One of my main projects at the moment is to devise and ultimately be part of implementing a new all-singing all-dancing project tracking system. The starting point for this is of course the one I prepared earlier which consists of a flat-ish database of the JISC-funded projects I’m interested in (not by any means all of them) mashed up with the magpie rss parser. So you get the projects, their recent blog posts, and aggregations of them.
The issues with it are around:
- coverage – only a small subset are currently included
- maintenance – new projects need adding, old projects need reviewing, there is no admin interface
- added value – various kinds of information would add to the usefulness of the site
- comments, ratings and reviews
- more links and aggregations from blogs, wikis, repositories etc
- relationships between projects – same developers, similar category
- relationships with interop standards – it uses FOAF, it uses IMS QTI etc (this should be linking in with the e-framework service expression definitions)
- indications of code quality and other metrics
So to some research – how might we go about developing this, and what exists out there in the same space?
DOAP or Description Of A Project is a useful looking RDF-XML spec for describing projects. It has elements for descriptions, names, URLs (including those for source repositories) and person information by hooking in the FOAF spec.
There are a couple of models by which we could integrate this into a project tracker:
- Host the DOAPs: Projects and staff fill in a form on the tracker site – the tracker site produces (persistant) doap xml.
- Aggregate DOAPs: Projects host their own doap files – instead of filling out the form on the tracker site they can simply point it to their hosted file – the tracker then picks up the project details, feeds etc. They would be periodically spidered for updates. The files can be generated by a third party tool (doap-a-matic).
The aggreagtion approach is rather attractive from the point of view that projects become responsible for their own information. It is unattractive for the reason that projects may not bother to maintain such files properly. There is a further positive argument to say that if they don’t maintain their DOAP files, they should just be considered worthless and dead – such tough love might be just what they need.
As I have alluded to in earlier posts I’ve had a couple of discussions with Ross Gardler from OSS Watch who is also engaged in activities around tracking JISC’s projects. He is also interested in using DOAP to achieve this in combination with his beloved Apache Forrest.
DOAP me up: some useful DOAP resources
- The DOAP home page
- Doap-a-matic web-form to generate a DOAP
- There SHOULD be a validator service however it doesn’t seem to exist these days. I suspect link-rot…. which doesn’t excatly inspire confidence in the whole DOAP initiative
Then again there is always the question – why are we bothering at all with our own tracker when there are better solutions out there in the world. One such is Ohloh.net which does much of what we need; user comments, reviews, feed aggregation and general project information – and it really does the business when it comes to automated analysis of source code. I ran it over a little open source project I created and was delighted to learn that my efforts would be worth over 100 thousand dollars if I were being paid, that my code is mainly written in php and that there is a small development team of 2 people.
This is just marvellous – and could even be used directly in combination with instructions to projects to employ little careful tagging. The word JISC perhaps might do the job. While it might be very web-2 and very trendy the con with this is that it is out of our control – and I’m not quite sure of the provenance and policy of Ohloh.