OU DevLabsAlpha

Oh, great day! It seems that keen to jump on the bandwagon, the OU will soon be opening up a “Uni-API”, in part inspired by the opening of the Grauniad and New York Times APIs. And taking a lead from Google in more ways than one, the new OU site will pilot not yet for mainstream use services (in much the same way that Google Labs does), on the “devlabs_alpha” site (http://dvla.open.ac.uk I think, but I need to check that…)

Hopefully a couple of applications I’ve been involved with will make it on to devlabs_alpha, such as the Course Profiles Facebook app (not sure how many users it has now? I’d hope upwards of 6,000?) and the OU/iPlayer 7 day Catch Up iPhone webpage.

One of the features of the site will be a voting mechanism for people to vote up the applications they like, and feed into the more traditional process of allocating formal resource to a project and developing it as a fully blown production system.

The Google influence goes further with the adoption in LT/AAC-S of 10:10 time, based on the famous (apocryphal?) 10% time that allows Google employees to work on development projects of their own devising. In order to regain some semblance of control, 10:10 requires two developers to each dedicate their personal 10% time to the same project, and work on it using a pair programming approach. It is hoped this will guarantee that useful rather than frivolous projects will result (in part because anyone with an idea has to persuade someone else to work on it too…). (A cynic like me would see this as introducing friction to the system in that hope that a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation occurs, no-one pairs up and no 10% is used up; but more fool me, maybe… ;-)

The pair programming feature is there to get around the lack of a formal development cycle, in the hope that pairwise testing will result in pretty robust code (good enough to be rapidly upgraded to production code if the service is adopted as a mainstream service).

Anyway, I think this beats the likes of MIT to this sort of initiative (I don’t think we’ll ever forgive them for letting them get to be the first institution to take their wares open!) and hopefully we’ll see this as just the first of many such similar offerings….

PS Always check the date stamp of a post..;-) But it makes you think, doesn’t it…?!

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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