Virtual Assistants and Community Development at UBCO

For those of you that know me I am without doubt a work addict.  I truly love what I do and the technology I get to implement.   My role is Research Specialist which means helping researchers with the technology involved in their research.  As such, I don't have the resources to implement many of ideas my brain cooks up.  In fact, documenting the things I actually make time for is a miracle.  This brings me to my plan for 2010.

Against the historical practice of work orders and project planning in IT I am planning on moving much of my work into the public domain at UBC Okanagan.  Initially, I am going to explore this concept with the singular task of maintaining an openSUSE distribution on campus.  At UBC Okanagan Linux is largely only supported by me and there is precious little time to do so.  However, based on the success of this project there are numerous tasks this model could be applied to.  There has been a lot of discussion in recent history on the idea of Virtual Assistants and quite a longer history of community development.  What we have not seen at UBC Okanagan, or most IT departments I would venture to guess, is the implementation of those concepts for organizational services.  With all of the advances in collaboration technology and project management I now have a great list of tools to choose from and it certainly makes this dream more of a reality.

The technology I am planning to utilize for this is pretty basic.  We will use Redmine for our project management, Kablink teaming for more of the social planning, SVN for any code versioning, openSUSE Build service (public and local) for maintaining packages, and SUSE Studio OnSite for building and deploying images.  The most difficult part of this task will be finding community members to become involved in the project.  I suspect that most of parties involved will be Grad Students but only time will tell.  It is true that this isn't exactly the same as Virtual Assistants but in my mind the concept is the same.  Project leaders will be on redmine and teaming, developers will use svn or OBS for mainting code and packages, while SUSE Studio OnSite will be used by "customers".

The end result of this will, hopefully, be a product that the community wants (because they built it), faster delivery times (because it isn't just me), and more unique solutions (because there are more ideas in the melting pot).

Furthermore, I am looking into utilizing more of the "cloud computing" technologies available.  There is the whole issue of data being stored on US servers but I can't see this being much of a roadblock as we are not using any personal identifiable information that would restrict such a use.  This now opens up the possibility of using google docs, google apps, web hosting, dropbox, etc.

I am really exciting about making this happen.  I don't think it will be well received by most IT department members but the overall potential it has out weighs any negative issues.  Since there are about two people that read my blog I am not expecting much feedback but please, if you have any suggestions or experience in the matter I would love to hear it.

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