Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And the winners are....

Competition 1: Portmanmania
As promised, for taking part "all shall have prizes", and so prizes go to Liz, Brian, Helen R, Mary, Abbi and Juliun...er and me (that's a bit strange isn't it) - these were the least SHU/Bb/technology related prizes I could find but with the strongest "thanks for coming" crackerjack symbolism:
Special merit prizes go to the creators of surridium (Liz) and shamedropmanteau (Abbi) - twinkle, twinkle little tea lights...

And the grand prize for scoring 40 points and displaying an unhealthy obsession with slaming words of the English language together so hard that bits fall off and they stick together ...of course goes to Liz (or possibly Librian ???- I'm still not sure - oh what the hell, you guys work it out). Anyway having already bought what was a reasonable prize for this, I spotted this at the airport and knew that it was too too perfect...is it a ball? is it a money box?:

No.....it's portmanpig! enjoy!

Competition 2 - "If I were designing Bb NG I would...."
The prize of a winner appreciation event (as voted for in the in-blog poll) goes to Brian (probably to be held in Sept, in 6715, complete with crepe paper and warm wine, probably then to move on the dev cat for after party and to be followed by a 7.30 am presentation by Brian on designing Bb NG)

Prizes for best suggestions for Competition 2 go to Brian and Helen L who each get a Bb 10 year glowing cup...question is - is it half full or half empty???

and finally....for the shameless developers joke (which btw I still need someone to explain to me) and therefore declaring himself a closet-developer a special dev.con.related.prize goes to... Brian.
Congratulations to all our winners (...sorry no awards ceremony as we are too thin on the ground for that but please do come and collect your prizes the next time you are in and/or around).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Spidey Sense

One of the stranger sessions I went to, presented by a man dressed as Spiderman, hood and all.

There was a lot of comic sans, and Wonderwoman, Mr Fantastic, Dr Doom, the Hulk and Aunt May all made an appearance. The (somewhat muffled) premise was to identify key characteristics in both e-learning support staff and the staff they are supporting, and suggest how those can be matched up most effectively.

Safe Assign

Greg Ritter did a session on this which I went to. Having spent the last year studiously avoiding TII, I did fid that I didn't know what questions to ask, but this is what I did find out:

Assignments will be more or less identical to ordinary BB assignments, and you will be able to access reports via the gb.
Work will be submitted to the institution db, and optionally to the Global db.
Draft submissions are possible, but it wasn't clear whether you could do draft only.
Staff can submit work directly without going via an assignment.
Reports take minutes rather than hours to generate.
Reports use lots of AJAXy stuff to make them easier to use.

Developers Conference

I got quite a lot out of this, despite not being someone who talks code (at least not that kind of code).

There were a lot of sessions run by Blackboard, and I went to those rather than any client sessions, including a couple on managing the system, and some best practice ones. They were pretty interesting, and I think will be useful.

Having said that, the hat count was way too high. Malcolm reckons it will be sandals next year...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Louise's highs and lows

Overall I think it has been a good conference (or two conferences - in fact, I've just thought, overlapping the end of BbWorld and the start of devcon makes it actually a portmaneau conference!! bloomin'el...they're everywhere). I agree with Paul that you had to look a little harder than usual for the gems but I have still come back with loads of ideas...

  • It is impossible to place anything at the highest point on the lists of conference highs than Michael Chasen - he is just a class act and vfm everytime
  • kadoo - I really liked it, its potential is huge...and to a lesser extent (cos we already knew a bit about it) Expo - at last, two new kids on the "could be used for e-portfolios" block
  • catching up with lots and lots of Bb people I haven't seen in a while either cos they work for someone else (like Dan) or have been promoted into some new incomprehensible role (Paul G, Demetra) and also I really enjoyed the steering group re-union and Michael Crock's enthusiastic response to e-agenda
  • the portmanteau competition - great fun, completely absorbing all my early morning attention - thanks everyone rfor joining in esp for surridium (it will live on forever) and Shamedropmanteau (thanks to Abbi, it may have missed the competition deadline but is so special it is worth an extra mention here)
  • safeassign and App Pack 3 - actual big announcements that mean something now
  • our exec workshop session - response was completely unexpected, very flattering and a bit overwhelming. I thought people would just think of it as an amusing anecdote not much else.
  • gasps from the 7.30 participants when we did before and after portal screenshots - as I've said before, you do forget - esp when we were asked by Bb staff if we'd be interested in working with them to redevelop their training site cos ours looks so much better than theirs


