Simplification

We held a post mortem on this term's projects Friday before going out to dinner. I took away three major points:
  1. We have to simplify the ticketing interface in DrProject, so that people will use it even in very small groups. One suggestion is to make it more like Basecamp's to-do list. However:
    • We want to keep AJAX to a minimum (accessibility, stability, etc.).
    • Some of the companies who are thinking about adopting DrProject (or who have done so already) want to add complexity; in particular, they want parent-child and precedes-follows relations on tickets, a "ready for test" state, and so on.
  2. Students think that doing demos is a valuable experience, but it takes a lot of time. (Students get to do their demos twice: once for feedback, and one for a grade.) Swapping them around---i.e., having one day's students practice on their peers, then do their real demos for another day's students---is one possibility, but scheduling is going to be difficult. We've also tried having students do their final demos in tutorial sections of sophomore courses, to give second-year students a taste of what they could be doing by final year, but again, scheduling is hard.
  3. I didn't track students' progress nearly as well as I should have. There's no amalgamated cross-project view in DrProject (yet---David Scannell has built it, but we haven't deployed it on the production server), and while cycling through seven projects to check event logs isn't that tedious, I somehow never quite got around to it. As a result, students didn't structure their work around making the event log look good, which led to a downward spiral.
If we upgrade DrProject over the break, #3 will (mostly) take care of itself. I'm open to suggestions for #2, but what I'd really like from readers is ideas for #1. We do not want a "kitchen sink" interface that relies on configuration files to hide certain features in certain installations; I know from personal experience that these are a nightmare to test and maintain. Ideas?
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