problem thanks to the open mesh some guys from Southampton had provided. Thanks guys!

We hadn't had a visit from our programme manager yet so it was nice to put faces to names and see that David Flanders was nothing like we had envisaged (in a good way). The main thing we noticed after some of the show and tell and 45 second pitches on the first day was that we were somewhat out on a limb: our project wasn't that similar to anything else there. The closest thing that we saw really was Song Ye's interesting Super Slides project. Darren M had been down this route with SMIL a couple of years before and had tales to swap on morning two with Song Ye.

While Darren M was doing that I was enjoying chatting with Ben Charlton from Kent, while Keith was talking to Alex Bilbie from Lincoln. I was interested in Kent's Reading List stuff as I'd been mulling over how to develop some tools to structure module and course information like module handbooks and specs. Ben was interested in this too and I wondered how data from their system would be exported, especially if they were serious about cross-institutional support. We mused on the idea of what kinds of ontology would be useful, and how they might be underpinned by appropriate RDF. After this, I came back into Keith's conversation with Alex (who'd also gotten involved in a discussion about how useful 3D printing would be for printing bacon). Alex's mobile campus project rang some bells with us, as a developer on our campus is looking at this very area.

I'd never stayed in the Madonald Hotel in Piccadilly before, so was very pleasantly surprised by what greeted us when we got there. So, after a quick shower and a blast on the iPod, we went down to dinner - a real school dinners affair: pizza and chips! Unfortunately, I don't do chees, but the staff were great and I managed to get some bruschetta instead. A few drinks were had and, after listening to what I remember being quite a lot of Stone Roses tracks (spot average age of audience, folks!) , some pleasant time spent with a number of people and a discussion about getting Leopard onto netbooks with the AV guys, I toddled off to my room and the free internet before bed.

The pitches on Thrsday and Friday were all interesting, though of course some were a little more polished than others, particularly on Thursday. Friday's were, without exception so much slicker. And a few of them were really memorable. The ones that stayed in my mind were for Clipper, Xpert and WATT. It's also a pity that we were in our blog interview on Friday as both the bits OSSWatch and agile for small teams sessions that I miessed looked really interesting. Still, can't have everything.

I'm not the most confident of people, so before making the journey down was a touch worried that the very rough prototype of our initial system was going to look a bit weak comapred to other people's work. It didn't. We got encouraging feedback that the project was a worthwhile one and enthusiastic noises from several people. We came back re-energised by WILD and also with a couple of other ideas to float around if things go well. All in all a pretty good two days.

Thanks should go to Mahendra and the troops from UKOLN who kept everything pretty smooth over the two days and looked after us really well. It was a blast, guys.

Some project docs and a working SVN repo are now sitting at :

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