404i Design

web design, ITSM, Business Analysis, and the rest…

Twitter API stumbling blocks

Xeream is done, mostly. And live at http://xeream.404i.com and works fine but for the Twitter OAuth sign in has suddently started to fail (and causing the log in page to bomb). I also seem to be unable to get the Twitter API to work for posting tweets (to signed in user’s feed). Once these are done then that’s virtually it.

Then we can move onto persuading people to use it. I have at least 2 specific tweet chats I would like to run so I need to get this rolling. Getting some help with this is my next step: I’ve stared at stackoverflow pages long enough and want to get things moving.

Nearly there.

Getting tricky now, but if it works….!

I’ve been tweaking and fiddling with Xeream (still on my local environment) and thought I should at least have a go at plugging in the Twitter API to allow users to post tweets from the, and to list a search of the appropriate hash tag. So I installed TweetSharp into the project (which appears to be updated for Twitter’s 1.1 API). So it sort of works, but doesn’t (gave a stack overflow error). I’m thinking this may be an authentication issue as the API call is coming from a http://localhost/ address but the application is set up to call from 404i.com (which it will do eventually).

With that in mind then I thinking, time to move to host that has 4.5 framework – and I think I’ll do it in the next few days (get Xmas out of the way first). Most likely going to go with HostForLIFE.eu – the reviews look good and is at the right budget.

Meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Xeream done: all wrapped up and no place to go

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks and on my laptop I’ve developed the tweet chat/discussion web site Xeream. Lots of Bootstrap and jQuery and a little code in the background and it’s all ready. I was all set to get it live  on 404i.com when I stumbled into a small problem – my hosting account is .Net 4.0 framework but Xeream requires 4.5. Oh dear. I may have to wait until January to get a new host, or alternatively I can persuade my work to put this onto one of our cloud servers.

In the meantime, here’s a Prezi thrown together as a “How to guide” as a preview.

Xeream – Fun with Bootstrap and JQuery

I mentioned a while back how I wanted to get going with MVC – sadly not far after the Hello World app was put together I moved onto the next part of the MVC ebook and found myself facing reams of code that was going to take quite a lot more time than I had available to understand and hope to become proficient in. I hope I’ve done enough to understand the principles behind MVC at least.

Meanwhile, what I did need to get better acquainted with with Responsive Design and using Javascript libraries. I had a site that I wanted to build using standard .net web forms (no longer using MVC as my original intention) but I wanted to use Bootstrap as the design framework, and throw in what ever handy javascript plugin bells and whistles come to hand.

Introducing the project: Xeream

So what to build? Well at a medical education conference in the Summer (IAMSE 2013, St. Andrews) I attended an interesting presentation/demo about how the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) were trying out Twitter-based journal clubs* to discuss a recently (or soon to be published) scientific paper. This is not necessarily something new and TweetChat have been doing this type of thing for quite a while. However, it seemed like there wasn’t a simple way of organising an upcoming event where additional materials and any initial discussion could be provided for potential participants. Tweetchat does provided scheduling facilities though didn’t find them particularly easy to use, and the option for additional resources not obvious.

So, using a made up word (Xeream) I decided to create a very simple solution to this. In a nutshell, create an account, create an Event (title, summary, description, hash tag, links to resources, and start and end date and time) and that’s about it. When the event is complete then the resource can be added to by Storifying the Twitter discussion the had ensued.

A simple (Jumbotron) Bootstrap template was used and immediately the site has responsive design. Shrink the browser window and the menu changes, images shrink, 3 column format becomes a single column. For the bells and whistles, date picker, time picker, hash tag copy to clip board (with whizzy text animation as you see with Bit.ly copy button), keyword styling as you type… All this done using mainly JQuery plugins.

Some things on the To Do list include Add Event to my Outlook calendar, OpenAuth sign on using Twitter log in which would allow for the twittering to happen within a Xeream page, and possible and email invites facility.

If it was to be monetised then perhaps the option to brand an event, e.g. with a journal’s logo. Just a thought…. It assumes that this would get some use, a tall order when it’s up against Tweetchat. The value has mostly been to me and what I’ve learned along the way.

I hope to get this online to demo quite soon and see if it rolls.

Business Analysis – the next road on the journey

Since entering IT nearly 8 years ago (as a developer) my role has changed ever further from coding more towards requirements gathering, account management, support, ITSM, comms and more. Along the way I’ve picked up certificates in project management (PRINCE2) and IT service management (ITIL and ISO20000). As time passed it became increasingly difficult to state what my job actually was. Whenever a new person joined the team we would go round the room to each introduce ourselves and state our job (“I’m and I’m a developer”) but when it got to me I’d find myself waffling about “…this and that…”

I knew I was doing something every day, quite a lot actually, but it was hard to state in a single job title what this was. I’d tried technical consultant analyst was sort of it but not exactly.

Then I came across the notion of the Business Analyst. This is a job title that appears to cover a good proportion of what I actually do for much of the day. To that end I’ve now bought the book (Business Analysis 2nd Edition, Paul, Yeates and Cadle [Editors], BCS), joined the LinkedIn group, and will ultimately attempt to persuade my employer to at least pay for the exam (if not a full taught course).

BA appears to be what I’ve been looking for, so let’s see where this takes me….

Learning by doing: MVC4 and Bootstrap for project “Jclub”

Last week I was at a conference about medical education (IAMSE) in St Andrews (Scotland). One lunch-time session was about the use of twitter to do long distance (and long time period) journal clubs. If you’re not familiar with what a journal club is, this is something that occurs commonly in academia (particularly in  scientific and medical research institutions) where someone selects a recently published academic journal paper and with a group of colleagues and/or students, get together in a room and discuss the paper in detail.

