Software and research: the Institute's Blog

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

PoliceRTFM.jpgOne of these four exchanges occurs regularly in everyday life…

Tourist: “I think I'm lost, please could you tell me how to get to the National Portrait Gallery?”

Policeman: “Read the f------ map!”

Diner: “Excuse me, what are today's specials?”

Waitress: “Read the f------ menu!”

Interviewer: “And, minister, what is your policy on unemployment?”

Politician: “Read the f------ manifesto!”

Researcher: “How do convert my model into a PDF as it doesn’t seem to work?”

Developer: “Read the f------ manual!”

Yes, it’s number 4, a response so popular it has its own abbreviation – RTFM – and a Wikipedia entry!

Maybe this is because in the e-world, interacting at the far end of a network connection, denied a face-to-face encounter, it’s okay not to be civil. Given the volume of witless, gutless, loveless, artless, smartless, malicious, inevitably-anonymous rantings that any “Comment on this news item/post/video/image” request invites this seems to the case. But, this is a sorry state of affairs for software developers and in this article I’ll argue why, with the help of kindred spirits of the virtual world that Google helpfully revealed to me.

Why tell a user to RTFM?

Why is RTFM considered an appropriate reply to a cry for help?

Well, RTFM is a great way to release your frustrations at…

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Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

UUK-logo.jpgUsability UK (UUK) is a new community meeting space for researchers and usability experts to share knowledge, expertise and experiences. The meeting space provides introductions to usability design and evaluation methods and the user-centred design life-cycle. Case-studies, based on experiences of JISC projects, demonstrate the practical application these methods. UUK also provides a directory of experts, and their areas of expertise, that you can contact if you seek advice on addressing usability on your project.

Latest version published on 6 October, 2016.

OpenAndClosed.jpgThe Software Sustainability Institute is delighted to announce that we have partnered with Ubiquity Press to launch the Journal of Open Research Software, a metajournal for research software. This enables all authors of research software to create a permanent, citable, open access record of their software, and enables all researchers to access and cite the software published in this way. In particular, the journal metapapers have an explicit reuse section as we believe that reuse is the most important thing a paper supports - it not only rewards the author, but leads to more efficient, higher quality science.

What is a metajournal?

Metajournals provide a fully open access way to discover research resources that are spread across multiple locations and which are usually hard to find, using mechanisms familiar to anyone who has published or retrieved a "regular" paper. Metapapers reward authors for openly archiving and making accessible their research datasets, software and reports, by making these citable and tracking this for indicators of impact. In addition, metajournals provide information to maximise reuse potential of the software or data.

Why a software metajournal?

Traditionally, it has been hard to cite software. This is an issue because it discourages publication of software (there is no incentive), and it discourages reproducible research, and the reuse of code (because it is hard…

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Latest version published on 7 October, 2016.

One of our software architects, Steve Crouch, taught a few sessions at the Advanced School on Scientific Software Development in Trieste this March. We were very pleased to read the following blog post by Yalda Kolahdooz, from the Sharif University of Technology, following the session on software sustainability.

Today's lectures were super-useful for me!

At the moment, my lab-mates and I are the only users of my software, and all the information about the software is exchanged verbally!!! No documentation, no formal procedures and licensing, etc. I was really inspired to develop software in a more professional way, so that it does not decay right after its current tasks are done.

Most of my answers to software evaluation questions are "No" (except for Analysability questions)! It may seem disappointing, but I don't look at it that way, cause I am now aware of so many issues that had to be included in my software. This awareness is a big step forward for me

And I think I am not the only one in my institute (and even my country) who writes software without documentation and sustainability evaluations. I am going to consider these issues in all my future software and encourage others to do so as well.

Latest version published on 3 October, 2016.

SandwichBoardTryMySoftware.jpgWhen you’re focused on developing the next big thing, it’s easy to forget to tell people about it. The awful truth is that a lot of great software fails simply because no one knows that it exists.

Promoting software takes time and resources that a lot of projects lack, but just because you can’t put together a multi-million pound marketing campaign, doesn’t mean that you can’t take a few easy steps toward creating a presence for your software. We present our five top tips on promoting your software.

1. What is it?

People don’t have much time. You’ve got seconds – literally – to grab their attention and explain why they should use your software.

You need to explain what your software does in one or two sentences. Inevitably, this will require a lot of simplification, but you’re not trying to tell people everything about your software, you’re only trying to tell them enough so they’ll stick around to find out more. Use this short explanation as the opening gambit whenever you talk about your software: at presentations, on your website, documentation, everywhere.

Enlist the help of a technophobic friend or family member (it’s about time you got some payback for being your family’s informal IT support). If they can read your one or two sentences and understand what your software does, then you’ve got the level about right.

2. To find out more, visit my website

Everyone expects to find out more about a product from its website. If you don’t have a website, you’re likely to be…

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