RE 2007: GeorgiaVIEW Meeting (Pre-Conference)

I am blogging from the pre-conference GeorgiaVIEW meeting @ Rock Eagle yesterday afternoon and this morning. I enjoy connecting with people around the state of Georgia who use our Vista system. Most of them do not make it to BbWorld. Some hot topics:

  • Alternatives to Blackboard Vista
  • Training
    • Content repository
  • Returning Reports and Tracking to instructors.
    • Some reports still failing. One approach may be to remove tracking data from Vista database and make it available elsewhere.
  • Upgrade to Vista 4. People want a timeline, access to a training instance ASAP, please not do an in-place upgrade.
    • Limited shelf life on internals of Vista 3 / 4.0 – 4.1.2
    • More of customers have moved or are moving to Vista 4 / CE 6 than a year ago.
    • Can take advantage of new tools available in Vista 4.
    • Data retention – policy, reponsibilities (faculty, campus, OIIT)
    • Phased approach – parallel environments, at some point Vista 3 goes away and no longer available.
    • End of Fall 2008 or Spring 2009.
  • People are both quite happy we are going to Vista 4 and disconcerted at the prospect of having to move to Vista 4 in even over a year from now (at the worst by April 2009).
    • Export / import of non-SIS created users.
    • Training

Lovely (yeah a real person and she is) says Lovely Freelove would be one of the best names ever.

Reactions

The Athens NEWS: Athens’ Only Locally Owned Newspaper:

Ohio University would be safer with concealed weapons on campus if those gaining such a permit had to be subjected to a strict screening process that included an annual mental-health checkup; criminal background check; and training in said firearms use, marksmanship and safety, including an inspection of the weapon to be carried.

Ummmm… If background checks are so effective, then how did Seung-hui Cho get one? Last night, I was watching 20/20 where they discussed myths, one of which was on whether gun control reduces violent crime obviously spun towards it not.

The example of success? The Appalachian School of Law Shooting where a gunman killed three people before other students with guns stopped him. Many more people would have been killed had these other students not stopped him. Police cannot be everywhere at once, so its better to have a gun to save yourself. They don’t mention that it was after he was done killing that the students with guns got to him and apprehended him. Its not much different than police arriving at the scene.

There are no available numbers on how many mass murders are prevented by people who are not able to acquire a gun.

Its not like either side is going to point out where their side has failed in this issue. 🙁

Once Through the Firewall

Sites like eMessenger are often very useful. I once memorized the URLs to AOL’s and and Yahoo’s web-based IM clients. When I started keeping my bookmarks online that made it easier. Occasionally I have found myself needing to chat without being able to start up a client. For instance, going off to a training or workshop somewhere with limited a wireless network. The HTTP port (for the web) is so ubiquitous that no one would block it. Which means services like this would work.

eMessenger

What is e-Messenger? e-Messenger is a web application that enables you to chat with your MSN, AOL and Yahoo buddies without having to install any program or Java applet. All you need is a JavaScript enabled browser and you’re set to go and use e-Messenger, even if you’re behind a firewall.

Hidden Project Pitfalls

Project management materials always discuss things in the problem-solving methodology:

  1. Define successful criteria, constraints, and release criteria. (Define and understand the problem.)
  2. Write a plan, define tasks, identify risks, and estimate costs. (Develop a plan.)
  3. (Try the plan.)
  4. Record actuals and estimates. (Collect data.)
  5. Evaluate at milestones. (Evaluate data to determine if plan succeeded.)

This is all pretty good stuff, but I think it leaves out some pretty basic stuff which no one really quite cares is involved in any major software implementation project.

  1. Adequately staff the project. You are more likely to underestimate the amount of resources needed not overestimate. It would be better to overestimate as those resources can be applied elsewhere.
  2. Buy-in of the affected. The people who are going to be affected by changing software are the ones who most need to approve the decision to change and provide the information about what it will need to do. A high level manager in Finance probably does not know what the day-to-day needs are in Marketing. Yet all too often, someone without any understanding of what the business processes are makes the decision to go with one product or another because it fits his or her vision.

    This is asking for causing a massive amount of complaints, retro-fitting later, or even abandonment of the implemented product. The more objective and detailed view the decision makers have regarding the actual needs of everyone affected, the better match that can be made between prioritized needs and solution. No, not everyone’s problems can be solved. However, making no effort will result in the decision makers shrugging their shoulders in confusion as to why so many people are upset. They have no strong justification for why they picked on solution or another.

  3. Pilot tesing allows those truly masochistic souls to experience the learning curve and bleeding edge while the normal people are safe. Nothing will create more havok than a roll-out full of bugs and problems no one knows how to resolve.
  4. Transparency in the decision making process may not eliminate all complaints, but it sucks the wind out of rumor. The more people who know the hows and whys decisions were made, the less finger pointing there will be. When decisions are made in secret meetings and never disclosed to the affected parties, rumor mills have the fuel to burn down a project.
  5. Some people need a long exposure to something new to get used to the experience. Not everyone can “get it” the first time. The more complicated and difficult a program is to use, the longer people need to work with the program.
  6. Train, train, train, and train some more. Some people are going to need to attend training (more than once). Some people are going to want to just play with it. Some people are going to refuse to learn the new program. There needs to be available assistance with every aspect of a process in a formal instructor to class setting, one-on-one setting, and self-help materials.
  7. Every individual understands each nuance differently. The more diverse the affected users, the more diverse the approaches to helping them understand what it does and how it works. Users ultimately want to know, “How does this affects me? I just want to do my job and not get yelled at by my boss or anyone else.” Using Economics jagon in talking to a Graphic Designer may be the least effective approach. Essentially consider every individual as… an individual.