After something like 15 years of connecting both virtually and face-to-face, I am very happy to finally be working with Alan Levine (@cogdog) on a project. I needed some technical help installing and configuring three open source math based homework systems that are being evaluated as part of the BCcampus Open Homework System project. Even though these are not WordPress projects, I know there is more to the dog than WordPress, and approached him to see if he would be able to help out with the project. And I am very glad that he said yes as he has brought exactly what I needed to make this part of the project go smoothly.
His first order of business was to configure some web space for the project. Now, I would have expected that he would have sent an email with three IP url’s pointing to different installs (something like 192.168.2.1:8080 or some other user unfriendly url that we often have to work with when working with sandbox servers). Instead, Alan set up a one page landing page and worked with our internal network tech to configure subdomains for each of the installations so that the faculty testers would have some sane links to follow while they were testing the three systems.
Not only does this provide a fine landing place for testers to have everything in one neat and tidy package, but Alan has gone one step further to turn this landing page into a project status page so that, at a quick glance, everyone involved with the project can see the status of the technical work he is doing in a very open and transparent way.
He has also set up a way for testers to report issues back to him for follow up using a simple Google Form. Anyone who has an issue during the testing period can fill the form out and send him a screenshot of the problem, collecting all the technical issues for each platform in a handy single spreadsheet that will be invaluable at the end when we are evaluating the testing results.
Along the way, you see little glimpses of the human touch that marks it as an Alan project. Like the disclaimer he included at the bottom of the landing page with an animated homage to Mission Impossible.
I also appreciate that Alan has not hesitated to jump in and make contact with the developers of the three applications we are testing. So far he has discovered at least 2 minor issues in the code for one of the applications and has been working with the developers to fix the code. That is value added. Regardless of whether or not we decided to use this particular piece of software, Alan has made the project better by uncovering these errors and working with the developers to fix them.
Working in open source has it’s own challenges. One of them being that you need to add value to the community to have a voice in the community. Build some goodwill with the development community and establish a relationship. This kind of direct communication with the developers to help them improve their code goes a long way in establishing the foundation for long term relationships which puts you in good stead with the community, and Alan does it very well.
I am really happy this project has gone to this particular dog.