JISC, Rapid Innovation and Transparency

There appears to be something of a mini-revolution going on at JISC these days particularly coming out of the Information Environment team and their relationship with UKOLN.  Support for events like Mashed Libraries, the CRIG Roadshow and the hugely successful Developer Happiness Days, as well as a commitment to blogging, Twitter and a general move to openness has set the scene and last weeks Rapid Innovation Call has just reinforced that feeling.

This call is something a bit different for JISC (though credit it where it is due the Users and Innovation programme and the Emerge team did lead the way on this sort of activity) offering smaller amounts of money for quick, achievable projects to be undertaken in an agle, almost start-up like manner.

The dynamic duo of Joss Winn and Tony Hirst with their WritetoReply project have pushed the openness up a notch as well – openly publishing their proposal on a wiki and encouraging others to do the same.  This has long seemed the way forward to me and as such I’m going to join in a bit.

These days I work for a start-up called Jiva Technology that until recently was 100% focused on building our own web applications but are currently branching out a bit.  We are a small team of 4 developers, a Technical Director and me doing the Product Manager bit (well we have the 2 founders as well but they mainly worry about money matters!).  We are fully committed to Scrum, working on 3 week sprints with the daily standups and using hand written index cards for user stories.  All-in-all I think we’ve got a pretty talented team but what we are not is a Higher (or Further) Education Institution!  So we can’t bid alone for the JISC work alone and I’m not about to start calling around the people I met over my years at JISC and beyond trying to pimp our ideas – in my experience thats a sure way to lose useful contacts.  So basically I’m just going to write a few basic outlines of ideas I have for bids here and on the WritetoReply wiki and if anyone from a HEI or FEI wants to chat about them my contacts details are at the bottom of this post.

These are all ideas that we would be in a position to develop straight away based on open source technologies we already have experience with – what we lack is a real connection to the audience and community that could refine user stories and embed the applications.

1. Tagstreams (aggregating tags and feeds, visualisation, user interface design)

Tagstreams would be a tag aggregator that would pull content from a number of social web sources and would then offer two modes of interaction.  Display mode would be a visually rich full screen offering inspired by the likes of Pepsicozeitgeist.com and Twitterfall.com that could be projected or used on large screens at meetings or events.  Analytics mode would be more akin to Google Analytics and allow analysis of the use of a specific tag across set time periods in a visual manner (this would also offer raw data via CSV files etc for further independent mashups).  An additional element to the display option would be the ability to add a swear filter if the stream is in a public place.

2. ji.sc (lightweight shared infrastructure service)

Creating a sustainable URI shortening service for education seems to be increasingly important.  For a start surely JISCMail needs a URL shortening service more than anything out there!  Existing shortening services like TinyURL and Bit.ly are used more and more frequently (especially with the rise of Twitter etc) and yet real doubts remain about their sustainability.  There is also the issue of these services being blocked by some institutions which is increasingly inconvienient for staff and students.

JI.SC could be a best of breed offering, taking the best innovations from existing services and hosting it on JISC funded infrastucture (i.e. JANET)

.SC is the top level domain for the Seychelles and ji.sc is currently available.

3. Campus Coordinates

This is based on a conversation I had with Brian Kelly back at WWW2006 in Edinburgh though back then it was a bit ahead of its time.

The idea is to create a mobile phone app (iPhone and or Android) that allows users to pinpoint GPS mapping details for university campus landmarks.  University campus maps are usually not great and are certainly rarely the first point of call for users looking for locations and sites like Google Maps usually have very limited coverage of university campus.  Even confirmation of major landmarks like libraries, main reception, conference facilities, halls of residence would be a major improvement on current provision.

So if any of these ideas seem of interest or you fancy chatting about anything else (we are mainly Ruby on Rails developers but also PHP and Adobe Air) I’m matt AT gmail DOT com or jukesie on Twitter.