  • unavoidably...it has to be the WebCT factor - not the ex-WebCT staff, it's the WebCT clients - they have spent years being superior about choosing the more "selective" small Canadian product that is harder to use than everything else (ergo their staff are smarter than ours) and claiming greater pedagogical integrity (which has still never been validated) now they don't know how to feel. Especially their "names" who have been used to being treated like royalty at these events and are now the same size fish as the rest of us. They really really do need to get over it and on with it.
  • not spending much time with presidium (esp Andrew - I'd got some AP knowledge card games for us to play) and others - we started out by trying to pace ourselves so as not to repeat Dallas but we ended up being so tired we never shifted gear.
  • not enjoying the party as much as we would have liked because of the spectre of the 7.30 session looming - never again!!...fortunately that is what Kerry Jo said too
  • the photo thing esp the spinning atop Malcolm Murray's forehead, enough already!!!
  • American Airlines.... another one off my list.

one final word that Mary and I encountered at the airport, like it was a tribute to the whole trip , enjoy!:


I survived the developers' conference

I realise that I have been a little critical of the developers conference participants but you do have to see it to believe it. On the other hand, I would say that it has been much, much more useful to me than I expected it to be - it achieved my objectives and really did give me some things to think about. On the last day I decided to skip the keynote - Bob Alcorn on Bb System Architecture (I've seen a bit of this sort of thing before and it is one of those things where I have no clue what it is about but feel reassured that he can speak about it so confidently). Mary may post about this later, as she did go to it, but I liked her suggested subtitle for the session "How the Bb Community System ate WebCT".

Highlights for me of the sessions I attended were the UofSFlorida presentation on the building block they had used to transfer grades from the Bb gradebook into Banner (their student management system) The presenter, Glen Parker talked about systems/programming/dba stuff that I will pass straight over to Colin but what was really great were the insights he gave into how they developed their academic administrative processes to accommodate the necessary changes, dealing with exceptions, registrar engagement, business logic requirements and their emphasis on ensuring the tool was easy for academic staff to use. Interestingly in 06/07 when use of the tool by all 2,500 staff was required the levels of satisfaction were 77% satisfied or v satisified with 4% dissatisfied - which was pretty impressive. It reassured me (big time) that our proposed Bb-SI integration was definitely doable and that the benefits we anticipate are realistic...it also confirmed the unavoidable truth that the technology won't be the problem but the processes on the other hand....they might be pretty challenging. Some interesting numbers, during a grading session (approx 2 wks) SF transfer approx 200,000 grades - broadly equivalent to us, possibly slightly higher in fact. They used a queuing system through a SSH tunnel directly into the Banner database (no I don't really know what that means either but thought it sounded very impressive) and Banner was able to receive approx 600 per second with no performance issues and the Bb system could send the grades a fast as Banner could get them....and probably faster still. It was really really good, more info at: http://presentation.glenparker.net/

I went to a dreadful listening session about "Virtual Worlds and Bb" - "tell us what you would like to see Bb do with or in SL and other virtual worlds" - OK so I'm not at all convinced that is a valid question and puts me in mind of Andy Ramsden's idea of running walk-in Bb support for students within SL (as if students comfortable with SL would really need help with how to post to a Bb discussion board) or the completely farcical SLoodle, the mother of all technology-related portmanteaus and roughly translated as "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" but having heard some of the discussion at the session, I am absolutely certain these are not the people to ask about this....

And finally, to show that I really am down with the tech-team and have embraced this community as kindred spirits..I decided to round it all off with a session by Volker....I am fearless!!! I even have photographic evidence - I did get a bit scared when he started taking his clothes off...but that is a whole other story. Actually it was interesting, and pretty safe territory really - they were talking about how the KB Behind the Bb has been transferred into a wiki, why, how it will work, what next for development etc etc. We need to keep our eye on that cos it isn't just about dev.net and there is scope for it to do a lot more than it ever did in the past.

Friday, July 13, 2007

appreciating the developers community

When I was talking to Jessica Finnefrock earlier in the day, she was saying how excited her team were to get to attend the event (lots of her team are system architects, programmers etc) as they very rarely get to meet the clients (get out of the basement or see daylight - my words not hers). There was a guy who was clearly so thrilled with his complimentary baseball cap he wore it all the time.

The client appreciation event for the developers conference was an evening of F1 go-kart racing, the blurb from the program reads:
Developers, Start Your Engines!
Get ready for an evening filled with an extraordinary combination of competition and camaraderie, adrenaline, excitement and fun! Enjoy an evening of networking at one of Boston's most unique venues - F-1 Boston. Suit up for a little friendly competition around the race track or relax as a spectator. Either way, you'll have a blast at F-1 Boston! We look forward to a fun evening on the fast track with you.

Need I say more??? Well yes, actually, cos it gets better. I had to do the housekeeping notice at the start of our session, you know the "the buses are leaving at.." stuff, with the extra-special line of "We will be leaving for the venue promptly at 5.30 with a police escort, please be on-time there will only be one run". Coool!!! So, no dancing for the developers conference and a missed opportunity of hearing MC shout out "if you like writing code in your bedroom raise your hands and make some noise"...let me hear you shout "....." I leave you to fill in that bit.

So Mary and I decided to have our own "walk by the river, leisurely drinks, Cheescake Factory, no longer having any presentations to worry about" appreciation event.