[HCS-D]HCS in 2005

Gregory Price gprice at hcs.harvard.edu
Tue Dec 21 00:47:03 EST 2004


Excellent meeting today.  I was elected president.

No, actually, we did more important things than that.  We started a
conversation that I've been having with Matt for most of a year and
with some others of you in small bits and pieces; namely, what should
HCS aim to accomplish -- not in the next week and the next, but in,
say, the next year.


I set the following goal: let's get to student groups the tech
services that will help them do what they want to do.  

We see a lot of folks going to outside services like Yahoo Groups; and
for services that Yahoo Groups doesn't have we see groups trying a
bunch of mediocre services and struggling with all of them.  I think
we can do a lot better.

I think we can get to a state where the great majority of groups at
Harvard find their needs are met by our services, and where most of
the exceptions are groups like the Crimson that make so much money
from whatever it is they're doing that they can get it done
themselves.

I'd like to get there in the next year; so that by the time my
successor takes office in February 2006 we have people happy.
I think we've got about a 50-50 chance of achieving that.


A sampling of the resulting conversation:

  - File sharing is one service some groups want.  Ivan says Samba
  gets ugly with lots of users and shares on one machine, but an
  alternative called WebDAV works well and we could do it.

  - We're not ever going to compete with GMail, as Ivan points out.

  - Some groups use Yahoo Groups because lots of their users want to
  read and post to the list on the web, not by email (eg a group Ivan
  works with.)  Anyone know of good software for doing this?

  - We should publicize the fact that mailing lists are now open to
  the whole College.  A press release for the Crimson would be good.
  We'll first want to polish the page so its context is self-contained.

  - We've said a lot about what groups want, Matt points out, based on
  our limited anecdotal evidence.  We should go ask them.
  A mail to house lists inviting input is in order.  So is talking to
  individual groups and emailing them, and asking the UC and the
  Student Activities Office for help.

An excellent start.  I'm sure we'll think of more, and in January 
we will move on at least some of these as projects.


A couple of points in the what-can-we-do-for-student-groups
conversation touch on software or patches we'd likely have to code
ourselves if we wanted to provide certain things in certain ways.
Ivan points out that there are lots of very smart programmers at
Harvard, and it'd be great if HCS became a place where some of them
got together and made cool and useful software.

Matt and I, who've read emails and meeting minutes from the archives
of HCS, are cautious because those archives are full of exciting
programming projects that never succeeded.  This doesn't mean a new
project can't, especially if its goal is set conservatively with this
history in mind.  And, as a recent story illustrates, an exciting
project can bring in sharp new people who get involved in the broader
work of the Society and by the time the project fizzles are already so
well drawn in that they stay involved and remain a tremendous asset.


We should tell HASCS to put Firefox on lab machines, Ivan reminds us,
and officially tell people they're ill off using IE.


We should talk to our alumni more; an excellent start would be to
contact those whose email addresses we have handy and invite those in
the area to get together with us for dinner sometime.


Matthew (for so we now call Matt Fasman in contradistinction to Matt Gline)
will try installing RT on the SparcStation dopey.hcs, where the freedom of
a box nobody uses and the bliss of, say, `apt-get install rt' will with luck
give relief from the maddening task of installing RT on frog.

Steve now takes a hard line on exploitable PHP scripts: chmod a-x and notify.


Summary:

  * fit our technology to student groups' needs: so eg
     - file sharing by WebDAV or otherwise
     - webmail (maybe)
     - web-based mailing-list-connected fora (perh unlikely)
     - mailing lists for everyone, publicized
     - survey those needs
  * some exciting development project to attract bright young programmers
  * contact with alumni


See you all in January.


                Gregory


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