Monday, January 07, 2008

What is reality?

The last month, apart from time off for Christmas, has been focusing on four things:
  • Planning for 2008
  • Budgeting for 2008
  • Completing the update on one website
  • Planning next stage on another website
One problem we have found in 2007 is that we don't have all the people we need for doing the system administration on the servers we have. I have probably complained about this before... but these servers are the backbone of what we do and the backbone of what some of our partners do. Within this region there is only one other person we know of able to do this support.

In order to move forward and do the important rather than just maintaining things for others we determined we needed to do two things: 1) train one or two other people to help 2) cut back on the things we had been doing for other organizations. The trouble is this would have a significant detrimental effect on other organizations - we shared this with one and they were not sure how they would get round the problem.

We had two colleagues over from Egypt for a couple of weeks working on the update for the website and the planning the other website. The update is to create a themed feel to the site so that we have Christmas and other seasonal themes, rather like Google. It gives the site an 'alive' feel. We also had some extra facilities to integrate, allowing chat rooms and other interactive features to be brought into the site. It worked well and we are very pleased with the result. We now have over 7,500 members - that's people who have signed up to regularly participate in the site - so we are very encouraged.

One of the colleagues we had over was really concerned about the cutting facilities for other organizations. He suggested we look at expanding the training, making a fully fledged apprenticeship programme. Well, we looked at this and it did seem a wise and helpful way forward. We then looked at funding it and assuming all the partner organizations agree to help with will move forward into 2008 with 4 apprentices. By the end of 2009 they should be able to have taken over the lions share of supporting all these facilities.

Peter and I had been doing lots of planning and budgeting anyway - this was an expansion rather than something totally new on our agenda. Planning and budgeting is one of those amazingly important and time consuming activities that seems to get nowhere, but without being done you really do get nowhere! What it has left me with is a number of grant applications to complete before I go to the USA later this month to share with funding agencies who have already expressed an interest in our activities.

The other site we were working on is a totally new one - a web 2.0 site. What's web 2.0? It's almost 100% interactivity within sites. No longer to you read, listen and view material - your interact with it. In this case the site will look at feel more like a virtual reality computer game than a website. But it won't be virtual reality it will be actual reality. We have no idea about the reaction it will get - so far people who have seen previews are very impressed. For us its a big step into seeing if people who prefer oral culture find it easier interacting with this sort of... well... not a site really, more an environment. Watch this space!

One of the colleagues will be cominng back here in February to work further on the site with us [he is continuing in Egypt now] with an aim that it will be launched in March. In the mean time, Peter will fly to Egypt to look at setting up the apprenticeship programme there. I am making a quick trip to Jordan and then over to the USA... so in actual reality we are doing a lot of traveling too. I enjoy traveling, but sometimes I think the virtual reality of being able to travel at the speed of light would be really helpful!