Evolution of an idea: From JISC Answers to Your Freedom

So yesterday the ‘Your Freedom‘ site launched by Nick Clegg got ALOT of attention and is likely to continue to keep the guys at Delib busy coping with the insane levels of traffic its been getting for some time.

Whether you agree with the aim of the project or not it is a big step into the limelight for ‘digital engagement’ leaving behind the murky world of early adopters perhaps forever 🙂

On a personal note it was kind of gratifying for me to see the platform being used get that kind of attention. Back in the early months of 2007 I pitched an idea within JISC for a Q&A web app that was inspired by the long gone now Amazon Askville. I had all sorts of what I thought were clever ideas for it (though in fact most were pretty much just pinched from other successful sites at the time!) JISC was just starting to dip its toe into the social web at the time and I was lucky enough to get some funding and commissioned Delib to build what became known as JISC Answers.

It was built on top of Plone and used entirely open source elements and we hosted it locally at Netsight so it was an all-Bristol production! At the time I was pretty proud of what was achieved and became a big fan of Delib who did great work on the project. As it happened JISC Answers really never took off – it got caught up in some internal issues and missed its moment for a proper launch and has just kind of stagnated ever since despite a couple of attempts to kick start it again. Its still live but has more than its share of cobwebs.

However the codebase of JISC Answers evolved into Delib Dialogue which is the platform powering ‘Your Freedom’ so even if my initial ideas never really found an audience this at least proves that they weren’t entirely stupid. Obviously things have moved on miles since 2007 but its nice to see my initial idea all grown up!

I do often find my way back to the whole Q&A app idea – it was the heart of the work I did at Jiva as well and the Tutorhub site they have built has taken the concept to a whole new level.

I don’t really get to do this sort of thinking/playing anymore with my current role so it is nice to remember times when I got to actually be a little creative with my thinking..

6 thoughts on “Evolution of an idea: From JISC Answers to Your Freedom

  1. I always thought JISC Answers was a good idea, but it did have some drawbacks. Having to log-in to ask / answer a question was a pain (maybe federated access could have helped here 😉 I had to get that in) It would have been good to have some kind of push technology that say, alerted me when a question had been tagged as ‘access’ or ‘identity’ and it needed some kind of process behind it that let JISC Staff know how to use it properly and what the expectations were on them. Most importantly, it needs to be integrated in to the main jisc website and the Q and A process there – perhaps through appropriate RSS feeds?

    The other problem is having some kind of policy around expectations of answers and authority of answers – it isn’t after all a formal helpdesk with guaranteed response.

    I still think there is a good tool here and it would be sad just to put it aside. Could some of these ideas not be taken forward as we look at reviewing the website? I know it is a difficult environment to do this in now though 🙂

  2. I still have a saved email thread with you about getting federated access to the site 🙂 it was always part of the plan and would probably be a much easier task now – the push stuff was also doable and planned – either to subscribe via RSS to new questions around particular tags or email alerts.

    The reason it wasn’t integrated into the JISC site was I always thought it fitted better with the Advisory services longterm – that may have been what hobbled it if I’m honest. In fact I’d handle all of the ‘people stuff’ differently if I did it again..I didn’t do the best job selling the ‘vision’..

    I do think its a pity we haven’t found a use for it but I’m not sure where it quite fits in anymore and as you say the environment is against us now as well..

  3. I know that Ben is trying to incorporate summat like this into the new styleeeee web approach, maybe on the ‘crib sheet’ pages. Lets hope we can still finally get to use it eh?

  4. It might be worth you having a look at the last item on the notes from the JIF2010 Working Group meeting that I sent out to the IE+e-Res team this morning. I suggested having a low tech way of delegates being able to ask questions of JISC during the event. The suggestion was to have a reverse message board (or a Wailing Wall for prayers:)) where delegates put their questions on Post-It notes. Very high tech I know. I volunteered to monitor the messageboard and ensure that every question is answered before the event ends. This will probably involve me chasing people around to get the definitive answer. We talked about JISC Answers or having an AskJISC area of the Cloudworks site as we need some way of publishing all the questions and responses. After reading your blog posting this messageboard idea might be a good way of relaunching JISC Answers at the JIF event. Let me know what you think and if you want to help out.

  5. Its certainly something JISC Answers could do well – and I’d be happy to help out as well. I’ll get a JIF2010 instance of Answers up and we can chat next week of how it might work..

  6. It’s cool seeing the different branches that the Q&A premise idea has evolved into. There are so many useful applications of such a novel concept. I’ve always thought that the internet should be harnessed to get more people interested and active in discussing politics. It’s the ultimate democratic medium.

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