Riding the [JISC] Elevator

Back in the early days of my return to JISC I attended a meeting where one of my colleagues Andy pitched an idea about creating a new kind of mechanism for what seems to have become known as ‘micro-funding’ in-house. The idea was called the JISC Elevator.

A move away from the very formal proposals based on pretty specific criteria and topics (often for large sums of money) this new process would allow individuals and teams to ‘pitch’ for smaller amounts of funding based on any ideas that fitted into a pretty wide definition of JISCs scope and pitches would be filtered by their popularity with the ‘community’ before funding decisions were made.

As Andy readily admits the idea was shamelessly ‘inspired’ by Kickstarter.com (with a splash of Pledgebank) but it was a fine example of taking a proven idea from the wider web and finding a genuine use for it in our corner of the world.

It was a popular idea but more complicated on the Policy side of things than the technology side and given the current financial and political climate I didn’t give it much chance. Andy, however, was not so easily discouraged and has been working away behind the scenes in the months since to a point that he convinced the ‘powers that be’ to allow the idea to be pitched to the wider community at JIF10 – a gathering of JISC projects, services and partners. A good showing here would massively strengthen the case for this idea to become a reality.

This is where I came in. Andy wanted something ‘functional’ for people to look at rather than just a few slides and him chatting and pointing to things like Kickstarter. He asked if I could ask around and get something basic built for free just as a demo. This isn’t something I’d usually do – I don’t ask people to do things for free – I know how valuable peoples time is but occasionally I will break my own rules.

I twisted the arm of my frequent partner in crime Mr Stefan Goodchild and after a few mis-steps (mainly due to my rapidly changing status at JISC and Stefans insane workload) we managed to create a site that was pretty darn impressive I think given the timescales we ended up working on.

As usual Stef did a bit of WP cleverness on the admin/publishing side and if anything the site looked a little too good as some people thought we’d just gone ahead and built the platform!

The site did get a rather unexpected hammering the first morning and the little VM server it was running on fell over and had a nap due to the pressure but after that it ticked along nicely and started to generate a nice buzz around the event and with a few comments on the Uservoice site.

Hopefully enough positive comments have been garnered for the project to push forward – I think in this new funding environment the ability to do lots of smaller, flexible, innovation projects will be appreciated as a nice balance to the inevitable big shared serve/cloud work JISC will become involved in.

It is also interesting to see the parallels with the platform that Mozilla are using for Drumbeat. This is made even more interesting as they are developing a new, open source platform to power exactly this sort of thing which would hopefully allow any work for JISC to be built on top of this work from day one.

If this project does get the go ahead I will have long since left before it becomes active but I really hope it gets the support it needs and I’m glad I played a small part in getting it this far.