The twitter angle is where the discussion occurs unsurprisingly via tweets (using an agreed hash tag), but may continue for a week.

While thought this was a great idea I pondered whether there might be a need for a very simple web app that would:

(i) provide a host, i.e. the person selecting the paper and organising the journal club, to advertise the upcoming journal club, provide links to appropriate literature (so people can prepare), and at the end, provide a summary and perhaps a link to a Storify

(ii) provide a user the ability to search/browse up coming journal clubs, access relevant information, set a diary date, perhaps even register interest in an up-coming journal club

The web app would be very simple – the actual twitter discussion could take place on any platform (TweetChat, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc…). So far I’ve created mock-ups/work flows using Balsamiq – as much as to think through the problem as to define requirements. Next stage is to code it. I seriously considered using PHP but I wanted to take an object-orientated approach and OO PHP is not something I’m familiar with but looks pretty awful compared to C#. So I want to use .net and C# – but I want it to look good, and to most easily do that then Twitter Bootstrap is a great option. Worried that that might a hellish to implement within a standard .net web form I reckon using MVC 4 would be the best approach.

A package for visual studio 2012 for Bootstrap + MVC is available (installed using Nuget) looks to simplify things a great deal but I still have a significant hill to climb in order to get grips with MVC, never mind Bootstrap. And that, essentially, is what this exercise is all about: learning the basics of MVC.

To be continued…

 

 

Dipping the toe into LinkedIn

I’ve had a personal LinkedIn account for a while now and increasingly found the various Groups (IT Service Management, Social Media) a great source of knowledge and ideas, much like forums did when learning about web development. From a work point of view I now need to start getting the ePortfolio onto LinkedIn too, i.e. as a business.

However, before diving in head first I think there needs to be a some planning and strategising to be done first.

As far as strategy is concerned, what are the objectives of setting up a LinkedIn account for ePortfolio? Who are we looking to engage with, customers, users, or both (separately or together)? In what way will the content being delivered or discussed be different from the ePortfolio Talkback blog? How will we know if we a reaping benefits from doing this, how do we measure success?

As for planning, having established that there’s a business case for proceeding, what risks are there? Perhaps most importantly, will there be time allocated to generate content and respond to inputs (probably my time, along side the blogging and tweeting)?

Just LinkedIn?
Broadening the topic slightly, why just LinkedIn? We have pretty much excluded using Facebook, the main reason being that our users are very likely to be fb users already but are quite likely to want to keep their work and non-work social networks separate. The more formal and professional environment of LinkedIn provides a more appropriate (and troll-free??) area to allow more production discussions to progress.

I should say that I’ve set up a Google+ page already for ePortfolio but have to confess as yet I don’t know what to do with, at least understand what might happen here that would be different from LinkedIn. One thought is the google+ might conveniently lie halfway between fb and LinkedIn. By that I mean users may not wish to speak their minds on LinkedIn for fear of future employers reading something even slightly candid the may prove prejudicial in what many see as a their online CV. Google+ could give the users openness without having to mix work with personal fb activities.

Of course there are gazillions of other social media options that could be of interest but one step at a time: in the same way that using a specific software as a solution looking for a problem, launching into a social media environment with a specific strategy and goal will at best waste time, and at worst leave a trail of disused and forgotten accounts littering the Internet. Branded ghost towns that when stumbled upon would leave your organisation looking a little les impressive.

When are you converted?

Just some thoughts regarding the concept of conversion, i.e. the moment when you go to a web site and do the thing they want you to do. Quite what that is depends on the site of course: Amazon want you to buy something, Twitter want you to tweet something, the BBC want you to find the content and information you were looking for. So not always about sales, but sometimes not a clear, single outcome. The BBC’s conversion might be any number of things.

What about an e-portfolio system? To record an event or learning outcome? To reflect on an event? Learn from something? Learn from everything? A great deal will depend on the user’s relationship with their e-portfolio. The reluctant user will want to just get done what’s required of them. The engaged user some sense of personal overview of their achievements and progression. In reality, for both users there’d probably a bit of both.

So how does a provider of an e-portfolio gear their system to best achieve this conversion when it can mean different things to different people at different times. Add on top of that the requirements of educational bodies who must assert their requirements into the system’s processes – by that I mean, college X requires that trainees complete certain number of assessments and demonstrate a particular set of competencies.

Perhaps the solution to this is to provide multiple paths that a user can follow in any particular visit to the site that will provide multiple possible conversion types. By identifying what these paths are from page 1 then can the conversion be achieved in a more efficient and productive way. The challenge then will be how to identify these paths, but help may be at hand in for form of Google analytics – something designed specifically for this task and best seen when looking at the clear business/e-commerce conversion types. More cryptic conversion types just means the analytics data contains a cryptic solution that will require more careful study of the data.

Bootstrap bootcamp

Sometimes you hear a short comment between 2 developers along the lines of “there’s a good tutorial about bootstrap at …” and having no clue as to what they were talking about (not unusual these days) I gave it no more thought. But then I caught site of reference to “Twitter Bootstrap” in an article on Flipboard.

One Google search and a YouTube introductory video later and I’ve downloaded the framework and ready to start building something interesting.

Have a look:

Intro and tutorials: http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/series/twitter-bootstrap-101/

Download and documentation: http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/