Nine project delegates attended, and we split into four small groups of pairs of projects. I asked each pair to explain their practice to each other, to consider how their systems might possibly work together, and then to come up with
- next steps they will take
- challenges they envisage
- support they might want
in their progress towards interoperability.
Because of the range of projects represented, and their wide range of situations, the answers to these covered a good range and had many valuable points. Here are a few issues which came up.
- How is this spec any better than or different from previous ones?
- Ownership of and responsibility for the information held.
- Security (various aspects of this).
- Shared development of Open Source systems and tools, for e.g. validation (of syntax); verification (of information presented).
- Transfer of permissions between systems.
- Interfacing with systems (such as e-Learning / MIS / student information systems) from various vendors.
Related to these, the support we (variously CETIS and/or JISC) can offer could include:
- Making the new specifications available
- Supporting work on common tools and services (as above)
- Supporting common ontologies
- Getting vendors on board
- Dissemination of what is possible
This was a smart collection of delegates, and they even seemed to enjoy the process! One of the lessons I take back with me is that this approach – getting people to work in pairs as if they had been asked to implement some kind of interoperability between their systems – is very productive: I’ll do it again given the chance. I think it puts people in just the right frame of mind. Everyone gets to explain what their system does to another highly informed person who doesn’t know much about it, and talk about interoperability is grounded in practice, rather than in abstract (and too often, futile) discussions of the conceptual structure of the interoperability specification.
Just one thing – try to match people/projects up so they have as much as possible in common. I prepared this, but had to rearrange on the spot when one person was absent.