OpenWetWare:Feature list/Lab notebook/2007 Oct Brainstorming/Cameron/PostMeeting

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Thoughts following the meeting on Notebook features

Thanks for the opportunity to listen in. I don't think I added much to the meeting with the technical issues but there were some thoughts that came up.

  • A lot of the things that people didn't agree on appear to me to be about differences in approach or different ideas about what a lab book is for or what it does. It might be helpful to ask;
    • What is a lab book, what does it do, what is it for, who is it for?
    • Why do you want people to use OWW as a lab book, what will they get out of it? What will you get out of it?
    • Who do you want to be able to use this. The lab worker/supervisor/group/collaborators/outside world
    • I know these sound like obvious questions but they are the ones that we have stumbled over in our development process. Often we have found that we were not thinking clearly about why we wanted something, or why we thought it ought to be in a particular kind of way. For instance, many people said collaboration was a key area to focus on but a lot of the issues raised focussed on "how do I find my stuff"
  • Many of the issues that were raised we have tackled within our system or are addressing them but I don't think our solutions are directly useful to you. Because we are not working within the framework of an existing system (i.e. MediaWiki) we have more freedom to set things up the way we want. However some of the ideas might be, at least in terms of what does or does not work.
    • e.g. The issue of getting data onto the system can be handled in our system in one of two ways.
      • We do have one button upload of arbitrary data which is then associated with the page it is uploaded to (no issues with file names). This sits underneath the text edit window when editing a post. Visualisation of any data is handled by plugins. jpegs for instance are displayed. See e.g here, the right hand image is a jpeg, the left hand one (no plugin installed) is a tif. See also here for an Excel file.
      • Some of the instruments in the project can post to a blog themselves. So for e.g. the scanner could be a blogging (posting) instrument. Press the button and it automagically posts. The issues of authentication are handled within the posting application.
  • I think you are absolutely correct to focus on making it easy to get stuff into the notebook. Thats has to be the starting point. The rest is really just nice features. I agree with those features that appear to be getting the most votes;
    • One button upload of data - I think this is absolutely crucial, if it gets pasted into the current page then the filename is unimportant. I have no idea where my gel images are stored. It doesn't matter because they are accessible in the right place.
    • Templates make life much easier. We use specific templates for specific procedures and types of material but this may be too detailed for you. For us this is the key to making our system useable and useful. The templates encourage users to organise their material in a specific way. This may be a good thing or not depending on your view. We have come to the current system through several phases of trial and error. Have a look at our most recent templates. This links easy post generation to automatic metadata generation. This is working quite well for us but may be too specific for a generic system like OWW.
    • Wikis are already very good at auto-post generation and at implementation of templates. A very useful concept would be to "generate template from this post". Also the ability to clone a post