I visited Paul Walk over at UKOLN recently to talk about Shared Infrastructure Services (SIS), amongst other things, and one idea that came out of that discussion was the 30-5-10 idea.I’ll set a bit of background before ploughing into the idea itself.  Most projects at JISC do some really useful stuff that researchers, educationalists, developers and a whole range of other audiences can take and use for themselves  (in response to the cynics, we also do really useful stuff for the other projects that can’t necessarily be used straight away but it helps get us along the process to things that can be used ;-)).  The problem we often face is that the stuff we produce isn’t used because it might not be communicated in quite the right way  or the target audience may well not be aware of it.  As a programme manager that can get very frustrating because sometimes you see an alternative widget that isn’t as good that is being used simply because the project staff or organisation they are working for are better at promoting it. So, we come to 30-5-10.  It’s intended for software or services that can be quite easily demonstrated.  So, good core candidates are some of the SIS projects and projects like NaCTeM.   The idea is this:

  •  30 seconds to get across what your project or the service(s) within your project do.  This could be used at a JISC meeting, when you’re at a conference or wherever you meet other people that might be interested in what you are doing.  The reason for 30 seconds is that within that time you should be able to get across what your project or service does in a sufficiently compelling way that it piques the interest of those who may want to use it so they want to know more.  So, if we take NaCTeM’s Termine service, the 30 seconds could go something like ‘Termine is a service supplied by the National Centre for Text Mining in Manchester to extract meaningful terms from a piece of text or a corpus of texts that are submitted to it.  It uses advanced text mining techniques to ensure that those terms are very accurate relative to the area that the body of text was submitted from.  Termine also ranks the occurrence of terms.  Possible uses include automated metadata extraction to tag the articles submitted.’.  I’m sure that if someone from NaCTeM sees this they will have a few corrections but it gives you an idea of what you would say;
  • 5  minutes to outline how to solve a problem your audience have. So you have the person or audience’s interest.  What next?   You have a dialogue with them to understand how your widget could solve a problem they have, which makes what you have done relevant to them.  This involves actively listening to what they say so they spend more time talking than you do?  There’s  a lot on active listening on the web so I won’t try to cover it here but if you’re asking open questions like ‘What kind of things that you’re doing do you think my widget would be useful for?’ as opposed to ‘Do you think this is useful?’ then you’re onto a good start; try to ensure you’re not asking questions that have yes or no answers.  In my text mining example above, I’m a stressed new programme manager who hasn’t much time to understand the background to committee papers so term extraction helps me by pulling out the key terms that I can then research on the web, making me seem knowledgeable (well, more so than Sarah Palin 😉 );
  • 10 minutes to set up a quick demo that produces results.  Even if your service or project is quite complex and has lots of configuration options, you need to be able to have something a developer can integrate pretty quickly and 10 minutes is a good target.  My term extraction example above is to some extent a bit unfair in some ways; I can submit text online and get answers in substantially less than 10 minutes but it would be good if I could do that in a RESTful way, which I can’t currently;

So there it is.  I’d welcome comments from projects or others about how do’able or sane this is but please bear in mind that the whole premise behind this is to quickly get potential users to a point where they have experienced your solution and are interested in taking it further.  They are then likely to have the patience to get to grips with that SOAP interface or spend a little more time discovering the nuances of what you’ve put together.

2 thoughts on “30-5-10

  1. James Farnhill

    As if to prove my point, here’s an interview response from one of the Elgg founders in a recent RWW post that answers what Elgg is in less than 30 seconds:

    “How would you describe Elgg to someone who didn’t know what it is?

    Elgg is an open source social networking engine started by Ben Werdmuller and myself back in 2004. Elgg can be used by developers as a starting point from which to build out their own social applications (it handles common back-end functionality and has an extensive programming API), and out of the box as a useful social utility. This year, it was voted by a panel on InfoWorld as the best open source social networking platform 2008.”

  2. James Farnhill

    Another pointer to how powerful keeping things simple can be is the winner for the Dev8D competition, part of a JISC-sponsored event to promote developers working with users and provide the fabled ‘Google 20% time’. http://www.vimeo.com/3284405 shows how a complex solution that integrates with a number of different data sources can be explained in 5 minutes. This includes explaining how it solves several user problems.

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