We are at an interesting point in our CoolState convergence project.
Our grad students are getting bogged down with not only the technical challenges of the project, but also with competing visions of how the system should work. We started out working on a sort of central structure based on a Fedora database, and the students have been trying to find ways to use the Fedora database to serve all the various needs of the venture.
There are problems, however.
First, not long after beginning the project Fedora produced a later release of the software - V. 2.0 is now replaced by V. 3.0. In general, we always want the latest release of software, but in this case, getting knowledge, familiarity and operability under our belts for the newer version would have slowed us down considerably.
Second, Sepideh, who has been working on what has essentially been considered a 'front-end' to this system became a bit frustrated when the other parts of the system didn't seem to be falling into place (I hope I'm getting my observations correct here).
Third, and probably the most thorny issue here, was how we should use Fedora (if at all) - and a couple of competing visions of what we should do. Ren seemed unsure how Sepideh's CMS fit in with the rest of the structure, Farrukh was unsure as to whether we wanted to use some of the built in features of Fedora to build our system or to customize our user interface from scratch - all against the background of a software package (Fedora) that seemed to be morphing before our eyes.
It seemed to me that since this is an educational process, and that all the work these students are doing will be of benefit not only to our news paper, website, and converged news room, but also to the university at large, and especially for the students who would be learning how to institute such a system in something resembling real world conditions.
With that in mind, we decided that it made a certain amount of sense to have Sepideh develop a Fedora front end that in the terms of NASA would be described as "Fast and Cheap" - essentially, a stripped down version of what we want.
The rest of the team would work to develop a more sophisticated version of the interface, more feature-rich, more variables and preferences.
We set an interim deadline of Feb. 9 to see what each team comes up with as a prototype.
The dynamics are somewhat complicated: Sepideh has approached the project with considerable independence, and for most of the past several months, has largely been working on the project as an outsider. Ren and Farrukh, on the other hand, have been struggling with Fedora usability issues, and trying to define a unified vision of what the project should be.
This two track approach should yield interesting results no matter what; we'd like the extra features, but perhaps getting the prototype operating in a simplified manner could yield some faster results out of the gate.
Also, it is conceivable that both 'products' could be usable in the market place: it is possible that the simpler model being developed by Sepideh would be more appropriate for community groups, senior centers, and libraries to feed into a regional news operation, and the bigger, more complex system would be used by, well, bigger, more complex news operations.
We'll have some learning in a few weeks...