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Non-gaming legacy slides: Project LANES (1997)

A slide deck from 1997, illustrating an academic digital library consortium "project" and all of the things that went wrong with "it". More detail on my work website:


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Non-gaming legacy slides: Project LANES (1997)

  1. 1. Project LANES Mismanaging the project consortium from hell - a cautionary tale
  2. 2. LANES: Librarians Astronomy National Electronic Service • 3 partners • Integrated magazine and subject gateway • Manager at Avonmouth site • 1 director from each site • Technical development at Leafborough site • Funded for 30 months, pilot and launch in 18 months
  3. 3. Months 1 to 6: general faffing around  Project acronym - set up committee to oversee suggestions for acronym  Project logo - hired graphic designer at £3,600 to come up with appropriate logo… …rejected all 18 suggestions… …project manager’s 11 year old son knocks up LANES logo on his PC
  4. 4. Month 7: Project manager discovers...  …lists of overseas conferences on various Web sites.  “Hmmm. Just do the one event in Honolulu - they have an observatory there, bound to bump into an astronomer at some point…”
  5. 5. Months 7 to 9: hiring staff  Interviewed at Avonmouth for a project assistant, training officer, and end-user liaison officer  Some very good candidates applied… …however, candidates who got the jobs were:  friend of manager from library school days  ex-girlfriend who manager still had a crush on  ex-convict cousin of manager (record for actual bodily harm, breach of the peace)
  6. 6. Public relations disaster no.1 : email To: <list name deleted> From: <name deleted> oh god not again; I’ve just got yet another request for a report from the JISC office - how the hell are we supposed to do real work when bombarded with report requests; what can we fob them off with this time?
  7. 7. Months 10 to 14: getting down to work...  Many meetings held between Avonmouth and Clydebank  Much late night discussion over a pint and curry on the future of astronomical resource access  Manager and directors ignore JISC organised meetings and development workshops as they clash with overseas events  Meanwhile…technical staff at Leafborough working furiously to build something
  8. 8. Months 15 to17: the consortium starts to crack...  Technical staff not invited to meetings to discuss technical implementations  One-way communication (management to technical staff) regarding tasks and progress  Technical staff aggrieved at working 65 hour weeks while manager jaunts around the world  Month 13 - technical staff headhunted by city firm paying 3 times wages...
  9. 9. Public relations disaster no.2 : the launch  Spent 2,000 pounds on hiring celebrity to launch the system  Lots of mock-ups and impressive powerpoint slides... …but no system  Upon questioning, manager explains that pilot system ready “in a few weeks”
  10. 10. Months 19 to 24: getting something working...  Budget shot to pieces after launch - cannot hire good technical staff to finish behind- schedule pilot  …got undergraduate students to do it as part of their coursework; dodgy programming ensues...  …pilot system finished - but works only if:  you don’t add any content  you don’t delete any content  you don’t change any content
  11. 11. Month 25: half-baked pilot system launched...  Pilot appears - with all credit, appearance, accountability going to Avonmouth University  Clydebank University throw a wobbler (“What about our input?”) and pull out of the consortium - nasty letters sent to the JISC office  Party amongst the remaining staff (3) to celebrate the launch
  12. 12. Month 26: “shit, we need an exit strategy, quick” Chickens coming home to roost…  Manager and directors hadn’t kept up with technical developments (too many trips elsewhere)...  …LANES worked only on 1999 protocol and standards technologies…  …consequently, cannot find partners to collaborate with for e.g. interoperability, joint bids for funding leading edge developments
  13. 13. Public relations disaster no.3 : copyright  Magazine had an article from another magazine, from an author who claimed it was his own work  Magazine also contained an article slandering another project LANES hadn’t investigated copyright implications… …or checked factual accuracy of articles  Consequence - legal problems...  …and vitriolic slanging match on public mailing list
  14. 14. Month 29 (of 30, remember): evaluation of pilot  Team works out evaluation strategy, based on the use of the system  Logs of the system are checked…  …to find that they have had 43 users in 3 months (of which 41 had only looked at it to see how slanderous the infamous article was) Reason: Pilot system launched with no publicity or dissemination
  15. 15. Month 30: “Dubious evaluation”  Project managers family, friends, contact, students, undergraduates, office cleaners etc. press - ganged into using the system  Evaluation of the results indicates that either the pilot system was bewildering, or the testers did not have very good knowledge of astronomy...
  16. 16. Lessons …all of the incidents in this presentation have happened to various UK digital library projects. Names have been changed or omitted because legals. Lessons to be learned: 1 of 1: Communication
  17. 17. Take Heart “No matter how badly your VRE project is doing - there is always a Lottery funded project somewhere that is doing worse”